Sunday, 10 November 2013

Gomer: unlimited forgiveness and redemption

       First things first. Gomer was a prostitute. Not a born-and-raised, dedicated follower of God: a prostitute. Without even going into her story that one fact speaks volumes about the people God chooses and the sheer depth of His love for us! God commanded Hosea – a man so important in the Lord’s plan that he has a whole book of the Bible named after him – to ‘Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her.’ (Hosea 1:2; NIV). I don’t imagine many men would be ecstatic about that – especially in a culture which so heavily shunned such women and valued a respectable marriage as a measure of a man’s success – but Hosea trusted in God, and as such Gomer was given the one thing she never thought she deserved: a loving, holy husband to help put her back on the right track.

        So, Gomer was given the perfect man despite the many others there had been; a good life despite her avoidance of God’s plan for her until that point; and an optimistic future despite her sinful past. And yet she messed up. Again. We are told that she ‘is loved by another man and is an adulteress’ (Hosea 3:1; NIV). She couldn’t give up her old life completely, and the sense of unworthiness of her new life dragged her back into her old habits. Yet once again God commanded Hosea to ‘love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to another god.’ (Hosea 3:1; NIV). In other words, Hosea forgave her sin against him and accepted her just as she was. There are three main things we can take from this. One is that God will NEVER give up on us! He will forgive us more than ‘70x7’ times for our shortfalls (Matthew 18:22; NIV), and His love will remain unfailing throughout. There’s nothing we can do that will shock God or ‘put him off’ – remember as creator of the whole world He has seen it all before. No matter how far we stray from the path He set out for us, there is always a way back; and when we do eventually make it back, He will be there waiting for us as if we never left.

        The second vital message in Gomer’s story is that even the best man in the world is not enough to make us happy. For single women it is so easy to put so much weight on the search for the perfect husband that sometimes that longing rises above our quest for a deeper relationship with God. At a camp recently I wrote down a phrase from God which has stuck with me ever since: ‘I will be a bride of Christ before I am a bride of Man’. The world tempts us into thinking a good man will give meaning and satisfaction to our lives. But the truth is, we cannot find that satisfaction anywhere but in the blood of Jesus which leads us to eternal life with our Father in Heaven. A man sent by God will enhance the life you have, but no man can offer what Jesus can. Until we learn to hold Christ at the forefront of everything, we cannot know the fulfilment and worth that our hearts long for.

        Finally, Gomer’s story is one of sexual healing and redemption. It shows us that giving in once does not mean you’re tainted forever. As with any sin, if you turn to Jesus and repent, He will make it like it never happened. Because that is how much your Father loves you. It is not a case of having one shot in life. At any point you can decide to give up those relationships in favour of the ultimately more fulfilling relationship with God. Like the lost sheep that the shepherd left the flock to find, or the prodigal son who was welcomed by his father with open arms, God is always calling you back to Him, and He wants you to live the wonderful life He has made for you to the full without being held back by guilt or shame. Your worth in God’s eyes has never decreased, and will remain the same as it ever was. Like Gomer returned to Hosea, you can return to God.

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