Category Archives: marriage

Redemptive Love (Hosea Part 3)

So the last post was pretty tough in a that we saw a wife (Gomer and/or Israel by way of allegory) running back to her sin in spite of her husband’s faithfulness and protection.  Her husband then pursued her in a quite unusual way – he gave her over to her sin and let her run herself down but didn’t let her be satisfied apart from him.  We see that God’s jealousy sent his wife to her humiliation, despair, and pain – ultimately leading her to repentance and began the process of their reconciliation.

Today I’d like to finish out chapter two, which is, as we’ll see, quite different from yesterday.  We’re still in the middle of a section of heavy prophecies from the Lord to his prophet Hosea.  These prophecies have two aspects – one is an immediate message for Hosea with his wife Gomer and the second is a message for his people as a whole.  In the first part of chapter two we saw how he will discipline his people and hand them over to their sin; today we’ll see how he plans to redeem her from the rough place she’s taken herself, and we’ll see his covenant love expressed in his restoration of his bride.  It’s a precious text, so let’s dive in to Hosea 2:14-23.

Redemptive Love

The tone of chapter two shifts dramatically from the first thirteen verses to the last ten – God goes from expressing judgment and his bride’s future despair to working her out of her muck, expressing his faithful covenant love, and redeeming her to her former place of favor that she so willfully rejected.  He says in verse 14 that he will ‘allure her,’ that is, he will woo her and reclaim her affections by speaking tenderly to her in the wilderness, showing her his love in light of her disobedience.

He goes on to say that he will restore her vineyards and make her Valley of Achor a door of hope.  At first glance, this phrase seems a bit odd, but let’s backtrack to Joshua chapter 7 see exactly what the Valley of Achor was, and why it’s significant.  Honestly, this one verse is probably one of the most beautiful parts of Hosea to me.  Let’s dig into why.  Back when Israel was beginning the conquest of Canaan, they defeated Jericho (… ‘and the walls came tumbling down…’), and the Lord commanded that they destroy everything, including the pagan temple items.  One man named Achan didn’t obey – he kept several things for himself and hid them in his tent – nobody knew about it.  When Israel went out to their next battle at Ai, they were beaten soundly because the Lord wasn’t with them – he had withdrawn because of Achan’s sin.  So Joshua eventually finds out what happened, and everyone in Israel stoned Achan and his family for their sin and disobedience.  The place where he was buried under those stones was called the Valley of Achor – it was a blight on the history of Israel, and a reminder that secret sin was not to be tolerated.  Joshua then leads Israel to defeat Ai with the Lord’s blessing and the conquest continued.  So fast-forwarding into Hosea, when God says that he will make his bride’s Valley of Achor a door of hope, he means that Israel’s past sins will be redeemed and become a source of hope for her, that they will no longer be a reminder of shame, disobedience and punishment.  He will gain glory in spite of our sin because he will redeem it.

And this is where we sinners have much hope and peace – God will redeem and restore.  If we are God’s in Christ Jesus, we cannot out-sin his grace, and we cannot sin in such a way that he cannot redeem it.  Nothing is outside of his sovereignty.  This is definitely not a license to sin, but a precious hope in the midst of the message of condemnation from Satan that would lead us to despair in our sin.  I would remind you that “there is now NO condemnation for those in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1).

Has God ever done this with/for you?  Has he redeemed your sin and made it a part of your story of redemption for his glory?  This is the hope that we have in Christ Jesus… our scars, like the death of Christ, though shameful, will be beautiful in light of God’s redemptive love.

So God will restore the sexually promiscuous and give them fruitful intimacy.  He will restore the disobedient and give them the perfect obedience of Christ.  He will redeem our idolatry and show us that our greatest treasure is in him because it is him.  This concept directly mirrors Christ – his scars are our victory, his shame is our boasting, and his death is our hope and life.

Do you believe this?  Do you have faith in the future grace and redemptive purposes of God?

What does this look like for you in your sin?  What does it look like to be redeemed?  Not just sin-free, but redeemed and Christ-focused?

