Did you ever attend a wedding that turned out memorable for all the wrong reasons? Like any pastor, there are a few that live in infamy in our minds, like the one where the ushers showed up so intoxicated, they slammed people into the side walls of the sanctuary while attempting to seat them in the pews. (And that was AFTER the pastor, my husband, Ken, privately poured coffee into them before the ceremony.) He’s accumulated a few funny/sad anecdotes like that one over the years but there are others that are simply heartbreaking.
One involved a wedding party in which both the bride and groom’s parents experienced contentious divorces due to adultery. The four parents, all with new significant others, nearly came to blows during the wedding rehearsal arguing over what order who should come down the aisle and where they should be seated. In some minds, adulterous behavior cancelled out normal wedding protocol and procedures.
That’s my nice way of summarizing the ugly words that darkened the atmosphere in our sanctuary that night. Instead of the usual joy and sweet nervousness we usually see at a wedding rehearsal, bitterness threatened to destroy not just the rehearsal but the wedding itself. Ken is fearless about wading into muck. He verbally took command of the scene and brought everyone into line with a solid “come to Jesus talk,” received surprisingly well. Nevertheless, I’m sure that the horrific opening of that rehearsal is not forgotten by those who experienced it, certainly not by Ken and me. The ugliness cast a pall over the rest of the evening and made jittery wrecks of the bride and groom as they wondered if it would all erupt again somewhere during the wedding and reception. In many ways, it ruined the day for the young couple.
In the book of Hosea, God lists things that will come to ruin due to the spiritual adultery of Israel, his chosen people. The destruction described is far beyond a wedding gone sideways. In the last post, I discussed the reversals that can occur in your life due to unfaithfulness, but there is much worse to come for those who don’t heed the warnings of god-appointed setbacks. Here’s a few samples from the book. Notice the dramatic, dire language, God inspires Hosea to use.
- 5:14 “For I will be like a lion to Ephraim (one of the tribes of Israel), like a great lion to Judah (another tribe). I will tear them to pieces and go away with no one to rescue them.”
- 7:12- “When they go (to seek help from others, instead of God) I will throw my net over them. I will pull them down like the birds of the air”
- 9:2- “Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people; the new wine will fail them. They will not remain in the Lord’s land.
- 10:6-8 “Ephraim will be disgraced; Israel will be ashamed of its wooden idols. Samaria and its king will float away like a twig on the surface of the waters. The high places of wickedness will be destroyed, it is the sin of Israel. Thorns and thistles will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us.’”
Think of every movie scene you’ve watched or any book you’ve ever read about ferocious, ancient empires attacking neighboring nations and know that is what happened to Israel at the hands of the Assyrians. The ruination of the beautiful promised land and the Israelites carted off into captivity is described here by Hosea as a preview of coming events which did come to pass. The horrors of being conquered and carried away as slaves, will be so horrific, that many will long to die, as described in chapter 10.
God will allow ruin to come to his children when they remain persistent in idolatry and unfaithfulness. His first priority is our inner growth more than our outer circumstances. Justice and love are always balanced with our heavenly father. When he permits calamity as a result of sin, it comes from his unconditional love. He will never sit idly by while we accelerate our slide down the slopes of sin.
We are currently in a season where God is exposing sin in his bride, dragging it into the light. Those who continue to try and live the dual life, created by secret sin and idolatry, will not do well without repentance. Ministries and positions will be forfeited, while thousands of followers will be left, bewildered and broken. We are already aware of prominent figures in the body being exposed for long-standing sinful behavior, covered up for years. Sadly, my sense is that there are more to come. God will purify his bride.
Part of the reason we are not seeing our churches flooded with new converts, as we should (there’s certainly no lack of lost folk) is because many worldly people don’t see the “otherness,” in us that should be obvious in every true believer’s life. Too many Christians are so friendly with the ways of the world that they are not recognizable as people of the way, the truth and the light. In our quest to be relevant, relatable and such, we can lose our status of being in the world but not of the world. Spiritual adultery is at the root of much of this.
God’s grace and forgiveness are always available for the repentant heart, just as they were for ancient Israel. “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.” (Hos. 14:4) When we acknowledge sin and turn from it, God’s hand of discipline gives way to his arms of love.
Lamp and Sword
****Resources for study and reflection****
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12
- Samson is a classic Old Testament account of glory gone to ruin. You can read his story in Judges 13-16. We wonder what might have been if not for Samson’s alliances with the sinful world of his day.
- There are other dire descriptions of the ruin that is coming to Israel in Hosea. Can you find them? Are they difficult for you to read and imagine? I hope so.
- I recommend a book about a modern-day Samson’s rise and fall. It’s entitled “I Was Wrong,” by Pastor Jim Bakker. This restored pastor once presided over an enormous Christian ministry and operated under a powerful anointing, Due to sin, he lost everything, including his marriage, and wound up in prison, just like Samson. A remarkable story of the ruins of pride and spiritual adultery and God’s redemptive power and grace.