Hosea and Gomer (original 1990)

The old man and his wife sat by
The winter fire and looked out high
Above the plains of Ephraim,
And saw around the last regime
Of Israel the shadows snake
Their way from east to west and take
Possession of Samaria.
"How long until Assyria,'
They thought, "would break Hoshea's rod,
And violate the wife of God?"

But strange as it may seem, the doom
They saw across the land left room
For hope. And when they looked into
Each other's eyes, as they would do
At night, they knew, as none could know
But they, that God would bend his bow
Against the charms of foreign men,
And take his faithless wife again.
They knew it could and would be done,
As surely as the rising sun
Drives darkness back unerringly,
And drowns it in the western sea.
They knew, because they had rehearsed
The tragedy and played it first
Themselves with passion and deceit.

"It's true that life is far more sweet,"
Hosea thought, "when it is lost,
Then bought again at dreadful cost;
And love grows strong when it must wait,
And deep when it is almost hate."

Such things as these he often said
To Gomer as they watched the red
And crimson echoes of the sky
Descend Mount Tabor's cliffs and die
In darkness far below. And she
Would say to him, "Your love for me
Was like a mountain waterfall,
And I the jagged stone. Of all
The knives and hammers once applied
None made me smooth or clean. They tried,
But harlotry was in my blood,
Until your love became a flood
Cascading over my crude life
And kept me as your only wife."

They knew as none but they could know
What it would mean that long ago
The Lord allowed his love to swell,
And married faithless Israel.

The passing of the years now found
The children grown and gathered 'round
This night: Jezreel and Loammi,
Hosea's sons, and at his knee
Loruhamah. The room was sweet
With memories, and each replete
With pleasure and with ample pain.
Among the memories one main
Experience above the rest
Embraced them all. It was the best;
Indeed it was the mountain spring
Of every happy stream from which
The family ever drank, and rich
With hope. It was Hosea's love.
The children stood in wonder of
The way he loved, and Gomer too.
But this had not always been true.

Hosea used to say, "It's hard
To be a seer, and prophet bard.
The price is high when he must sing
A song of ruin over everything
In lyrics written with his life
And lose his children and his wife."

And so it was, Hosea heard
The Lord. It was the strangest word
A holy prophet ever got:
And every pointed precept shot
Like arrows at Hosea's life:
"Go take a harlot for your wife,"
Thus says the Lord, "And feel with me
The grief and pain of harlotry.
Her father's name is Diblaim;
He makes fertility with cream
And raisin cakes. He will not see
Her go without a price, for she
Has brought him profits from her trade.
Now go, and let her price be paid;
And bring her back and let her bear
Your son. Call him Jezreel. For there
Is coming soon a day when I
Will strike and break the bloody thigh
Of Jehu's brutal house, and seal
With blood the valley of Jezreel.

And after that, though she's defiled.
Go in, and get another child,
And make your tender face like rock.
Call her Loruahmah and lock
Your heart against all sympathy:
`Not pitied' is her name. No plea
From faithless Israel will wake
My sympathy till I forsake
My daughter in the wilderness.

Now multiply once more distress:
Hosea, go beget a son,
For there is yet one child to shun,
And call him Loammi, in shame,
For `Not My People' is his name."

Hosea used to walk along
The Jordan rim and sing the song
His father Beeri used to sing.
Sometimes the tune and truth would bring
Him peace, and he would pause and look
At all the turns the Jordan took,
To make its way down to the sea,
And he would chant from memory:

Think not, my son, that God's great river
Of love flows simply to the sea,
He aims not straight, but to deliver
The wayward soul like you and me.
Follow the current where it goes,
With love and grace it ever flows.

The years went by, the children grew,
The river bent and Gomer knew
A dozen men. And finally
She left and traveled to the sea,
And sold herself to foreign priests
Who made the children serve at feasts
Until they had no shame.
And then
The God of grace came down again,
And said, "Hosea, go, embrace
Your wife beside the sea. And place
Your hand with blessing on the head
Of Loammi, and raise the dead
Loruhamah to life in me,
And tell Jezreel that I will be
For him a seed of hope to sow
In righteousness. Hosea, go,
The gracious river bends once more."

And so the prophet loved these four
Again, and sought them by the sea,
And bought them with the equity
Of everything he owned.
That was
The memory tonight, because
Hosea loved beyond the way
Of mortal man. What man would say,
"Love grows more strong when it must wait,
And deeper when it's almost hate."

Jezreel spoke softly for the rest,
"Father, once more let us be blessed.
What were the words from long ago
That gave you strength to love us so?
Would you please bless us with your rhyme,
And sing it for us one more time?"

"Think not, my son, that God's great river
Of love flows simply to the sea,
He aims not straight, but to deliver
The wayward soul like you and me.
Follow the current where it goes.
With love and grace it ever flows."

"And children," Gomer said with tears,
"Mark this, the miracle of years."
She looked Hosea in the face
And said, "Hosea, man of grace,
Dark harlotry was in my blood,
Until your love became a flood
Cascading over my crude life
And kept me as your only wife.
I love the very ground you trod,
And most of all I love your God."

This is the lamp of candle four:
A bride made ready at the door.
A shabby slave waits her embrace,
Blood-bought and beautified by grace.

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