Friday, June 21, 2013

if you ever had a doubt about what God feels about marriage... or what He feels about you

imagine a beautiful woman who just can't stop straying from her husband. the husband is deeply committed and loves her faithfully, but she is so wrapped up in affairs away from home. she even has had children that most people suspect belong to someone else because they don't look like their "father."

imagine this woman hasn't cheated on her husband once, or even twice... but again and again and again. she is more caught up in what everyone else can offer her that she is unaware of what her husband wants to provide for her as security and family. she longs to be noticed and desired - to be the one who turns everyone's head when she walks by. she is insecure, afraid, and damaged from her youth, hiding behind this so-called power and independence. in reality, she is afraid to let her husband into the deep parts of her heart, so she hurts the one who loves her most.

unfortunately, i have known many marriages to fall apart lately because one spouse or the other was unfaithful. sometimes the one who is unfaithful refuses to come back. but even when the unfaithful spouse claims to want to work it out, the husband or wife who have been violated in the covenant often can't get past the pain of the waywardness of the one they loved. a betrayal on the most intimate level is excruciating and devasting, and often we wonder what God's opinion is on the whole matter.

as i wrote in my controversial post on divorce, God has a definite view of divorce in the bible. as i mention there - i am most interested, however, in His view on marriage. marriage is meant to be a picture of His relationship to the people of israel, and really all humanity. His nature is unchanging, so we know how He is towards them doesn't change towards any of us. God longed for people to know His heart and faithful nature, so He called a man named hosea to be a prophet who did the unthinkable - he lived out a prophetic picture of what God intended marriage to be and what He was trying to say to His own wayward people.

it is a powerful message if we can soften our hearts enough to really get it. it is the most beautiful love story, more beautiful than anything fairy tales or hollywood could dream up. it is a story with betrayal, pain, real brokenness, honor, courage, undeserved forgiveness, and redeeming love. it is the lowest point of humanity and the highest point of God colliding. it is a story that could forever change the way you relate to both your spouse and God Himself.

God told hosea that He would make it miserable for His bride to persist in her unfaithfulness. He would basically corner her in her sin - thorns on one side, a wall on another. He would allow the sin she insisted on to become painful and unenjoyable. He would make it very difficult for her to go back to her path of sin easily; very difficult to persist in her unfaithfulness. maybe when it was so difficult to get to the other lovers, she would turn back to her Husband; if not out of love, out of no other option.

"therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.
she will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them;
and she will seek them, but will not find them.
then she will say, 'i will go back to my first husband,
for it was better for me then than now!'
for she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain,
the new wine and the oil,
and lavished on her silver and gold,  
which they used for baal."

you see, she did not know that all of her provision came from Him. she thought she was making a way for herself. she thought the things, and the men, she gave herself to was making her life more full. she thought that she could exist without her Husband.

"I will also put an end to all her gaiety,
her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths
and all her festal assemblies.
I will destroy her vines and fig trees,
of which she said, 'these are my wages
which my lovers have given me.'
and I will make them a forest,
and the beasts of the field will devour them.
"I will punish her for the days of the baals
when she used to offer sacrifices to them
and adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry,
and follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me," declares the Lord. 

and so sin would become unenjoyable. ever had something that should be so fun be so miserable because you knew it was wrong? the parties would cease. the profit from the wayward ways would dry up. instead of feeling like a well of provision, her lifestyle would prove to be a trap that she could not climb out of on her own.

can you hear the emotion of God in these words? in reading them aloud i envision tears streaming down the face of the Husband as He slowly and softly lets the words tumble out of His mouth - "so. that. she. forgot. Me..." what painful betrayal. what heartache. if you ever wondered what God thought... or even more, felt about the betrayal of a spouse, you don't have to wonder anymore. He is devastated my friend. He weeps. He has very real emotion, very real grief, very real jealous zeal.

but the part of the story that really grabs my heart is what comes next. the crazy jealous husband makes sense. the fierce emotion that rages when unfaithfulness is discovered, clouding all vision but obsession with the other lovers is something we as humans can relate with whether we have been there ourselves or not. but the tender mercy and absolute kindness that the Lord flows into in the midst of utter pain of rejection is something my feeble attempt at mercy cannot quite wrap my mind around. His response is completely other than anyone or anything i have ever know. the emotion drips off the words of the page and softens even the heart that has built stoney cold walls of protection all around.

