Forty women: 39. Gomer
It seemed like the full on fairytale. It was the Pretty Woman happy ending for the prostitute and the prophet, when Hosea took Gomer, ‘the promiscuous woman’ and married her. They settled down. They had a family together. That should have been the happily ever after.
But, you know, that’s actually the first chapter of their story, not the last.
Because change is hard. External change is the easy part: the new home, the new husband, the new children. It’s the internal change that’s hard: the new mindset, the new patterns of thinking, the new beliefs about yourself and the world.
For Gomer, it was hard to believe that she was safe, secure, beloved. It was hard to stop herself catching the eye of any likely bloke who wandered past. It was hard not to flirt with them. It was hard to keep working at a relationship with the same man, day after day. It was hard to think of herself as a mother, with responsibility for others. It was hard to suddenly become a different person.
And so, inevitably, she failed: she was unfaithful to Hosea. She went off and lived with another man.
But that’s not the end of this story either.
‘The Lord said to [Hosea], “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” ‘(Hosea 3:1)
God loves his bride, despite her unfaithfulness, despite her adultery in turning to false gods. He doesn’t wash his hands of her and walk away. He loves her. He goes after her. He woos her tenderly, and heals her hurts, and forgives her sins, and restores her in their marriage.
Hosea is to love Gomer in the same way: he is not to wash his hands of her and walk away. He is to go after her, to woo her, to heal her and forgive her, and restore her in their marriage.
I don’t know how many times Hosea had to do that for Gomer. I don’t know how many times she had to forgive him, too. But I do know that this is the kind of love which lasts: the kind of love which doesn’t expect or demand perfection, the kind which extends grace and forgiveness.
It is the kind of love we all, desperately, need.