The Lord goes on to give a prophecy of the restoration of his bride’s purity in verses 16-17.  He says that he will purify her theology and religious practices by removing her Baals (idols, false gods), and the memory of those idols.  He is essentially saying that the knowledge of past sins will stay, but the shame and pain are gone in light of the peace and joy in his redemption.  This comes with having the right perspective – that we will see our idols for the false gods that they are, and not our providers.  It also involves a realigning of our affections both toward God and away from our idols.

In verse 18 we see that God restores their relationship and brings ‘shalom’ (a holistic peace) between them to where everything is returned to the way it should be.  And in verses 19-20 we see that God will marry his whore; he will accept the unacceptable, redeem the unredeemable, and resurrect the dead (see also Ephesians 2).  This redemptive love is everlasting, displays his righteousness, justice, hesed (that faithful covenant love), and mercy.  He truly redeems every aspect of their covenant because his love is long-suffering, and it is perfect.  It also shows God’s faithfulness in light of his bride’s unfaithfulness.  He has never broken a covenant, but Israel has never kept one.

Another note of significance is that God is making the covenant for both of them – he acts, Israel receives.  Israel is incapable of making a covenant that she will stick to, so God steps in and takes on the weight of making their marital covenant and then empowers Israel, by his grace, to accomplish and fulfill it.  He restores Israel/us for his glory, for our good, and for our intimacy with him (see verse 20) so that we can and will glorify him in our daily lives.

And this isn’t just a redemption of his bride.  Remember the last post when God said his judgment would pass to Gomer’s children as well?  We now see that God’s redemptive love is expressed toward her whole family – her children are reconciled as well.  God will restore and reverse the judgment and curse that he placed on them (their names).  The heavens and earth are reconciled, and God will sow the seed of Israel for himself as an expression of his love and for his glory.  This is the gospel in our lives.  You see, just as Israel’s redemption wasn’t an end in and of itself – it was meant to show God’s infinite love and glory – our salvation and reconciliation as Christians is also not an end in and of itself.  To be sure, we do benefit very directly, but ultimately we are redeemed for God’s glory and to spread the gospel in this world.  2 Corinthians chapter 1 talks about how we as Christians participate in the ministry of reconciliation because we were reconciled.  So because we have been given grace, we give grace to others; because we’ve been saved, we help bring others to faith; because we have been given peace, we help spread peace in as much as we are able to.  We are indeed for God, for worship, to bear his image – he bought us with a price, and we are his.  But that isn’t the end goal.  His glory is.

Now, in a historical context, this passage foretells Israel’s exile and return.  In a contemporary context, this tells us about our own rebellion, discipline, and reconciliation (propitiation – turning from wrath to favor) to God.  This immediate context is for Hosea and Gomer – Hosea is redeeming and cultivating his wife for himself.  This is a beautiful biblical concept – a man’s wife is the barometer of his leadership, and in this God gives us the capability and the role of helping to reconcile and lead our wives to deeper walks with God.

Men, how are you cultivating your wife for yourself and for God’s glory?  Is  your marriage righteous, just, full of faithful covenant love, merciful, compassionate, and understanding?  How might you prepare yourself to lead this way, and how might you steward your marriage to reflect God’s glorious redemptive covenant in your own context?

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A Pleading Jealous Husband (Hosea Part 2)

I think one of the biggest things that I’ve seen thus far in my journey through Hosea is the blueprint that God lays for us as men and women to follow his example.  His character and actions toward his people model how we as men must relate to women, and how we as a people must submit to his leadership.  Today’s section that we’ll walk through has given me much pause in how God relates to and disciplines us as a jealous father and husband, and the sorry state of affairs that ensues when we reject his loving, gracious headship.

The main concept I’ve grappled with in the past few weeks has been the difference between the way that God leads and the way that I would likely lead in these various situations.  I honestly don’t know how I would endure what God has, but his example of doing what is truly for our good in spite of our ongoing sin is a precious testament to his faithful covenant love (the Hebrew word is ‘hesed’ – usually translated ‘lovingkindness’ in the Old Testament).  It is his initiating, sustaining, faithful pursuit of his passionate love toward his people for their benefit and his glory.  It is this love that endures forever, blesses us to the utmost, and demonstrates his glory in the world.  But let’s be completely clear here… that doesn’t mean that he excuses or overlooks or downplays sin.  God’s true love is seen in his full-on relentless address of sin so that his bride is pure.  This concept seems to be the best way to frame this passage that we’ll walk through today – Hosea 2:1-13.

