I feel like I need to apologize to my pastor.
I sat there, listening to his sermon that I know he spent so much time preparing, and all I could think about was Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews. I had finished it the night before and I seriously couldn’t stop thinking about Hosea, Gomer, and their incredible story. I also found myself trying to justify my lack of attention to the sermon. “I may not be focused on the sermon but at least I’m thinking about people from the Bible, Lord. Isn’t that okay?” Why God puts up with me sometimes, I don’t know.
I love, love Mesu’s novels. I have always said that it would be hard for her to top her debut novel, Love Amid the Ashes in my book but I think she’s come pretty close with this new one. Here’s a quick synopsis of the novel:
God gives Hosea a difficult command – marry a prostitute in order to show God’s people the nature and depth of His love for Israel. When Hosea goes to Israel to proclaim the Lord’s message, the woman God directs him to marry turns out to be his childhood friend Gomer. He finds her broken and abused, unwilling to trust Hosea or his God. But when marrying Hosea becomes her only means of escape, Gomer does what she’s good at – she survives. Can Hosea’s love for God and God’s love for Israel restore Gomer’s broken spirit?
(Check out the first chapter here)
Yes, I’m sure some of you are sitting there thinking, “Didn’t Francine Rivers do their story in Redeeming Love already?” Yes, but her story was set in the 1800’s through a prairie romance. Mesu takes us back to the actual setting and events from Scripture. That made such a powerful difference for me. It really helped to bring the Scripture to life and had me digging in my Bible to read the full text. Gotta love it when a novel pushes you back into God’s word, huh?
I admit that I’m not up on much of the history that is recorded in the Old Testament. I know a lot of the stories but I don’t always understand how they all fit together. There are too many kings, judges, and prophets to keep track of. There are too many cases where the people turn from God, God gets angry, and then the people rebel against God. It confuses me to no end!
Love in a Broken Vessel helped to bring clarity to an otherwise confusing and often intimidating portion of Scripture to study. I can clearly see God’s reasoning behind his command for Hosea to not only marry Gomer, a prostitute, but to love her unconditionally. By this point in Israel’s story, the people had amassed a long history of turning from God, finding other gods to worship, committing horrible acts of immorality, and much more. There were kings that tried to abide by God’s laws but there were just as many who did not. All of these events left the nation of Israel far from God. The Lord wanted to desperately show his people that he is still there, waiting for them to repent and return to him to he can unleash his unconditional love on them.
When all other attempts to reach the people had gone unheard, he calls the prophet Hosea to marry Gomer to be a living example of how God wants to love his unruly children. Can you imagine the conversations that Hosea had with God? I’m sure he had a ton of questions! But, Hosea was obedient. He sought out Gomer, married her, and did his best to love her as God commanded. I enjoyed how Mesu fleshed out more of the story that we don’t get in Scripture. Yes, it’s all just fiction since we don’t know much of what their lives might have been like, but we see the inner struggles that Gomer has in trying to adapt to her new life, a new town, and living with a man who believes that God loves her, just as she is. Like in scripture, Gomer returns to her old ways, selling herself for money. Each time Hosea is left with a decision. Does he take her back and remain faithful to what God called him to do? Or does he just walk away from this unfaithful, ungrateful woman. The novel does a masterful job of portraying that struggle.
What we see through Love in a Broken Vessel and in the biblical account is the overwhelming love, mercy, patience, and forgiveness that God had for Israel. What’s even more profound is that God offers those to us today, thousands of years after Hosea and Gomer. I sometimes forget that the God who was all powerful in the Old Testament is the same God that is with me now. The one who spoke to Abraham in a burning bush, parted the Red Sea for thousands upon thousands of Hebrews to walk through, and who orchestrated countless other mighty acts is the same God that I have a relationship with. Beyond cool.
So, to Brother Mike, I’m sorry that I spaced out on your sermon the other day. I’m sure it was very good. But to Mesu, I thank you for your faithfulness to scripture and for using your gifts to bring to light just how much God loves his people. Your novel has started a desire in me to dig into God’s word and for once, see how all of those kings, judges, and prophets fit together in God’s grand story.
Oh, and be sure to stop by back tomorrow… Mesu will be our guest blogger!