Redemption in the Storm Part 2 - Betrayal
Chapter 2 : Betrayal
When I was at university, I did a few subjects in psychology, and one particular lesson shocked me at first. After thinking about it though, I realised that it made perfect sense. The lesson was about something called the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe examined the medical records of over 5,000 medical patients to determine whether stressful events might be linked to illness. Patients were asked to tally a list of 43 life events based on a relative score.
The tests were done to see if there was a correlation between stress and sickness, but the thing that stood out to me was the order of the most stressful events in someone’s life.
Here are the top 6.
The numbers beside them are “life change units” or a measure of the relative stress that this event causes.
For an adult the list was as follows:
Death of a spouse
Death of a close family member
Personal injury or illness
Now, what I’m about to write next may be debatable. But that’s ok, I don’t know everything and I could be wrong here.
But it’s worth thinking about EVEN if I am wrong.
Marital separation and divorce often occur together. And the thing about the Holmes and Rahe scale is that it is a cumulative total. Which means the numbers add to give a total.
I was so shocked by this that I stayed behind to ask my lecturer in person.
The death of a spouse makes sense to be highest.
But in reality, it’s not actually the most stressful event on this list.
When separation and divorce occur together (which they usually do) the two scores add together to give a cumulative score of 138.
My lecturer confirmed what I thought. This means that getting separated AND divorced is actually more stressful and more hurtful than the death of your spouse.
The scale for non-adults (children and teenagers) makes it even clearer.
Life Change Units
Death of parent
Divorce of parents
Marital separation of parents
Death of a brother or sister
The death of a parent holds a score of 100,
The combined total of separation and divorce of parents is 159.
What’s also interesting (and quite shocking) to note is that both the marital separation of parents and divorce of parents are more stressful than the death of a sibling.
How can this be? How can separation or divorce, where both parents are still alive and healthy, be less stressful than coping with a sibling’s death?
And then it hit me why it makes sense.
Think about it for a second. Take it in.
It is easier for you as a child to have a parent die, according to this scale, than to watch them separate and divorce.
Isn’t that insane?
It’s easier for your stress level to have your spouse pass away, as horrible as that is, than to become separated and then divorced.
I thought about it for some time and came to this conclusion: Except for a rare few cases, separation and divorce go together with something that death doesn’t.
Beneath the surface of Betrayal
In my experience and opinion, betrayal is one of the worst things that can possibly happen to a person. When someone breaks your trust and betrays you, it affects not only how you see them buts how you see everything.
It affects how you see your past, your world, and even how you see yourself. If someone betrays you - when you come face to face with this storm - sure it means that person is not trustworthy, but it also hits you and your own identity.
When people have betrayed me in my life, I’ve felt that perhaps I was a fool for believing them. As a result of that betrayal, all my memories with them are changed as well. And so, betrayal is a storm that comes and destroys not only the footing you had with the betrayer but affects your relationship with yourself and your own memories.
When trust is broken, it feels like the solid ground beneath your feet has suddenly vanished. You don’t know who you can trust, or if you can even trust yourself.
Betrayal has the power to break apart the very fabric of your existence. In the first part of Dante’s epic Divine Comedy, The Inferno, Dante Alighieri writes about a dream that he had about Hell. In the poem, he goes for a tour of hell and he sees that it’s not just one big pit of fire and brimstone, but it’s made up of several distinct layers. It’s not biblical, it’s not true, but in Dante’s dream, in each of the layers of hell, God has put certain types of sins. I can imagine that as Dante sat down to write this poem, he would have been wrestling with the question of what could be the worst possible thing a person can do to deserve the worst fate.
In the poem, Dante has ranked the sins. As he went lower down, the sins of the occupants became worse and worse. In Dante’s inferno, the lowest pit of hell is reserved, not for murderers. Not for thieves or liars. Not for the lustful proud or gluttonous.
The lowest pit of Hell is reserved for betrayers. According to Dante, in his mind, the worst thing a person can possibly do is to betray someone else. It’s worse than murder it’s worse than lust, it’s worse than greed.
Hosea Faces the Ultimate Betrayal
The first story that I wanted to look at is a story of ultimate betrayal. It’s the story of Hosea in the bible. Hosea is a prophet in the Old Testament, and the uniqueness of his book and message of Hosea isn’t so much what he says, but what he experienced, his reactions and the feelings he experiences.