A Pleading Jealous Husband
At this point in the narrative, Hosea has married his prostitute wife Gomer and they’ve had some kids.  Surprise surprise, she’s a sinner.  And not only that, apparently she has returned to her former ways and hasn’t killed that sin in her life.  So then by way of allegory, God has taken his people for himself, and they just happen to be sinners as well.  They have forsaken their Lord and turned back to their old idolatry and systematic unrepentant sin.  God then instructs Hosea to demonstrate a heavenly reality in his earthly context by confronting his wife’s ongoing sin, and to warn her as a (rightfully) jealous husband should.

The opening verse in this rebuke is very tough, but very necessary.  It starts off with an interesting play on words – the children’s names are promised in reverse.  Their names meaning ‘not my people’ and ‘no mercy’ are reversed to say that God has accepted his people and that he has given mercy – that God’s love will provide open arms for his people should they repent of their sin.  But the Lord quickly turns to pleadingly rebuke his wife for straying away from his faithful covenant love (verse 2).  Because of his love he is warning her of impending consequences of her lifestyle.  Therefore, God says that he will send his bride out into the desert, and make her barren and thirsty, driving her to understand the humiliating and shameful nature of her sin (verse 3).  She will also understand what she has (or doesn’t have) without her husband.  Though it is hard to see, this is the hidden smile of God, an act of mercy that will hopefully yield the precious fruit of repentance and reconciliation.  Without her dissatisfaction and understanding of her hopeless estate, she would continue on unabated in her sin, leading herself more and more astray.  It is God’s love that pushes her into the desert to stoke the fires of repentance.

Have you ever felt this discipline from the Lord?  Has he driven you into the desert to see the stark reality of your sin?  How have you responded?

We also see that God’s judgment in this case doesn’t just affect his bride – it affects their children as well (verse 4).  Her sin has incurred many consequences and has affected many people.  And that’s another good point – our sin never affects just us.  It affects everyone, including future generations.  Think about that… parents who pass their insecurities and temptations on to their children are passing their sin and its consequences along.

Let me be both clear and blunt.  Sin never stays within the boundaries you set for it.  It always spills its banks, always costs more than you think, and cuts far deeper than you can imagine.  Its desire is for you – to consume you, to rule you, to make you its slave.  And when you are enslaved to sin, you drag many others – especially those you love and who love you – down with you.  While your sin is your own and you are the one who is responsible for it, its effects are far reaching and broad ranging.  Take a sober look at your life and your sin and you will (I pray) be humbled at the effects of your sin.  I weep at the hurt I’ve caused others.  I pray you do as well.

Moving along in the passage, we see that the prostitute wife (Gomer/Israel) continues on seeking wrongly attributed benefits from sinful relationships (verse 5).  She is pursuing sin and looking to it to provide only what God is capable of providing.  How many times do we do this?  In what ways to we look to gain God’s provision outside of the means that he has chosen to provide it?  When we seek other means by which we can experience sex, for example (adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, etc.), we go against his design and incur many consequences that are too numerous to dig into here.  The same goes for money – when we seek illegal or illegitimate gain, it never works out in the long run.  When we desire children, provision for our families, or anything that supersedes our desire to stay within the way God has wired the world to work, we are essentially the harlot wife looking to ‘clients’ to whom she has wrongly attributed her husband’s provision.  This is ugly, and it is real.

God’s response in this situation is to hedge his bride (verse 6) – to keep her from her own sin – for her own good.  This shows his wisdom and love for his bride.  It is analogous to when we keep small children from playing in a busy street, or slap their hand away from a hot stove.  God’s love for his children and his infinite wisdom drives him to restrain her from her sin.  So the Lord goes on to show that his bride will be hemmed in, that she will desire sin and not be allowed to pursue it or act on it.  She will eventually become discouraged and downtrodden, exhausted from the fruitless pursuit of shortsighted lust.

How does that hit you?  What do you make of God directly contradicting his bride’s ‘free  will’ to protect her?

The text takes an interesting turn here (verse 7) – God’s prostitute wife, at her wits’ end, will then return to her husband, not from love or repentance, but because she realizes that things were at least better with him.  I think we (or at least I) do this all the time.  It is the beginning of the process that leads to repentance.  Though it is not repentance, it is at least an acknowledgement of the fruitless pursuit of sin, and the realization that God is ready and willing to receive us.  Now, that in no way means that the road back will be easy or straight, or even make sense most of the time, but it does mean that the Lord is waiting at the end as our reward.

In the following verse, we see a really interesting concept that seems peculiar at first, but I think opens up into a much larger understanding of God’s sovereignty and love (verse 8). God shows his hand, stating that he was the one who provided the various things mentioned in the passage, not his bride’s lovers.  This is another precious grace that in spite of our sin his love is unwavering, his resolve unshaken.  God is much bigger than that, and his purposes for us far exceed the effects of our sin if we are his in Christ Jesus.  Just because we sin against him on a daily basis doesn’t mean that he isn’t at work around us, in us, through us, and in spite of us.  He is our ultimate provider, not our jobs, not our own hands, not ‘luck’.  So it is not a company that provides my paycheck – rather, God gives me plenty to steward for his kingdom.  It is not the locks on my doors that keep me secure at night – God restrains evil at my doorstep.  And in order for us to appropriately live in this world we must see that even the most seemingly random events are at the hands of God’s sustaining and provisionary grace.  So we must give him the glory in providing for us, even and especially if we’re in sin.

I think the best biblical example of this is found in Romans 5:8 – “… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  So before you and I ever took a breath or sinned, while Paul was still a Pharisee who would go on to murder Christians, while we were hardened desperate sinners, Christ died for us so that we might be free to love him and glorify him in our lives.

How has God provided for you when you’ve been far from him in sin?  What provisions have you taken for granted that God can take away at any time?  How does that make you feel about or respond to the Lord?

The last few verses are not easy to read or walk through, in my opinion.  It details out the way that God will discipline and humiliate his bride so that she will return to him.  This is by no means a direct correlation to our human marriages now – God is God, you are not.  But I’ll address that in a minute.  First, God expresses his disgust at what he has so graciously lavished on his bride, she has used for sin (verse 9).  His judgment, then, is to take it away from her and strip her of his provisions to show her shameful pursuits, her neediness, kill her pride, and bring her back to repentance.  Israel/Gomer will utterly at the hands of her husband (verse 10).  He will also take away her capacity for happiness apart from him (verse 11), because that is his greatest glory and her greatest good.  He will take away her money, her livelihood, her base from which she conducts her sin, and will bring disaster to her (verse 12).  He will also punish her for her sin and adultery – for letting her affections for another compromise her life as she slips further and further into sin.

What do you make of this?  How does God’s jealousy hit you?  It seems as though he’s not only jealous for his glory, but also for our love.

As a husband, what wouldn’t you do to rescue your wife back from her sin?  She’s your responsibility; if she’s heading into sin and adultery, what would you do to stop her?  Would you warn her, cut off her credit card, make it increasingly difficult to accomplish her sin? This is God’s motivation and methodology for wooing his wife back from her egregious sin.  This isn’t just a sinfully jealous boyfriend or husband stalking and controlling his wife and dictating everything she does.  It is a faithfully covenanted husband rescuing his wife from her sin for their marriage’s sake.

This is mercy and love at its finest.  Anyone can make a marriage work when things are good, when the sex is good, when the laundry is done and the food is cooked. But when you realize that people are sinners and that you’re married to one of them, and when you have your fights about sex and kids and whatever else, and when you are tempted to see that things would be different and maybe better with someone else… 1) how do you discipline your mind to come away from that temptation? 2) how do you work with your spouse to bring yourself or him/her away from their sin?  How do those conversations go, and how do you fight to protect your marriage?

