“The quality of mercy is not ‘strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.”
– Williams Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice –
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You can see her pausing at the dark doorway, staring into the calmed dust of the street. Dark eyes search the night. Her heart thumps at a rustle of cloth in the house behind her back. She freezes, waiting for her husband to roll over in their bed. She lurks there in shadows, half-way between home and the city. Finally his breathing deepens, steady, even.
She slips into the dark. The faint laughter of midnight carousing makes her spine tingle. Lamps flicker, a few streets away. Men’s voices shout, muted in the foggy air. A hungry gleam shines in the woman’s eye as she slips into the dark, unseen.
Her business was committing adultery.
Certainly not a very nice subject.
And yet God set aside a book to tell her tale, a story of her and the bridegroom she abandoned.
Unexpectedly, this woman’s story brought my soul to its knees.
The man showed incredible restraint, if you ask me. He married her, knowing full and knowing well how much she was a creature chained to the night. It called to her. The night called… and she always, always went back.
And so did he. She would run away from home, relapse to the old ways and the new men and the over-and-over auction of her soul. And each time, he went to find her.
How much love does it take for a betrayed husband to keep seeking?
I imagine that sometimes she hid, curled in an alley, silently cursing his relentless pursuit. And yet, when food ran out and men scorned her and she received kicks instead of payment, he was there, picking her up. Again, coming with the rescue she did not want.
Perhaps, when he took her in his arms again to take her back, his bride, she would wonder just why she left him at all. Her head would fall heavy on his shoulder and perhaps they both had tears in the dark when he carried her back home.
Shaming the name of her husband was how she lived.
Every day she flirted on the streets
Every day her actions spat upon his honor.
Yet still he unbarred the door and set out into the mud-slung streets and called in the dark for his rebel bride.
– – – – – – –
The unexpected twist in my heart came as a memory forgotten, just rising to the surface.
Because, light flashed, and I was that woman huddled in the alley, abandoned by all the lovers who had promised me happiness.
It was my husband calling me in the darkness, his voice strained and kind and full of sorrow.
Jesus calling, calling, calling.
Because I’d gone straight back to the mud after being cleansed. And it wasn’t the first time.
“After Gomer ran off with another man, God sent Hosea to buy her back and bring her home. Then God said about Israel, about us, dead in our sin: “…I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth…” The word Achor means “trouble”. From the ashes of the Valley of Trouble came new life, green and lush. Forgiveness. Rest. Resurrection.”
So in a dark, dirty ally, my Bridegroom crawled to get to me, through all the filth of my betrayal and foolishness.
And so, my eyes opened and in the story of a forsaken Israelite man and his traitor-bride—in Hosea and Gomer—I found a mirror.
Jesus, my husband, my Hosea.
Here I am, your wife, your daughter, your Gomer.
Praising you with my lips and so often chasing other gods with my heart.
I don’t know why you keep bringing me home.
“Let Thy grace Lord, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.”
– from the hymn “Come Thou Fount” –
“Oh, that my ways were directed to keep your statutes” (Psalm 119:5), my Hosea, my God.
Forgive me; forgive those traitorous kisses to idols.
Jesus, I am Yours, forever.
“I stumbled and fell in the road on the way home
I lay in the brick street like a stray dog
You came to me like a silver moon
With the saddest smile I ever knew
Hosea carried me home again, home again
You called me out to the Valley of Trouble
Just to look at the mess that I’ve made
A barren place where nothing can grow
One look and my stone heart crumbled
It was a valley as green as jade
I swear it was the color of hope
You turned a stone into a rose, Hosea
I sang and I danced like I did as a young girl
I am a slave and a harlot no more
You washed me clean like a summer rain
And you set me free with that ball and chain
Hosea, I threw away the key
I’ll never leave”
-Andrew Peterson, from his song “Hosea”
The redemption of Gomer is the story of my redemption. This love is more than I can understand. What did Jesus have to go through to buy you back from justice’s auction?
“….Just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…that he might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
– Ephesians 5:25,27, NKJV –
Thank you, Public Domain Pictures and Petr Kratochvil, for today’s photo.