The prophet Hosea was told to demonstrate God‘s love by marrying a prostitute and having children with her. This lived parable portrays Israel as a cheating wife. It reveals the depth of God’s pain and his love for his people. He wants intimacy with his people but they continue to reject and betray him. This message should prompt us to consider the ways we have cheated and been unfaithful to God, while he loves us at our worst, pursues us, and desires to see our relationship flourish. “Once we absorb this story and the words that flow from it, we will know God far more accurately” (Eugene Peterson).
In Chapter 11, Hosea boldly expresses his fatherly heart. Verse 1 portrays God’s love as that of a Father for his son. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” “He is our hurting Father who did everything he could for his children, only to be taken for granted, let down, and abandoned…” (Goldingay). Verses 3-4 portray a father’s love in helping his child take its first steps. “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms.” But the Father’s love is rejected, as “…they did not realize it was I who healed them.”
The heart of the Father is exposed when He laments his tender love being dismissed. It is as though our heavenly Father’s heart has been broken. “I led them with gentle encouragement, their harness was a harness of love. I treated them like the man who eases the yoke to free the jaws – Yes, I bent down to them and gave them food” (v. 4 – Phillips). Whether the rope (or harness) is taut or slack, it is always meant as loving discipline.
Still, the people dishonored God. “For my people are determined to desert me. They call me the Most High, but they don’t truly honor me” (v. 7 NLT). They used the acceptable religious jargon, but continued to trust the positive-sounding words of false prophets and slipped into idolatry and polytheism.
In verses 8-9 we have a picture of our Father God, agonizing over the lost state of his people. “How, oh how, can I give you up, Ephraim! How, oh how, can I hand you over, Israel! How can I turn you into a Sodom! How can I treat you like a Gomorrah! My heart recoils within me, all my compassion is kindled” (Phillips). The Message says, “I can’t bear to even think such thoughts. My insides churn in protest.”
God expresses his steadfast love to his people, promising them that he will not “carry out [his] fierce anger, nor will [He] devastate Ephraim again” (v. 9). What a wonderful and reassuring picture of the grace of God. We don’t get what we deserve. Rather, we can experience the grace of God anew.
God then reminds his people that he’s able to exhibit such amazing lovingkindness because he is God. “For I am God, and not a man – the Holy One among you” (v. 9). As the holy, transcendent God, he expresses unconditional love rather than anger and hurt. The depth of God’s love is demonstrated when love wins out over the attitudes of hostility, anger, and aggression.
Father, help me to:
Men reading this blog will gain some insight into the challenges Judy and I experience as we seek to be light in our world. Jesus tells us, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). We pray each day that we might reflect the “light of life.” But it can be disconcerting when darkness enters our relationship inconspicuously. That happened to us recently; unfortunately, I went “missing in action.”
Judy and I believe in God’s order for marriage as described by Paul: “But there is one thing I want you to know. The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Cor. 11:3 NLT). This is quite a countercultural idea in our present day, but it has validity when both husband and wife believe this view of reality and desire to model that reality in their lives through mutual submission to each other.
Paul’s words speak to a divinely ordained order or hierarchy. With a servant’s heart for my wife, I accept the responsibility of headship. This does not mean primarily authority and dominance, but rather service, providing among other things protection and discernment. There are times when I go missing in action, unaware of what is happening spiritually. Remember: light and darkness have to do with the spiritual realm.
Our enemy hates the light, especially as it radiates through a godly marriage. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5:8-9, “You groped your way through the murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true – these are actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it” (Message). The prince of darkness wants to take out our light – or at least dim its effect.
We were counseling another couple recently when I went missing in action. During our conversation I gave up attempting to contribute, not discerning the presence of darkness. I let my wife carry the load while I stewed in my frustration, getting upset as my wife dialogued with the couple.
Afterwards, I was on overload with all the words I had heard. I was agitated, confused and fearful – and only wanted to be left alone. This was a victory for the darkness. Finally, after regaining some spiritual balance, I asked Judy to pray for me.
It became apparent that I had escaped emotionally: I was “missing in action.” See: Normative Male Alexithymia (5/17/21). The word “order” came to me. We had been broadsided by exposure to darkness. Instead of staying engaged emotionally and spiritually, standing in the gap, praying for spiritual protection, I fled. I left my wife exposed and vulnerable, while she was attempting to be gracious and caring.
My responsibility was to pray and engage as the head in our relationship. Instead, I went missing in action. The result was confusion, disorder, and doubt. Thank God for an understanding wife. We prayed for reestablishment of harmony, and protection from darkness in our relationship.
I now have new resolve to stand strong in the light, knowing “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (II Cor 11:14). We are both aware that the enemy hates a marriage that radiates light. Why? Because marriage reflects the profound mystery, which is “Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). The enemy desires to sow discord, confusion, and doubt.