And what about the more subtle sins?  How do you show the effects of your spouse’s sin in a clear but non-vindictive way?  When your spouse sins against you, do you throw it in their face with a smirk and say ‘you need to fix this’… or do you lovingly wait until they are in a receptive frame of mind and calmly express your love for them and desire to work through their sin with them?

What tempts you away from your spouse?  What tempts you away from God?  Why?

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The Bride and her Groom (Guest Post)

I’m proud to announce (and host) this first guest post by a dear friend of mine, miss Leslie Sallee of Fort Worth, Texas.  I asked her to write about the Church’s submission to Christ from a single woman’s perspective… so here it is – enjoy.

Marriage is something I’ve wanted my whole life. No, there’s no binder in my room documenting every detail of my future wedding but if one of my relationships ever got past 3 months, it was difficult not to flip through wedding magazines at the news stand. Being married meant that someone would love me, make me feel beautiful, appreciated, and superior to everyone else around me. Who needs preparation for that?! Isn’t it just supposed to happen? What God made painfully obvious in my life over the past few years, was that was only a symptom of the state of my heart. Honestly, I thought that preparing to be a bride required little on my part. The guy has the responsibility of leading, so if I don’t follow him or I if I screw up then ultimately, the blame can be placed on him for not being a good enough leader—it’s not really my fault. Well, I would never say that out loud but that was the posture of my heart…and from conversations and off-hand comments by some married and unmarried women in my community, it has been or is a prevalent attitude. Think about the effects of that attitude, though. Think hard. What does that say about what’s truly in a woman’s heart?

Ok, let’s start with the word submission. Yes, yes—I can see the eye rolls and hear the groans signaling you’re about to throw counter punches. Or maybe you think you’ve got this part covered and I’m just preaching to myself (I am always preaching this to myself, by the way).  But just consider this. Submission colors every part of the church’s existence and it should be the most beautiful garment that a bride-in-preparation wears. Please don’t think I’m saying a woman should submit to every male in her life. The Bible never says that. According to Ephesians 5 and 6, we submit to our own husbands as to the Lord, our parents, and our employers.  Of course, this all comes with the disclaimer that these authorities aren’t asking us to contradict the commands of Christ. Our highest authority, and all-consuming point of submission is Christ.

As I wait and pray in expectation of a God-honoring, God-reflecting marriage, submission spreads to every point of my life and relationships. Do I submit to Christ as my Lord, my love? Do I submit to my husband, despite not knowing him yet, as my lover and leader? Think about who or what takes precedence over Christ—over your not-yet-revealed husband. In my own life, this has included dreams of a job or a certain style of living. Most often it has manifested itself (and still does at times) as a guy. Sometimes this guy is a real guy and sometimes he is the image of the “perfect” guy in my head. When you come down to it, these are idols—they are anything put above God.  What, or who, are you giving things up for other than Christ and a life with the husband he appoints? Here’s another example: Gomer in Hosea 1-3. She married Hosea but soon after, left and followed her other lovers. Just like Israel, like the Church, she had not submitted her desires to be for her husband alone and hadn’t done away with her idols. So what, don’t fall in love? Not at all! Fall in love with Christ. Fall in love with your husband. Know what attributes make a godly man and save your emotions for him (read about a godly man’s attributes in Nathan’s earlier posts). Keep yourself pure physically and emotionally. Avoid the emotional entanglements of friends with benefits, infatuations, the hot-brooding-guy-who-can’t-make-up-his-mind,…you get the picture. Emotional entanglements can become habits and lead to fear, wandering eyes, and mistrust. Practice purity in all its forms, ask forgiveness, and follow Christ’s leading.

So practically, what does practicing submission look like in everyday interactions? First, let me clarify that it’s not being a doormat or never speaking up during a conversation. Submission involves the laying down of your own wants, self-seeking glory, and pointing others to Christ lovingly. Practice submission in conversation by encouraging the men in your life. Encourage them to seek God harder by asking challenging questions. Let them plan events or outings while offering to serve for part of it. Ask their opinions without mocking or blowing them off if they say something you don’t like. This prepares you to be the helper God has called you to be and helps men by learning to lead, think, and seek God with the loving support of Christian sisters. Don’t forget to serve. That is so important! If you don’t know how to or who to serve, just look around. Ask somebody. Nurseries, shelters, schools, churches, your friends—pray that God would make you aware of the needs around you. Sometimes all it is, is being a listening ear. The Proverbs 31 woman embodied this and more. She was brilliant and all the while brought honor to her husband and children. She served, created, dealt, comforted, and provided for those in her sphere. Jesus can be glorified now and my future husband honored through the submission of my will to Christ’s commands.

One more thing—submission is trust for something beyond yourself that you can’t see right away. Trust in God’s time of preparation. As he “allure[d] her, and [brought] her into the wilderness” to purify and save her (Hosea 2:14-15), allow God to purify you of idols, mistrust, and selfishness. Pray for your future husband to be taught and brought under God’s glorifying purpose as Jesus was brought under God the Father’s in Gethsemane. Pray that this time of preparation opens your eyes and draws your heart to a man of godly character. Practice submission and serving now to better support and encourage your husband in God’s leading for both of your lives.

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A Prophet and His Prostitute (Hosea part 1)

Recently I’ve been studying through the book of Hosea and God has taught me quite a bit about (in order) himself, his Son Jesus, his people, and myself.  This will be the first of quite a few posts involving the main themes and my take-aways from this precious book.  Join me in this journey, add your thoughts and comments, and see what God might teach us as we walk through what he would have for us.  I’m excited – let’s get started.

Introduction

Before we get dive into the text itself, let’s go over just a bit of basic background information about the book in general and its author.  Hosea was a prophet in Israel who wrote and ministered around latter part of the 8th century B.C. At this time Israel had already split after Solomon’s reign (the last king of the united monarchy), with two tribes in the north (Israel – capital city, Samaria) and the remaining ten tribes in the south (Judah – capital city, Jerusalem).  This was a very turbulent time for God’s people – they were engaging in open rebellion against God, and wicked spiritual practices were rampant.  In response, God disciplines them for their wickedness and sends the Assyrians to conquer Samaria in the north, but before he does, he sends a very hard, very peculiar rebuke to his people through the life of Hosea, one of his prophets.  We’ll pick up the account in Hosea chapter 1.

A Prophet and his Prostitute

The word of the Lord comes to Hosea and tells him to marry a hooker, have kids with her, and love her.  There is no condition (‘… as long as she is nice and stays faithful…’), there is no incentive (‘… and I’ll give you all kinds of cash…’), and there is no other comment, save for the reason:  that Israel has become a prostitute in following other gods and turning her back on God, her true king.  So God wants Hosea to live out an allegory and an object lesson in hopes of illustrating the dire circumstances so that Israel might come to repentance and return to her Lord.

I have to wonder about what is going through Hosea’s mind at this point.  Does he question God’s plan?  Is he (like so many prophets in the Old Testament) reflecting God’s heart for his people with sorrow and grief?  If I were in Hosea’s sandals, I would be a bit scared and anxious at the prospect of marrying a prostitute.  I mean, let’s think about it… she’s going to have some serious baggage, possibly any number of diseases, she’ll be a source of ridicule, scorn, and shame for him.  This is likely way different than he expected, to say the least.  Not having a wife myself, I must say I’d be pretty intimidated and would wrestle with the temptation to follow Jonah’s example more than I’d like to admit.  I think a precious grace in Hosea’s situation is that he has an unwavering faith in his God, and he knows why he must walk through this particular type of trial.

You see, God is jealous for his glory, and he loves his people even though they (we) do not love him back.  Israel at this point is chasing so many false gods and idols that she is a prostitute who, as God says, is whoring after them.  We Christians know at some base level exactly what is going on here, because we do the exact same thing.  We may not have temple prostitutes and pagan altars on which we sacrifice goats or other animals, but consider what you sacrifice on the altar of your wants or your ‘rights.’  Consider what you turn your affections, your heart, mind, body, and strength toward.  What do you want and what will you sacrifice anything to get?  These are the affections of your heart, and they were meant only for God.  If you can see that your affections are focused on anything other than God, you have begun to spot the idols in your life.  Keep digging and you’ll see sins behind sins – lust and gluttony will fade away and you’ll see pride and self-worship rearing is disgusting head in your life.  Laziness, envy, greed – they’re all expressions of a root sin that is fueled by pride.  These are what we must put to death by the power of the Spirit if we are to begin walking that road less taken – the precious road of sanctification that choose and even fewer complete.  Take that step of faith – begin the process of examining your life and if you’re anything like me you will find sin almost immediately.  This is where the process of repentance and our grasp on God’s grace and mercy begin.

