Restoration for the Smitten Suitor and the Unfaithful Wife

Sin threatened to destroy the relationship between the Smitten Suitor and the wayward bride. Only one thing could bring them Restoration. The Book of Hosea is one of the most unusual and interesting in the Bible, and it tells a story about love and restoration that will expand whatever boundaries you have about both of those words.

A Surprising Vow

After both his heart and their wedding vows have been broken by an unfaithful bride, the groom pulls himself together and makes another vow: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’”. (Hosea 2:14-16, NIV).

Hosea’s prophecy compares Israel to an unfaithful wife who committed all manner of adulterous acts. (It’s interesting that Hosea chooses a wayward bride, since our stereotypes might suggest that husbands are far more likely to be unfaithful than wives…His prophetic allusion is probably driven by our role as the Bride of Christ, and the fact that the Lord referred to himself as a husband several times in the OT.) In this prophecy, the Lord is her wounded husband whose passion cannot stem the righteous indignation and judgment his wife deserves. And yet in the middle of his anger and grief, these verses remind us that God has something else in mind for his wayward wife: restoration.

restoration

He not only promises to restore their relationship, he intends to woo her and speak tenderly to her. Just as I am often startled by the Old Testament promises of swift and certain judgment by a righteous God, I find myself equally surprised by this picture. God is the passionate and loving husband who has been cheated on and lied to, embarrassed and hurt to the core by his wife’s infidelities. This jealous and passionate God dispense not swift and terrible judgment or vengeance, but tender love.

God’s people  have stopped worshipping the Lord and started giving their affection to other things, like money, status, control, or power. Hosea points out that Israel has forgotten her first love and traded it for shallow pagan rituals and illicit unions. They are estranged, and their relationship cries out for restoration with their creator and deliverer.

Loving Groom or Vengeful God?

Let me make two observations: First, God is an emotional God. I think we sometimes feel like He is enthroned remotely, dispassionately over the universe, but remember: we are made in his image. We tend to think of God as a Judge; He thinks of us as a beloved spouse. The emotional winds that blow through us are shadows of the powerful emotions the Lord feels. He loves us wildly, completely, and powerfully, which leads logically to the second point: God’s love for you may be far deeper than you realize.

God’s love is not a theological construct, and it’s not a Bible verse. It’s not even a religious love story told on a grand cosmic scale. It’s a passionate romance that includes betrayal and restoration. God is a lover smitten with His beloved; even when she betrays him (and, oh, she betrays him all the time!) He is reaching out to call her back. He plans to allure her, to shower her with affirmation and gentleness, to speak tenderly to her. The Lord will woo her with grace when He has every right to destroy her with judgment… He says that he loves her SO much that he will forgive her unfaithfulness and restore her as his one true bride, even though she hurt him so deeply. Stop now, for just a moment, and think about who the bride is in this story.

Israel was so callous as to turn her back on the Lord, to ignore His loving pleas, and to go off chasing other (little) gods… Think about Hosea’s message and reflect on Israel’s unfaithfulness. They traded love for something less; they pursued selfish temporary satisfaction in place of abiding affection. How foolish could they be? How could they fail to see the error of their ways? Certainly they should have realized what they were missing. Say… when’s the last time you cheated on God?

Closer Than You Think

We think of God as in command,
Enthroned out in some distant land,
The Righteous Judge who now condemns
The actions and the hearts of men.
And yet He sends us tender notes,
And fills His word with loving quotes,
Reminding us that His great love
Could never be expressed enough.
No matter what you think you’ve heard
Look deeper through His written word,
And then perhaps you’ll make a start
To see what’s written in His heart.
Look deep and see how much He feels!
You’ll find that He’s head over heels,
And even when you run away,
He’ll woo you every single day.
Discover, when you’ve gone off track,
Your Lover always wants you back.
Listen, now: His love is strong.
His love erases every wrong,
So listen: you can hear His song
Wooing you back where you belong…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

If the Best Things in Life Really Are FREE, Why Do We Spend So Much on Mere Stuff?

As we come into the season of giving, retailers are banking on a ton of Christmas business to give them a profitable year. We all say the best things in life are FREE, but we don’t really live like it, do we? If you look around this Holiday season, the world is focused on material satisfaction disguised as Christmas gifts.

Isaiah had something to say about that: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-3a, NIV) When Isaiah mentioned “the richest of fare” I’m sure his listeners could picture a sumptuous banquet table. I’m also pretty sure it didn’t sit well with them…

free

Isaiah preached in Judah (the southern Kingdom) at a time when he witnessed the invasion of Israel by Assyria. He also observed a civil war going on between Judah, and Israel, who allied herself with Syria and Damascus. He then saw the Assyrian conquest of Syria and nearby Samaria, and he observed Israel’s ultimate defeat when they were carried away into captivity.

In short, he lived in violent times filled with war and political unrest. I don’t know if you have ever been in a war zone, but they are not great places to live. Everyday life is disrupted, and refugees displaced by battles and marauding soldiers put an added economic burden on everyone else. In an agrarian society, crops are destroyed or stolen, and the cycle of farming gets interrupted. Trade also diminishes, so sources of food become more scarce than usual.

That means that people who heard Isaiah preach either lived by their wits hand-to-mouth, or worked especially hard to protect whatever assets they had in order to survive. So how well do you think Isaiah’s sermon was received by his audience? “Come, you have no money: come, buy and eat! Buy milk and wine without money and without cost.” Uh, Say what?

