Sunday, June 14, 2009

True Love or Prostitution?

One of the reasons I enjoy studying the Old Testament so much, are the many different kinds of stories you find there. One of my favorite, and one that used to really get the attention of the young people I taught was the story of Hosea the Prophet. Why? Simply because of what God instructed him to do about his love life. Now most young people sooner or later arrive at the point in their lives where meeting the right person and falling in love becomes very important. God understands that as well, because after all, He is the one who invented the whole process. God also gives us plenty of advice and promises us help in the process if we only listen to Him. But take a moment to look at what God tells Hosea to do about his love life.

When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and {have} children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD." Hosea 1:2

Just what Hosea wanted to hear, right? He has waited his whole life to meet and marry the girl of his dreams, and this is what God tells him? Most scholars consider this verse to be "proleptic", meaning God is telling Hosea that this is what will happen after he marries, and not that his wife will be a prostitute when he first marries her. That would certainly make sense if you think about what God is trying to illustrate here, and that is the unfaithfulness of Israel towards Him.

So as the story unfolds we see that Hosea marries and at first, all must seem perfect to him. They have three children and look on the outside to be a normal, loving couple with a new family. But inside Hosea must be living in fear, for he has already been told by God that his wife was going to be unfaithful to him. And so it happens that his wife starts to chase after other men, looking to get what it appears to her to be needed. The Bible describes those in Hosea 2:5 as bread and water, wool and flax, and oil and drink. In other words, she was looking for things she didn't have, hoping they would give her the satisfaction and happiness she felt she wasn't getting out of life. Instead of being content with what Hosea could provide for her, she went out and prostituted herself to get what she felt she deserved.

Well it comes as no surprise that her life quickly degenerated from living the high life to eventually being sold in a slave market for 15 shekels of silver and 15 shekels worth of grain. But the best part of this story? Guess who bought her? That's right, Hosea. Hosea had followed her progression into the depths of despair, and when she finally hit bottom, he bought her back. What an illustration of true love, the kind of love God has for his people. In fact, the Hebrew word used here for love is "ahab", which is the exact same word for God's love for Israel, and us. The meaning of the word is to long for, or desire (as in pursue). It means that no matter what, God will always love us, and is always willing to take us back in spite of our unfaithfulness. This story is about how Israel at first loved God and was faithful to Him, but then became unfaithful and began to look to other gods.The really sad thing about this story is that it was not just proleptic to Hosea, it is prophetic about many of us and our relationship with God.

In the New Testament there are many verses describing God's love for us, and our reciprocal love for Him. Unfortunately though, we are also told that just as Hosea's wife, many believers will chase after the things of this world and willingly choose to be unfaithful to God. In essence, believers choose to pursue a lifestyle that they believe will bring them happiness, rather than pursuing their relationship with God. Unfortunately they will eventually find themselves in the same position Hosea's wife did, broken and empty and miserable.

In the Olivet Discourse, where Jesus is telling His disciples about what will occur as the world approaches the end of the age He makes a very sad prediction when he says that the "love" of many will grow cold. The same word used for our love towards God.

What are you pursuing today? Are you committed to your relationship with God and actively seeking to serve Him and find His will for your life, or are you pursuing the "happiness" you think this world has to offer? Like Hosea's wife, if you are making the wrong choice, your "happiness" will eventually lead to sorrow.

Do you love as God describes true love, or are you a prostitute? If the latter, know that God will take you back. He is always faithful.