I would also be really curious about what Gomer, Hosea’s prostitute wife, thought about this whole arrangement.  What might her reaction have been?  I’ll be honest – I don’t know any hookers, personally.  But I can’t imagine any of them taking too kindly to some holy man coming up to them and asking them to participate in some grandiose object lesson for God’s unrepentant people.  Would she be taken aback?  Offended, even?  Would she see Hosea as a bringer of God’s mercy to rescue and redeem her from her life of sin?  Or would she begin to scheme and plan how to take advantage of this man for her own benefit?  The reason I wonder with these specific examples is that in my experience these are but some of the reactions that people have toward God when confronted with his marvelous offer of grace in their lives.  Some are taken aback and offended at the offer because they don’t know their pitiful state.  Some respond with gratitude, humility, and worship at the immense grace that God gives us in himself.  And still others see an opportunity to take advantage of God’s gift of grace and run off to engage in even more sin because they have their ‘fire insurance.’

To boil it down to a more personal level, let’s be honest – we’re all Gomers in some manner of speaking.  We all live lives of sin and chase the affections of our hearts after some vain object of our own temporary (fleeting) delight.  We have all sinned whether we realize it or not.  We sin by doing things we shouldn’t, and we sin by not doing things we should.  We sin in the dark, and we sin in broad daylight.  We sin in crowds of people, and we sin when we’re all alone.  Sin is an ever-present reality in every relationship and every marriage, because they both involve people, and people are inherently sinful beings.  Now, to be sure, Hosea and Gomer is a bit of an extreme example of a particular kind of sin in a marriage… but honestly, I don’t think I can make the case that my sins cause any less pain, discord, or grief than Gomer’s did with Hosea.  So I’m left considering my sin and its effects – and I’m blown away at God’s grace in restraining my sin and redeeming it in spite of its ugliness in my life and my friends’ lives.  I praise God for the reconciliation I’ve received, and that I get to participate in that ministry of reconciliation as well.

Meet the Kids

At the close of this first post, let’s finish out the first chapter by meeting the kids, Hosea and Gomer’s offspring.  First, we have Jezreel, who serves as a pronouncement of judgment and imminent doom for Israel.  Excellent.  Next, we have Lo-Ruhama (or ‘no mercy’) who is a further clarification (as if any was needed) that God will have no more mercy or forgiveness for Israel.  Even better.  And their third child, another bouncing baby boy, they named Lo-Ammi (or ‘not my people’) because God has fully rejected Israel; they are not his, and he is not their God.  That’s pretty rough.  I can only imagine the ‘have-you-picked-out-a-name-yet’ conversations and embroidered baby blankets with those names on them… goodness.  But that’s neither here nor there.

We close this first installment with a precious truth: it isn’t as though God’s grace has failed – there is a bright note to close this dark chapter… a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Hosea’s readers.  Even though this is a bleak time for God’s people, his promise is still intact – starting in verse 10, a prophecy of future unity and prosperity is given.  Though the wrath of the Lord is coming down on Israel for this time, it will not always be so.  The judgments against Israel will come to an end, and he will welcome again those whom he has turned over to discipline.  There is a prospect of future repentance, future grace, future communion with God.  But we’ll get to that soon – stick with me and we’ll see how it plays out in due time.

Thank you for reading this long first post – and let me know what you think thus far.  I’m definitely excited about where we’re headed.

