As we study and meditate on particular passages of the Bible, we should always be thinking of connections with other parts of this serendipitous book. That is one of the many convincing evidences of its inspiration – that it is designed with multiple deep levels of nuance and repetition – that only a Divine Author could layer with such poignant and time-warping meaning. There is no other book that compares! Certainly, the Lord Jesus was sensitive to all of these beautiful innuendos as He learned and reflected on His Father’s words. So, as I was reading Hosea 2 today, I wondered if this is where Jesus got the idea for the parable of the Prodigal Son. I found, as I compared and contrasted the stories, that they complement and complete one another. Together they are like a musical composition that has various parts that combine synergistically to make exquisite, melodious harmony.
Here are some of my findings. Perhaps you can discover additional enlightening connections….
Both, Gomer (Hosea’s promiscuous wife), and the prodigal son, are people who are determined to have it their own way. They deliberately choose and revel in sensuality, selfishness and pride. By their unfaithfulness they welcome trouble into their own lives. And they betray/break the support and love of their closest family ties:
She – abandons husband, children, home and responsibilities to pursue her fleshly desires and all that they offer her – “…I will go after my (rich) lovers….” v.5
He – careless of his Father’s love and work in giving him an inheritance, chooses carousing and the extravagant high life as he goes to a “distant country” and “squandered his estate with loose living.” Luke 15:13
In their blind self-centeredness, they both forget God:
She – prefers the things her lovers (worldy idols) provide including; fine food, social activities/feasts/parties, “gaiety”, expensive jewelry, gardens… and “does not know that it was I (God) who gave her” these things. vv.8-13
He – also prefers the riotous, profligate living that sensuality and money provide – rather than the more restrictive lifestyle of the obedient son in his Father’s household. Luke 15:13
God brings them both to rock-bottom because of their idolatrous behavior (i.e. placing lusts and desires before Him):
She – is abandoned by her lovers, naked and shamefully exposed, hungry, and penniless…”I will hedge up her way with thorns,” “I will punish her for the days of the Baals (idols).” vv.7-13
He – is also penniless, friendless and hungry – a Jewish man joined (Greek: glued) to a Gentile and sunk so low as to take a job feeding unclean swine. Luke 15:14-16
When their trials force them to “come to their senses” (Luke 15:17) they both have new perspectives on their lives back before stupid choices ruined them:
She – decides to return to her husband – “I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!” v.7
He – decides to return to his father – “”How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father…” Luke 15:17-18
When they humble themselves, their former relationships are restored to an intimate, healed and permanent state:
She – is taken from the Valley of Trouble (Achor) to a doorway. She willingly walks through that “Door of Hope” with her betrothed – despair forever banished. She has new eyes for this righteous “husband” she formerly called “master.” Now she knows He represents her best life – and He “betroths her to Him in faithfulness” “forever.” v.18-20
He – has new appreciation for his father and prepares a humble speech outlining his repentance and willingness to return as a servant – with his father as master. Instead he is given a ring – symbolic of sonship – restoring him legally and emotionally to the privileges inherent to his father’s nuclear family. Luke 15:20-22
The story does not conclude there, but rather it goes on to describe great rejoicing and celebration over these formerly lost beloved ones:
She – is courted, spoken kindly to, given new hope – such that she sings again! In His pleasure her husband shows her great compassion and blessing – and even the earth, and the animals are restored to fruitfulness. The whole idea of betrothal implies her, as the honored bride, at the great “wedding feast” spoken of so often by the Lord Jesus. vv.14-23, Matthew 8:11-12, 22:1-14, 25:1-13, Luke 12:36, 14:7-11, Revelation 19:9
He – also because of his Father’s compassion even “while he was a long way off” has his exalted position and inheritance restored to him. A huge party – complete with guests, music, dancing and a special feast with a fatted calf – ensues. His Father joyfully celebrates with, and over him. Luke 15:20-25
There are so many lessons we can draw from these parables as we explore them side-by-side. They reflect and enhance each other. They both tell of God’s strong desire to restore His people, Israel. They tell of Israel’s waywardness and stubborn idolatry. They tell of God “getting their attention through adversity.” Job 36:15 They tell of His people’s ultimate repentance and the truly, amazing grace, that God – their Husband/Father – will shower upon them. They describe a great celebration of forgiveness on that future day when He:
…will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son…
I think it is also appropriate, however, if we take these beautiful allegory/parables personally – into our own lives and hearts. When we do that, they represent times when we too have broken covenant with God – and disregarded His love, character and commands. I find it totally astonishing, and at the same time captivating, that the Bible gives us both the male and female version of this person/ourselves. We all are, or have been, prodigals. Yet God’s desire through Hosea’s enacted life-allegory as well as Jesus’ parable, is to allure us, or to wait anxiously on the front porch hoping for us to return to Him. He longs:
- To speak kindly to us even when we are distant
- To show passionate compassion when we repent
- To show mercy, forgiveness and faithfulness
- To bless in an overflowing way
- To permanently heal broken relationships
- To renew hope
And He does all of this eagerly and joyfully! The word in Luke 15 – for when the Father hugs and kisses his son, -means that He does it over, and over, and over again. Surely with tears of love and joy streaming down His face!
Is this our view of God? If not, perhaps we need to get to know Him better.
But we mustn’t ever forget that prodigals have to “come to their senses”. Luke 15:17 The idea is like waking up after fainting. We have to embrace a brand new worldview which will forever-after appreciate the fact that to be with God is much better – light years better – than to be without Him.
And I will say to those who were not My people,
“You are My people!”
And they will say,
“Thou art my God!.
I want to share an amazing song that is based on this chapter in Hosea. It’s a longtime favorite of mine, by the talented duo, Shane & Shane. I find it a very moving and beautiful depiction of God’s love as outlined in this chapter (and in Luke 15). I believe it will help to put an exclamation point on some of the lessons we have discovered here. It’s appropriately called, “Acres of Hope”: