Brother Hosea

  1. Shattered Dreams

Imagine that you were Prophet Hosea, a young man in church, loving God with all your heart, hardworking, in the choir and prayer departments of the house of God, with lofty dreams of your wedding day and that pretty girl in the choir that you have been eyeing, whom you would soon marry after her graduation from the university next summer, and thereafter move to your new apartment in that quiet section of town. Then it happens.  God comes to you by whatever way He usually speaks to you, and tells you that your dreams of a happy romantic marriage are shattered on the hard floor of your sincere commitment to His purpose.  He has a proposal for you; not that girl of your dreams, but one of those street girls that have suffered the butt of your holy sermons; one of those hell-bound daughters of Eve commissioned by Lucifer to take ignorant men with them to hell. You are frozen. Your friends do not understand why you have suddenly lost your sunshine.  They do not understand why you have begun to frequent the prayer mountains.  You have grown unusually quiet in the last few days, like someone doomed to a looming appointment with the electric chair.

Daily, you tell God that there may have been a mistake.  Who is going to believe you?   There has been no precedence; no one has done what looms before you in the name of God.  From where in your Bible are you going to start quoting what?  Who would believe that you heard from God?  Will they not say you were a backslider merely seeking ‘prophetic’ justification for your strange new ways?

You see all your dreams suddenly fading away from you, in the name of God!  Could God be so unfair?  Even if that were God, why you?  Why choose you to be the guinea pig for something never heard of?  Why is it your troubled marriage that God wants to use as an object lesson to a stubborn nation?

Like every other young person in the house of God, you have had your sweet dreams; dreams of a loving wife holding hands with you as you walk down the evening streets in and out of shops, or singing “Amazing Grace” as you make altar calls at outreaches!  You have had holy dreams of children prettily dressed, sitting in their Sunday school class, with their proud tag of ‘Pastor’s Kids’!  You have had dreams of an exemplary wife sitting by you at TV shows, or otherwise anchoring the shows!  Now you are about to eat some of your holy sermons!   You are only a young man of 25, with 60+ more years of ministry ahead of you?  “O God, why?  Why me?” you wonder speechlessly.

Finally, you succumb to the will of the all-powerful God, and you are married to that district-notorious prostitute.  You remember how many family members ‘warned’ you, yet you remained ‘stubborn’ against their ‘more experienced’ and ‘elderly’ counsel!  You remember the huddles of many friends’ worries that you had to cross, resolutely, to get to where you are!  Now everyone sits back with a let’s-see-how-they-cope attitude, and you suddenly have become a national spectacle… with a wife you cannot proudly take to church, if she chose to go at all…

 

  1. Prophetic Leprous Outcast

Your friends tell about the remarkable support that they receive from their wives; you have no such story to tell.  Your friends show family photos with children in manicured clothes; your own wife is a theological embarrassment, and the children ‘like their mother.’  You have no boast to make, except to claim that the problems you are facing in your marriage are a divine parable of your society’s spiritual decline, that your family crisis is God’s theatre and voice to a difficult audience, that He is the Explanation for your never-before marital embarrassment.  “What a story!” some mock; then they watch you from the corner of their critical righteous eyes, wondering what the world is coming to with preachers of a new kind, claiming the name of God for their many erratic ways!  “Is that how to be prophetic?” some have dared to wonder aloud to your hearing.  You are speechless…  “He wants to save a nation when he has not saved one wife!  He prophesies abroad to Samaria and to Syria when he has not ‘effectively’ prophesied to his own household!  What brand of charity is this that starts abroad instead of at home?”  You are speechless, wondering more if your name, which means “salvation,” is not now a sarcasm… Where is the ‘salvation’ that has not saved you or your harlot?  Some of those holy men could be right who think you now unfit to stand before the altar of God, let alone call His holy name before worthier men that you term ‘sinners’…  You are speechless with embarrassment, yet fired on by an inexplicable unction to prophesy farther and more loudly…

“Who will believe this New Sermon?” you ask your discriminated self.  “Who will not say that I have suddenly developed a strange kind of lust for strange street flesh, for which I am seeking spiritualised justifications?  O Lord, why?” you cry out, but God has been silent since after the first instruction.