Isaiah was delivering a message that had to be confusing and perplexing to those who heard it. Picture the crowd as they listened: some of them were homeless, displaced by the violence and carelessness of the world. Some were poor and needy. “Where is this free wine and milk, Isaiah? Why do you torture us with images of rich fare, when we barely have a crust of bread?”

Other listeners were more fortunate, still untouched by war or perhaps stronger and able to fend for themselves. They would be more arrogant, scoffing at Isaiah’s sermon: “There is no such thing as a free lunch, Isaiah! I have worked hard for what I have, and have gotten it without any magic help from you or your God. I do not need your promises of satisfaction and rich fare, I am busy taking care of my own.”

What fascinates me about this scenario is that some things never change. The reactions of those listening to Isaiah preach about God’s deliverance then were exactly the same as the way people react to the gospel today. Some people will say, “God couldn’t possibly love me, look how hard my life has been. Don’t bother me with a spiritual solution when my world is upside down.” Or, “I asked God to bless me but He ignored me.” “Where is this free food, this richest of fare?”

Some people reject God because he doesn’t come to them on their terms, but rather insists on His own. Those who are self-sufficient might say, “Why do I need God? I have worked hard and can take care of myself. Don’t try to sell me on free food and rich fare that money cannot buy. There’s no such thing.”

The gospel can be confusing and perplexing because it is free. You can’t earn it and you can’t buy it. It is “wine and milk without money and without cost”. It promises satisfaction for free, and offers “the richest of fare” to all who accept it. “Come unto me, all of you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28) “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) “For by Grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is “the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In a world full of materialism, greed, distractions, and conflict, God still offers the richest fare for free. Don’t let politics or circumstances keep you from seeing that Isaiah’s message was true then, and it still is. Listen, and live.

The thing about the Gospel that is hard for us to see
Is even though it cost so much, God gives it to us free.
The world may lust for costly jewels, and men are killed for gold,
But values in God’s kingdom are not trifles bought and sold…
Isaiah called to everyone with hunger and with thirst
To listen to a word from God and put His teaching first!
He uttered exhortation to the congregation there,
And promised that his words would lead them to the richest fare.
And everyone who comes to God, the greatest to the least
Is welcome to the table at the Savior’s wedding feast.
The invitation beckons you: what answer will you give?
Isaiah says, “Give ear, and come to me, that you may live!”

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Disaster or Delight, Grace or Grief: the Choice is Actually Yours

Micah presented us with warnings of disaster and the possibility of delight: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19 NASB)

This verse from Micah was actually quite surprising. Micah was written to prophesy against Judah, warning them about impending disaster at the hands of Sennacherib’s Assyrian invasion in 701 B.C. His sermons were powerful and disturbing. He said that Lord would come from his dwelling to judge Samaria and Israel so fiercely that “the mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart” (1:7). I don’t imagine that many folks enjoyed or believed Micah’s prophecy when he proclaimed it.

He used a poetic format to predict disaster and woe against the towns of Judah, playing upon their Hebrew names with a like form of judgment. English translations don’t do every name justice, but each city’s name is used to relate to some aspect of the danger that is coming. For example, the inhabitants of Beth-le-aphrah (“house of dust”) are told to “roll yourselves in the dust.” (1:10) Because Israel’s people were so committed to sin, God told them “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves.” (2:3)

I’m sure Micah’s predictions were greeted with a mixed response at best. Some people thought he was crazy, some weren’t concerned about their sin, and some were probably convicted that they should take inventory of their idols and do a little repentance. Some were probably like the underperforming basketball player in the story Abe Lemon often told: He tried to challenge the young man to change by asking, “What is it with you, son, ignorance or apathy?” The indolent player replied, “Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care!”

If you heard Micah preach this sermon in America today, which category would you fall into? Would you deny it and speak out against it? Would you acknowledge that God would allow something as drastic as disaster to get man’s attention? Apparently God hates sin so much that he takes it seriously. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case with us. When we stand in God’s holy court, we will have to give account of ourselves before Him as a righteous judge; will we feel the same way about sin in that moment as we do today?

disaster

In a book filled with some pretty harsh prophesy, Micah throws this wonderful little passage in 7:18-19, which contrasts greatly with the rest of his message… Remember, prophecy is a warning of judgment that HASN’T happened yet. The whole purpose of judgment is to call sinners to grace.

Righteousness and judgment are pretty much expected from an Almighty, all-powerful God who hates sin; and we are all sinners. We may think Micah’s prophecy sounds bad, but IF sin is so destructive, and IF a righteous God can’t stand it, and IF He has warned us to turn to him or face judgment, then technically He is absolutely right to use extreme measures to turn us away from sin.

God has the right to allow sin’s penalty to be enforced. It’s when he throws us this kind of curveball that we scratch our heads and say, “Really? Could this be true?” God pardons iniquity? He passes over rebellious acts? God delights in unchanging love? He has compassion? Yes, He does. Will our “honest” mistakes, our secret selfishness, our willful rebellions, and our repeated iniquities all be tread under God’s feet and thrown into the deepest sea? Yes, they will.

The same Judge who pronounces impending doom from the bench has also stepped down to plead our case. 1 John 2:1 says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” If I were you, I’d sign him up as my defense attorney today. There’s a day of judgment coming, and we want to have good representation, don’t we?

Disaster or Delight?

You are standing before two doors:
Open one up, the choice is yours.
Think about the choices you make,
And think about the path you take.
You get to choose which one is right:
One holds disaster and one holds delight.
The very same Judge who holds the key
To where we spend eternity
Is the one who came to Calvary
And threw our sins in the deepest sea
Because He paid our penalty.
Choose wisely, friend, and you will see…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread