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Why I can’t remarry

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Personal Testimony

In 2004 I discovered what any spouse dreads – my wife had had an affair.  As many have experienced, the months immediately following involved intense emotions with a constant battle against bitterness, anger and unforgiveness.  Strangely, I never seriously considered pursuing a divorce.  I say it was strange because I believed that sexual immorality provided me with ample Biblical justification to take such a course.  Still, the love I had for my wife remained.  She seemed repentant and expressed a desire to stay.  I wanted that.  So we began the process of rebuilding.

Several months after her confession we had confirmation that my wife had conceived her first child during that affair.  By this point I had firmly resolved to forgive her and so that meant moving forward, not looking back.  I resolved to love ‘our’ new child as I would my own.  This turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made.  The following 18 months spent with this delightful little girl were among the best I’ve experienced.  She was adorable.  I loved being a father, making her smile and even late night feeds.  But sadly it wasn’t to last.

In early 2006 my wife left taking our one year old daughter with her.  The relationship with her father had never really stopped.  It was becoming clearer that, in spite of her apparent repentance two years earlier, she was planning a new life with a new husband.

This began the most traumatic period I have experienced.  A friend well described the pain – discovering an affair is acute pain but a spouse leaving is chronic pain.  For nine months I suffered intensely from the loss of my wife.  Like others experience, thoughts of suicide were not uncommon.   It was the support of family and friends and a sense of the eternal consequences of taking my own life that dissuaded me from such a final course.  It may seem impossible to some, but God had so worked in my life that I felt as much love for my wife the day she left as I had any time before.  No doubt this made the rending of separation even more painful. 

There was a short period of about two weeks during those nine months where I was determined to pursue a divorce.  Making that decision provided a wonderful sense of power.  Finally the tables had turned and she was getting a little of the treatment she had given me.

But I soon grew uneasy with this decision.  I was a Christian.  She also was a believer.  How would this look to our non-Christian family and friends, many of whom had been married for longer than us.  They had managed to keep their marriages intact.  Yet my Christian marriage was nearing its end.

The dishonor that divorce brings upon the name and cause of Christ began to rest heavily on me.  Even though I had done all I could to save our marriage – and longed for the opportunity to do more – still my ‘Christian marriage’ was ending in divorce.  The Bible declares that God hates divorce.  I hated divorce.  How could I tell others that God can change lives and restore relationships when He seemed incapable of restoring my relationship?  I felt my divorce would bring more public disgrace to Jesus.

So my prayer began to change from ‘Lord, save my marriage’ to ‘Lord, what can I do to salvage some honour for your Name?’  This prayer eventually led me to ask what became the pivotal question – what would God do if He were in my situation?

It surprised me to discover that of all the marriages in the Bible, God Himself had the worst.  Jeremiah says that God was married to Israel[1] yet Israel was a serial adulterer.  God’s response to his adulterating wife is beautifully portrayed in chapter three of Hosea[2]

Hos 3:1 NKJV  Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”

I had now discovered what God would do if he were in my situation!  If I am to ‘imitate God’ (Eph 5:1) then perhaps I should be seeking to love my wife as God loved His.

This new discovery had an amazing and nearly instant effect.  For the previous nine months I had cried almost daily.  In the early months I could not go more than three or four hours without being overwhelmed by grief.  In the later months I was happy if I could get through a few days without tears. 

But discovering that God still lovingly pursued His unfaithful wife even in the midst of her continued unfaithfulness gave me hope.  It was not the hope that my marriage would be restored.  Thus far there has been no happy ending for God and Israel (or my wife and I).  Rather, it gave me hope that, even in the midst of a divorce I didn’t want, I could glorify God by imitating Him.  Rather than my divorce bringing shame to the name of Christ, it provided me with an opportunity to demonstrate the type of love God demonstrates to His unfaithful people every day.  This unwanted situation gave me an unexpected opportunity to declare my love for God and demonstrate His love for us in a way that happily married couples could never do. 

