I have recently been reflecting on a biblical character called Hosea. Hosea was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th Century BC. Lots of prophets, particularly in the Old Testament, have gotten the raw end of the stick because God sent them to proclaim messages of judgement to His people.
They were warning people to turn back to God their loving Father and be saved or to face coming catastrophes. You can imagine this was not a popular message and many prophets faced horrific persecution because of their message.
Hosea, I feel infinitely sorrier for because God’s message of Israel’s unfaithfulness was to be illustrated in his own personal life. God asked Hosea to marry a woman who was a prostitute, to settle down with her and to bear children. Gomer bore three children named Jezreel (the place God would pour out His judgement on Israel), No-Mercy & Nobody. These are pretty horrific names to be calling out in the school yard!
I can imagine the shame and embarrassment for the children and for Hosea especially as the story goes on and his wife Gomer continues to be unfaithful. Yet Hosea, in an illustration of God’s grace, continues to bring Gomer back and show her love. What a calling!
Is it too much to ask?
I can’t help but feel that Hosea’s call from God is just a bit too much. God’s taken it too far this time. There’s so much personal sacrifice involved for Hosea. It’s hard enough to go out into the world and serve God and come home into our safe place. It’s hard enough to have only a little bit of distance physically and emotionally between our ministry and our personal lives.
But I know that God has called me to live my life in a way that speaks to the world about who He is. The whole of my life; the way I eat, dress, work, spend money, listen to others, deal with suffering, respond to injustice, holiday, love my family, care for my pets, paints a picture of who God is.
We are Christ’s representatives in the world. (2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 20) It is our highest purpose to know God and to show others who He is. It is our purpose to be ambassadors for Christ telling everyone about the beauty of freedom, hope and forgiveness we experience. What a calling!
I generally do a pretty good job of painting a picture of Christ I think. I’m mostly loving, compassionate, a good listener. I like people to see me this way and to see God this way. I feel good about myself and comfortable with others. The problem is this isn’t exactly the full picture and God is not at all about compartmentalisation.
The hurts, the disappointments, the suffering, the sickness are as much a part of my life as the beautiful things. But I want to hide them away from people. It’s confronting, embarrassing, hurts too much to have them out in the open to be looked upon, prodded at.
This is what God called Hosea to do and what He still calls us to. To live our lives way out in the open. To be transparent. To allow others to see where God’s grace intersects with our brokenness. To show that in the deepest grief God is our comforter, in our challenging circumstances we can trust God to provide for us.
The world doesn’t offer this stuff! The world is in desperate pursuit of happiness and success and hiding and pushing down all feelings of being not okay. This is where the gospel has the most power.
Yes, it hurts and it is more than uncomfortable and even can be embarrassing and shameful to let others see our mess. Maybe there will be consequences for us socially. I think we may have more to lose by maintaining our perfect façade.
I hope to learn to practice a posture of genuineness. To actually respond honestly when someone asks about my day. To share my needs, believing in faith that I’ll be able to share about God’s provision. To encourage genuine sharing within my relationships and not brush over important things even if they are hard to deal with. What a calling!
Don’t we have a beautiful, merciful God who loves us despite everything!
Hannah Edwards has recently graduated from theological studies, is an avid shopper and is learning to cook. She is currently ministering to women in Brisbane in both church and community spheres, empowering women to reach their fullest potential. Hannah is also the founder of the online community Harvest Joy Women. Further material is available from www.harvestjoywomen.com