What Is In A Name? Challenging Disobedience in Marriage—Part IV-B

Nature of This Account

Scholars have argued that this story cannot be but parabolic. There is no way God would ask His child to knowingly enter a marriage that would become a marriage of disobedience. This presentation is about building a counseling model, so we will not join this debate. However, I will state that I see no contextual reason to call it parabolic. While God does not reveal the outcome for any Christian couple who marries, many find themselves with a mate like Gomer. Hence, this book is helpful in the biblical marriage counseling enterprise.

Contemporary Reality of This Account

While I was working on this project, a pastor called me to consult about a situation in his church. A wife in the church had confided in his wife regarding her marriage. She discovered recently that her husband had been unfaithful. She reported that they had talked and cried on their way to an agreement to work through the breach by counseling with a couple specializing in affair recovery. However, she then discovered that he committed adultery two more times with two different women within the next ten days as they waited for a counseling appointment. If you are the counselor, how will you confront this man? There are several options. One option is to turn to the book of Hosea to challenge him with the anticipated outcomes of his actions.

Another Look at the Account

We turn our attention to Hosea, this Old Testament prophet, whose message is to Israel. There are challenges articulated to them that provide important application messages for us. The one I would call this man’s attention to is seen in the names of the children born to Hosea and his wife, Gomer. God instructed Hosea to marry Gomer and informed him that she would become an adulteress. They likely lived several years in a happy relationship. Then she became pregnant. We are not told the dynamics of her thinking, but following the birth of this first child, she embarked on her pathway of adultery.

When this first child is born, God instructs Hosea to name the son Jezreel which means “scattered.” In the prophecy to Israel, this was a word of judgment. It was a warning that God would scatter Israel because of their unfaithfulness to Him. For you, my professing Christian friend, this name has two applications. The first is this. You are scattered from the Lord. You are walking out of fellowship, and you are inviting the discipline of your heavenly Father. There is a second application. You are setting yourself up to be scattered from your wife, children, and church family. Your marriage is on the verge of disillusionment. Your children will be separated from you, and your lifestyle will set up dissidents in those relationships that will be difficult to repair. Your church will have no choice but to excommunicate you. You are creating a life of being scattered–separation and rejection.

The second child seems to be a “love child,” i.e., a child of adultery. God indicates that the name should be Lo-Ruhamah, meaning “not loved” or “not pitied.” God explains that the time is coming when the people’s sins will cause Him not to pity them. You might think that strange since the Bible repeatedly affirms the promise of Psalm. 100:5, “As a father has compassion for his children, the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.” However, the Bible also teaches that while the Lord is longsuffering, the time comes when he withdraws and abandons us to the consequences of our sins that we might repent. There are two applications here for you to consider.

Two Applications of this Account

First, you choose to put yourself in that place where God will abandon you to the consequences of your sin. You are seeking fulfillment, happiness, pleasure, or whatever. But as Hosea says later in this book, you are sowing to the wind and will repeat the whirlwind. You unlawfully sought fulfillment, happiness, and pleasures. They will not only evaporate but also turn to bitterness and emptiness. Second, your children will become not loved. There will be a decreasing opportunity and desire to engage with your children. They will become deterrents to your lifestyle as you will become more focused on seeking your idols of fulfillment, happiness, and pleasures.

Gomer conceived and bore another son. This child was to be named Lo-Ammi, “not my people.” God warned that the time was coming when the Jews would no longer be His people. Again, there are two applications in the form of questions that should shake you to the depth of your soul. The first is this. Are you religious but not personally connected to God like many in Israel? If so, God is saying to you; you are not my son, my daughter! The second question for you is this. Are you about to become a dead-beat dad who says of your wife and children, you are not my responsibility—you are not my people? (If a woman–are you about to inform your husband, you are not my husband, and you are no longer my responsibility to your children?)

Second, my professing Christian friend, there is hope. Later in this book, God returns to the three names of Hosea’s children and promises that He will remove the negative prefix to each one. He says that the not loved will be loved, the not gathered will be gathered, and the, not my people will be my people.

The hope is true repentance. I am not talking about mouthing the words of repentance. If you compare the statement of repentance recorded later in this book, you discover the elements of true repentance (6:1-3 cp 14:1-3). The first repentance (6:1-3) is not repentance. It is the speech of one who heard a sermon or a counselor and said, “I had better get back to God and church.” The gut-wrenching words of the second are the echo of Psalm 51:1. It owns the depth of the sin, cries out for grace, desires only to please God, rejects its idols as having any sufficiency, and affirms that in God, there is mercy.

An Important Lesson on Repentance in this Account

It is self-serving repentance versus Godly repentance (Hosea 6:1-3; 14:1-3). If you have not had a marital mate offer self-serving repentance yet, you shall have if you are long in the ministry. Hosea provides a good contrast that will help you and your counselee evaluate the character of repentance. In 6:1-3, we find the prophet depicting self-serving repentance. He writes:

“Come, let us return to the Lord
for he has torn us, that he may heal us; 
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.3
Let us know;
let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Hosea 6:1-3

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled
because of your Iniquity.
Take with you words
and return to the Lord;
say to him,“Take away all iniquity;
accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips.
Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ 
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.”

Hosea 14:1-3

Three components are missing from the self-serving confession that makes the other genuine. We do well to use this contrast, set within the story of this prophecy, when we hear either mate giving a self-serving confession or returning to their sin having professed a confession. Here are these components.

1. Articulated awareness that their behavior is seriously sinful.

2. Commitment to turn from specific sin (Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses and will never again say “Our gods” to what we have made). People may return to Facebook, porn, or romance novels in a marriage.

3. Expression of dependence upon the grace of God to forgive all our sins and accept us graciously.

Conclusion and Implementation

Hosea says, “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him… (14:2), Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously…” Speaking the words reminds us that we are in a relationship with God. Speaking words of confession is a two-edged sword. On the one side, we hear our words, which provides a checkmate for ourselves. We have verbally owned our sins and sought forgiveness. On the other side, we have the confidence that we have done what God requires.

This is how we express honest ownership of our sins and lead others to do likewise. We can extrapolate the application to the human relationship from this relationship model with God. We (our counselee) must take words to our mate—the same two-edged sword functions in the marital relationship.

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