Hosea’s story starts like this:
When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman…”
That’s a safe translation. Most translations say “Go marry a wife of whoredom” or “Go marry a prostitute, a harlot, a woman of fornication”
“...and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”
The story of Hosea is a story of immense betrayal. Hosea is instructed by God to marry an adulterous woman, not only marry her, but to love her. The woman’s name is Gomer. They have three children together. And even as they are having their children it is heavily implied that she's cheating on him, still playing the harlot.
Throughout the relationship.
It's not a once-off thing.
It's happening frequently.
So the Lord tells Hosea to name his children in what can only be described as a fitting way:
“Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him ( your firstborn) Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. On that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”
“Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Rammah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”
“After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”
Can you imagine that? God instructed Hosea to name his son literally “Not Mine”. Different scholars suggest that maybe the Lord calls him that because he wasn't even Hosea’s son. His wife was cheating on him so badly she ended up having a son with someone else.
It’s not Hosea’s fault, nonetheless, God says “call this one Lo-Rammah which means not my people, for you are not my people and I am not your God.”
This is a story not just of betrayal but of misery and sorrow and this is reflected in the children's names.
The children of this betrayal are literally named:
● Yahweh will destroy
● Whose life I don't love or pity
● You are not mine
Then, it gets worse. There is even more hopelessness and pain to be found in chapter two, where Hosea unable to hold back anymore pours out his misery:
“Rebuke your mother, rebuke her,
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband.
Let her remove the adulterous look from her face
and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.
Otherwise, I will strip her naked
and make her as bare as on the day she was born;
I will make her like a desert,
turn her into a parched land,
and slay her with thirst.
I will not show my love to her children,
because they are the children of adultery.
Their mother has been unfaithful
and has conceived them in disgrace.
She said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my food and my water,
my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.’
Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
she will look for them but not find them.
It sounds poetic I guess. But let’s break down what’s really happened here. Gomer, the adulterous wife of Hosea has finally just decided that instead of going to go back and forth between lovers that she’s leaving. So she leaves him. Gomer leaves her husband Hosea. The good and godly kind man, who loves her.
She's gone, and this holy prophet of God has been betrayed. His children are a testament to the misery of his house and it's finally finished. Maybe Hosea was hoping that this would be the end of his misery.
But then comes a story of indescribable redemption. Remember, in Chapter 2, Hosea is pouring out this horrifying description of his pain. He's talking about how he feels and he's talking about the betrayal that he's faced.
And then Chapter 3 happens.
The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”
So oh, by the way, at this point Hosea’s wife whom he loves has betrayed him and she's left and she now belongs to someone else. She's legally sold herself to this other person. Take a moment to consider the weight of that, if you will.
Then God says something unbelievable.
“Go. Show her love.” Go. Show love to your wife again though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites.
So Hosea has to go and buy her back. He buys her for 15 shekels of silver and some barley.
Why that cost?
In those days there were specific prices for those things. To buy a slave costs 30 pieces of silver. That's why Jesus was sold for that much. 15 shekels is half a slave, and barley is the lowest form of grain. Basically, she's wasted herself away. She's gone and become a slave of sorts to someone else and this other person wants minimum for her.
It's not that Hosea is saying that he’s only willing to pay this much- it's that other person is saying she's only worth that much to him. She's not even as worth as much as a slave. She's gone and completely ruined herself and made herself next to worthless.
But this is a story of indescribable redemption. Hosea redeems the adulteress wife who has left and ruined herself and become a slave to someone else that sees her as worthless. That's why he calls for this price. God says love her and buy her back and so he does.
And now finally, the names of the children are changed.
“In that day I will respond,”
declares the Lord—
“I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.
I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
These three people, these three children, born in this horrifying house get their names changed.
For Jezreel the meaning of the name gets changed. Jezreel was “God will destroy” and he changes the meaning to “God will plant you.” No longer “God will smash you” but instead, “God will bless you and plant you and take care of you”. For Lo- Ruhamah, formerly “Not beloved”, God says “you are now my beloved”. For Lo-Ammi who used to be called “Not Mine”, God says to change the name call him “You are mine.”
What a great story!
..But actually, is it?
It's pretty sad. It's pretty horrifying. This is not just a couple of chapters, this is someone's life. This is at least three children born and weaned. It takes two and a bit years to wean a child so at the very minimum, the horrifying part of this story lasted at least 6 to 9 years!
But it teaches us a lot about betrayal and how to deal with it. What does Hosea teach us about how to deal with betrayal?
