August 21, 2014

Back to Basics

“No, no regrets! I have no regrets!” This seemed to be the surprising motto of a minister who married a practicing prostitute and set off a scandal in his parish. Talk about gossip! His name was on every lip and became a byword for “fool.” He went from a hero to a zero. His reputation immediately became null and void. Yet he is listed first among the Old Testament’s Minor Prophets.

The prophet Hosea was one of the most patient, tenderhearted, loving persons who ever graced our world. He was obedient to God from the core of his being, and faithful to the end of his life. That’s why God chose him to model His message of grace to one of the most obstinate generations of those who are called by His holy name.

Just imagine what would happen today if a popular preacher married a well-known prostitute. Picture him on television insisting that God told him to marry her and have children of harlotry. How many Christians would believe him? Brothers and sisters in the faith would quickly distance themselves from his disgrace.

It must have been terrible for Hosea. Everywhere he went with his new bride, women frowned disapprovingly and men smiled knowingly, as if they had been with Gomer as no man should have except her husband. But Hosea had no regrets. He was able to overcome the stares, jeers, and sneers because he was personally convinced that his marriage was ordained by God. Even though he seemed undiscerning and idiotic in the sight of humanity, he knew he stood justified and obedient in the eyes of God.

Hosea had no regrets when things got worse and God commanded him to bring his wife back to his home and family. The Living Bible paraphrases it this way: “Go, and get your wife again and bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery” (Hosea 3:1).* And he did.

Stretch your imagination to understand the kind of love and devotion it must have taken for Hosea to carry out God’s command. Even as rumors turned to ridicule he earnestly and tenderly sought and found Gomer. He bought her back for a few shekels of silver and some barley, then took her home, where he married her a second time.

“No, I have no regrets!” Hosea seemed to shout as he obeyed God while the people forsook Him to indulge their flagrant harlotry. Hosea did his best to get their undivided attention. From the fourth chapter to the end of his fascinating journal, he exhorted them to listen, hear, and return to the Lord (Hosea 4:1-3; 5:1; 6:1; 14:1, 2).

Time after time he shouted, “Return, O Israel.” But they would not. They ignored Hosea’s passionate appeals, rejected God’s gracious invitations, and continued to be prostitutes of the great pimp Satan. Three short years later they were crushed under the harsh, oppressive hand of Assyria. Then they had lots of regrets!

We are living in the last days, and life is rough. Rose gardens and late-night pillow fights with family and friends went out with the flood: the flood of boastful, arrogant, disobedient, unholy, selfish men and women.

As a result of these difficult times, it now takes at least two things to keep from giving up or going under in this final stretch of the journey to our heavenly home: It takes a tough hide to shield us from the flaming arrows of the evil one, and a tender heart to perform simple acts of kindness to each other and in our world.

Hosea had both, and the scars to prove it. He died a rejected and ignored man, just as our Lord Jesus, who left us a rich legacy in Scripture known as the golden rule (Matt. 7:12) to help us stay the course, finish the race, and in the end have no regrets. The golden rule is the cornerstone of all simple acts of kindness. Not only are we to refrain from doing to others what we wouldn’t like done to us, but we must go even further and do all the good we can whether the recipients deserve it or not. For that is grace.

* Verses marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill. Used by permission.