The weight I felt and the distress I was experiencing was transformed, literally overnight, into an excitement to live out true devotion to a perfectly good and loving God.  This truth had set me free.

There was now a new question that presented itself – was loving my wife the way God loved Israel optional?  Could I walk away from this decision if I found it too difficult? 

Over the following 12 months I read and listened to everything I could on the subject of divorce and remarriage.  At the end of that period of study and prayer I came to a fairly clear Biblical conclusion.  It is summed up in Jesus statement:

Luk 16:18 NKJV  “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

This passage is not hard to understand.  The reason it is so rarely accepted at face value is because it is very hard to apply.  With a divorce rate of one in every two inside the church, any minister seeking to apply this verse, and any Christian seeking to live it out, will face real challenges. 

Of course, those who qualify this verse do so with reference to other passages.  Some of these verses on the surface do seem to challenge the plain reading of the above passage.  Those challenges are considered below. 

Much has been written on this topic by many authors.  One of those is John Piper.  His views on this subject I agree with on almost every point.  I have included his article on Divorce and Remarriage at the end of this document as it explains the Biblical basis succinctly and clearly.

What follows are the Biblical texts upon which my conclusions have been drawn.  I have refrained from answering the many objections that might be raised in an effort to keep this document short.

Scriptures supporting the view that remarriage is forbidden

Luke 16.18: Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

This single passage provides nearly all the information we need to draw a Biblical conclusion on remarriage.  It can be summarized as:

  • A man who divorces and remarries another (implying sexual intercourse) is guilty of adultery.
  • The second marriage could only be called ‘adultery’ if the man was still considered by God to be married to his first wife.
  • Thus, Jesus says that neither divorce, remarriage or sexual intercourse terminates the first marriage. Rather the man continued to be bound to his first wife.

But the more surprising aspect of this passage is that the woman wrongfully divorced commits adultery if she remarries:

  • The man had remarried[3] and so had abandoned his wife.
  • According to Jesus this man had committed ‘adultery’. Many argue that both adultery and abandonment[4] destroy a marriage covenant thus freeing the innocent spouse to remarry.
  • But Jesus says that if the innocent spouse remarries she will also commit adultery!
  • It could only be considered adultery on her part if she was still deemed to be married to her first husband.
  • Thus, Jesus makes clear that the marriage covenant was binding even after a person had abandoned their spouse, committed adultery and remarried.
  • Thus, according to Jesus, neither remarriage, adultery or abandonment free a spouse to remarry.

The question raised by this passage is ‘How then does one properly terminate a marriage?’ 

The following verses attempt to give a broader picture of the purpose of marriage, the way in which a marriage could be ended, what separated couples should do and how a marriage is lawfully ended.

The ultimate purpose of human marriage is to represent the eternal and unbreakable marriage between Christ and the church.  Divorce and remarriage undermines this purpose and so undermines our security in Christ.

Eph 5:31-32 ESV  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  32  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

2Co 11:2 NKJV  For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Rev 19:7 NKJV  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

Christ will never divorce the Church and the Church will never divorce Christ.

Heb 13:5 NKJV  Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.”

The marriage between Christ and the Church is known as a ‘covenant’.

Heb 9:15 NKJV  And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Human marriages are also called covenants.

Mal 2:14 NKJV  Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant.

The Bible explicitly states that no covenant can be annulled.

Gal 3:15 NKJV  Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.

Covenants are only terminated by the death of one of the covenanting parties.

Rom 7:2 NKJV  For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 

The covenant between Israel and God was not terminated by Israel’s immorality but at Jesus death:

Zec 11:10 NKJV  And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples… 12 Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver [a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus].

God requires that individuals and nations respect the covenants made even when those covenants were made in very imperfect circumstances.

Jos 9:3 NKJV  But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, [they had killed all the inhabitants] … 6 …  they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country [they lied]; now therefore, make a covenant with us.” …15  So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them. … [500 years later!]… 

2Sa 21:1 NKJV  Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.” [a violation of the covenant made by Joshua]

It follows then that if marriage is an unbreakable covenant, a person is bound to their spouse as long as he or she lives.

