(Continued from Part 1)

She felt acceptance and freedom for the first time. The joy was beyond her ability to contain as the tears rushed forth.

It really seemed too good to be true. Gomer began her knew life with a mixture of emotions. The stern glances from her in-laws, the piercing gaze of the priests and the cursory glances from men in the market couldn’t divert her new-found joy. Hosea was the man she had always longed for and he truly loved her. He brought her out of the desperation and despair she had always known. She was his choice and he was hers. She followed him into this new life of godliness and purity. She learned to carry herself differently and to talk differently. She listened to his prayers and followed his leading. She went to synagogue with him whenever it was appropriate. But the scars and memories of her past followed her, reminding her of where she had been and, frightfully, who she had been. Not many months passed and Gomer bore Hosea a son – God was blessing them even with her past, and they seemed to be so happy.

But as the sands of time shifted, something in Gomer’s soul began to change. She was different somehow. The love she had for her savior cooled and other attractions stole her mind. She began to speak of her old life differently than she had before. She remembered the pleasures she had enjoyed and the gain she had been afforded as her affection for her husband subdued. The pleasures that her old life use to afford her became forefront in her mind, fleeting though they were, as struggles of life in the ministry seemed to lack the luster she once knew. This daughter of Diblaim began to grow weary of living the life of a budding, young preacher’s wife. Hosea was absent from the home more than she thought appropriate as he sought to fulfill Jehovah’s mission of preaching to the nation of Israel. Gomer began to resent his ministry. How could he love his God more than he loved her?

Then, a baby girl was born. But, Hosea was suspicious. He had noticed a coolness in Gomer’s gaze. She didn’t talk with him the way she once had. Hosea named this new little girl Loru-hammah: “no mercy.” The strain he felt with his wife depicted the strain Jehovah was feeling with His people, and Hosea used this opportunity to express this burden from the Lord.

It was long after Loru-hammah was born that Gomer bore another son, but Hosea was convinced – this was not his child! In his jealous rage he called him Lo-ammi, meaning “not my people.” What turmoil must have been in his home, what public disgrace! There was tension every night. Bitterness ate at the prophet’s heart, how could she do this to him, after all he had done for her? How could she return to her old life after he had risked everything to rescue her from her shame? And yet, he found he still loved her. He cared for her and even provided for her though she had betrayed him.

On one particular occasion, Hosea caught Gomer in the very act of her promiscuous crime. Her guilt ravaged her cold heart. She thought, “Surely, he will never accept me back after this! How could I be so unfaithful, so virulent … after he has loved me so?”

Hosea begged his wife, his beloved bride, to forsake her false loves, to turn from her proverbial broken cisterns and embrace the fountain of his love once again. But it was too late. Gomer’s actions had propelled her into slavery and temple prostitution once more. What bondage her treachery had brought upon her and what despair overwhelmed her mind!

She had reached the bottom again. The one place she hated the most, the bondage she feared the most, was upon her once more and she could blame no one but herself. She had come to the end of herself. “How could I have forsaken the only true love I have ever known? If only I could see my sweet Hosea’s face again. If I could be but a doorkeeper outside his door and hear his voice in the cool of the evening. If I could just be in his presence once again, how things would be different!” On her knees, sobbing inconsolably through her desperation, she cried, “If only I could be near him again!” She wept herself to sleep.

The next evening found Gomer abject as she trudged to the temple courtyard once more. Her emaciated figure and jaded countenance wore the pain and disgrace of her transgressions. The crowd hushed eerily as she approached the stage, repulsed by her revolting form. Gomer stared at the ground as the priest once again prepared to offer her to the highest bidder. She shuddered as she braced herself for the surly reaction from the crowd.

“We have real treat for you tonight men of Baal,” the priest snarled. “One has come back to us from the ranks of Jehovah. It seems that even Jehovah’s prophets can’t keep their own from the power and influence of our great Baal. This one you may remember. She was once one of your favorites … tonight, it is my pleasure to offer to you and to our great Baal, Gomer, the wife of Hosea, prophet of Jehovah.” At this the crowd went wild, laughing and jeering hysterically. What a joke this Gomer and her prophet husband were! Surely Baal must love what he is seeing now!

“I will buy her back” the echoing voice came from the back of the assembly interrupting the blasphemous uproar. “15 pieces of silver and an homer and a half of barley… this is all I have. She is my wife and I will purchase her back from you for this price.” Gomer couldn’t believe what she had heard. Could it be? “Hosea, is that you?” she gasped as her eyes surveyed the crowd. Then she saw him … him whom her soul longed for, her husband and only savior! Him whom she had betrayed so many times. She instinctively dropped to her knees. She couldn’t look at him, what is he doing here? Does he want to punish me, to humiliate me more, to stone me for all that I have done to him? The answers came as Hosea approached the stage. “I will buy her for myself, for the Lord God Jehovah says unto you, children of Israel, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’”

The prophet continued, “And Gomer, I say unto you, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days. You must not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” The crowd stood strangely silent. Hardened, calloused men felt tears stinging their eyes. Even the priest loosened his grip at the power of this unfailing love. Could this be real? Could a man love in this way? Can love bear in all this, believe in all this, hope in all this, and endure in all this? Can this be real?

Gomer, still gazing at the ground, afraid to move fearing this might all be a dream, felt a strong hand upon her shoulder and a soft robe across her back. As she looked upward her glance caught the eyes of her husband and friend. “Oh Hosea, I am so, so sorry. I don’t deserve to be called your …” “Gomer, my love, hold your peace. I have loved you from the beginning and I will love you until the end. I want you to be mine and I will be yours. I have bought you back. Come with me. Let’s go home.”