"therefore, behold, I will allure her,
bring her into the wilderness
and speak kindly to her.
then I will give her her vineyards from there,
and the valley of achor as a door of hope.
and she will sing there as in the days of her youth,
as in the day when she came up from the land of egypt.
it will come about in that day," declares the Lord,
"that you will call Me Ishi (my husband)
and will no longer call Me Baali. (master)
"for I will remove the names of the baals from her mouth,
so that they will be mentioned by their names no more.
in that day I will also make a covenant for them
with the beasts of the field,
the birds of the sky
and the creeping things of the ground.
and I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land,
and will make them lie down in safety.
"I will betroth you to Me forever;
yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
in lovingkindness and in compassion,
and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
then you will know the LORD."

in the depths of pain, gazing upon the wretchedness of human depravity, the Lord responds in compassion and allures the one He loves to Himself.

i have heard the wilderness spoken of in many christian circles as that time of barrenness or when God is far off. my friends, the wilderness is the place of encounter! it is the place where the wayward bride is won back - His kindness is what leads to repentance. the wilderness is where she sees a door of hope. hope - that which she obviously lacked if she felt the compulsion to look for love in all the wrong places. the wilderness is where He teaches her to sing again. the wilderness is where her eyes are opened that the Man she once thought of as a cruel Master was really the tender Husband who desired her unlike any of the other lovers ever could.

and the promises that God lays out to israel, the wayward wife who we still haven't seen come back to Him up unto this point of history, are glorious. He says He has made promises to all creation that are tied to her restoration of love to Him. He says that war and unrest will literally cease. He promises betrothal that has both true justice uncompromised, while overflowing with compassion and lovingkindness. and what gets me is He says she will be faithful. the woman who has the town's reputation for unfaithfulness with one day be faithful as He is faithful... and she will know her Husband.

"it will come about in that day that I will respond," declares the Lord.
 "I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth,
and the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine and to the oil,
and they will respond to jezreel.
I will sow her for Myself in the land.
I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion,
and I will say to those who were not My people,
'You are My people!'
and they will say, 'You are my God!'" 

and the beautiful crazy thing that gets thrown on the end this passionate poem is a promise of hope for those of us who are not part of the people called israel... those of us who are just as unfaithful and broken and searching, but weren't the descendants of isaac that He originally chose. He said He will have compassion on us too! we were not His, but He will call us His and we will respond that He is ours. in the midst of the beautiful heart-wrenching love story, He reaches out to the one watching in the distant shadows and says, I love you too. come to Me.

and hosea, the hebrew prophet who bore the same name as Jesus who he forshadowed - salvation is from the Lord - had a commission from the Lord: go get your wife back. even when she left with no plan to return, he was to go and take her back as his own.

then the Lord said to me, "go again, love a woman, who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord love the sons of israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes."
so i bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley.

fifteen shekels of silver, a homer, and a half of barley is the equivalent of 30 pieces of silver.

30 pieces of silver.

if you ever had a doubt about what God feels about marriage, what God feels about wayward israel (who still do not serve Him or walk in their calling as a people - the whole northern kingdom still scattered across the earth), or what God feels about you, hear me now: in the deepest darkness of human depravity, He was willing to go buy back the one He desired from the beginning.

taking on the likeness of humanity, He humbled Himself to the point of death, death on a cross. for a mere 30 pieces of silver He exchanged His life for the one who desired another and wouldn't, couldn't, be faithful to Him.

this type of love could change a life, a whole people group, forever. He didn't love israel when she was the good wife at home raising the kids, cooking the dinner, adoring her husband... in the worst deception and unfaithful betrayal, when she was unwilling to come back and even show the signs of a repentant heart, He chased after her - running out of the heavenly throne room, down into a dirty stable filled with animals and poop, and up the hill to calvary to the worst death imaginable to
get. her. back. as. His. own.

and this picture of God's union to His people is what marriage was always supposed to be a picture of - a faithful, self-sacrificing yes, even if the other half is saying no. it is redeeming love. it is union with the heart of the Beloved whether we are the one who was betrayed showing mercy or who is the redeemed betrayer. it is forgiveness, kindness, the mercy that draws us unto our Husband forever.

"the heart won in kindness is won forever." allen hood

blog button charis

*selections quoted from hosea chapters 2 and 3
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