Christmas: The one who betroths

hoseaAdvent Day 17:

In the book of Hosea the Lord paints us a picture of what his relationship is like with his bride. This is a picture that has been throughout the whole bible since the fall of Adam and Eve. This picture is one of the faithful husband and the adulterous bride.  The bride in this story goes after other men, her heart is turned from her husband and has been captivated by idols. Just as Eves heart was captivated by the tree and the wisdom gained from it, Israel has been captures by Baals and lovers:

“For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray and they have left their God to play the whore” (Hosea 4v12)

How does the Lord react to this? How does this husband react to his bride going off with other men? At points he is jealous and angry. But in Hosea 2 he does not burn with anger against his bride, instead he allures her. The lord sets out to captivate her heart and in doing so he brings her out into the wilderness and he speaks tenderly to her.

This is what Jesus is like. He says “You will call me “My husband”, he calls us out into the wilderness and speaks tenderly to us. Even though we go after other idols and our hearts are captivated by other things then the Lord, yet Jesus says “I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy, I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord”. This is the Jesus that is born at Christmas. He will be our husband, he we will speak tenderly, he will capture our hearts and he will betroth us to him forever.

Christmas is about the one who will betroth us to him forever.

The Sweetness of the Gospel

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’” – Hosea 14-16

Hosea 2:14-23 is the sweetness of the Gospel. The Lord sets out to allure and draw to himself a bride that has nothing in her worth alluring. By nature she is an outcast, running after the dregs of idols to satisfy a longing deep in her but soon finds murky water at a broken fountain. But the Lord, a sweet overflowing spring of fresh water calls her out from these dregs and calls her into a wilderness. This wilderness is desolate, reflecting the state of her condition; he draws her away from the distractions of the world to stand before Him. It is easy to assume that the Lords tone of voice towards the unfaithful bride would be that of anger and jealousy. This would seem fitting and at times we have seen the Lord be angry towards his bride for the way she has deserted Him and played the whore with other lovers. But in this passage the Lord speaks tenderly to his bride, it seems so soft and dripping with forgiveness. The sweetness of the Gospel is illuminated at this point, the Gospel is unveiled to show a great mercy and love from the Lord towards a wretched prostitute. Not only does the Lord speak tenderly to the bride, but he gives her vineyards and he makes the valley of trouble into a door of hope. He brings life and hope to a place that should be trouble and he gives it to her as a gift for she cannot earn such love. But with this gift he also gives her the most treasured gift of all – himself. He is no longer seen as a master or a ruler but she shall call him her husband. The wretched prostitute is spoken to with love and mercy, given hope and life and has been given a husband who loves and cherishes her, she shall not see him as a slave driver, master or dictator – but as a husband who will make her lie down in safety, who will never leave her, who will die for her and will give her his righteousness.

This Lord draws me and you to himself and speaks a great tenderness over us. I love this because it goes against what I expect the Lord to do and the way I hear people talk about the Lord. Often we hear how God hates us and hates the things we do. At this point in Hosea I don’t see a Lord who hates, but a Lord who loves very deeply for his people and his bride. This Lord speaks tenderly to capture her heart away from idols and shows her that the fullness of life is in Him alone. Despite times before where the Lord is jealous and angry with his people, it is always due to the overflowing of his love because it pains him to see his people drink from the maggot invested pits where next to it is beautiful spring water. So the question I ask myself is – do I preach this? To myself and to others? Or is it far easier to preach a God that is full of wrath and anger? It seems more affective, especially if it motivates people to live better lives. Many times I have heard – “we speak much of the love of God, but not enough of his wrath”.

Yet if we just speak of wrath it will only frighten and dull hearts. The love of Christ is the one that frees us, the Love that speaks tenderly, allures, gives himself, dies for us on the cross and gives us a new identity – brothers, sons, and bride. I want that to captivate my heart and the heart of my friends so that they may be drawn to Christ in awe and a burning love, rather than out of fear and duty.

The Gospel cannot be sweeter than this,we are that bride, we played the whore and gone after other lovers and yet he allures us and speaks tenderly over us. It’s a relief to know that in Jesus my desires and longings are fulfilled where as in idols I am left wanting with a broken heart and a deep hunger. And as a wretch myself to know that the Lord has called me out of slavery and into an adoring relationship with him where he is my husband and will never leave me is very good news!

Into the wilderness

At the weekend we had Forum SW where Bish went through a series about the love of God and he shared with us this verse:

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.”
(Hosea 2:14 ESV)

In an earlier post I wrote about how God is our Husband and here we see how the Lord treats his bride. Now what really struck me was this question:

“When you think about God speaking to you, what does He sound like?”

Often we think when God speaks it would be with harsh words or something very frightening. But when you read this verse in Hosea it says something totally different, the Lord speaks to her tenderly. He speaks with tender comforting words and the amazing thing is that she is in the wilderness when this happens. The Lord allures her out of where she is, which is in prostituting herself to idols and he allures her, bids her with a higher bidding to bring her into a wilderness, he brings her out of slavery and he speaks words of comfort to her.

This is a beautiful example of the Gospel and the heart of our Lord. Here we are, committing adultery with worthless idols and Christ doesn’t speak to us with harsh, wrathful words instead he allures us, he wins and woos us out of the slavery of idols and sin and he brings us into a place where he can speak wonderful words of comfort and tenderness to us.

Don’t we need to hear those words of comfort? Don’t we need to be allured and won away from the snares of broken fountains that never quench our thirst? Jesus says “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden”. Come to Him, gaze on Him, shelter in Him and he will win your heart and speak tenderly to you.

But more than this, doesn’t it change the way we do evangelism? How do we share the Gospel – with harsh words? condemning people’s sin through the law? Or do we show them Christ and let him speak tenderly to them, let him allure them? Do we win people to see the love of Christ?

We all need to hear the tender words of Christ and when we do, may they warm our dead, cold hearts.

Husband or Master?

I am currently studying the book of Romans with one of my students. Today we were in Chapter 7 and found ourselves mulling over this term of Husband and Master. Paul says something striking about marriage and two different types of husbands:

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

There are two husbands here, one is a Master and one is a Husband. This reminded me of some beautiful verses in Hosea 2 where we have the adulteress, the prostitute who is Israel and she “shall pursue her lovers”, chasing after idols, slave drivers. But look at how Christ sees her, even though she is chasing after other things:

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”

Christ wins back his bride. He allures her and chases after her heart. And what does he say? “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.” (Or master in NIV)…

The Husband wins back his bride and takes her out of slavery. She no longer belongs to any other. And a result of us having Christ as our husband is that we are faced with a beautiful marriage:

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. (Hosea 2v19-20)

How beautiful is this? Look how Christ loves his bride and pours his love and mercy on her. Is that not what Paul meant when he says that the husband is the head of the wife and he must love her like Christ loves the church, his bride. Its this kind of love. A love that wins, wooes and pours great love onto his wife and protects her forever.

But the reality is that often we see Christ as a Master instead of a husband or we chase after other things that soon enslave us and become a master in our lives. But Christ wins and wooes us, he brings us into a wilderness and chases away all other things and changes our hearts to show us who he really is: a Husband who loves you. Christ is no master with whips, thrashing you to be faithful. No, he wooes your heart. Come and enjoy Him and see how he loves you.