This week's Paper Pulpit has been written by Rev. Darran McCorriston, Minister of Ballyloughan Presbyterian Church

IT wasn't as if he hadn't been warned, but he went ahead and married her anyway. Things began fairly well: they seemed happy together in those early years and had a son. Perhaps it was going to work out after all, perhaps he would prove the prediction wrong. But then it happened: her affair. Still he loved her and he couldn't bear to see her go. They would stay together and try to work things through. More children followed, but he always had that niggling doubt as to whether they

One day he arrived home and she was gone, children sitting wondering where their mum had gone. Despite their pleas, she had left to live with another. At first she was treated like a queen, given the latest style, taken to all the fancy places. But then the new man got tired of her and maybe she of him. And so began her tragic cycle of moving on from one man to the next, hoping that she’ll find whatever it is she’s looking for. In the end, what she settles for is far from what she had longed for as she’s shacked up with a man who turns out to be abusive to her and doesn’t even provide for her basic needs.

Remarkably, still the wounded husband loves her. She might not want him, but he seeks her welfare. One day, having seen the plight she’s in, he quietly gives some provisions to her latest, abusive lover in order that she might be cared for. Of course, he was taken for a fool. The lover claimed the credit She believed him, threw her arms around him and gave him the love that should have been reserved for her now forgotten husband.

Fast forward. Perhaps it was to finance the debts that her lovers had accumulated. There she stands, up for sale at the market-place, naked, with prospective buyers gazing at their merchandise. One man starts the bidding, “Twelve pieces of silver!” “Thirteen!” says another!” “Fourteen!” And then at the very depth of her degradation, at the most humiliating time of her life, to her amazement a familiar voice calls out, “Fifteen pieces of silver.” It’s him, her husband! The low bidders have dropped out by now and the increase in bidding becomes smaller. “Fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel of barley.” “Fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley.” Seeing no more bids, the auctioneer calls, “Sold, for fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley.” And so he approaches her, the betrayed husband who has now bought her. He doesn’t treat her like a slave, he doesn’t condemn her, he doesn’t plot revenge. He covers her nakedness, he gives her back her dignity, he takes her by the hand and leads her away. And he says, “I don’t want you just to be a slave. If you come back I want you to be my wife. I don’t want you to sleep with other men and I’m not going to sleep with other women. We’re not for sharing.” And what does she do? Does she go home with him? Was she melted by his love? Was her heart changed? Or did she laugh in his face? We don’t know. The story ends.

It makes a TV soap look mild.

But what you’ve just read is the story of Hosea and his wife Gomer, found in the Bible. The story is there in the Bible to show us what God is like: Hosea represents God, and Gomer represents us. Even though He has been so good to us, we have forgotten his goodness and given our lives to other loves.

But still, remarkably He doesn’t give up and He pursues us with His love.

It’s up to us to finish the story. Will we embrace His welcome? Will we be melted by His love? Will our hearts be changed? Or will we laugh in His face and live forever with the consequences of our folly?

How will your story end?