‘Brother’ Hosea, some still manage to call you, with a deliberate snag on the ‘brother.’  The ‘very reverend’ ‘man of God,’ some holier friends sneer.  You don’t blame them for your peculiar ‘cup.’  You have come to cherish your ‘isolation’ by the theologically ‘correct’ Sanhedrin, taking it as a kind of ‘retreat,’ while you focus, beyond your dear lady, on your larger message to other nations…

 

  1. The Theological Hard Pill

If you were Bro Hosea’s holy and radical pastor, how would you have handled that young man with his New ‘revelations?’  Brother Hosea’s pill is so hard to swallow that some Bible scholars have opted to dismiss it as a vision rather than a real-life transaction in which the prophet married an actual prostitute.  A few, however, concede that it was an actual marriage that God directed, as an allegory of Israel’s backslidings and spiritual prostitution.  I think so, too.  The narrative is too realistic in its details to be dismissed as a dream, but that is not for now.

 

  1. A Puzzle of Translations

Theologians have had a great problem understanding the little book of Hosea.  They have been puzzled at this parabolic prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel; the only prophet from North with a written prophecy.  I shall pick only one verse from his book, to show the effort of translators at gleaning meanings in Hosea:

 

Hosea 1:2

Easy-to-Read Version, Revised Edition:

This was the Lord’s first message to Hosea. The Lord said, “Go, marry a prostitute who HAS HAD children as a result of her prostitution. Do this because the people in this country have acted like prostitutes—they have been unfaithful to the Lord.”

 

Good News Translation

When the Lord first spoke to Israel through Hosea, he said to Hosea, “Go and get married; your wife WILL BE unfaithful, and your children WILL BE just like her. In the same way my people have left me and become unfaithful.”

 

The Living Bible

Here is the first message:

The Lord said to Hosea, “Go and marry a girl who IS a prostitute, so that some of her children will be born to you FROM OTHER MEN. This will illustrate the way my people have been untrue to me, committing open adultery against me by worshiping other gods.”

 

God’s Word

When the Lord first spoke to Hosea, the Lord told him, “Marry a prostitute, and have children WITH THAT PROSTITUTE. The people in this land have acted like prostitutes and abandoned the Lord.”

 

The Net Bible

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, he said to him, “Go marry a prostitute who will bear illegitimate children conceived through prostitution, because the nation continually commits spiritual prostitution by turning away from the Lord.”

 

New Living Translation

When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that SOME of HER children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods.”

 

Holman Christian Standard Bible

When the Lord first spoke to Hosea, He said this to him:

Go and marry a promiscuous wife

and have children of promiscuity,

for the whole land has been promiscuous

by abandoning the Lord.

 

Did Hosea marry Lady Gomer as a whore, or did she decline into those ways only after the prophet had married her?  Were all the children fathered by Prophet Hosea, or some were illegitimate children from her whoredoms, fatherless children that she put upon the holy man?  Did the waywardness of the children “like their mother” mean that her whorish ‘foundation’ rather than Hosea’s priestly foundation was what was speaking in their lives, or speaking more powerfully in their lives?

 

  1. The Ungrateful Gomer

Whatever the conclusion, Gomer was an ungrateful girl who placed more value on her lusts than on the man that took pains to give her a home and a noble face in that strict traditional society.  On the other hand, we might say in justification of her that she was merely fulfilling her prophetic roles in that man’s life.  All the same, Gomer gives us great lessons to ponder.

 

If a decent man should go ‘out of his way’ to marry a wayward girl off the streets, at least she should gratefully have stayed at home and bless her rare luck.  Not Mrs Gomer Hosea, and she had her ‘good’ reasons.  Hear her:

She herself said, “I will go to my lovers — they give me food and water, wool and linen, olive oil and wine” (Hosea 2:4, Good News Translation)

Here she betrays herself.  She confesses why she has been unstable in the good man’s house: she is a materialistic girl who prefers wool and linen, perfumes of olive oil and the delicacies of sweet wine, to her family.  She is more in tune with her pleasures and fancies than with the spiritualities of her husband.  She minds more her vanities than his prophecies.  Her worldly eyes always saw greener pastures elsewhere, outside the prophet’s home, in other men’s houses.  How did this girl manage to find herself by the side of such a prominent national prophet?  How could this girl be so ungrateful for the national prominence and prestige that the prophet had brought to her?  How…

 

  1. Mama Gomer’s Facebook Page

Mrs G. Hosea publicly boasts, and shamelessly too, of her ex-’s: “they give me food and water.”  A public announcement like that might suggest that her husband could not afford, or very wickedly would not give her food, not even water.  In other words, she had been enduring hunger in her husband’s house, which is why she ‘fled,’ and he (not she) is to blame for her ways!   She speaks in such shameless manner as not even some bad women would speak of themselves; not in public, even if they meant to rubbish their man: “I will go to my lovers — they give me food and water.”  Was Hosea such a poor preacher in whose house she found no food, not even water to drink, such that she had to seek those from other men, and that by adultery?  Were her publications aimed at helping or destroying the ministry of her man?  Did she mean to extol or tarnish the image of that preacher?

