12 March 2010 Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent
Hosea 14, 2-9; Psalm 81; Mark 12, 28-34
Have you ever fought for someone you loved? If you have, then Hosea is inspiring. Hosea was a contemporary of Amos and Isaiah. Amos and he preached in North Israel, while Isaiah preached in the South. While Amos was known as the prophet of divine justice — equal punishment for the seriousness of the crime — Hosea, on the other hand, was known as the prophet of divine love. Divine love is defined as a love ever willing to suffer in order to win back one’s beloved.
Hosea was a young prophet. When the Word of the Lord came upon him, the command of God was strange. God wanted him to marry, and the girl He suggested was Gomer, the most beautiful woman in Israel but also a harlot. And indeed, he married Gomer despite her tendency to go to the Canaanite pagan fertility rites.
She bore him three sons and God gave them their names with a double meaning. The first was Jezreel: the fertile valley from Mt. Carmel to the Sea of Galilee; but also the battleground in the book of Judges. Thus Jezreel also means “cast-away,” a name of shame in Israel. Remember Jezebel, the wicked queen of King Ahab who pushed him to steal the property of his neighbor? Well, she was punished: Jehu, the general, ordered the servants to throw her from the balcony to the courtyard. There she died, and the courtyard has been called Jezreel (2 Kings 9, 30-37).
The second was a daughter, whom Hosea loved very much. But God had given her the name, Lo-ruhama, Hebrew for “No pity.” So since the root word, ruhama was about one’s motherly care, thus the name suggested that God withdrew His “motherly care.” The youngest was a son, named Lo-ammi, Hebrew for “Not my people” or “Not mine.” Many interpreted Lo-ammi as God reducing Israel to a lower status as an illegitimate child. The names of Lo-ruhama and Lo-ammi created a stir about the real paternity of the children.
And then Hosea was abandoned by Gomer. She went about her harlotry. But soon, Hosea would look for her. Tradition had it that she had several relationships. In one of these relationships, Hosea had to buy her back from her lover; in another, he had to bid so that she would not be sold as a slave. The climax of the Hosea and Gomer’s love story was Gomer’s return to Hosea.
The story of Hosea and Gomer was juxtaposed with the story of Yahweh and Israel. Yahweh, like Hosea entered into a covenant with Israel, despite the fact that Yahweh knew that Israel would be unfaithful to Him. Historically, Israel had cavorted with several other pagan idols; thus, she broke the covenant with Yahweh. But Yahweh, like Hosea, remained constant and faithful. Both of them fought for the one they loved.
Today, we have our challenge. Just as Gomer returned to Hosea, and Israel repented to Yahweh, we too are to reconcile with God. And thus the core of the message of the prophet Hosea to all of us in the Season of Lent: God will take upon Himself the shame that marked the “Jezreels”; He will have pity and mercy to all the “Lo-ruhama” and He will seal the covenant once again and make all the “Lo-ammi” His people again.
If you look at it, this is our relationship with Jesus.
So, with all the reasons in the world, we might find fighting for the one we love something to jeer at, laugh at, or make fun of. Especially, if we become victims of their infidelities, or we discover some part of our beloved’s life that is shameful, and deserving of contempt. Fighting for that beloved to the point of being fools is something we brand as “romantic” — a love that belongs to literature and fairy tales, but never in reality. Many of us are believers of this foolishness, because we have been hurt. If we have a friend who fights for his love to the point of madness, our advise to readily give up and look for another is easily at hand. When we’re hurt, there is a tendency to generalize: but hey, not all people are like your boyfriends or girlfriends, husband or wife who left you.
But look into the deepest recesses of our hearts. In reality too, we do long for someone who would fight for us, despite our awareness of our unworthiness. If we do develop a culture of this kind of love, we might find people who actually would love us as Yahweh and Hosea.
So enough of these pretensions. Dying for the beloved is not the property of fables; it should be the rule of thumb for all of us. You know who died for you at the cross, right? If you love Him so much, then fight till the very last drop in the name of love.