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.