(The following comprises Part Ten in the Saturday series on Secondary Illuminations in Scripture.)

This error is a radical misinterpretation of the book of Hosea.

In a secondary illumination mistake that probably builds on some of the same attitudes as the one described in Part Nine, I’ve known several women who have married men whom they knew were immature and even abusive, men who were apt to keep them from what some of these women had formerly perceived to be their own callings.  They married these men precisely because they believed God wanted them to make a self-sacrifice in line with Hosea’s sacrifice in marrying the unrepentant prostitute Gomer.  And, no, they weren’t looking for excuses to marry some guy they had a crush on.  These women were rightly repulsed by their men’s behaviors and even their general persons before marriage, sometimes received family encouragements (even on the wedding day) to call it off, cried in some instances through their honeymoons (and many a night thereafter), and have struggled to varying degrees to live with any peace of mind in sometimes abusive and certainly very painful situations that they still believe God called them to for mysterious reasons beyond their comprehension.

One such woman I know later felt God was calling her to divorce her abusive husband but still forcefully believed that both the marriage and the divorce were God’s foreordained leading, even His command.  In the end she did stick with this man she has never liked.  But the idea that God would command an ill-advised marriage that He knew would lead to divorce freed me to question her more thoroughly on something that had never sat right even though she was my elder and a mentor.

Individuals who have made such determinations based on misappropriated Scripture may hold onto God having told them to “be like Hosea” all the more tightly as things go from worse to worse, for it is the primary sense of security and identity and rectitude they have left—that of one who has sacrificed for God.  Due to fear of losing one’s compass or affirmation, this is an easy thing to do with any wrong interpretation that has shaped our lives or communities.

For instance, a person who believes God always wants to heal NOW and would heal now if only we “cooperated” may beat themselves or others up with false condemnations for years on end during sickness out of fear of slandering God, not being able to control situations, or “not having faith” instead of admitting or even considering that God’s Word might have a somewhat more complex counsel on the topic.  This is where the strength of crooked persuasions that aren’t actually based in reason and divine revelation might cause us harm.

Presumably these “Hosea women’s” ability to influence their “Gomer men” into becoming more godly at some future juncture would be more important than their own callings and their own health partially because whatever a (wandering or arrogant) man is called to was inherently more important than what a (devoted) woman is called to.  Obviously there is a gender inversion between these situations and Hosea’s and a number of layers to their situations that come from wholly outside of the text, having more to do with personal and social identity development, abusive formative environments, and given the uniqueness of this situation and the varying geographies of these women, probably what charismatics would refer to as a particular widespread “attack” on women and “spirit of deception.”

But there are more significant differences between them and Hosea than that.  Hosea’s actions must be primarily read in the light of their nature as prophetic acts of both national and timeless significance.  Are these modern marriages serving such outstanding purposes?  These men might have great, unrealized calls on their lives, or they may even be in ministry but living double lives.  However, no, there is no grand prophetic significance here.

Moreover, the overarching relational principle to which we must foundationally return is that of being equally yoked in any intimate partnership.  To marry even a Christian if he or she is abusive or particularly resistant to growth is not an equal yoke.  Clearly the application of Hosea was wrong.  But even if the prophetic sense that they must marry this man was correct, it was at best very poor timing in applying a prophecy that should meet conditional requirements.

When testing secondary illuminations, it is important to attend to the reasons provided by the immediate context for any of God’s commands.  Then we must compare these commands to any others that might relate to the situation.