Monday Meditation: Pleading with Faithless People

Hosea 2:2-5

What do you do with someone who has been unfaithful to you? Imagine the heartache and wreckage that Hosea had do deal with. Every time he looked at Gomer, his wife, he saw her unfaithfulness and adultery. Every he crossed paths with the children in his house two of them reminded him of Gomer’s unfaithfulness. So what do you do? How do you respond?

Take this a step further. When God looks and sees his people living as spiritual adulterers what does He do? How should a holy, perfect, righteous God deal with the people who have failed to keep covenant with Him? What does God do with His own, faithless people? This is the picture that unfolds in Hosea chapter 2. The way God responds to his spiritually adulterous people is not to be a passive, reluctant victim. Instead He confronts and pursues His people so that he might win them back and reconcile them to Himself. That’s how the second chapter of Hosea could be summed up:

When confronted with spiritual adulterous people, God actively works to reconcile and redeem them to himself.

How does God do this? Over the next few weeks we will explore this but today let’s look at the first way. The first way that God pursues His spiritually adulterous people is by pleading for their repentance (vv. 2–5).

The language of chapter two isn’t that of a home dispute or quarrel, its of a courtroom. The word “plead” is a legal word that can mean that God contends or pleads his case. Furthermore chapter two is written in the first person, straight from God. God has brought his unfaithful people into the courtroom and is laying out for them serious charges against them. His case is airtight.

Verse 5 gives us a clue of how in day-to-day life Israel has been unfaithful to God:

For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

Israel acted like a prostitute. She acted in a manner that was shameful and disgraceful. And we must ask what was her great sin? What did she do? Essentially Israel pursued false gods, false idols and attributed everything good that God had given to them as coming from these false sources.

We might not think of ourselves as spiritual adulterers but we often do the same thing. Instead of giving God glory for our wealth, our daily provisions, our happy circumstances we attribute these things to any other number of sources. We like to think that we were industrious enough in and of ourselves to earn the promotion. We look at happen to believe that our good fortune are a product of our financial insight and wisdom. We believe we deserve from God good things because we are such good people.

We need to let Israel’s spiritual adultery be a lesson for us. At the root of the issue we must recognize that Israel’s unfaithfulness was really her unwillingness to glorify God for all that He had given them. They failed to worship God as the source of everything good they had. Paul describes this unfaithfulness in this way:

”For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but became futile in their thinking… and exchanged the glory of God for images.”[1]

Are you unthankful? Do you attribute the wealth, prosperity and relative peace of your life to nature, luck, your own wisdom, or some other source? Do you fail to glorify God and in so doing demonstrate yourself as a spiritual adulterer? If so God has a word for you. Repent!

Verse 2–4 reveal a side of God that many Christians are uncomfortable with. It’s the side of God that we’d rather ignore. God promises punishment against his unfaithful people. Essentially, God is saying “if you do not repent, then I will bring disaster upon you.” All the prosperity, peace and fortune that Israel now enjoyed God promises to remove and do it quickly. He will bring shame, barrenness and death.

Lest we see this as God being capricious and petty we must remember that this is God pleading for covenant-faithfulness in his people. His goal is to win back his bride. He wants to be reconciled with the very people he has made a covenant with. He wants to see us come back to him. The message of Hosea speaks directly to Christians today who are running away from God. We need not debate about when and if their profession is real. If anyone calls themselves a Christian and yet lives as spiritual adulterers this call is for you, repent! Come back to Jesus and believe the good news that he alone is the source of every good thing we have. Will you hear the pleading of God today for your repentance and life?

Monday Meditation: Love that Will Not Let Me Go

Hosea 1:10–2:1

Chapter 1 of Hosea is a heavy chapter. God has clearly confronted Israel with her spiritual adultery. By giving the children surrounding Hosea’s marriage and life difficult names the prophet’s family has become a living word of the judgement of God against spiritual adulterers.

In the midst of this powerful confrontation the passage turns and we find the word of grace, “yet”. Although Israel has played the harlot, although they have abandoned the covenant, although they have rejected and disgraced God, He still holds forth grace. These final verses of chapter 1 show us three ways that God graciously responds to our spiritual adultery.

The first way God graciously responds to spiritual adultery is by remembering and renewing promises made (v. 10).

What God does here is remember his promises. God quotes the promises he made to Abraham and Jacob. The promise was made that Israel would be a great nation. And God intends to keep it! He recounts this promise and renews it. Even thought Israel is in a place of spiritual adultery and apostasy, God’s promises still hold true. He will redeem his people, he will reclaim them as his own.