1Co 7:39 NKJV  A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

It follows then that if marriage is an unbreakable covenant, remarrying while a previous spouse is alive would result in adultery.

Mar 10:11-12 NKJV  So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  12  And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Luk 16:18 NKJV  “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Rom 7:3 NKJV  So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

Thus, believers[5] are expressly forbidden to remarry.

1Co 7:10-11 NKJV  Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.  11  But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.

A formal divorce and remarriage does not make that remarriage lawful.

Mar 6:17-19 NKJV  For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her.  18  Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  19  Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not;

A covenant may be broken by one party but that does not annul the covenant.

Some argue that once a person breaks the marriage covenant through sexual immorality, the covenant ceases to exist.  There is no evidence in the scriptures that a covenant is terminated when one of the parties violates that covenant.  In fact, there is much evidence to the contrary.  The most obvious is the ‘Old Covenant’.  Israel repeatedly ‘broke’ this covenant over 1,500 years yet this did not ‘annul’ the covenant.  It remained intact right up until Jesus death.  The following is one example:

Lev 26:14-15 NKJV  ‘But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments,  15  and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, …  44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God.

Like covenants, vows are unbreakable and binding.

Wedding vows are made publicly, with signed witnesses and are usually said to be made in the sight of God.  These vows bind a person to remain faithful to their spouse until death.

Num 30:2 NKJV  If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

Supposed Exception 1: Divorce and remarriage is permitted if a spouse commits adultery

This exception is based on two verses found only in Matthew:

Mat 5:32 NKJV  But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Mat 19:9 NKJV  And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

This exception is found only in the Gospel of Matthew.

Neither Mark 10, Luke 16 or the extended treatment of divorce and remarriage in 1 Cor 7 mention this as a justification for divorce.  The logical question then is ‘Why was Matthew the only NT author to include this exception clause?’

The Gospel of Matthew was written to a Jewish audience.

This is the prevailing view of Bible scholars.  Conversely, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians were not written to a Jewish audience.

In Jewish culture a legal divorce was required for betrothed couples.

This is demonstrated in the actions of Joseph described below.  This fact is also clearly evident from extra-Biblical writings.

Joseph, a just man, determined to ‘divorce’ Mary who he had not yet married because he believed she had committed ‘porneia’ (fornication)

Mat 1:19 ESV  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

Jesus uses two different words in the Matthew passages to describe sexual immorality – ‘porneia’ (fornication) and ‘moichao’ (adultery)

This is a significant point.  We would expect the word for ‘adultery’ to be used in both instances since that is what we understand a married person to commit.  But Jesus chooses a different word when describing the condition under which a person can divorce.

Jesus stated that a person could divorce for ‘porneia’ (fornication) not ‘moichao’ (adultery)

Many translations like the NIV mistranslate the word ‘porneia’ in Mat 5.32 and Mat 19.9 as ‘marital unfaithfulness’.  The word should be translated as ‘fornication’ or ‘sexual immorality’.  ‘Porneia’ refers to sexual immorality in a general sense.  It may or may not include adultery, bestiality, homosexuality, fornication (sex before marriage) and so on. 

But it is wrong to assume that it always includes all forms of sexual immorality as the following verses make clear:

Porneia does not mean adultery in Mat 15.19 since adultery is explicitly mentioned:

Mat 15:19 NKJV  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications (porneia), thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  

Porneia cannot mean homosexuality or bestiality in John 8.41 since such acts cannot produce a child:

Joh 8:41 NKJV  You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication (porneia); we have one Father—God.” 

In order to be consistent with the numerous other passages that do not permit remarriage, Jesus only allows a person to divorce with the subsequent freedom to remarry during the betrothal period.

This understanding fits perfectly with the two other gospels that give no grounds for remarriage.  The exception clause is important in the Gospel of Matthew because it addresses Jewish people with a uniquely Jewish betrothal custom.  

