New Names and Old Habits
I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, “You are my people”; and he shall say, “You are my God.” Hosea 2:23
Before I was married, I developed some destructive habits with chemicals that I thought would automatically disappear in marriage. They were relatively minor issues – I thought – and I just assumed that when I got married, I would grow up and abandon those behaviors. I did not. They grew until they consumed my life in spectacular destruction.
In retrospect, my plan was more than a little foolish. I incorrectly assumed that my destructive appetites and behavior patterns would simply dissolve just because I took on the name of husband. Though I absolutely had a new identity, I still needed to address my life problems.
God’s people – the Israelites – discovered this in today’s passage. In it, though God pursued them, making a covenant union with them to be their God, still, they wandered from him. The story of Hosea and his marriage to an adulterous prostitute, served as a metaphor for Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.
In the story, Gomer, Hosea’s wandering wife, had three children. Two of whom he named, No Mercy and Not My People. The peculiarity of these names was later explained when God renamed them, calling them I Will Have Mercy and You Are My People.
This is what God does for us. He loves us, even in our failures. He pursues us, even as we wander from him. He restores us to himself and he renames us, providing new identities. We are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and in him, we are reborn into a new, beautiful spirit life.
The mistake we often make is that we forget that we carry our new spirit life in this flawed flesh which wars against our spirit (1 Peter 2:11). We have new life, but if we do not continually crucify the old, we will return to it. This is the Christian life: We now have blessed new names and the freedom to live in them, so daily, we must turn from our old identity, choosing to live in our new one. We have been renamed as children of God. Now, we must live like it.