THE PRODIGAL WIFE *
HOSEA's wife had gone away and left him. He was a grave man, who cared for serious things; she cared only for what she called a good time. He had been very patient; she had been very foolish.
They had three little children, and the names which Hosea gave them show how sad he was about the condition of his home. The oldest was a boy, and his name was Jezreel. His father named him for the place where Jehu the captain killed the king. "The captain," he said to himself, "was false to his master, whom he should have served and loved. I know what that means in my own experience."
The second child was a girl, and the name which Hosea gave her means "No pity." When people said, "Hosea, that is a strange name which you have given to your little daughter: why do you call her that?" he said, "Because God shall cease to pity this wicked nation." For Hosea felt as Amos had felt concerning the life of Israel. And he knew more about it than Amos could have known, because he lived in the midst of it. But the name had another meaning, also. Hosea said to himself, "How can I look any longer with pity and forgiveness upon the conduct of my wife?"
Then when a little boy was born, Hosea called him by a name which means "Not my people." And, again, the neighbors wondered about it. "Hosea," they said, "this is the queerest name we ever heard. Why don't you call your boys Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, or some respectable name like other folks? What do you mean by 'Not my people'?" He said, "The time approaches when the Lord shall say to this nation, 'You were my people, but now you are my people no longer, on account of your sins.'" But here, again, Hosea was thinking also of his own home. He was saying to himself, "Must I not say to my wife, she is not my wife? She has separated herself from me by her wicked ways."
Then she went away and left him. And months passed, and months passed, and she did not come back. Sometimes he heard about her, but all that he heard was bad. She was in evil company. Then he learned that her first bad friends had forsaken her, and that she was now with those who were worse; and then with those who were worse still. He heard that she had lost her beauty and her gayety, and looked old and sick and miserable. At last somebody came to him and said, "Hosea, I saw your wife this morning in the slave market. She has been deserted by all her companions, and the last of them is trying to sell her as a slave."
Immediately, Hosea went and bought her. He paid fifteen pieces of silver, and several bushels of barley. He took her home. There they sat down where they had once been happy, in the home which she had spoiled and abandoned. And the little children came to their mother and loved her; and Hosea loved her still in spite of all that had happened.
The next day, Hosea called his neighbors together. "Friends," he said, "you know about the trouble in my family. Everybody knows it. And you have perhaps heard that I have taken my wife back. I wish to say a word to you.
"I have been taught a great truth, which, as I think upon it, seems to me almost the greatest truth there is. I have come to see that God is just as good as we are. It seems a strange thing to say, but we have not believed it. We have believed that the love of God is less constant than our own love, and that He is less pitiful and forgiving than we are. Friends, that is not so. Even as I love my wife, in spite of all her sin, so does God love His people in spite of all their wickedness. The love of God is like the love of a mother for her child; it is like the love of a faithful husband for his wife. God is greatly displeased at us, and He will surely let us suffer the pains and punishments which we deserve. But through it all, He loves us. When we return to Him in sorrow, He will receive us.
"Friends, I have changed the names which I have given to two of my children. My little daughter whom I called 'No Pity,' I now call 'Pity' in remembrance of the great mercies of God. And my little son whom I named 'Not My People,' I now name 'My People,' for we are still God's people, and He is still our God."
Then Hosea went back into the house, and shut the door, and, like Amos, wrote a book.