Second, it provides justification that Joseph’s planned ‘divorce’ of his betrothed in Matthew chapter one was indeed ‘just’.  And this also keeps intact the view that a marriage is only finalised once it has been consummated (confirmed) through the covenant act of intercourse.  Typically, the tearing of the hymen and the subsequent flow of blood is symbolic of the unbreakable blood covenants made between eastern peoples.

Supposed Exception 2: Divorce and remarriage is permitted if a spouse is abandoned

1Co 7:15 NKJV  But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage (douloo) in such cases. But God has called us to peace.

This passage only applies to ‘unbelieving’ spouses.  If the spouse who leaves is a ‘believer’ then remarriage is expressly forbidden in 1 Cor 7.11.

1Co 7:10-11 NKJV  Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.  11  But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. … 15 But if the unbeliever departs

The words ‘under bondage’ (douloo) are never used to refer to the marriage bond.

This word ‘douloo’ is used to describe someone who is enslaved, not someone who is married.  For example, it is translated here as ‘bondage’:

Act 7:6 NKJV  But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage (douloo) and oppress them four hundred years.

A different word, ‘deo’, is used to describe a person bound to another in marriage:

1Co 7:39 NKJV  A wife is bound (deo) by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

Thus, there is no reason to accept that this verse is declaring that the abandoned spouse is freed from the marriage bond.

The passage does mean that a believing spouse is not bound to seek reconciliation with an unbelieving spouse who has left the marriage.

This is consistent with the following verse:

2Co 6:14 NIV  Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

The passage does not mean that a believing spouse is free to remarry.

Even if one does assume that this passage permits divorce, it does not affirm the right to remarry.  If remarriage was permitted then this would contradict the summary statement made at the end of the same chapter (1 Cor 7.39) that marriage is binding until death.

1Co 7:39 NKJV  A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

Divorce & Remarriage: A Position Paper by John Piper

This paper can be found here:

The conclusions he draws are included below.

Conclusions and Applications

In the New Testament the question about remarriage after divorce is not determined by:

  1. The guilt or innocence of either spouse,
  2. Nor by whether either spouse is a believer or not,
  3. Nor by whether the divorce happened before or after either spouse’s conversion,
  4. Nor by the ease or difficulty of living as a single parent for the rest of life on earth,
  5. Nor by whether there is adultery or desertion involved,
  6. Nor by the on-going reality of the hardness of the human heart,
  7. Nor by the cultural permissiveness of the surrounding society.

Rather it is determined by the fact that:

  1. Marriage is a “one-flesh” relationship of divine establishment and extraordinary significance in the eyes of God (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8),
  2. Only God, not man, can end this one-flesh relationship (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9—this is why remarriage is called adultery by Jesus: he assumes that the first marriage is still binding, Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11),
  3. God ends the one-flesh relationship of marriage only through the death of one of the spouses (Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39),
  4. The grace and power of God are promised and sufficient to enable a trusting, divorced Christian to be single all this earthly life if necessary (Matthew 19:10-12,26; 1 Corinthians 10:13),
  5. Temporal frustrations and disadvantages are much to be preferred over the disobedience of remarriage, and will yield deep and lasting joy both in this life and the life to come (Matthew 5:29-30).

Those who are already remarried:

  1. Should acknowledge that the choice to remarry and the act of entering a second marriage was sin, and confess it as such and seek forgiveness
  2. Should not attempt to return to the first partner after entering a second union (see 8.2 above)
  3. Should not separate and live as single people thinking that this would result in less sin because all their sexual relations are acts of adultery. The Bible does not give prescriptions for this particular case, but it does treat second marriages as having significant standing in God’s eyes. That is, there were promises made and there has been a union formed. It should not have been formed, but it was. It is not to be taken lightly. Promises are to be kept, and the union is to be sanctified to God. While not the ideal state, staying in a second marriage is God’s will for a couple and their ongoing relations should not be looked on as adulterous.
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The Love Story of Hosea

A first person narrative dramatic reading true to the content of Hosea by Dr John W Reed of Dallas Theological Seminary.

