Girlfriends in God - Jan. 17, 2012

January 17, 2012
The Power of Forgiveness Part 1
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
The LORD said to me again, ‘Go, show your love to a woman loved by someone else, who has been unfaithful to you. In the same way the LORD loves the people of Israel, even though they worship other gods and love to eat the raisin cakes.’ So I bought her for six ounces of silver and ten bushels of barley. Then I told her, ‘You must wait for me for many days. You must not be a prostitute, and you must not have sexual relations with any other man. I will act the same way toward you.’ In the same way Israel will live many days without a king or leader, without sacrifices or holy stone pillars, and without the holy vest or an idol. After this, the people of Israel will return to the LORD their God and follow him and the king from David's family. In the last days, they will turn in fear to the LORD, and he will bless them (Hosea 3:1-5, NCV).

Friend to Friend
True love is strong, unconditional – God’s love – a love that we cannot understand or explain in human terms. The life of the Old Testament prophet, Hosea, powerfully illustrates this kind of love. Hosea was married to Gomer and together they had three children. Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, betraying the covenant of marriage. Hosea had every right to walk away, but love that never fails calls us up to higher choices that are beyond human reasoning. Supernatural choices demand supernatural action and sacrifice. 

Hosea 3:2 “So I bought her for six ounces of silver and ten bushels of barley” (NCV).

Think about it. Hosea was the one who had been wronged and humiliated. Yes, he was the one following God but he was also the one called to sacrifice. We misunderstand the full meaning of sacrifice, thinking it is only a decision to “give up” self-centered rights, hoarded resources or the freedom to walk away. Sacrifice is a mirror reflecting our own pride and sin, calling us to lay down all sense of human justice or fairness in order for God to work in and through us to love others. What sacrifices did God call Hosea to make? 

·         Hosea had to sacrifice his pride.

The phrase “loved by another,” suggests Gomer was owned by a family friend or fellow citizen.  She may have been sleeping with one or more of Hosea’s friends or, at the very least, one of his neighbors. Hosea had to swallow his pride and go to her in love and forgiveness. Now let me just tell you that if I had been the one going to find Gomer, I would have been more likely to snatch her up by the hair and drag her home in front of as many people as possible to prove she could not get away with what she was doing. Better yet, I would have said, “Good riddance. You can keep her!” I am certain I could find many who would agree with my plan of punishment and revenge. It seems to me that Hosea stood to gain very little but lose a great deal by choosing to respond as he did. Hosea was called on to sacrifice everything to redeem a woman who did not deserve sacrifice or redemption. Jesus did the same thing for us when He died on the cross. He now calls us to respond with that same God-like heart attitude of redemption.

·         Hosea had to sacrifice his rights.

Gomer broke the covenant of marriage. Don’t miss this pivotal truth. Biblically, Hosea had every justification to divorce Gomer. He could have tossed her out and turned her children against her, stripping her life of every good thing. Hosea could have destroyed Gomer, and no one would have blamed him. Instead, Hosea rose to a higher place when he laid down his anger, hurt and the right to retaliate or seek revenge. It doesn’t stop there. 

Hosea took the initiative and went to her. Matthew describes a forgiveness we find hard to understand. “So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Matthew 5:23, NLT). Notice what this verse says. If we know someone has something against us and we refuse to deal with it, nothing we do or say will count in Kingdom work. God always seeks restoration and reconciliation and commands us to look past what seems like a logical reaction to the highest obedience we can offer.

There is one more very important step in learning to truly forgive. Don’t miss the rest of Hosea and Gomer’s story in Thursday’s devotion.

Let’s Pray
Father, I am so tired of holding on to the pain in my life. I want to forgive those who have hurt me and learn how to let go of the pain and walk on. Today, I lay down my pride and my rights. I will not seek revenge or retaliation. Instead, I choose to love my enemies and bless those who have harmed me. Please give me the strength and power to honor you as I step out in obedience.
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn
Read and meditate on the following verses:

Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT) "So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you … leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

Make a list of the sins in your life that need the forgiveness of God. Ask God to forgive you for each one. If you have sinned against someone else, be willing to take the first step of reconciliation. If someone has sinned against you, forgive them and go to them in love, seeking restoration. Consider the following questions and answer them honestly.

What are the rewards of forgiveness?
What are the barriers to forgiveness in my heart?
What are the things for which I cannot forgive myself?
What does that indicate about my understanding of true forgiveness?

More from the Girlfriends
Be sure to check out the FREE MP3son Mary’s website.

Need help with forgiving those who have hurt you? Mary’s E-Bible Study, The Power of Forgivenessoffers practical steps you can take to truly forgive.   

Need help getting the Word of God into your life?Check out Mary’s Weekly Online Bible Study, When I Am Afraid, to learn how to face, deal with and surrender your fears to God.

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Originally published Tuesday, 17 January 2012.