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Mercy in Loneliness

The following was written on March 13, 2008…

 

Real as a prayer on a lonely night,
sure as the ocean tide
oh love, oh love
oh the many colors that you’re made of
you heal and you bleed
you’re the simple truth and you’re the biggest mystery
— “Oh Love” —
by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood

Who doesn’t long for someone to hold?
Who knows how to love you without being told?
Somebody tell me why I’m on my own,
If there’s a soulmate for everyone.
— “Soulmate” —
by Natasha Bedingfield

Well, I think I’ve finally come to the place where I know at least some part of the answer to some questions that have rested on my soul for the longest time.  Disclaimer: by no means does this mean I have it ‘figured out’ or even have peace in my heart – it means only that God has spoken Truth into my life and allowed me a slight glimpse into my own life from His perspective.  Before I go any further, allow me to elaborate on what I’m actually talking about.

Ever since the day I figured out girls were cool and that I wanted one, I’ve longed to be married.  From then on, I’ve schemed, planned, strategized, and tactically approached dating relationships, and all manner of communication in relation to them.  Many a late night during my college years was spent hunched over cheap coffee, either dissecting the latest philosophy and/or theology of dating and marriage.  Still more were spent engaging in conversation with any number of my peers as we lamented, celebrated, theorized, and advised each other about the many intricacies of dating life, the opposite sex, and what God thought about all of it.  Through it all, I’ve had one constant desire on my heart – to be a husband, a father, and a provider for my future family.

That having been said, my last official relationship ended between 4 and 5 years ago, and I’ve been pondering life, marriage, relationships, and theology ever since.  The past two years have been especially fruitful and formative for where I believe I’m headed for the rest of my life, and without getting sidetracked there, I’ll say that they have been an immense blessing despite tough times and long nights.   I’ve oscillated drastically from near certainty that a relationship would blossom out of a friendship to nearly vowing celibacy and denying what God has put in my heart for me to do.  Through thick and thin, laughter and pain, one constant staccato of questions has ached my soul and been a heavy ballast in my heart:  When, where, and how will I meet my future wife… and who is she?  I know well the dark nights of the soul when prayers hit the ceiling and the only thing on the other end of the phone line is voice mail.  The questions, the uncertainty, the insecurity… all of them welled up within me to the breaking point when I found myself crying out like David, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me?”

It is in the still quietness following that silent crescendo in my heart that I found myself praying constantly for my future wife and kids, for myself, for anything at all that would relieve me of my angst.  As the months wore on, God began to show me more of myself, which was a scary thing for me to see.  Small faults, hidden insecurities, erroneous presuppositions about the way relationships and marriage and myself worked.  These discoveries were all good and well, but deliverance from the ache of missing someone I hadn’t even met still eluded me.  Pain.  Turmoil.  Isolation.  Why would God put those into my life if He wired me for marriage and community?  What would be the purpose in not having that venue to glorify Him?  I had my stuff together, I had my priorities in line, and I was ready, right?  Absolutely wrong.  What follows is the result of the last couple of days in my meditations on this subject, and they are by no means infallible.  I do believe that God has given me insight into my own situation, and therefore I’ve chosen to put it down here.  Do with it what you will.

Yesterday as I was driving home from class, I continued on the line of thinking that I’d entertained earlier that morning, namely my future family (or lack thereof) and the omnipresence of those who had found precisely what I longed for.  As I plumbed these depths for the millionth time, I had an epiphany.  If God would have given me who I wanted (and still very much want) when I wanted her, I would have taken advantage of her, taken her for granted, and failed to appreciate her – or perhaps more accurately, God working through her.  Basically, I came face-to-face with the reality that God – in His infinite mercy and wisdom – was allowing me to endure the pain of loneliness for my own good… because as a wise pastor once said, it is much better to be lonely outside of a relationship than lonely inside a marriage.   Now, I’ll admit that I’m not much closer to having this figured out than I was yesterday, but I do realize the game I’m playing now.  Until I’m ready to lay down all that I dream on the altar of God’s will for me, I will continue to be frustrated, lonely, and wholly unattractive to the kind of woman I pray that I’ll marry.  So for now, I’m content to work on that which is in me that is fractured and would do massive damage to a marriage were it given the opportunity.  I lean wholly on God’s guidance through Scripture, prayer, and godly wisdom/advice/experience, and thus far have found it to be immensely sanctifying, humbling, and hopefully rewarding than even I thought it would be.

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