There will be packed ringsides and the buzz of expectation as a quality animal swaggers into the ring. With their shouts and signs, dealers will be straining to be top dog and farmers will be eager to speculate for stock to fatten over the bleak winter months.
Then there’s the lilting sing-song voice of the auctioneer as he plucks bids out of the air: “Eight-twenty; eight-forty; eight sixty. On the market.” And with a thud of his gavel a good, tight, shapely Charolais heifer has found a new home.
Let me take you to another sale yard. If you listen really carefully you can hear the bids going on, only it’s not suckled calves being sold to the highest bidder it’s people - slaves. Hosea, God’s prophet, is at the auction and his own wife, Gomer, is going through the ring.
It seems that Gomer has moved from one man to another, each time slipping a little lower down the social scale. Having sunk so low, she is being sold as a slave - probably through falling into debt that she couldn’t pay. The only thing she has left to sell is herself.
So what does God do? Does He tell Hosea to wash his hands of his unfaithful wife? No, God tells him to go to the slave market and buy Gomer back to show her that he still loves her.
In Hosea 3:1-3 the prophet takes up the story, “The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods...’ So I bought her for 15 shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me for many days...and I will live with you.’ ”
Now come with me to yet another auction. This time, you and I are in the ring. It’s like we are Gomer and the anti-God world is the bidder. The world bids for our future, offering all sorts of enticements, like sex, money, influence and power. Will we find ourselves forever in the world’s tempting, but ultimately hopeless pen?
Thankfully for us another bidder steps forward – Jesus, and His bid is the highest possible: His perfect, sinless life, poured out for us on the cross. When we trust in Jesus’ bid for us, the Bible calls this ‘redemption’.
And how we all need this redemption, for sin ‘pens us in’, shutting us away from Jesus and His blessings. It is only by turning from our Gomer-like desire to go our own way, and trusting in Jesus’ priceless bid for us, that we can be set free to belong to God. Ask Jesus, and by the bid of His perfect life for you, Jesus will make you His. You will no longer be ‘On the Market’, but ‘sold to Jesus,’ to be nourished by His green pastures of salvation forever.
Rev. Kenny Hanna is minister of Second Dromara Presbyterian Church and grew up on his family’s farm in the foothills of the Mountains of Mourne.
His blog appeared in a fortnightly column entitled ‘Good News For the Countryside’, in last Saturday’s Farming Life, where people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life.