When you think of seminary, you probably think of clean-cut guys with starched shirts and a penchant for substitute swear words. These are the men God calls into church leadership…at least according to our stereotypes.
This is why I love the minor prophets of the Old Testament. These individuals, specially called by God to be His spokespeople, don’t fit our stereotypes. Yeah, it’s the rebel in me. There’s Amos, a farmer who insisted he wasn’t even an apprentice prophet. There’s Jonah, who straight-up rejected the calling to be a prophet. And there’s Hosea, who married a promiscuous woman. Let’s talk about Hosea and Gomer for a few minutes. (I wanted to title this post “The Seminarian and the Sl*t,” but I just couldn’t publish such a crass word in the title.)
Hosea was a single guy when the word of the Lord first came to him, and my study notes say he prophesied for something like thirty-eight years, so he must have been fairly young when he first heard from God. Not everyone got such personal attention from God during those days. This was a pretty big deal. We don’t know whether he was pleased or petrified to receive “a word,” but I bet he wasn’t very happy with that first command!
Hosea probably had a picture
in his mind of the ideal wife…
I can imagine marriage was already on his mind. Almost everyone got married in those days—sooner rather than later. When he realized God was calling him, perhaps he imagined the ideal woman to accompany him on this mission to speak for God. (I know I’m reading a lot of modern-day culture into this, but stick with me. There’s a point.) She would have been young, faithful, pure…a companion to make him look good and help him fulfill his duties…a Proverbs 31 woman back when that was a new concept.
God’s first words for Hosea aren’t a message of castigation, a call to repentance, or a scourging of idol worshippers. They’re not even for anyone else to hear. In a very personal command, God tells Hosea to go marry a woman who had already “been around the block,” who had a reputation for immorality and probably for cheating on one man with another. Not an honorable woman. Not the makings of an ideal ministry leader’s wife. I wonder what Hosea’s mother thought.
For six years, God was
shaping Hosea’s family life
…and Hosea’s heart.
It wasn’t enough just to marry her, just to go through the symbolism of the ceremony. No; he had to make love to her and get her pregnant three times. Assuming Gomer got pregnant right away, and they had a baby every two years, that’s six years. Six years with no big messages from God. Sure, God told him what to name the children and why, but Hosea didn’t get the classic, stand-on-the-steps-and-pronounce-judgement type of prophecies during that time. Those came later. For six years, God was shaping Hosea’s family life…and Hosea’s heart.
Hosea would later become well known in Israel, but before he could be prominent, he had to be obedient. He had to forsake common sense and well-intentioned plans for the uncommon sense of God’s plan. (This uncommon sense is rather a theme of mine.)
If you’ve read Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers (which I highly recommend, by the way!), or even if you haven’t, you can imagine a young pastor marching into the seedy part of town, getting down on one knee, and asking a scantily-clad woman of questionable reputation to take the diamond ring in his hand and marry him. Sounds crazy!
His experience gave Hosea
the education to speak
with God’s heart.
Yet this was the experience Hosea needed in order to be an effective prophet, ridiculous as it sounded to everyone around him. He knew heartbreak when Gomer left him and shame when people talked about her “taking up with” someone else. He watched his children suffer in their mother’s absence. Now imagine how he cried as he pleaded with Israel to come back to God. The experience (Hosea 1-3) gave Hosea the education to speak with God’s heart, to know what God went through—if on a much smaller scale—when Israel wandered from her Bridegroom.
I write today to anyone who’s ever felt delayed after knowing God called you to something. There’s an experience—probably an off-the-wall, unpredictable experience (or three)—that you need in order to really do what you’ve been called to do. Instead of resisting it, instead of questioning the common sense of it, instead of rushing into the calling, let Him lead you through the intervening experience. It is actually part of the calling, just not the part you expected. Let His uncommon sense prevail. He can use your life so much more fully in the aftermath.
Know what I’m talking about? Have you felt called only to be delayed (from your perspective)? What strikes you about this idea? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!