Redeeming Love – an Old Modern Story

A modern story highlights human pain, struggle, and restoration while it mirrors the rich imagery of an Old Testament prophet. It’s enough to make one weep. 

redeemingloveI can only recall two times that I literally cried after reading a book. Once was 20 years ago, and the other time was this week.

It was the same book.

I first read it two decades ago as a paperback – I recall I was embarrassed to read it publicly on the beach because of its Harlequin Romance-looking cover. I just read it again this month on my Kindle.

Broke me down like a baby.

It’s a novel every woman and man should read. And every teenager. Why? Because it’s about human love and God’s love. And human brokenness, and human cruelty. About human forgiveness, and God’s forgiveness. And Godly men and women, and God’s relentless patience with ungodly men and women.

It’s about human redemption and God’s redeeming love.

It’ll break your heart and uplift your soul. It’ll show how the hardest of hearts steeled by pain, sin, and human darkness, can slowly through care, love and the mysterious ways of God in this earthly realm, be melted and molded into the lovely manifestation of that completed redemption.

The book is Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers.

A Writer’s Intriguing Inspiration
Francine Rivers actually had an established career as a romance novelist when she and her husband moved to Sonoma County in northern California to start a new business. She was in her late 30’s and her family was growing. While a lifetime church-attender, in her new town she and her family became involved in a Bible teaching church and she experienced the slow re-development of her faith.

She describes the transformation herself:

Our lives began to change, not from the outside, but from the inside out. We were all baptized by immersion, not just in water, but in the Spirit. It did not happen quickly, and we still have struggles, but we belong to the Lord and He is molding and making us according to His will.

I believe we all serve someone in this life. For the first 38 years of mine, I served myself. My conversion was not a highly emotional experience…It was not all peace and light afterward. The first thing that happened was that I couldn’t write…Oh, I tried, but it didn’t feel right…I had given myself to the Lord, and He had something else in mind. I finally accepted that it might not even be in His plan that I ever write again. 

And I surrendered. What I came to understand was that He wanted me to get to know Him first. He wanted no other gods in my life – not my family, not my writing. Nothing.

I started craving the Word of God. I read page by page, cover to cover and cover to cover and cover to cover. I started to pray. I started to listen and learn. God’s Word is like food and clean, clear water. It filled the emptiness inside me.

We opened our house for a home Bible study and our pastor began a study on the gospels, then on materialism, then on the minor prophets. We eventually came to the Book of Hosea. That portion of God’s Word hit me so profoundly that I knew this was the love story the Lord wanted me to write! His story, a deeply moving story of His passionate love for each of us – unconditional, forgiving, unchanging, everlasting, self-sacrificing – the kind of love for which most people hunger their entire lives, yet never find.

Writing Redeeming Love was a form of worship for me….Everything in Redeeming Love was a gift from the Lord: plot, characters, theme. None of it is mine to claim. 

From – A Note from Francine Rivers, Why I Wrote Redeeming Love, 1997.

The Book of Hosea 
The story of Redeeming Love is a historical romance novel set in the 1850’s Gold Rush in California. Its central theme is the redeeming love of God towards mankind, even the lowest of sinners. A faithful young man is directed by God to marry a broken young prostitute. The poignant story of her recurring faithlessness and ultimate redemption parallels the Old Testament Book of Hosea.

Hosea was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel who lived in the 8th century B.C. His ministry overlapped that of Amos, Isaiah, and Micah, during a period of time marked by gross immorality and religious apostasy. His prophecy is acutely played out as the Northern Kingdom fell in 722 B.C to the Assyrians. His word is a lesson to the remaining Southern Kingdom of Judah as to God’s judgment, forgiveness and blessing in response to repentance.

He writes his prophetic word in the context of his own agony and personal grief. God commands him (Hosea) to marry a woman (Gomer) who then proves faithless (a “wife of harlotry”). He reclaims her again and again after her adultery and renders severe judgment, but also with tenderness.

Hosea uses the personal tragedy of his marriage to illustrate the relationship of Israel to God. Citing Israel’s unfaithfulness, like a harlot-wife’s recurring cycle of sin, his writing repeats the sequences of adultery, judgment, tenderness, and restoration.

Modern Application
We each are a microcosm of disobedient Israel, playing the harlot, of our own doing or out of no fault of our own. Yet we are born of sin, separated from God and in need of reconciliation through belief. We need redemption out of our sin and shame, like the heroine in Francine River’s touching novel.

Only the love of God can do this. No human idol or creation can get us there. It is only in our humbling recognition of our harlotry and disobedience that we can be restored to complete human wholeness and reconciled with the God of redeeming love.

Have you experienced redeeming love?
“Come, let us return to the Lord, even though He has torn us, He will heal us; even though He has wounded us, and He will bind our wounds. – Hosea 6:1

Categories: Abundant Living, Books of the Bible, Devotion, Faith, Forgiveness, Marriage

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