Overcoming Betrayal in Four Steps
Step 1: Expect it.
Do you know the only way you're never going to feel betrayed? It's if you never loved someone. If you never love someone you will never get betrayed. If you never care you'll never feel that way. When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, he said: “Go marry a woman like this.” Expect it. But go and do it anyway. And love her.
Expect betrayal but then obey God anyway.
Do you understand? When God says love your neighbour as yourself, your neighbour’s going to betray you. But love your neighbour anyway. When God says to submit to your husband or submit to your elders or your government, or love your wife, they are going to betray you and let you down. That's going to happen. But obey anyway.
Step 2: Feel It. Deeply.
When someone betrays you, feel it. There are different seasons in our lives and God has put them there for a purpose. Sometimes the seasons produce sweet fruit, sometimes they produce bitter. But God says taste it. And know how I feel.
Consider this passage where God speaking. Ephraim and Israel are names God gives as representatives of God’s chosen ones, nicknames if you will.
8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities.
10 They will follow the Lord;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
11 They will come from Egypt,
trembling like sparrows,
from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
I will settle them in their homes,”
declares the Lord.
God is saying to his chosen people: “How can I give you up? How can I hand you over? All of my compassion is aroused. No one speaks like that unless they care unless their heart is truly burning.
Now let’s get some background and see where God is coming from. This is the beginning of the same chapter:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.
“How can I give you up Ephraim? How can I hand you over Israel? How can I treat you like Admah or make you like Zeboyim? My Heart Has changed within me all my compassion is aroused.”
Throughout Chapter 2, Hosea is just pouring out his feelings. There are things in there that may not be politically correct. There are things he expresses that I felt awkward reading. It’s personal. It’s raw. It’s brutal.
The whole chapter, he's in anguish. And he feels it. But not once does God say “cover it up man, don't say that.” Not once does God say “don't worry about it. It's fine.”
God lets Hosea feel it.
If you want to know how God wants us to deal with betrayal, expect it. It's coming. If you love people. Particularly if you love them in obedience to God. They will betray you. But obey God anyway. Love them anyway. And the second thing we need to do is feel it deeply and know how God feels.
When I read and meditate on this story, it hurts, because it gives me an understanding of how God feels in this story.
Step 3: Reconcile it.
Right after God describes his intense pain, his sadness, his feelings of betrayal, he says this.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities.
God holds back his wrath so many times. If you've ever read the book of Jeremiah you might have noticed that the whole book seems like he’s copy-pasted the first chapter over and over again. Do you know why the book of Jeremiah is so repetitive? It’s because God doesn't want to destroy his people. He loves them and he gives them chance after chance after chance and he wants to hold back. He wants to reconcile it.
Reconcile. Forgive. Just like God does and just like God told Hosea to.
In Ephesians 4:32 God says it again.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
Here comes the important part:
...just as in Christ, God forgave you.”
Reconcile it. When people betray you, and they will reconcile it. Go to them reconcile it.
Ephesians 4 finishes there but that's not where Paul really finished it. He just wrote the whole thing in a letter so I'll just move to the next chapter:
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Reconcile it because of God. Because he tells you to and because he did it first.
Step 4: Survive it.
God calls us to survive it and come out on the other side because it could be your legacy. Often times I have met people, and I have gone through this myself, where something horrifying happens and it's the end of them. But God says “survive it man. Survive it.”
I know it's hard, I know it sucks. Survive it because that's your legacy. When I read the story of Hosea I think very highly of this man. He had a tough life. He had a difficult job. God says marry someone you know will betray you and love her. God fills him with the supernatural love for her and at the end of the story, it's his Legacy. The story of Hosea is about a man that loves someone that was undeserving.
He was betrayed.
But man, what a guy. And what a story. His family was changed forever because of his faithfulness...
Survive it because it can be your legacy.
Who am I? Betrayed or Betrayer?
There's a bit more to than God teaching us how to overcome betrayal. As I read through this passage, I initially felt like I was like Hosea. I've got people in my life that have betrayed me, so I felt like I could relate.
I have people that I've loved or tried to show love to. People who used to be my friends. People who have betrayed my kindnesses and broken my heart from it. So I felt like I was the hero of this story, I was Hosea. But the truth was, however, that I am actually more like Gomer. As I honestly searched myself I had to come to the conclusion, the truth, that in this story I'm not the hero. I'm the Villain. In this story, I'm not Hosea. In front of God, I'm not Hosea, I'm actually Gomer.
