Caution: Some of this is probably a bit PG.
Often in the Bible, God’s relationship with His people is portrayed as a marriage showing the depth of His relationship with those He calls His own. In the Old Testament, God is seen many times to be reminding the nation Israel that she’s married to him and refers to Himself as her Husband. However, the people of Israel turned away from God in idolatry countless times. But God always called out to them to return to Him and even in their unfaithfulness, His love and mercy for His nation was boundless.
In the book of Hosea, God is seen to be dealing with this recurring issue of Israel’s unfaithfulness. He states that Israel was His wife and He her Husband but that Israel had neglected her marriage to God and was chasing after other lovers (Hosea 2:2-5). This is referring to her idolatry and backsliding from God in rejecting Him and chasing other gods. What’s interesting is that many times in the book of Hosea, Israel’s unfaithfulness to God is referred to as ‘harlotry’ – also known as, prostitution. However, we usually call unfaithfulness in marriage just ‘adultery’. So why didn’t God just say Israel was committing adultery? Why go as far as saying it’s harlotry? At first thought, it seems a bit extreme to refer to unfaithfulness as prostitution. When looking at the difference between the two words though, adultery can simply be an act committed for pleasure. Prostitution, however, is an act committed for payment or some sort of gain. This indicates that Israel in her unfaithfulness to her Husband was seeking some sort of payment from the other lovers she was chasing. There were some things she was hoping to gain from them. This is shown in Hosea 2:5 (NKJV) – For she said:
“I will go after my lovers, Who give me my bread and my water, My wool and my linen, My oil and my drink.”
When reading further down the chapter, we see God’s jealousy towards His people as He expresses His intention to block Israel’s path so she doesn’t find what she seeks from the other lovers. Her search for them would end up being pointless and would lead to nowhere. Ultimately, His goal was so that ‘…she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, For then it was better for me than now.’ – Hosea 2:7 (NKJV)
God expresses a similar frustration towards His people through a different prophet, Jeremiah. He states how He remembers the love that Israel had when she first got engaged to Him in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt. But once she had received her promised land, she defiled it, turned her back to Him, and played the harlot (Jeremiah 2 NKJV). In her backsliding, not only had Israel forsaken the fountain of living waters, but she had built for herself broken vessels which could not provide or even hold, any ‘water’ at all (Jeremiah 2:13 NKJV). She’d created useless things for herself that didn’t give out nor hold any life or good thing while forsaking the One who is the source of life and who is Good. What was more surprising to God was that Israel’s kind of unfaithfulness towards Him was not seen in the other nations who had gods which were not really true gods (Jeremiah 2:10-11 NKJV). These other nations never traded or changed their false gods, but the people of the one true God did. ‘…but My people changed their Glory [God] for that which does not profit.’ – Jeremiah 2:11 (AMPC)
What is amazing in all this is that, even in Israel’s harlotry, God still sought for her to return to Him and be His once again. He actually instructed His prophet Hosea to go and marry a prostitute and love her just so He can represent and show him the love that He has for the unfaithful Israel (Hosea 1, 3:1). Because of His love and jealousy for Her, He didn’t allow her to find what she sought from other lovers as He wanted her all for Himself. In fact, it’d always been Him who provided the very things she was seeking somewhere else.
So He stripped her off what He’d given her and allowed her to go through difficulty so she can remember what it was like being with her Husband.
‘Therefore, behold, I will allure her [Israel] and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart.’ – Hosea 2:14 (AMPC)
He allowed her to go through the wilderness – through bareness, heat, and difficulty so He can love on her and bring her back to Himself. God loved Israel even in her unfaithfulness and prostitution. He desired and worked to bring her back to Himself once again.
This heart of God towards His people Israel back then, applies to His people today. In Christ Jesus, we who once were not a people are now the people of God (1 Peter 2:10). As His people, and as the Church, we have been engaged to one Husband and will be presented as the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). So all this relating to His people Israel applies to His Church today. God still seeks to preserve the integrity of His marriage to His people.
He burns with fierce jealousy for them and longs for His people to be His people alone.
However, there are many ‘other lovers’ that disrupt this relationship and our faithfulness to God. Idolatry doesn’t necessarily just apply to physical statutes but anything and everything that threatens our union with God. Many times, same as Israel, our turning away is for some kind of payment. As Israel sought food, clothing, drink, and oil from other lovers, we also divert from God to ‘other lovers’ in an attempt to feed the hunger, cover the nakedness, and satisfy the thirst of our lives. So, in an attempt to satisfy some of these needs and wants are we chasing ‘other lovers’ for payment? As the people of God, as His Church, are we taking our eyes off our Husband? Have we given our hearts and minds to something else? Or are we honouring our union with Him?
Searching somewhere else for what we can find only in God is pointless and leads to nowhere.
It never really resolves the needs and longing of our souls. But instead, it makes us stray away from the fountain of living waters – our source of everything and from which all life and good things flow. It separates us from our first love and dishonors our union with Him. As said about other nations in Jeremiah, even today, there is not the kind of unfaithfulness towards other supposed gods in the world as seen within the people of the one true God. We still trade our Glory, our God for what does not profit. But even when in harlotry, God loves His people. He intends His great love and kindness to lead us to repentance and return us to Him. He is always working to have His people back – for us to be His and His alone once again. Therefore, let us return.
By guest writer Abby Folle
God Loves You, Always & Forever!