The aim of every Christian who loves God is this:

Eph 5:1-2 NKJV  Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  2  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

The story of Hosea describes how our Saviour responds to an unfaithful spouse.  It provides a confronting and passionate challenge to Christians to respond with the same love to their unfaithful spouses.  May this sort of love characterize the church!

I have been called the prophet of the broken heart, but I would rather be remembered as the prophet of love and hope. I am Hosea, prophet of God to Israel, my homeland.  Come with me to my home on the outskirts of Samaria. There beneath the oak tree is Gomer, my wife. I love her as I love my own life. You will love her too. Sitting beside her is our son, Jezreel. He is eighteen now, handsome and strong—a young man with a heart for God. At Gomer’s feet and looking up at her is Ruhamah, our daughter. Do you see how her hair glistens? She is the image of her mother. She was sixteen just half a year ago. And then here is Ammi, her brother– fifteen and as warm and bubbling as the flowing brook that you hear in the background.

We are happy and at peace. It has not always been so.

I began my ministry as a prophet almost thirty years ago during the reign of Jeroboam II. Those were years of prosperity. The caravans that passed between Assyria and Egypt paid taxes into Jeroboam’s treasury and sold their goods in our midst. But they also left their sons and daughters and their gods. These gods and the gods of the ancient Canaanites and of Jezebel have wooed the hearts of my people. Altars built for sin offerings have become places for sinning.

If you were to walk through my land today, you would see images and altars in all the green groves. My people have many sheep and cattle. Some think that Baal, the so-called fertility god, is the giver of lambs, of calves, and the fruit of the field. Every city has its high place where Baal is worshipped. There is a high place not far from here–you never are far from a high place in Israel in these days!  Sometimes at night we hear the beat of the priest’s music and the laughter of the sacred prostitutes. Last week a man and woman who live three houses from us sacrificed their infant son to Baal.

You may wonder how Jehovah’s people could sink to such unholy ways. It is because the priests of God have departed from Him. They delight in the sins of the people; they lap it up and lick their lips for more. And thus it is “Like priest, like people.” Because the priests are wicked, the people are too. Surely God will judge. My beautiful land is just a few short years from being crushed under the iron heel of the Assyrian military might.

Yes, thirty years ago God appointed me a prophet in Israel. My father, Berri, and my honored mother taught me early to fear Jehovah, the One true God of Israel. They taught me to hate the calf deity of the first Jeroboam. Daily we prayed. Daily we sang the songs of David and hungered for the coming Messiah.

My ministry has always been hard. The first ten years were the hot-blooded days of my twenties. My sermons were sermons of fire. My heart bled for my people. I was little heeded and generally scorned. When I was thirty-two, God stirred me and I spent many days in prayer and meditation. I felt lonely and in need of a companion.

The first frost of fall had tinted the leaves when I went with my parents to visit the home of Diblaim. In the busy activity of my ministry I had not seen the family for several years. We were engaged in lively conversation when through the door swept a young woman, Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. I remembered her as a pretty and somewhat spoiled child. But now she was a hauntingly beautiful woman. Her ivory face was framed in a wreath of raven black hair. I found myself fascinated by her striking beauty and had great difficulty in turning my eyes from her.

As we returned to our home that day, my father and I talked of many things. Yet, in my mind hung the image of a raven-haired Israelitess. My father’s friendship with Diblaim flourished and often I journeyed with him to visit. I was strangely drawn to Gomer. Diblaim and my father talked incessantly. Then one day my father astounded me with the proposal, “Hosea, it is my desire that you should marry Gomer.” I did not question that I loved Gomer. But something about her troubled me. As most young women of her time, she had a love for expensive clothing, jewelry and cosmetics. That I accepted as part of her womanhood. But she seemed somehow to be experienced beyond her years in the ways of the world.

Yet I loved her. It was my father’s will that I should marry her. I knew that my burning love for Jehovah would win her from any wanton ways. God confirmed to me that indeed Gomer was His choice as well.

I wooed her with the passion of a prophet. God had given me the gift of poetry and I flooded Gomer with words of love.

