If you were reading in the Bible for a woman of strength, beauty, and inspiration, I doubt you’d settle on Gomer and say “this one!” Gomer was a bit scandalous.
You see, Gomer was a prostitute. She was even arguably a sex addict before sex addiction was something all the celebrities suffered from. She was dirty and lost.
You can read about Gomer in the book of Hosea. Hosea was her husband and also, a prophet. But in case you’re not familiar, here’s a little bit about what we learn about Gomer, and her marriage to Hosea, and the role God played in it from the Bible:
God spoke to Israel through a series of prophets in the Old Testament, in this case, Hosea. He told Hosea to go and marry a prostitute who would represent Israel and the way Israel had betrayed God by chasing other gods and idols.
So Hosea married Gomer. Depending on how you read it, it is speculated that Gomer may have already had children as a byproduct of her occupation; she very well could have been a single mom, and Hosea would have been inheriting the children of her adulterous lovers by marrying her. Together, we know that Hosea and Gomer had at least three children, and God gave them all very odd names: Jezreel, which meant punishment for Israel; Lo-Ruhamah, meaning ‘no love;’ and Lo-Ammi, which meant that Israel was not God’s people and God was not their God.
Why in the world such dark and dramatic names? Well, history tells us that it was common in that time period for people to name their children after the circumstances surrounding their births, but God wanted them to wake up His people, and He was going to use Hosea, Gomer, and their marriage and family to do it.
When Hosea married Gomer, the Hollywood-romance-movie-buff in me would like to have read a Pretty Woman kind of story that portrayed Hosea as the Richard Gere and Gomer as the Julia Roberts – this knight in shining armor (or prophet of God in this case) sweeps this prostitute off her feet and rescues her from her life of slavery to her profession and her lovers. But not Gomer. She actually chose to continue to work as a prostitute and cheat on her husband. She chased after other lovers and pagan gods rather than being faithful to her husband and God.
What I love about Gomer, though, and one of the reasons why I chose her, is that even when she took off on her own and was doing everything imaginable to escape her husband and God, God still had His hand on her and He was still in control. He knew what she was doing, but He saw the bigger picture.
Hosea 2:6-7: “Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.’”
Hosea 2:14-17: “Therefore 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 make the Valley of Anchor (literally, Anchor means ‘trouble’) a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt (slavery, bondage). In that day, declares the LORD, You will call me ‘my husband;’ you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ I will remove the names of the Baals (idols) from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked.”
God let her go. She chose her idols and her sin, but He let her go there. He said He would lead her into the desert – He allowed her to see what her sin would bring her: dry, barren, nothingness. But His sovereignty never left her; He still had control. He put up road blocks to protect her from getting too far. He used the choices she made for her good, to bring her back to Hosea, to bring her back to Himself. He was going to make her life of trouble a gateway to the life of hope He had planned for her.
Hosea 2:19-23: “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. In that day I will respond, declares the LORD… I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘not my people,’ ‘you are my people;’ and they will say ‘You are my God.”
Hosea 3:1:”The Lord said to me (Hosea), ‘Go, show love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
Though he surely suffered emotionally at her hand, Hosea’s love and devotion to Gomer in the wilderness of her choice is was God’s way of illustrating His love and devotion to us, even when we choose our own wildernesses. But His sovereignty never leaves us, because there is a love out there that looks beyond what we have done, are doing, and will do. There is a love that is relentlessly pursuing us, despite our promiscuity with our idols. His name is Jesus.
Much like Hosea was likely jealous for his wife, Jesus is jealous for His bride. Us
And now, I want to be plain: jealousy is different from envy, which the Bible does advise is sinful. When someone is jealous for something, they want what belongs to them that someone else currently has. When someone is envious for something, they want what belongs to someone else that they don’t have.
God is jealous for us and is pursuing our hearts in a furious and loving way like we’ve never known. All the while, we’ve been acting as Gomers to our sin, mistreating our union to Him, and giving our hearts, and maybe even our bodies, to something or someone to whom they don’t belong. But our hearts were created by and undoubtedly belong to God and He is constantly seeking for us, longing to reach us to get us to a place that He can love us an show us our worth and value, no matter what we’ve done to hurt Him. He longs to restore us to Himself, to repair the union that sin broke.
So when I was asked to choose a woman who was “still standing” from the Bible, why did I choose Gomer? Because, Gomer is us all. And what Gomer could not see or do for herself, God did for her. Gomer doesn’t even have a leg to stand on compared to some of the women of her time – she came from the bottom of the pit, if you know what I mean. But that didn’t matter to God. She was chosen, she had purpose, and her story would be used to bring Him glory. He worked amazing things in her broken and messed up life, and He is still reaching out to thousands of His children through her testimony. And it’s that very thing that He will do in us. God will take our brokenness, He’ll take our pain, and He’ll take our sin. He will use His love and compassion to speak tenderly to us, removing the stains that our former idols have left on our lips and on our hearts, and in return, we will sing His praises. And He will restore us and make us whole… until He finally reunites us with our bridegroom divine: Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 11:2: “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”