Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Hosea teaches about marriage

In fourteen short chapters Hosea depicts Israel’s unfaithfulness with a number of images from family and nature.

Israel is like: a promiscuous wife, an indifferent mother, an illegitimate child, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, a silly dove, a luxuriant vine, and grapes in the wilderness.

The big idea of Hosea could be summed up this way: Israel’s unfaithfulness and obstinacy will never be able to exhaust God’s redeeming love that outstrips the human capacity to comprehend.

Of all the Old Testament books, Hosea places great weight on marriage as a metaphor for God’s relationship with his people.

The lament in Hosea is the lament of God for Israel his wife (Hosea 4: 1-3). The Lord wooed her, loved, called, her, and entered into covenant with her. But Israel spurned God’s love and faithfulness.

It’s hard to miss: the story of the bible is one story about God’s love-relationship with us. Scripture begins with a wedding between a man and a woman (Genesis 2: 18-25), and Scripture ends with a wedding (Revelation 21:2-3) between Christ and his bride, the church.

With metronomic consistency Jesus spoke about marriage this way: Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall be come one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate (Matthew 19: 4-6). He never deviated. 

Similarly, the apostles who followed Jesus and wrote Scripture under the Spirit’s leading sustained the same description of marriage: one man, one woman, for life.

When Paul depicted the relationship of love between Jesus and the Church, he imaged that love through the lens of marriage (Ephesians 5: 22-33).

Marriage is not for the faint of heart. Just like the people of Hosea’ day, couples drift, become mired in selfish pursuits, seek fulfillment outside the marriage covenant, and unfortunately, some marriages fail.

The good news of Hosea is the story of a God who enables us to do and become more than we are capable of doing or becoming. The good news of Hosea is God’s faithfulness, grace and love.

The very last verse (Hosea 14: 9) ends with an appeal for wisdom: Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.

May God grant us wisdom in a time when the sanctity and purpose of marriage is being reshaped beyond God’s original design.