She responded to my love. We stood together beneath the flower-strewn canopy of the Hebrew marriage altar and pledged eternal love to God and each other. We listened together to the reading of God’s laws of marriage. We heard the reminder that our marriage was a symbol of the marriage between Jehovah and Israel, His wife.

I took Gomer to my home. We read together the Song of Songs which is Solomon’s. We ate the sweet fruit of its garden of love. She was as refreshing to me as the first fig of the season. Gomer seemed content in the love of God and Hosea. I looked forward to the future with hope.

Shortly after the anniversary of our first year of marriage, Gomer presented me with a son. I sought God’s face and learned that his name was to be Jezreel—a name that would constantly remind Israel that God’s judgment was surely coming.

It was a stark reminder to me of the times in which we lived.

With the birth of Jezreel, Gomer seemed to change. She became distant and a sensual look flashed in her eye. I thought it was a reaction to the responsibility of caring for our son. Those were busy days. The message of God inflamed me and I cried out throughout the land.

Gomer was soon with child again. This time a daughter was born. I learned from God that she was to be named Lo-Ruhamah. It was a strange name, and it troubled me deeply for it meant, “No Mercy.” For God said, “I will no longer show my mercy to the nation of Israel, that I should forgive her.”

Gomer began to drift from me after that. Often she would leave after putting the children to bed and not return until dawn. She grew worn, haggard, and rebellious. I sought every way possible to restore her to me, but to no avail. About eighteen months later a third child was born, a boy. God told me to call him LoAmmi–meaning, “Not My People.” God said to Israel, “You are not my people, and I am not your God.” In my heart a thorn was driven. I knew that he was not my son and that his sister was not the fruit of my love. Those were days of deep despair. I could not sing the songs of David. My heart broke within me.

After Lo-Ammi was weaned, Gomer drifted beyond my reach–and did not return. I became both father and mother to the three children.

I felt a blight upon my soul. My ministry seemed paralyzed by the waywardness of my wife. My prayers seemed to sink downward. But then Jehovah stirred me. I came to know that God was going to use my experience as an illustration of His love for Israel.

Love flamed again for Gomer and I knew that I could not give her up. I sought her throughout Samaria. I found her in the ramshackle house of a lustful, dissolute Israelite who lacked the means to support her. I begged her to return. She spurned all my pleadings. Heavy-hearted, I returned to the children and mourned and prayed. My mind warmed to a plan. I went to the market, bought food and clothes for Gomer. I bought the jewelry and cosmetics she loved so dearly. Then I sought her lover in private. He was suspicious, thinking that I had come to do him harm. When I told him my plan, a sly smile crept over his face. If I could not take Gomer home, my love would not let men see her wanting. I would provide all her needs an she could think that they came from him. We struck hands on the bargain. He struggled home under his load of provisions. I followed in the shadows.

She met him with joy and showered him with love. She told him to wait outside the house while she replaced her dirty, worn apparel with the new. After what seemed hours, she reappeared dressed in radiant splendor, like the Gomer I saw that first day at the home of her father. Her lover approached to embrace her, but she held him off. I heard her say, “No, surely the clothes and food and cosmetics are not from your hand but from the hand of Baal who gives all such things. I am resolved to express my gratitude to Baal by serving as a priestess at the high place.

It was as if I were suddenly encased in stone. I could not move. I saw her walk away. She seemed like the rebellious heifer I had seen as a youth in my father’s herd. She could not be helped but would go astray. The more I tried to restore her the further she went from me. Feeble with inner pain, I stumbled home to sleepless nights and days of confusion and grief.

Gomer gave herself with reckless abandonment to the requirements of her role of priestess of Baal. She eagerly prostituted her body to the wanton will of the worshipers of that sordid deity.

My ministry became a pilgrimage of pain. I became an object of derision. It seemed that the penalty for the sin of Gomer–and of all my people–had settled upon me.

I fell back upon Jehovah. My father and mother helped in the care and instruction of the three children. They responded in love and obedience. They became the Balm of Gilead for my wounded heart. The years passed as I sounded the burden of God throughout the land. Daily I prayed for Gomer and as I prayed, love sang in my soul.

