Years ago, Ken and I witnessed the break-up of ten marriages in our church family due to adultery. Elders, deacons and Sunday school teachers plunked themselves down in Ken’s office and shared the same sorry tale. They sought approval and blessing for their decision to split from their spouse and start a new life with the “other.”
While Ken attempted to discuss reconciliation, counseling and such, every one of them said the same sentence. “Doesn’t God want me to be happy?” We wondered if they’d formed some secret club and chanted this motto during meetings.
Everyone entered Ken’s office with made-up minds, seeking absolution, without repentance. All of them ended their marriages and created numerous seas of wreckage that rippled through our entire church. After the eighth conversation and all their eerie similarities, Mount Ken erupted. The following Sunday morning, from the pulpit, he made this announcement. “If you are sitting here today and are already determined to end your marriage, I want to help you and your spouse, if you truly want help. However, if you make an appointment with me simply to persuade me that “God wants you to be happy,” and has directed you to destroy your home and make a new one with a person with whom you’ve been engaging in adultery, I will throw you out of my office!
Ken’s exasperation ranks junior league compared to the intense anger God felts towards Israel in the days of the prophet, Hosea. The loving Father decided that heinous sins needed dramatic responses to affect repentance. So, he directed Hosea to marry a woman named Gomer, who God knew to be unfaithful. He wanted a living illustration of Israel’s spiritual adultery. There are four key points I’d like to hinge the next blogs around as we take the time to consider whether we’ve been unfaithful. God includes stories of failure and sin in His Word as cautionary tales for us. Those that choose not to heed them put themselves in peril of the same kind of anger expressed in this book. Our four points will be:
- The recognition of adultery.
- The reversals of adultery.
- The ruins of adultery
- The repentance from adultery.
Today we will consider what God did to bring Israel to a place of recognition of their sin of idol worship and all its disgusting practices. First, let me share a little background on Hosea and his story.
Hosea’s prophecy occurs in the eighth century while Assyria is bearing down on Israel, with threats of invasion (picture Russia and the Ukraine.) God’s anger burned towards Israel because he gave them their way, with a demand for an earthly king, and still they turned away from him to false gods. God is threatening to allow Assyria to conquer them as their judgement.
God first uses the theater of Hosea and Gomer’s marriage to represent himself as the wronged husband and Israel as the unfaithful wife. Instead of sending judgement on the nation immediately, God uses this tumultuous marriage to try and turn the hearts of Israel back to himself. He instructs the prophet to bring his wandering wife home and forgive her, after she leaves him for numerous lovers. Following God’s orders, their children are given strange names that represent different forms of judgement which will fall on Israel if they do not repent. Strong language and word pictures are used liberally. Here are some examples:
- In 2:5 Israel has “played the harlot” (NASB) This word is repeated numerous times.
- In 5:7 “They have dealt treacherously against the Lord,” (NASB)
- In 7:14-16 “They do not cry out to me with sincere hearts. Instead, they sit on their couches and wail…. they look everywhere except to the “Most High” (NLT)
- 1:4- “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu…”
- 1:6 “Call her Lo Ruhamah, for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel…”
- 3:1 “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…”
Oh, the pain and heartbreak this family endured due to Gomer’s sin, yet I marvel at God’s ability to redeem this mess and use it to try and romance his wayward people back to himself. Never underestimate God’s desire and ability to create redemption during the most devastating circumstances.
Once we give way to sin, and repeat it, as Gomer and Israel did, we are prey to dark forces. Every individual that tried to plead their case for marital happiness, to Ken, showed a complete lack of self-awareness and true compassion for the damage they were prepared to inflict when they revealed their adulterous relationships to their families along with their plans for a wonderful new life, apart from all of them. Sometimes, we behave no differently with the feckless way we treat God.
The plumb line for faithfulness is whether there is anyone or anything competing with God for first place in your heart, mind, actions and resources. Here in the States, for example, we can quickly make idols of our “stuff,” spending too much time working to get it, playing with it and taking care of it all. I’ve also noticed that people will place being together as a family in higher priority than say, church attendance or faithfulness in serving in a ministry. These things are examples of the first level of spiritual adultery, kind of like flirty texting with a co-worker without physical intimacy.
In the next level of spiritual adultery, we embrace false teachings which try to twist the Bible to accommodate a sinful culture. We engage in the ways of the world while still showing up in church semi-regularly. In the final stages of spiritual adultery, we become like Gomer, unrecognizable as wife to Hosea. We are distorted as the picture of the holy, chaste bride of Christ, to the rest of the world, because sin is now a way of life. We are in a full-blown, adulterous affair with the world. Many people don’t recognize us as a child of God at all. This is where Israel landed, but the process is gradual. Ken calls it “the slippery slope of sin.”
God is waiting for us in 2019, with open doors, opportunities, new mercies and provisions. How much of that are you willing to risk for the sake of pet sins? This week ask God to reveal to you any areas where you’ve been unfaithful to him, where you’ve unintentionally allowed an idol into your life. He will pour his grace on you at the same time he puts you under his thumb.
Lamp and Sword
If you are interested in a powerful teaching series on the topic of modern idolatry in the body of Christ, I strongly recommend “Killing Kryptonite,” by John Bevere. It’s available in book form and as a video series. Our small group traveled through it recently, and we found ourselves amazed at how subtly idolatry can establish a stronghold in a believer’s life.
For a closer look at the book of Hosea, here’s some resources and questions for you to use and ponder:
- Read chapter 1-3 to learn the tragic story of Hosea and Gomer. Try reading it a few times in different translations, which all bring a little different color to a text.
- Questions for reflection and personal application:
- Try to imagine living in Hosea and Gomer’s hometown. What do you think their neighbors thought about their strange situation?
- Do you think Hosea struggled to obey God and marry an unfaithful woman, knowing the pain to which he’d be subjected?
- What names did God instruct Hosea to give his children and why?
- Is there any mention in the text of Gomer asking for forgiveness or repenting?
- Consider the specific actions Hosea took to show love to Gomer. How did his actions illustrate God’s love for Israel then and us now?
- Can you recall a time when you wandered from God? Reflect on how you found your way back to him. What or whom did he use to accomplish this?
- If you want to dive into Hosea on your own, here’s an excellent Bible study method anyone can use for any passage.
- Read the passage at least three times, preferably in different translations.
- Make a list or write a paragraph that answers the question, “What does this passage say?” This is restating, in your own words, what the author says, what people did, events that happened, etc. It’s like a newspaper article on the passage using “Who, what, when, where and why,” just like a journalist.
- Now in your own words, answer the question, “What does this passage mean?” Why did God put this in the Bible? What is he saying to believers about this topic? Try to decipher as much as you can, by yourself, before consulting other resources.
- Finally, answer the question, “What does it mean for me?” What impact does God want this passage to affect on your behavior and thinking? How will the knowledge and understanding you’ve gained from this passage change you?
- Background information on Hosea from Pastor Chuck Swindoll
- One of my favorite commentaries, written by Matthew Henry, if you’d like to take a deeper look at Hosea through his eyes. He’s one of the guys I turn to when I’m truly stuck on understanding a passage.