Part II: It’s Got You Written All Over It
She hated her name. When she was little, she didn’t understand. But when she learned the whole story, her name became a burden. Some think it has a pretty sound: Lo-Ruhamah, accent on the last syllable. Children often dislike the names their parents give them, but Lo-Ruhamah had more reason than most.
Her name preached a sermon about her parents. Lo-Ruhamah’s mother had multiple sexual partners, seldom remained faithful to any one, and often disappeared from her life for long periods of time. Lo-Ruhamah lived with her step father, Hosea, who also had a name that preached a sermon.
But her name also described the shortcomings of her nation. Her name was meant to announce again and again the most negative aspect of the world where she grew up.
Not Loved. That’s what Lo-Ruhamah meant. Not that she grew up entirely unlovable or without love, although her mother’s promiscuity hung like a cloud over her life, but rather this little girl’s name pointed to a family and national disgrace.
Her story unfolds in the first chapters of Hosea. Gomer lived an adulterous life. Hosea tried to hold the family together even raising two of the children Gomer had to other men including Lo-Ruhamah.
In fact, all three of Hosea’s children had ugly names. Every trip to the market, each time he summoned them to supper, whenever they were called on in class, their names conjured up negative images, announced bad news, and reminded people of pain they tried to forget.
Most parents use more positive names, but parents still pass on to their children pain that they created. Lo-Ruhamah’s name had the sins of her parents and her nation written all over it. Children still grow up with the sins of their parents written on their lives. She’s a child of divorce. His father is an alcoholic. Son of an ex-con, child of the ghetto, foster child, infected with HIV at birth, illegitimate—the list goes on of how children live in the shadow of the sins of their parents and their nation.
We have many unanswered questions about this little girl who briefly walks across a couple of Old Testament chapters, but her name tells us that God knows all about how children grow up down stream from the pollution their parents and culture dump into the rivers of life. Incredibly this little girl’s name reveals how much God himself struggles with that polluted flow, how much he seeks to purify and clean even when we keep soiling it with our lives.
All who work on behalf of our world’s hurting children can find hope in little Lo-Ruhamah, hope in the fact that God knows and that God works to stop the hurt. He even asks Hosea to give this child a negative name to make it clear to all adults the pain and anguish they bring on children’s lives. Through this child’s name he hoped to convince people to live a different way so that their children would have a brighter future. They did not listen.
Despite their refusal, God did not give up. In fact, his dedication to rescue humanity from its continual decisions that put the next generation at risk is reflected in the name he gave his prophet, Hosea. Every time people called out the prophet’s name, they announced God’s great dream and intention for all people including the sadly named little girl.
Hosea means salvation.