Hosea’s story is a bleak one. God calls him to marry an unfaithful woman. It’s often debated whether or not she was unfaithful when God called Hosea to marry her, or if she turned that way. The answer to that question probably made little difference in the day to day workings of Hosea’s home. His wife was unfaithful. Period. There are clues to the text that his children aren’t really his, and likely they weren’t model Israelite citizens.
Hosea isn’t fundamentally about Hosea. It is about God. But God’s story is told through the deep pain of Hosea. This prophets life would not have been rosy. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be married to Gomer. Or to raise troubled children that are not your own. There faces everyday reminding you of your wife’s unfaithfulness. I do not have personal experience with this. Hosea did. And it shaped his message.
That truth has me wondering what would happen if Hosea were a prophet in the 21st century. Before I give my analysis I must confess that I am not a cultural guru. I do not have a Ph.D in postmodern thought. Nor did I pay attention in my college sociology class. But I am “in the trenches” ministering to adults and teenagers in the 21st century. And it seems to me that in our culture if your message is somehow shaped by your personal experiences then it is in the realm of subjective and not objective. It is tainted.
I wonder then what people in the 21st century would say when Hosea says, “you play the whore, O Israel…”
“Come on Hosea, we know you’re just hurt by what is going on in your home life. You’re being too sharp because you’re carrying over the hurt that your harlot wife has caused you. You’re looking for somebody to blame for your pain and trying to spiritualize it by calling us harlots and saying it is a metaphor for how Yahweh feels about us.”
The power of Hosea’s metaphor would be dismissed. His message is shaped too much by his own personal situation. Therefore, Hosea’s truth might work for him or for other people that are struggling like He is, but it is not for everyone. “You can’t call the entire nation a whore just because your wife is one, Hosea.”
But Hosea was telling objective truth. And he was doing it through his very real personal pain. You better believe that Hosea was impacted by his home life. But Hosea isn’t fundamentally about Hosea. It’s about God. And God is using Hosea’s story to tell His own. God is using the subjective story of Hosea to proclaim His objective truth.
The 21st century preacher finds himself in a difficult spot. The culture tells him that he must be real and he must be authentic. Which is helpful and solid advice. But inevitably the more real the preacher gets the more easily what he is proclaiming can be dismissed. The preacher’s message is effected by the preacher.
I am not saying that the preacher has a license to change the objective truth of God’s Word. Far from it. But what I am saying is that God can use my subjective life story to proclaim His objective truth. The message isn’t tainted because the messenger is deeply impacted by the message. It’s tainted if doesn’t impact the preacher.