Gomer never did completely understand the love of her husband toward her. She would often wonder at the way he would look at her and why he would always want to be by her side. But one thing is sure, she never doubted that he loved her. She knew that she could always trust in his love … a love that never fails.

Hosea 14:4-9 “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” ESV

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Her name was Gomer. It means “corruption.” And rightfully so; you see, Gomer was a temple prostitute. Her duty was to give the worshipers what they wanted and not to complain about it. She had been a slave to this lifestyle who knows how long. She was most likely sold into the business as a child. This was her life. To many Gomer was nothing more than a pretty face, a commodity to be used up and thrown away. At best she was a religious sacrifice unto various deities of fertility.

Diblaim, Gomer’s father had been born into one of the darkest times in Israel’s history. God’s chosen people, Israel, under the rule of Jeroboam the II, had adopted the sensual worship of Baal. Gomer was one of hundreds of temple prostitutes who may have been captured or sold into temple prostitution. A slave to false religion and debauchery she was calloused beyond her years. The priests were the ones who promoted this wickedness in the name of Jehovah. A mixed worship such as this conveniently promoted their own lusts and quenched their inner guilt as they carefully crafted the God of their fathers into their own image.

Gomer tried her best to please the priests. But no matter how much she tried to obey, it was never enough. The frequent physical and verbal abuse was almost as difficult to endure as the nights were. But, the aching in her soul for love was more than she could bear.

And so she tried to find love. She longed to be accepted for who she was … to be important to someone. Gomer felt she never could do enough. Often, she would pray and cry to Baal, hoping that he would be pleased with her service. She always felt so distant from him. Sometimes anger filled her soul because of the bondage and enslavement he caused her; she wondered if he knew her thoughts. What if he was punishing her for her anger toward him? She was plagued by guilt. No matter what she did, nothing would cause the dreadful shame to go away.

Even her name seemed to punish her. Gomer … corruption … the very sound of it was condemning. She wondered if it angered people when they found out what her name was. She was corruption. She so desperately wanted someone to accept and forgive her, but she felt she would never taste of true acceptance and love. Some of the men seemed to love her at first. They would buy her food and wine, lotions and oils. One man even gave her gold and silver jewelry. But the attention would always come to an end. The love just wouldn’t last.

Until one day … It all started just as any other evening. She was frantic – not by choice. The priests were horrible taskmasters. Men were already gathering outside. She made her way systematically through her preparations. Her hair, her face … everything had to be just perfect or she knew what the priests would do. She had long since learned to be prepared for evenings such as this one.

It was her turn. As she stepped reluctantly before the libidinous gaze of the temple gathering, something was different. There was a strange sense of caution in the crowd. She scanned the rabble as she had done so many times before and recognized most of the faces. One individual she knew was here for her and a shudder went down her spine as she recalled his rough visage.

But a new face was in the crowd. This man was obviously different from the others. He was wearing a long robe and he carried a small purse at his waist. There was a mysterious look in his eyes. His piercing gaze caught Gomer’s attention and she felt as if this stranger could read her thoughts. He had a look on his face like one she’d never seen before, it was as though he were sent there by Someone, as if he were on a mission that was greater than even he could understand.

The bidding began in the usual way. The priest was anxious to be rid of this daughter of Diblaim and to get on to the more profitable merchandise. Just when all the bids had ceased, a figure stood from the back of the courtyard. The mysterious man spoke with a voice that was clear and strong, “100 pieces of silver!” The crowd burst into an uproar. No one had ever offered so much for an harlot, it was unheard of. Someone was heard over the rumbling of the crowd, “Who would pay that for a harlot, especially for Gomer?” The insult stung, but she was accustomed to it and pretended not to hear. Another answered, “You’re not going to believe this, it’s the prophet Hosea! What does he want with a harlot?” The priest handling the auction spoke hastily trying to calm the mob, his cold grip on Gomer’s arm as he motioned to the assembly, “Well, I believe it IS Hosea, the prophet of Jehovah. Tell us, Hosea, what do you want with an harlot? Are you going to stone her as Moses commanded?” The jeering crowd erupted into a muffled cackle. The prophet was calculating in his response recognizing the pitfall. The crowd hushed to hear his answer. “This woman shall be my wife! The Lord hath said, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD. So I will purchase her to me for 100 pieces of silver.”

A thousand thoughts were flooding Gomer’s mind. “The Lord wants a prophet to marry me? This man wants to marry me? Will I never have to be a prostitute again?” As she stood in silence, tears filled her eyes. It was too good to be true! No one had ever paid so much for her before. And certainly, no one had ever wanted her to stay with him. She had always been turned away by every other man as an old garment when it is soiled beyond further use. “Will he love me?” she wondered. “What kind of man would give this fortune to marry a prostitute? What kind of God would send such a man into my life? Could such a dream really come true?”

As Gomer’s mind raced, Hosea was already in action. He reached the platform with that same steady look in his eye. His hand outstretched, there was a question in his eyes, “Will you marry me as God has commanded?” It needed not to be said. Gomer was afraid she would fail as a wife, she was afraid of the unknown, her fear almost paralyzed her. But she knew she had never experienced such love before. With one last glance at the crowd she stepped toward the strange man. Quickly the prophet lifted her trembling body and covered her shame with his own robe. She felt acceptance and freedom for the first time. The joy was beyond her ability to contain as the tears rushed forth.