This is what God’s grace does, He doesn’t abandon his promises! In fact he renews them. What kinds of promises does God hold forth for us? Scripture tells us that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.[1] Jesus states that those who believe in him will not perish.[2] The promises of God are true and renewed.

Let me give you hope today. You are probably a spiritual adulterer. And yet you have today, and today you can be a recipient of God’s grace. The promises of God are there and available for you to take hold of right now. You can move from being unnamed and unloved to being loved and called “children of the living God.” That’s what the grace of God does for spiritual adulterers.

The second way God graciously responds to spiritual adultery is by redeeming and remaking a fallen people (v. 11).

Not only does God remember the good promises he has made, he goes the next step and redeems and remakes an adulterous people. This people that have been disowned, unloved and rejected God remakes and redeems.

Here in verse 11 God promises a reunification of Israel and Judah under one king and the very place that was their greatest defeat is now renamed to be a place of joy, promise and redemption. He purposely reuses the name of Hosea’s first child, Jezreel, to say that what once “God scattered” in a negative way he will now again “scatter” or plant in a positive way. What was once broken and fallen, God has redeemed.

His redemption of our lives is the same. We are estranged, hostile and at war with God. And even our attempts to be religious are nothing more than spiritual adultery. And yet in his grace and kindness he sent His Son, Jesus to bear our punishment, take our curse and die for our sins. By his resurrection and life we are redeemed and remade to be His people. God’s grace triumphs over our rebellion and adultery. What a day it will be, when God “replants” us for His glory!

The last way we see God’s gracious response to spiritual adultery is in his reconciling and restoring us to Him (2:1).

The final response of God’s grace is that it reconciles us to him. Catch the weight of what is being said here. Where God had renounced Israel as said, “No Mercy” and “Not My People” he promises by his grace to shower his love and affection on them. His future grace holds forth a promise of reconciliation and restoration.

Peter uses this same language in his first letter, in fact he quotes Hosea, in 1 Peter 2:9–10:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The promise and the reality is for us as well. Because of the work of Christ we can be reconciled to Him and restored as His people. The grace of Christ overcomes our spiritual adultery.

Do see how incredible God’s grace is? Yes, God’s judgement and separation is held forth. There is nothing small or inconsequential when it comes to sin and our spiritual adultery. There are real consequences, real discipline and judgment, yet there is great grace.

We’d be foolish not to look at ourselves in the mirror today and not acknowledge our spiritual adultery. The results of it are before us almost daily. We’d be equally foolish as well to reject and dismiss the grace of God in Jesus as well. He lived perfectly to provide our righteousness. He has died in our place so that we could be redeemed to God. He lives so that we could be reconciled and remade for His purposes.

Will you acknowledge your betrayal of God? Will you repent and receive His great grace? Will you turn and embrace a love that will not let you go?

Monday Meditation: People With No Name

Hosea 1:8–9

Today we come to a final result of spiritual adultery. The first few verses of Hosea introduce us to this prophet and his unusual marriage and family. God directed Hosea to marry a woman who would be martially unfaithful and as a result of that unfaithfulness children were born. One child seems to be conceived within the bounds of the marriage, but the text is inconclusive on who the father of the second two children were. It seems from the way Hosea’s wife is acting these children were the result of her prostitution and adultery.

Hosea tells us that after “No Mercy” was a few years old Gomer conceived another child. Again we have no indication that Hosea is the father and can speculate that Gomer has continued in her adultery and unfaithfulness to Gomer. She has abandoned her martial vows and played the harlot and is pregnant once again. This time with a second son.

The name God gives this child is the last word against Israel. God tells Hosea to name child number three Lo-Ammi or “Not my People”. The reason is that God has abandoned Israel, He disowns them as His. “They are not my people, and I am not their God.” The relationship is severed, God is finished with Israel. What terrifying words. Let’s be clear spiritual adultery un-names us from being the people of God.

Here Israel had lived and declared themselves to be God’s special people. They had a view of themselves that they would always be His and nothing they could ever do would forfeit that status. Yet God is telling them that their adultery is so profound and gross that He wants nothing to do with them. The nation is tarnishing His name more than they ever brought glory to it and He is finished.

