“when that day comes- Declares Yahweh—
You will call me ‘My husband’
No more will you call me, ‘my Baal’
…I shall betroth you to myself forever,
I shall betroth you in uprightness and justice,
and faithful love and tenderness
Yes, I shall betroth you to myself in loyalty
And in the knowledge of Yahweh.
~Hosea 2:18, 21-22
The Book of Hosea— my favorite in all the Bible— tells a tale of a man that loved his wife dearly, and faithfully, beyond any love she could have ever garnered for herself. Put bluntly, The Book is about a prophet of the Lord who married a prostitute, and by loving her and showing grace, restores her to purity.
But it’s a long, long tumultuous, heart-racking road to that final end. You can sense the absolute distress in the verses the poet-prophet vented with his own hand; the agony of lost love, bearing in his heart all the pains of his endeared wife’s infidelity. She forsakes him, ‘chasing after lovers, who assure her keep.’ Yet time and again, he only returns her infidelity with faithful love, ever still opening his arms to her for the day she shall ‘remember her first love, and return to him.’
Why, Hosea,—- the world has to wonder,—- why on earth would anyone love so faithfully a slut?
And that’s when God speaks.
Yahweh said to me, “Go again, love a woman who loves another man, and adultress, and love her as Yaheweh loves the Israelites although they turn to other Gods…”
“Why? —Because, Israel, that’s exactly what I do for you…”
God has called us as we are, in our state of sin. As Israel out of Egypt, God calls us, individually, to an Exodus out of the darkness of our lives, to a freedom from slavery. That freedom is the true wholesome love of genuine care and respect. It is love in Truth; ‘love for what you truly are: a child of the Divine.’ That slavery is the prostitution of our bodily self to the whims of a perverse world where ‘love’ is merely the means of self-endulgence; ‘a love, and self-worth, for as long as you can offer pleasures to man.’
It is here that the Exodus between slavery and the Promise-Land becomes a courtship or wooing, in the eyes of Hosea and other prophets;
“I remember your faithful love, the affection of your bridal days,
when you followed me through the desert, through a land unsown…” ~Jer. 2:2
“But I will woo her, lead her into the desert,
There I will speak tenderly to her, like in the days of her youth” ~Hosea 2:16
Israel is saved, brought out of this slavery, and shown true faithful love. Yet even with the new life and true love Israel is showered with, she still bears the unhealed wounds of her past, of unrepentant sins made by her and against her in slavery, and so falls back into her former life, ‘chasing after her lovers.’ And in the context of this spiritual marriage, Israel’s adultery thus means idolatry.— One thing that Christ revealed to man of his own heart, is whatever a man loves, that is his master, his god. (Mt. 6:24) And so Israel falls to the love/worship of Baal, an Assyrian god, the word meaning ‘master’ (note the slavery context.)
And God’s response to her infidelity?—- One of the most emotionally piercing and biblicaly significant lines of the Bible.
“Israel, how could I give you up?
…my heart within me is overwhelmed,
fear grips my inmost being.
…I will not destroy Ephraim again,
for I am God, not man,
The Holy One in your midst,
And I shall not come to you in anger. ~Hosea 11:8-9
“When that Day Comes…
I Shall Betroth You to Myself Forever…”
And in all of this, realize: This is the Church, the Israel of the New Covenant. The Church, ‘the Bride of Christ’, who, at the End of all things, shall be wedded to Christ in the New Jerusalem. She’s ‘able to dress herself in dazzling white linen’ (Rev. 19:8),—- yet before that day she was a whore. The redemptive love of Christ, her Bridegroom, ’washes our crimson stains as white as snow.’ Our sins, the Church’s sins, the sins of all humanity, are whipped clean from the Cross (—a prefigurment of which we clearly see in those verses of Hosea 11.)
Suddenly, it’s as if all of biblical history— and thus the individual soul’s— can be summed up in a tragic love story of a faithful, gentlemanly God who falls in love with an unfaithful prostitute, whom we essentially were, and through all her affairs, chasing after all her lovers, giving herself to the world, and in all the heartache and despair she puts her husband through, he [and he alone], continues to truly love her, caring for her, faithfully and tenderly, with a ‘Steadfast love that endures forever’; waiting for the day he can win her back from the world’s love, and see her prodigally return to her first love.