“The LORD said to me again, ‘Go, love a woman who has a lover and is an adulteress, just as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other Gods and love raisin cakes.” Hosea 3:1
I taught Hosea 3:1 to my confirmation small group last year, hoping to instill in them that the Bible has all kinds of interesting verses—and to encourage them to explore their Bibles*. This verse also invites us to read deeply, and not just accept things on surface value; i.e., God is not saying that eating raisins and prostitution are equivalent. A little research tells us that people who love raisin cakes tell fortunes, or worship other Gods.
God asks a lot from Hosea in this verse. Specifically, Hosea is asked to:
1) Approach someone who may or may not be interested in him and his ideas
2) Love and trust someone deeply who appears to not be trustworthy and who has clearly gone astray (Forgiving the person seems to be implicit here too)
3) Love as God loves Israel
These seem to be themes that come up again throughout our Holy Scriptures. Jesus’ message was far from universally well received (John 7:40-44, among others). With respect to trusting strangers, the disciples were ordered to go to towns to preach the Good News, not carrying money, and trusting that people would welcome them in (Luke 10). The last command may be the most difficult of the three, and again one that’s repeated throughout the Bible: love sacrificially and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Yet despite the challenge before us in obeying these commandments, there is a hint of grace in this verse: God repeated his requests to Hosea, rather than losing patience for his failure to comply. Our God is patient, and as we see more clearly in other verses, loving beyond measure.
As Christians, we are asked to perform seemingly impossible tasks, including the ones in Hosea 3:1. As you live these daunting commands this week, I encourage you to remember that the God who ordered them is, to paraphrase Hosea 11, a God that cannot give us up, a God who lifts us lovingly like infants to His cheek, and the Holy One in our midst.
Holy God, help us to remember your commandments and have the courage to live this love in Your name, trusting you are among us. Amen.
* Confession: I also taught them this verse because the juxtaposition between raisin cakes and prostitution still makes me smile, even though I understand what it means. Sincere thanks to the parents who tolerated their youth reciting this verse for weeks, and to Pastor Melinda, who probably heard it more than anyone else.
Photo By Abhinav619 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons