Review of Francine-Rivers, Redeeming Love, Multnomah Books, 2001, 486 pp
Have you ever tried to run away from God? Ever tried so hard but every time, felt the rushing, impulsive warmth of God’s love and faithfulness pulling you back? Does it ever amaze you how Christ chose us (his people) to be his holy bride, despite knowing that we would turn from him time and time again? – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 8:5
A historical romance, inspired by the book of Hosea, Redeeming Love, tells the story of Angel, a prostitute brought out of slavery by a man named Michael Hosea. This man knew exactly who Angel was when he came for her. He knew in his heart that she would leave him, not once, not twice, but time and time again. He knew she would disrespect him, cheat on him and cause him much anguish in their marriage. And yet, called by God to take Angel as his wife, he obeys, loving her faithfully, delivering her from the slavery of prostitution she is so damnably drawn back to.
Following the horrors of Angel’s past life is a harrowing read in parts. Set in California’s Gold Country in 1850, Angel is disowned by her own Father as a baby and sold into prostitution at the age of eight after her mother’s death. Beaten and bruised, her body is sold over and over again to complete strangers.
Francine Rivers, a Californian author, who has written over twenty bestsellers; many with a Christian theme, has a special talent for getting inside the heads of her characters. Not only do we gain insights not only into Angel’s thinking – why she chose to run from her own husband, the fear she feels under the hand of Duke (perhaps a representation of Satan in the novel?), but also from Hosea’s point of view – his devastation and disappointment every time his beloved wife leaves him for the awful past she hates with such passion. These descriptions rang deep into my soul as I read and realised that’s what God must feel about us.
If I’m perfectly honest, I also found a large majority of this book incredibly frustrating. How can a woman who has only ever known hurt and rejection from men, turn away from the one man who is willing to love her unconditionally? How can she reject being brought out of slavery? How can she turn to other men, when the one who saved her and repeatedly nurses her back to health stands waiting with his arms open wide? It was a slow, gradual realisation during the course of this book that brought my frustration to guilt, my guilt to tears, and my tears of guilt to tears of joy. How could I turn away from a God who has sent his only son to buy me out of slavery to sin, has died for me on a cross and has chosen to love me undeservedly, dressing me in robes of righteousness and granting me an eternity with him in heaven? How could I possibly find slavery a more appealing option than that?
There is a wonderful scene at the end of this novel, where Angel finally gets it – Michael Hosea really does love her. He loves her despite her past, and he’s opened a way for her to be free, to live in inexpressible joy serving and loving him.
“She knew then that she had doubted he would forgive her again, but he already had […] She went into his arms, spreading her hands on his strong back, pressing herself as close as she could, her gratitude so strong she could hardly bear it. He was warmth and light and life. […] Michael had once read to her how God had cast men out of Paradise. Yet for all their human faults and failures, God had shown them the way back in.” Redeeming Love, page 442
This book is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best I have every read – an impulsive, beautiful reminder of the price Christ paid to save us from our sins, and the unfaltering, unfailing, perfect love he shows towards us, in spite of our neglect and selfish arrogance. If you haven’t read this book already, I urge you from the bottom of my heart to pick up a book that will shed new, radiant light on a love that has perhaps grown dim in your life.