In the church today this is nothing less than apostasy. On the day of judgement people who will have claimed to be God’s people, that were Christians will discover God disowns them. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 7:21–23,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

These are terrifying words, yet they are the clear result of spiritual adultery. Let me make it very clear here; if you believe that you can profess one thing about yourself and your relationship with God and live in a manner that is contradictory to that profession, you’re not what you profess. If you tell people that you love and value the gospel, but your lifestyle fails to reflect or even diminishes that gospel then you are not what you say you are. The result is God will disown you.

Is this you? Are you living a double life? Speaking one thing about yourself but the life you lead looks nothing like a person transformed by the grace of God? If so you are a spiritual adulterer. These are pretty serious words about our lives. God is laying all his cards on the table and saying to us, “This is what you are going to reap in your life if you persist in your adultery. This is how bad it will go for you.”

Do these results of spiritual adultery speak to you? Are you honest with yourself and the Bible that those who persist in spiritual adultery will see their greatest achievements as failures? That those who continue rebelling against God will find themselves unplugged from the very thing they need most, his grace? That those who would claim to be the people of God, if they persist in their worldly affections will find themselves un-named as God’s people? The results are tragic and astounding. But there is still today. There is still grace. It’s found all in the person and work of Jesus. Let’s flee from our adulteries and return to the faithful one, Jesus.

Monday Meditation: Unplugged from Mercy

Hosea 1:6–7: Lo-Ruhama

If it wasn’t enough to hear that your firstborn son would remind you (and your nation) that your best victories were in fact great failures before God, the second child that intersects the life of Hosea would be a devastating symbol. The text is a bit more ambiguous with child number two than it was with Jezreel. In fact, it really leaves us questioning who the father is. All we get is that Gomer conceived another child and the name that God gives the second child would not be on any ones top-ten-names list.

The name is Lo-Ruhama. Or literally “No Mercy.” Again God is trying to call to Israel away from their spiritual adultery and he is doing it in the most clear and graphic terms. Here he uses this name to tell Israel that if they persist in their spiritual adultery they will not receive any mercy from God. He’s telling them that there is a line to cross, and they are on the precipice of crossing it. What God is saying to us is that spiritual adultery unplugs us from being recipients of grace.

This word for “mercy” in the Hebrew is a very motherly term. It is one of deep compassion and care. It has been stated that the word “signifies a warm compassion, a compassion which goes the second mile, which is ready to forgive sin, to replace judgment with grace.”[1] What God is saying to Israel is that this kind of compassion, mercy and love is not going to be at their disposal any longer.

Just stop and think about this for a moment. So much of our worldview and culture today says that God is always nice. He is always loving and kind and merciful and he wouldn’t hurt a fly. Yet, here we have a set of Biblical data that tells us that impression isn’t always true. God’s patience will run out, his mercy will come to and end and his compassion towards rebellious, adulterous people will reach a limit. This should cause us to think very soberly about out lives. Are we presuming upon the mercy of God thinking that we can live however we like without any consequence?

Peter hints on this in 2 Peter 3 where he warns us that those who mock God be judged. Right now God waits and is being patient so that we will repent, but there will come a time when his patience will end and His justice will be revealed. This has to lead us to ask, are we wearing out His patience by our spiritual adultery? Are you living in such a way as to give lip service, or shows of spirituality, to God but in reality you’re playing the harlot?

Paul writes in Romans 2, “Do you suppose, O man that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”[2] Spiritual adultery will put you on the outside of God’s compassion and mercy. Just as God told Israel, “no mercy”, so he warns us. The result of spiritual adultery is forfeiting the mercy of God.

Yet God’s mercy is still available. Instead of presuming upon God’s mercy today let us repent of our spiritual adulteries. Let us turn away from our sins and believe the good news that Jesus was the one forsaken and given “no-mercy” for us. He is the one who took the full weight of the wrath of God on our behalf. Let us flee from our sin and embrace the One who is the Mercy of God, Jesus! If we would continue to persist in spiritual adultery we will experience the forfeiting of God’s mercy. If we run to Jesus in repentance and faith we will find we can never exhaust his mercy!

  1. VanGemeren, Willem A., ed. The New International Dictionary Of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Accordance electronic ed., version 2.0. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.  ↩
  2. Romans 2:4  ↩

Monday Meditation: Unrighteous Righteousness

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.