There were bound to be those who drank her tales ‘from the horse’s mouth,’ and had further reason to doubt the integrity of that prophet’s strange ‘call’ and dubious ministry.  Her Facebook page must have had many ardent followers, like somebody reading this…  Many of those followers, who often reposted her tales, might have been the prophet’s parishioners.  God remained silent on those distractions, and there was no other voice from the prophet’s house to tell the other side to the trending tale…

Could the wife of so great a prophet debase herself to such decorated lies?  Apart from her street life that was a ‘weakness’ of common knowledge, had she also been known to be such a skilled manager (or mis-manager) of ‘information’?  Is it possible that her brazen announcements were her way of publicly discrediting the holy man of God?  Was it her revenge?  If so, against what that the kind prophet had done to her?  Is it possible that it was indeed her fleshly lusts and libidinal restlessness that took her out of the house?  But instead of owning up to her sin, she resorted to devising believable lies by which to pass the blame on the ‘incompetent’ priest rather than on her ‘industrious’ and ‘surviving’ self?  Could it be that her hearers had been feeding on a wrong picture of Brother Hosea as a worse-than-infidel husband unable to cater for ‘his own’ household, thereby ‘forcing’ the ‘struggling’ woman to seek other means of survival outside her husband’s impossible ‘missionary’ prison?

When people want to sin, they will always find a justification for their ways – with ample followers.  A woman who would speak in such a public fashion may not have been giving her husband any private support.  A wife who would ignore his entreaties to the point of such extreme conjugal rebellion had not always been the best of women at home.  Who was taking care of her children while she ran proudly after her many ‘richer’ lovers?  Nobody asked.  Who cleaned her husband’s house or made his meals while she ran after the food and water from other men, other women’s husbands? The holy Sanhedrin were not to bother about such carnal details.

 

  1. Questions without Answers

Did she nicely answer Hosea’s loving phone calls that she received while in bed with her many men?  Did she tell them it was her ‘Darling’ that had just called, or did she dismiss him as “one of those useless pastors” who have been “troubling” her life?  Did she use the opportunity to tell those men that the phone she was using had come from that ‘useless man,’ or did she use the opportunity to rubbish him more in the bed of those strange men?   Did Brother Hosea cry each time he saw her drive by in some newer man’s car?  Did she wave at him as they drove by to wherever next?  Did the children blame their lot on the prophet or on their high-flying mom?  Whose report did the world believe?  Did God call a world press conference of the prophet’s friends to explain His hand in that ugly drama, so that they would not be so hard on their pastor-colleague?  Or did God let the prophet sort that out himself, anyhow?  Was Hosea his only witness, whom the world had to choose to believe or to scorn?  Is that how to be a prophet?

 

  1. The Sunset

Society may have hailed Lady Gomer Hosea and blamed the uncaring poor preacher who never looked well before he leapt into marriage and brought a high-flying girl to suffer in his lowly parish. She might have won their sympathies and support, but that is also the last we hear her voice in the 14-chapter narrative of Hosea. After the next chapter, she disappears completely from the narrative while the man continues, his prophetic voice growing louder in every subsequent chapter.

It is some tale to read today, with many lessons to take home from it, but not so easy was it for the protagonist at the centre of that spectacle.  Today, we see his side of the story, and hail the uncommon preacher who obeyed an uncommon voice; but not so was it while that young man faced his friends and pastors and family, and lingered thereafter for the rest of his about sixty years of ministry with a family ‘reproach’ that he claimed was a ‘ministry’ from God.

Suppose you were Hosea whom God was going to pick for such an object lesson to a rebellious nation, would you have said, “Here am I, send me”?  Suppose it was you whose family or crisis-marriage, whose troubled ministry, whose ‘wayward’ children, whose upturned business God had meant to use as a sermon to an otherwise deaf world, would there have been a book of Hosea to read?  If Hosea had never taken that first uncommon step, could the rest have followed?

 

This was the Lord’s first message [Step One] to Hosea. The Lord said, “Go, marry a prostitute… (Hosea 1:2, Easy-to-Read).

 The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms… (Hosea 1:2, KJV).

 

If Hosea had never taken that first step, we might not have been hearing of him today.  But beyond his preliminary crises, see how his book ends; hear his voice in the last verse of the last chapter of that narrative:

 

 Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein (Hosea 14:9, KJV).

 

From The Preacher’s diary,

July 28, 2016.

 

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