A movie called Redeeming Love, inspired by the story of the Biblical prophet Hosea, was released last week in movie theaters. Like the God-inspired book by Francine Rivers, this too brought me to tears. ◊
I can only recall two times that I literally cried after reading a book. Once was 25 years ago, and the other time was 5 years ago when I reread the same book.
It happened again last week in a movie theater when I saw the film version of that book now converted into a major motion picture.
The book and movie of the same name is Redeeming Love by prolific Christian author, Francine Rivers.
A Book/Movie for Everyone?
Yes, absolutely. I’d recommend both to any man and woman. Preferably read the book first to grasp the full depth of the sordid tale of sin and redemption. But as Francine Rivers wrote the screenplay, the movie is true to the scenic imagery of the book and the emotional tug of the human heart in the context of a loving God that never quits loving.
Redeeming Love is a story about human love and God’s love. And human brokenness, and deep 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 ultimately 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 Author’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 named Michael Hosea 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.
A cynic may watch this movie and see “old-fashioned” male and female roles and expectations, even principles and views of right and wrong they may deem quaint. That would miss the point of the book, the movie, and certainly God’s prophetic word through Hosea.
Redeeming Love, the book and the movie, addresses larger issues based on age-old truths about the God-ordained beauty of marriage, the tragedy of human sin and the transcendent opportunity for Godly restoration.
All of us as human beings are but a microcosm of disobedient Israel, playing the harlot of our own doing or out of no fault of our own. Yet we are all born of sin, separated from God and in need of reconciliation through belief in that same God and Savior. It is God’s ultimate, loving solution available even to the lowest of us. Indeed we all need redemption out of our sin and shame, just like the heroine in Francine River’s touching novel, and now the movie.
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 personally experienced God’s 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
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