Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Faithful Husband

When poor Hosea the prophet dreamed of a wife and children in his younger days, I am fairly certain that his plans and ideas of family life had no fulfillment in the reality God actually gave him. Prophets lived to communicate the message of God to the people. And God wanted Hosea to communicate through the example of his marriage.

So God told Hosea to marry a woman who would not be faithful to him. While he would be a faithful husband, loving her unconditionally with no regard to her character, she would go off and pursue other men with no thought to her commitment to him. Hosea obeyed the Lord. As children came along, God told him what to name them. These names, too, would communicate a serious message from the Lord to the people. The first son was named “Jezreel”, which meant God sows. The daughter was named “Louhamah,” which meant no mercy. Finally a third child was born. He was named “Lo-ammi,” which meant not my people. As you look at all the names, you can see the warning made plain to the people. They had turned away from God, and He would not allow the situation to continue indefinitely.

But God was not done with his message. Hosea’s wife continued in her unfaithful ways. He continued to faithfully love her. Finally at one point in their marriage, she leaves him. Scripture does not make the circumstances completely clear. It is possible she had become legal property of someone who hired her out as a prostitute or possibly had become a temple prostitute. In any case, Hosea must go and pay a price to bring her home. He redeems her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and one-half of barley. This payment is equivalent to thirty shekels of silver, the usual price for a slave.

When Hosea gets his unfaithful wife home, he informs her that her days of wandering are over. “You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.” (Hosea 3:3)

Hosea’s wife was a vivid picture of the nation of Israel. She, as a nation, had willingly entered into a covenantal relationship with God. It was a commitment to remain faithful only to Him. But in the generations that followed, the children of Israel turned away from the faithful “husband” He was to them and worshipped other gods. One day in the future, God would pay the ultimate price to bring them back to where they belonged. He would sacrifice His Son to buy them out of the slavery they had chosen.

My sister has a similar relationship with her dog. Kai is a Shiba Inu, which is a Japanese mountain dog. His personality is more cat-like than dog-like. He is cool at best toward the family who loves him wholeheartedly. He allows them to pet him, but does not beg to be petted. When he was younger, Kai would take off at the first chance he got. Margie and Dave were on a first name basis with the people at the pound, because he was picked up so many times while wandering around town. When Margie picked him up after an overnight stay at the vet, she got down on her knees and opened her arms to greet him enthusiastically. Kai walked right by her and went to one of the veterinarian workers. He didn’t even acknowledge a relationship. This is not a loyal animal. But he is loved unconditionally by his family.

We can take great comfort in the relationship God had with His chosen people. He provided everything they could have hoped for in the land. He gave them exclusive privileges as His chosen people. And while they turned their backs on this faithful, giving and powerful God, He would not forget them. Oh, they would be judged. But despite the severity of the punishments, the judgments were only intended to bring Israel back to a covenantal relationship with God. One day they would be restored back to the Land, acknowledging Him as their King. Even in the face of their unfaithfulness, God would not abandon His people.

God would someday turn the situation around. Remember the names of Hosea's children, given as a warning? God uses the names later in the prophecy as a postive promise: "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." (Hosea 2:23)

We were bought out of the slavery we had chosen. Romans 6:20 tells us we were slaves to sin. It had us in its grip. We stood condemned because of it. Jesus came to buy us out of slavery with a price. He paid in blood. His life for ours. We now owe our allegiance to God. “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” (Romans 3:22) The church is the bride of Christ. Yet we are not always faithful. It doesn’t take much to turn our heads away from the faithful husband He is to us. Yet He remains faithful, loving us unconditionally. We need to get serious about our commitment in this relationship. It is all He wants from us-- single-minded devotion. He has done the rest.

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