Adultery is tragic. Spiritual adultery even more so. The effects of these breaks in fidelity and commitment are long-term, and in many cases seem irreversible. While it is often easier to measure the effects of physical adultery, understanding the effects of spiritual adultery can be difficult to quantify. Yet, God doesn’t mean to be vague with us about how our spiritual adultery impacts our relationship with Him. In a very vivid manner God uses the family of Hosea and the children surrounding his marriage to Gomer to warn us about what the effects of spiritual adultery are. Over next three weeks we will see how the three children that exist in Hosea’s life are pictures of the results that spiritual adultery can bring down in our relationship with God.
Hosea 1:3–5: Jezreel
God has commanded Hosea to marry a woman who can’t and won’t be faithful to him (v. 2). What a strange and odd command that would have been, but God’s purposes in this are greater than Hosea and Gomer, he’s dealing with faithless people like you and me.
Hosea obey’s God and marries this woman, Gomer (v. 3), and as a happy result of their marriage she conceives and gives birth to a son. This is a good thing. In Israelite culture children were valued, it was , especially firstborn sons. So Hosea and Gomer have a good thing going.
God then tells Hosea to name this child, and the name God gives the firstborn is Jezreel. Now God is doing two things here. one, he is using a name that sounds very close to Israel, it’s almost synonymous. He is waking the readers up to the reality that this is them. Secondly, he is reminding Israel of a particular place and event in their history. Here’s what verse 4 and 5 state:
Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.
Jezreel is a valley in the northern region of Israel that had a notorious and bloody history. In 1 Kings 21 we find that Ahab, the wicked king, murdered a faithful Israelite in Jezreel just to get his vineyard for himself. Later in 2 Kings 10, Jehu goes into the very same city and slaughtered everyone associated with King Ahab in a terrific and violent shedding of blood.
Now how is this significant to us? You see God was using the very place that Israel boasted in to demonstrate their deepest failure. To Israel, Jezreel was a great victory in the past. However, in the waves of violence and destruction there were great horrors. God didn’t see the events at Jezreel as holiness and covenant-keeping. It would be like us rejoicing in the destruction of Hiroshima.
This is what spiritual adultery does to our lives. The very things we think we can boast about before God are really offensive to him because we use them to try to earn his love or to keep him from being angry with us while we go off and flirt with other sources of satisfaction.
God here reverses the tables on us and on Israel and announces that the things that we believe are our greatest victories are really our deepest failures. This is what spiritual adultery does to our hearts and lives. It turns the very things we would consider “moments of glory” and really exposes them as rebellion and “filthy-rags-righteousness.”
Here is where the gospel message must so quickly be brought to bear. We can easily recognize we need to repent of our sinful deeds before the Lord, but it is our righteous deeds that we like to use as trophies to show off how much God owes us. We often use our good works as a righteous merit-badge system that we think obligates God to be nice to us because we’ve been good. Hosea’s first son here tells us that our righteousness earns us nothing before God.
The good news is that we do have a righteousness God accepts. Jesus has lived the perfectly righteous life we have not. He has suffered and died in our place for our failures and spiritual adulteries. Jesus has been raised to life so that we might have real life. The good news declares to us that all who will repent of their wickedness and their righteousness will be gifted the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
Two questions stem from this. Are you attempting to hold God hostage with your “good deeds” to earn his blessing and favor? Will you repent of your sin as well as your righteousness and rest in the good news that Jesus is our perfect righteousness?
Let the lesson of Jezreel warn and push us to Jesus today.
Spiritual adultery displays our greatest achievements as our deepest failures before God.