Monday Meditation: Hosea's Call

A little under a year ago I had the opportunity to preach through the book of Hosea for my dear friends in Santa Rosa. The book had a profound effect on us as we considered our fidelity to Christ and the great nature of the gospel of Jesus for the spiritually adulterous people that we are. It's long been my desire since then to write about Hosea and to in some way encapture the sense of those sermons and the meaning of Hosea for our lives today. To that end I will be using Monday's to help us meditate on the words of Scripture and to unpack the book of Hosea for our lives. If you were present for the sermon series please forgive me for the redundancy. I still need this message as much as ever.  

Hosea's Call - A Mirror for Spiritual Adulterers Hosea 1:1-2

Loyalty is important. At almost every social level loyalty to a company, friend, family or spouse is of premium importance. Ask anyone who has been the victim of betrayal and they will tell you they felt cheated, abused and abandoned. This holds true especially in marriage, if not more so. Adultery, although increasingly frequent in our culture, is not lauded as a virture. There is something deeply wired into us that tells us once you’re married you are exclusively devoted to your spouse. We expect loyalty in marriage.

Just in the last few years several politicians have stepped down from office because their adulterous relationships came to light and exposed the fact that these men cannot be loyal to the one they made a most fundamental commitment to. For the most part the public outcry against these leaders was pretty strong. Let’s face it, we don’t like people who cheat in their marriages. In fact we despise it.

Now, what if I told you that God feels the same way? In fact He hates it even more? For most of us the notion that God has jealous feelings of love and hates when he is cheated on, abandoned and abused by his supposed “bride” is far removed from us. We like a God who is always loving. We like to image God could never be angry or upset or feel jealous or cheated by his people. Furthermore we like to justify ourselves that our actions and beliefs are more comparable to innocent flirting than they are to outright adultery and prostitution.

However the book of Hosea paints a different picture for us. It is a portrait of God who has been the victim of abandonment and adultery by a fickle, fleeting, flirtatious bride. And in Hosea we see God who has been deeply wronged issue forth justice and discipline with the purpose of winning back his people and ultimately we see a God who has such a deep love that he cannot let go, no matter how deep the betrayal has been and a God who works to redeem and restore a people to himself.

Hosea 1:1 tells us that this book was written by the prophet Hosea and sets the book for us in the context of the Divided Kingdom of Israel and Judah. The names of the kings that Hosea’s list tell us that his prophecy covered about a 30 year time period of Israel’s history. Historically most scholars date Hosea's ministry around 750-722 BC.

Geographically Hosea lived and ministered to the northern part of the Divided Kingdom, Israel. For Israel this was a period of transition. At the beginning of Hosea’s ministry there was thriving economy and political state in Israel, and by the end of his ministry the Northern kingdom of Israel was completely gone. Israel as a nation had fallen into idolatry, syncretism and wholesale abandonment of their previous faith in God. And so God sent, one more time, a messenger to speak to them of their idolatry and to call them back to himself.

Yet Hosea’s message was a little bit different. Instead of warning the nation about what was coming if they didn’t repent, God made Hosea’s family life a living picture of what Israel had done to God. We find this in verse 2. God commands Hosea to go and marry a woman who is a whore. Verse two is almost offensive for its repetition of what kind of woman Hosea is to marry and the effect it will have in his life. “Get a wife of whoredom, have kids of whoredom, because Israel (the land) commits great whoredom.” There’s no doubt about how God feels about Israel’s actions towards him. Hosea and his family is the living color picture of a God who has been betrayed by his people. God is calling His people out on their spiritual adultery.

What exactly was God saying? This vivid, real life picture of a faithful man, and adulterous wife and illegitimate children is a picture of the spiritual adultery that God charges Israel with. For us it is a warning against our own spiritual adultery and and abandonment of our relationship with God. It’s a warning for the church that we too can be compromisers, disloyal and adulterous in our walk with Him. What Hosea is warning us against is spiritual adultery.

What is spiritual adultery? Here’s how I define spiritual adultery:

Spiritual adultery is the replacement of God as the source of our life, security and ultimate pleasure with other empty sources of life, security and ultimate pleasure.

What spiritual adultery does is say God you’re not sufficient enough to give me life, security and even joy - I’m going to find those things in other places. What makes spiritual adultery so dangerous is that we all do it.

As you weigh this definition out in your heart it should be very obvious and apparent that you and I are spiritual adulterers. This isn’t just a story about Israel, God, Hosea and Gomer... it is very much a story about you and I and God as well. We don’t find mere history here, we find our own betrayal and abandonment written in these pages too! Let's pray for grace today for God to expose our spiritual adultery and roots of it so we might repent and believe the good news that Jesus has come lived, died and been raised to deal with our unfaithfulness.