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  • Writer's pictureLynn Holzinger

Has your prodigal gone after other gods?

She will pursue her lovers but not catch them; she will

seek them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will return

to my first husband, for then I was better off than now.’

Hosea 2:7

God told Hosea to marry a prostitute so she would conceive some of her children in prostitution. God said, "This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods" (Hos 1:2). The book of Hosea isn't as much about Hosea's marriage to Gomer as it is God's covenant with Israel.

The nation of Israel was God's prodigal. God says when a Christian pursues other loves or gods, it's just like a man or woman who cheats on their spouse and seeks another lover. In the story of Hosea and Gomer, God's judgment falls on Gomer when she cannot catch or find her lovers and decides to return to her husband. God extends His mercy by instructing Hosea to take her back. And I was thinking; God can do that with our prodigals who are born-again but have rebelled. Whatever they are chasing after that keeps them from wanting God is something God controls. He can't make the decision for them, but He can cause their life choices to lose their satisfaction or remove whatever they pursue by making it elusive and unattainable. God used a real-life situation to illustrate His covenant relationship with Israel.

When I read the Message and Meaning in the Intro to Hosea in my NLT Study Bible, 2008, I could picture "prodigals" in place of Israel and Gomer. The covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sanai becomes the new covenant God makes with believers through Jesus' death on the cross. The judgment of God under the old covenant is now the discipline of God under the new covenant since believers' sins have been judged at the cross. God's mercy remains the same. As the Church, we are the bride of Christ, but as individual believers, we are His child, so I changed "husband" to "Father." See if you can relate to what it says in light of your prodigal:

God's covenant with Israel stands at the center of Hosea's prophecy. When God entered into covenant with Israel at Mount Sanai, he offered the Israelites the incredible opportunity of living in intimate relationship with the Creator and sustainer of the universe. The covenant promised spiritual and material blessings to his people, while obligating them to live rightly before him. He had faithfully kept his covenant with the Israelites and they had enjoyed his blessings, but they had chosen to rebel against him and disregard his plan and purpose.
Marriage is the most powerful and memorable symbol of the covenant relationship between the Lord and Israel. As Israel's loving husband, the Lord provided her with everything she needed: land, food, drink, clothing, and security. Yet, like an adulterous spouse, Israel sought fulfillment through their idolatrous worship of the Canaanite gods. These dieties became Israel's lovers, and she attributed all of God's blessings to them. The personal life of the prophet Hosea with his wife Gomer played out in miniature this same drama of the wife's unfaithfulness and the husband's anguish over his wayward bride.
Through idolatry, Israel rejected her covenant with the Lord. In response, Hosea proclaimed God's judgment on sinful Israel. Judgment is the inevitable consequence of sin under the covenant. Yet even as the covenant was the foundation for divine judgment, it was also the basis for God's mercy. God did not judge Israel simply to punish her; his desire was to redeem her. Divine judgment was intended to turn Israel back to God, her true husband, so that in his mercy, he might restore her and reestablish his covenant with her.
God's mercy is not in opposition to his judgment. Hosea shows that God's mercy is extended to Israel through judgment, not instead of judgment; the Lord's promises of hope always follow his judgment. God has done the same thing for us through the cross of Christ.

I'm not saying this is what will happen. I just thought it was interesting the similarities between Israel, Gomer, and prodigals. May God, in His mercy, redeem your prodigal just as He will redeem Israel in the future. May He keep them from finding satisfaction in the gods they have pursued. And may they realize things were better when they were following after God. And lastly, may God receive all the glory that is rightfully His!

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