By Sarah Cornwell
Reading from Hosea, 1:1-2:1
1 The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri, in the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel.
2 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” 3So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
4 And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”
6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. 7But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”
8 When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9Then the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.”
10 Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11The people of Judah and the people of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head; and they shall take possession of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
1 Say to your brother, Ammi, and to your sister, Ruhamah.
When God first speaks to Hosea, he tells him to take a “wife of whoredom.” If I were Hosea, I might resent such a command. Here I am, with a fine reputation in my community as a good and faithful servant of God, and now God is asking me to chuck that reputation straight out the window. What will the neighbors think? What’s going on?
It could be that God wants to see if Hosea truly is a good and faithful servant, or if he is only interested in appearing to be. Take a whore as your wife; then you’re an obedient servant, though you don’t look like one anymore. It’s a tough choice, but then, God often calls his prophets to do difficult and seemingly bizarre things.
It may also be that God is providing a chance at a new life for Gomer. Her union with Hosea further symbolizes God’s union with his people — first with the Israelites, and later, through the saving grace of Christ, with his whole Church. When Hosea’s neighbors ask him about his unusual choice of wife, he’s got a perfect way to explain God’s relationship with his people: God is the holy one who chooses the whore — and that is all of us, Hosea included. Through this union we’re offered a second chance at the good life. In his very first command to Hosea, God is humbling his prophet, saving a woman and restoring her to a good life, and providing all of us with a means to understand our salvific union with our Maker.
There may come a day when God gives you or I a command. It may seem odd, but remember: when God speaks, there’s usually a lot more going on there than meets the eye.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have five children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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