She was my nightly dream and so real that upon waking I often felt as if she had just left me again.

The years flowed on but the priests of Baal held her in their deadly clutches.

It was just over a year ago that it happened. The blush of spring was beginning to touch our land. In the midst of my morning hour of meditation, God seemed to move me to go among the people of Samaria. I was stirred with a sense of deep anticipation. I wandered through the streets.

Soon I was standing in the slave market. It was a place I loathed. Then I saw a priest of Baal lead a woman to the slave block. My heart stood still. It was Gomer. A terrible sight she was, to be sure, but it was Gomer. Stark naked she stood on the block. But no man stared in lust. She was broken, haggard, and thin as a wisp of smoke. Her ribs stood out beneath the skin. Her hair was matted and touched with streaks of gray, and in her eye was the flash of madness. I wept.

Then softly the voice of God’s love whispered to my heart. I paused, confused. The bidding had reached thirteen shekels of silver before I fully understood God’s purpose. I bid fifteen shekels of silver. There was a pause. A voice on the edge of the crowd said, “fifteen shekels and a homer of barley.”

“Fifteen shekels and a homer and half of barley,” I cried. The bidding was done.

As I mounted the slave block, a murmur surged through the crowd. They knew me and they knew Gomer. They leaned forward in anticipation. Surely I would strike her dead on the spot for her waywardness. But my heart flowed with love.

I stood in front of Gomer, and cried out to the people: “God says to you, ‘Unless Israel removes her adulteries from her, I will strip her as naked as the day she was born. I will make her like a desert, and leave her like a parched land to die of thirst.'”

I cried to a merchant at a nearby booth, “Bring that white robe on the end of the rack.” I paid him the price he asked. Then I tenderly drew the robe around Gomer’s emaciated body and said to her, “Gomer, you are mine by the natural right of a husband. Now you are also mine because I have bought you for a price. You will no longer wander from me or play the harlot. You must be confined for a time and then I will restore you to the full joys of womanhood.”

She sighed and fainted, falling into my arms. I held her and spoke to the people, “Israel will remain many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or ephod. Afterwards Israel will return and seek the Lord her God and David her king. She will come trembling to the Lord and to His benefits in the last days. And where it was said of Israel, ‘Lo-Ruhamah–you have no mercy,’ it will be said ‘Ruhamah–you have mercy.’ For the love of God will not give you up, but pursue you throughout your days. And where Israel was called ‘Lo-Ammi–you are not My people,’ it will be said, ‘Ammi–you are the people of the living God,’ for I will forgive you and restore you.”

I returned home with my frail burden. I nursed Gomer back to health. Daily I read her the writings of God. I taught her to sing the penitential song of David and then together we sang the songs of David’s joyful praise to God. In the midst of song I restored her to God, to our home, and to our children.

Do you not see how beautiful she is? I have loved her always, even in the depth of her waywardness because my God loves her. Gomer responded to God’s love and to mine. She does not call me “my master,” but “my husband.” And the name of Baal has never again been on her lips.

Now my people listen to my message with new responsiveness, for I am a prophet that has been thrilled with great truth. I have come to know in the depth of my being how desperately God loves sinners. How deliberately He seeks them!

How devotedly He woos them to Himself!

[1] Jer 3:14 NIV  “Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion.

[2] The ‘Love Story of Hosea’ at the end of this document portrays this beautifully.

[3] The reason for most divorces is to free a person to remarry.  This was the case in my own situation – my wife wanted to remarry so a quick divorce was needed. 

[4] The supposed divorce exception found in 1 Cor 7.15 is treated more fully later.

[5] A ‘believer’ does not mean a practicing and committed Christian.  Paul was writing to a very immoral church yet they were all considered believers.  The distinction between ‘believer’ and ‘unbeliever’ should be understood to be someone who holds the Christian belief and someone who holds no belief or another belief (ie pagan) altogether. 

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