I don’t know many people whose family and friendship circles remain untouched by adultery and divorce. Today, as I write about the reversals that occur from marital unfaithfulness, scenes from my own life sphere roll through my mind, some still fresh enough to cause a heart-sick feeling inside me. I see the faces of confused, broken children, shuttled between two warring parents, their life rhythms running in a backwards cycle, undoing the bonds that once bound their mom and dad together.
Floating through my mind are the weeping faces of friends trying to cope with their new reality: the person who pledged “til death do us part,” to them is engaged in an adulterous relationship they don’t want to end. A complete reversal of marriage vows is taking place, and my friends feel powerless to stop it.
Many of you could share personal stories from your life and others you know, about the unraveling effects of adultery and divorce. People once bound together by cords of love and faithfulness are watching those same cords be utterly untied and loosed. God wants his children to understand that this is exactly what happened between him and Israel and can also occur in our relationship with our Heavenly Father still today. Therefore, he devoted the entire book of Hosea to the subject of spiritual adultery. God is deeply grieved when his children start to wiggle out of his protective twines of love.
As he did with Israel, God will allow setbacks in our lives to draw us back into his arms. Sometimes it will feel like a rug is pulled out from under us. People, jobs, institutions and such, which we thought we could depend on, perhaps instead of God, are revealed as unreliable, unstable. God is clear about the reversals he intends to execute on Israel so that he may recapture their full devotion.
“Call him Lo-Ammi for you are not my people and I am not your God.” (Hosea 1:9) God temporarily rescinds his unique relationship to his people. He’s also stating the obvious, Israel chose false gods over the One God, so this is how it stands between them at this point.
“I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land.” (Hos.2:3) Remember the descriptions of the Promised Land, flowing with sumptuous crops due to fertile, rich land? “…. they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them to carry it on a pole….” (Numbers 13:23) God is Lord over creation and declares he’s going to turn the fertile dial backwards so that Israel land becomes a desert.
In Hosea 2:8 God laments, through his prophet Hosea, that the people no longer acknowledging God as their provider. He plans to pull back the provisions he’s been sending.
“Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests.” (Hos. 4:6) God delivers this terrible blow because the priests of the time led the way in idol worship. Only through the priests, could Israelites approach God. With this awful declaration, God literally pushes his people away, denying them access to him. As people living in the new covenant achieved by the perfect high priest, Jesus, try to imagine God removing your 24/7 access pass to him, unwilling to listen to your prayers any longer.
In Hosea 10:11, God states that the Israelite’s labor will no longer be enjoyable and rewarding, as God intended in the Promised Land. Instead, they will be conquered and forced into cruel slave labor, or he will simply alter the natural conditions of the land to make it unproductive and difficult to work. For us a comparison might be to lose a successful, joy-filled business we built and run ourselves to become low-paid laborers in brutal conditions, like many folks in third-world countries. God’s intention for his children’s work always included joy and satisfaction. This pronouncement indicates he will scroll that all back for Israel.
There are several other reversals that can be found throughout Hosea, but I think this is enough to make the point. God’s love for his people could not allow them to continue to enjoy his blessings without repentance. He will stop up the flow of provisions and benefits we enjoy, as his children, until he sees hearts softened with penitent sorrow.
Not every setback in your life is a direct result of sin or unfaithfulness. God does make it shockingly clear, however, that it is a discipline method he will use to draw wayward hearts home. When something that rolled forward in my life starts to turn the opposite direction, I need to hear from God. I ask him, straight out, “Is this reversal a consequence of sin, or are you doing a greater work for the kingdom?” Remember the times in the gospels when Jesus indicated that certain situations of sickness and death had no connection to sin, but God allowed them, so he could demonstrate his power and glory? I meditate on scriptures, sit quietly with him and wait for his answer. Knowing which way God is dealing with you is critical.
Many believers are living in the Promised Land without its benefits, due to spiritual adultery. God cannot laugh off our flirtations with anything that turns our hearts from him, even to the smallest degree. He is a jealous god (Exodus 20:5) and refuses to share his bride with another.
If you’ve never connected the dots between spiritual infidelity and reversals you’ve experienced, now’s the time. Don’t force God to make the scroll backs severe before you pay attention. Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart for any waywardness and idolatry. As the darkness grows greater before Christ’s return, Christians who are not completely in love with Jesus will struggle to stand firm against the onslaught of worldly temptations like Paul describes in his second book to Timothy, in the third chapter. Only those who remain tightly bound to Jesus, the bridegroom, will be able to discern good from evil and live purely, righteously.
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
Another interesting overview of Hosea by William Barclay, noted professor of theology, author of numerous books. He makes some fresh points about the unique call on Hosea’s life and marriage.
Another cautionary Old Testament tale about spiritual adultery’s slippery slope, is the story of King Saul, which starts in 1 Samuel:6. His bio is a fascinating read about the journey from anointed by God to rejected king. I believe it’s important for every believer to gain familiarity with this story as this same, tragic scenario continues to occur in the lives of nationally known Christian figures. The wise believer will recognize when the life of an anointed leader begins to drift off the rails of the narrow way. The fact that we continue to discover that many of our disgraced national leaders dabbled in sin for years, before their public unmasking, is a marker of the lack of discernment of the body of Christ.
I believe the Holy Spirit is crying out to the church, trying to warn us about coming consequences from spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness. Here is a short, powerful devotional on the topic, from Pastor Rick Renner, author of “Sparkling Gems from the Greek Daily Devotional.”