In chapter 4 God starts to speak. After the story finishes, he starts explaining what it means for Israel and for us and he says this:
1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.
4 “But let no one bring a charge,
let no one accuse another,
for your people are like those
who bring charges against a priest.
5 You stumble day and night,
and the prophets stumble with you.
So I will destroy your mother—
6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.
Hosea 4: 1-6
What a twist it was. That this is a story not just about Hosea and his wife. It's not just an instruction booklet about how to deal with your friends when they hurt you.
It's a bigger story- the story is about God and his people- and when it says “Israel”, it's talking about us as well. That we are the ones that betrayed God. That we are the ones like Gomer. We are the traitors.
In the poem of Dante's Inferno, in that 9th layer of Hell reserved for betrayers, there are three people there. There are Cassius and Brutus who betrayed Caesar by stabbing him in the back and then there's Judas who betrayed Jesus. It's ironic that there are only three in that circle of Hell because the truth of the matter is that all of us have betrayed God and would deserve to be there.
The New Testament also has a similar story where the circumstances are strangely familiar. There's an unfaithful woman and someone she was unfaithful to:
2 At dawn, Jesus appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
Now you might that this story is different since the woman isn’t Jesus’ wife she wasn't really unfaithful to him. The truth is even though she wasn't Jesus' wife, she was unfaithful to him.
When we sin, we are unfaithful to God. And Jesus is God. This is someone that belonged to him and by doing what she did she betrayed him. So, what does Jesus do? Well, he stands in the way and defends her:
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
That last sentence reminded me of what Hosea says to his wife. He says to his wife “Be faithful to me. I am faithful to you.” And Jesus says the same thing. “Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more.” “Stop being unfaithful.”
Lessons about our betrayal
Lesson 1: God Has Loved Us Anyway
Despite our betrayal.
The first verse of Hosea is that God says to him “Go and love and marry a woman that is unfaithful.” He already knew. When God chose to love us, he already knew. God looked at me and chose me and said I choose to love this one. He knew that I am unfaithful. That I would be unfaithful. That I'm a betrayer. But he loved me anyway.
Lesson 2: It Grieves Him Immensely
Why did it have to be his wife I wonder? The ultimate betrayal.
God could have sent to Hosea have a son and the son will betray you but he doesn't. He could have said your best friend will betray you. He could have said your King will betray you, your boss, your workmates, your footy team will turn their back on you. But he doesn't. He doesn't say any of those things. He says marry someone and love her and she will betray you.
I have different relationships. I have parents, I have a sister, I have many cousins. Friends, workmates, random people I meet day-to-day. But the one I think would hurt the most would be if my wife betrayed me. Because that's the closest relationship, that’s the deepest trust. She is my greatest love.
God specifically says to Hosea marry someone and love her and she will betray you and now you will know how I feel. Feel it deeply and know how God feels.
Lesson 3: He Has Paid The Price and Made An Offer.
His price was way way way more than 15 pieces of silver and some barley. The price was massive. The price was infinite.
He makes us an offer. You see what Hosea says to his wife after he buys her back.
“Be faithful to me. I am faithful to you”. Jesus says the same thing to us. He's already paid the price and he says to be faithful to me I am faithful to you. He has paid a price and made an offer to us.
What’s In A Name?
I like learning about people's names and what they mean and I take this practice into when I read through the Bible as well. Before I looked up what Gomer meant, I made my own assumptions. I thought, maybe it would mean “woman of fornication”, “unfaithful” or “adulteress”. These would have been fitting titles for her, after all. But that’s not what her name means. Her name means “complete”. It means “perfect”. It means “redeemed”.
Isn't that ironic? She certainly wasn’t ‘complete’ at the beginning of the story- she was anything but. But through the actions of her faithful husband, she becomes truly complete.
When we remember the story of Hosea, we remember that we are the redeemed. We are the ones that had a wonderful God, a good, kind, generous God. Perfect.
Like that adulterer, we went away again and again and again and we've made herself worthless. But He comes and He says “I pay a price and I make an offer.” The price is His life and the offer is “be faithful to me, I am faithful to you.”
Betrayal is a nightmare for the heart.
But Jesus can overcome it by waking us up to the reality that we can face this storm as He did and overcome it.
Jesus offers us redemption my friends, even in the storm of betrayal.