She had run away. And she wasn’t simply gone; she had fled to the bed of another man. Again. While this episode was just one of countless others, her husband always hoped it would be the last. Although the familiarity of the pain made each betrayal less shocking, every incident inflicted a soul wound that required attention. A repeated cut, the scar tissue ever increasing.
On the day that Hosea buys his wife Gomer out of the sex trade, he makes the decision to embrace the pain. A broken marriage with no guarantee that his wife would ever be faithful, and yet he still wills to love her, to woo her back home.
This messy love story recorded in the Old Testament is just one of many episodes of human trafficking described in Scripture (follow this link for a detailed definition of human trafficking). Other Biblical accounts include the sexual exploitation of a slave girl, a boy sold by his own family, and an entire race of people forced to provide manual labor for an oppressive culture. Crazy, right? Simply looking at the bullet points of many Biblical stories is alarming, both in their content and in their similarity to our current culture.
When we read these historical accounts, it’s hard to believe that human beings can treat one another in such appalling ways. It can also make us wonder about the God who tells us these stories. Who is He and why does He recount such tales?
What does Author God have in mind by dedicating so much of His Book to human slavery?
When I read, I want to know about authors and why they are passionate about their stories. I want to understand why Charles Dickens focused on poverty and greed and why Harper Lee was so compelled to address prejudice. What were John Steinbeck’s own experiences during the Great Depression? Why did Pearl Buck understand commitment and betrayal?
What I really want to understand is why the Author of Scripture communicated so many stories of buying and selling, of taking and degrading. This theme flows throughout Israel’s history, and while the accounts are difficult to read, an understanding of the Author’s heart gives me a greater capacity to discuss this topic.
For this first week of our Friday Focus on human trafficking awareness, let’s continue with the Hosea and Gomer’s story. If you’ve not read it, here are the main plot points:
- God tells Hosea to marry a woman who will be unfaithful.
- Hosea chooses a woman named Gomer who lives as a prostitute.
- At some point, Gomer appears to find herself in bondage.
- Hosea buys his wife back and urges her to leave the life of prostitution.
What do we learn about the Author?
Did Harper Lee write To Kill a Mockingbird because she was a proponent of prejudice? Did Charles Dickens write his prolific works because he affirmed greed and poverty? Of curse not. Neither does God tell stories of slavery because He delights in suffering. On the contrary, God hates evil more than any of us because He loves better than any of us.
Prior to the redemption of Hosea’s wife, God speaks a comforting word to Israel:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.” Hosea 2:14-15 (ESV)
The word Achor itself actually means “trouble,” and it would not have conjured up fond memories for Israel. In the battle against Jericho, God had given clear instructions that the gold, silver, iron, and bronze were to be His. Unbeknownst to the people, a man named Achan stole sacred items. Consequently, the consecutive battle against Ai brings death to Israel. As a result of his sin, God commands that Achan and his household be put to death in the Valley of Achor. A truly grim event in Israel’s past.
For Israelites, recalling Achor might be as poignant as mentioning bloody battles like Gettysburg, Normandy, or Vietnam to Americans. What if God said to us, “I will take the horror of 9-11 and make it a place of great restoration?” God uses a tragic event in Israel’s history to communicate His redemptive love. Darkness in the past is NOT a prescription for future darkness. God is Light and wants His story of hope to be written on our hearts. Like Hosea, God goes after His bride in the form of Jesus Christ. His shed blood was the price paid for our spiritual freedom.
What do I learn about myself?
The female character in Hosea’s runaway tale is representative of God’s people. All people, for that matter. Abandoning the Creator, we suffer the consequences of a rebellious life, and like the harlot Gomer, we need to be rescued from physical, emotional, and spiritual slavery.
Gomer’s addictive cycle of prostitution teaches me about mankind’s propensity to forsake God. Playing the role of Gomer, we leave the safety of the home God has for us and run to sleep with disaster. When I identify with Gomer, I am more aware of the areas in my life that weigh me down, and I become less judgmental of others.
Considering the priceless sacrifice of Christ, I must ask myself:
- When do I play the role of Gomer?
- How do I run from God, and how does He choose to redeem me?
- What is my personal Valley of Achor? What areas of devastation in my life seem beyond repair?
- How does God want to redeem my situation?
A door of hope waits for each of us.
How can we respond?
Authors extend an invitation to respond. It might be with a change of heart, a shift in a mindset, or a specific call to action. So what’s my response to the story of Hosea and Gomer?
By identifying with Gomer, I am moved to compassion for people in our culture who are being bought and sold. Rather than judge I can ask, “What’s their story?” Whether they’ve chosen the life of prostitution or have been forced into it, they need my compassion, not my judgment.
How else might we respond? We can bring awareness to the human trafficking situation in our world. We can support organizations that actively help victims. We can pray and ask God what our individual part might be in ending human trafficking. What’s your response? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Log on next Friday for a look at the story of Joseph as we continue our focus on human trafficking awareness during the month of January.
Written by Heidi Sadler, © 2016 Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved. The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Text Edition: 2011. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.