Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Forsaken, Drawn, Loved

 "And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali." Hosea 2:16

Photo by Esther Wechsler on Unsplash
The mocking laughter of the men caused her to clench her jaw and straighten her spine. How could she have been so drawn to them? She turned and marched from the alley toward the apartment she let above the other prostitutes' rooms. 

Her daughter and sons had warned her, but when her husband had stripped her naked and cast her out.... She snorted. The children had warned of his coming, that she'd be caught in her adultery, and he'd have no mercy.

Her blue linen skirt caught on the cornerstone of the house. She tugged it free and groaned at the tear. 

The men that now mocked her had promised her much, in the heat of passion, now that she thought of it. They each had given her gifts for her...favors. They assured her, if she'd leave her husband, they'd provide for her, give her whatever her heart desired. Comforts. Herbs and oils and wine to heal whatever ailed her. She'd have no need for anything, as long as they could...as long as she would....

She sighed as she put her foot on the step to her apartment. She'd chased after them. She thought for sure she'd overtake them, because they would embrace her. But they had had their fill. They mocked her as they went where she could not. 

Her muscles ached by the time she'd reached her apartment. She'd rented it with the last of her money, thinking the men would provide. Now, hunger burned through her. Pushing the door open, she glanced around the room and swallowed away the fear that threatened to close her throat. Her husband had been a good provider. He owned...well, he owned everything. He'd never failed to ensure she not only had all she needed but seemed to gift her with whatever she wanted without her even asking...sometimes without her even knowing it was what she wanted.

She walked across the room and lifted the wool cloak with the gold clasp from the stool by the window. Her husband was a merciful man. Forgiving, kindhearted. "I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now," she spoke to the walls around her. 

***

He lifted his gaze to the road, prompted by his spirit. And what he saw caused his heart to turn to stone. It was her. Her, with nothing in her hand, nothing but the clothes on her back. Clothes, no doubt provided by her lovers. But apparently, as thin as she looked, that is all they provided. 

He snorted and spun on his heel. Growling, he said to the wind, "Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness." He snarled as he thought of how she had treated him. "And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand." It would be impossible for them to do so for they were nothing, and he was mighty. Not another could stand before him.

He marched to his house, passed the vineyard he'd given her and the fig trees, now a forest unattended. 

"My husband!" She called after him. 

"I am not your husband and you are not my wife," he spat at her. 

***

Days passed, and he caught sight of her by the path to the forest. She sat, head in her hands, broken in spirit, no longer asking, no longer begging. He squeezed his eyes shut, and his heart ached. He had wanted to punish her, wanted her to want him, not what he could give her. That was what he had always wanted. 

The anger no longer consumed him. She'd dressed herself in sackcloth and ashes this last week. She'd worked with her hands, seeking food from the forest and whatever she could find...no seducing of others for food. No begging even. She'd changed. Could she?...Would she see him differently now? Would it be possible for her to love him, as she once claimed to?

He walked toward his house, his pace quickening. He pushed through the door and paused. He wanted to bless her. Had always wanted that. "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her." He grabbed his cloak and shouted for a servant to prepare a wagon, then rushed to the window to look across the fields. "And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt." He ran out the door to speed the servants along with the wagon, a smile spreading across his face at the thought of a new beginning with the wife he'd chosen.

***

The book of Hosea reveals the shattered relationship of God and Israel, and God's plan to restore it. Israel had committed adultery by chasing after other gods. God gave the prophet Hosea a very real picture, telling him to marry a prostitute. 

We are often quick to dismiss our own form of spiritual adultery, claiming we are faithful when we so quickly give our attention to another. God wants us to be wholly His. 

Perhaps our greatest lover is ourselves. A.W. Tozer gives us a list of self-sins in The Pursuit of God (1): "self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them." 

What caught my eye in the first two chapters of Hosea was the pattern of God's work with a backslidden nation. God, who loved Israel, redeemed her from Egypt, had spent a time of courtship with her in the wilderness before the entry to the Promise Land. During that time He lovingly met her needs, told her who he was by expressing to her the laws, statutes, and precepts of worship He wanted from her. God allured her in that wilderness. Thrilled for her to know Him. 

"For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

If she would but understand that how He wanted her to live in His land was an expression of Himself, much as a man tells his bride-to-be of his dreams, of how he envisions their home life to be.  

 But Israel was unfaithful even before they crossed the Jordan. Can you imagine how brokenhearted God must have been? His bride, all His passion and enthusiasm, and anticipation of a life of close intimacy with Israel, and she gives herself to the golden calf. And then later, after they are in the land, after their first victory, they committed again the sin of adultery when Achan, having coveted the good things of Jericho more than obedience and the favor of God. In the valley of Achor, Achan and his family are stoned for the sin, to purify Israel once more. A picture of redemption. The door of hope given to Israel as God mentions in Hosea 2:15. 

The pattern of God in dealing with the backslidden nation:

  1. A pleading to return to Him
  2. Warning of the judgment coming if they do not repent
  3. Rejection and thrust from His Presence (like Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden)
  4. Determination that the return of the backslider be not merely for what she might receive, but in humility, with a desire to truly know Him, to love what He loves, to see His laws and statutes and commandments and precepts not as shackles, not as rituals, but as pictures of Him of Who He is.
  5. A drawing back to Him, the tender mercy, the comforting words.
  6. Forgiveness and a restored relationship, better perhaps for the redemption experienced.

"And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali." Hosea 2:16.

"Ishi" means husband and "Baali" means lord. The picture is of the close relationship, the intimacy that God longs for us to have with Him. Nothing between us. The relationship is not one of a master lording over a servant, but of a husband loving, cherishing, protecting, providing for, treasuring his wife, and a wife so closely drawn to her husband that she does not obey simply out of service but out of love and honor and desire for her husband.

Oh Dear Lord, let me not come to You with greed for what You can give me, but out of a desire to know You, truly, wholly. Cause my spirit to be so intimately knit with Yours that I cannot stand anything to come between us, whether it be from my inner self-sins or from outward disobedience. Help me each day to desire to live in Your Presence, to walk with You with the faithfulness of a wife to her beloved husband, to experience the intimacy of Your Spirit closer to me than my very soul. Let me KNOW You more and more each day, deeper and deeper each moment.

"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." Philippians 3:8

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1. Tozer, A.W., The Essential Tozer Collection, (Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2013), 48.

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