Friday, April 5, 2013

"Spiritual Adultery (Hosea)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 1: "Spiritual Adultery (Hosea)"

There is a major lesson taught by a minor prophet which brings hope for a modern church that has lapsed into unknown "spiritual adultery." Our Sabbath School quarterly, Major Lessons from Minor Prophets, does an excellent job in telling us what the book of Hosea meant for ancient Israel; however, it provides no help for its "present truth" application to modern Israel. The central feature of the 1888 message was to restore the agape of God. Devout people wrestle with the story: when we read that "the Lord said to Hosea: 'Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry ...'" (Hosea 1:2, NKJV).
Normally we would expect that a young pastor who is being led by the Lord will guard his affections and keep them from being fixed on a woman of unfaithful character who would ruin his pastoral ministry. But this story is different. The Lord actually gave Hosea love for this unfaithful woman because He said, "Go again, love" that woman!
Hosea has received an expensive gift from the Lord--a love that he cannot forget. Gomer was his first love, obviously; he was forever captive to her. God has written love into human nature. "Love is a precious gift, which we receive from Jesus." [1] The writing was done in Eden: "A man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife" (Gen. 2:24). The "cleaving" is so strong that it's the hardest thing in the world to commit adultery if that seventh commandment of love is written in the heart.
Hosea's captivity to Gomer illustrates Christ's love for a corporate body of humanity which is His church whom He loves expensively. He is captive to "her." The superficial and callous and hard-hearted look upon a lost "love" is just like getting another car; Christ can't do that. He can't dump that one church whom He loves and go "marry" another, even though "she" has been callously indifferent to Him, has actually "insulted" Him, and has broken His heart. He is captive to the same love that Hosea was captive to.
The surest way to understand the Hosea story is to read it in the light of its great antitype--the love of Christ for His church. Then it becomes poignant.
With Hosea and Gomer, a union of love does take place. But aspiritual cancer begins to destroy Gomer's heart. She flirts with other men,--a frivolous woman actually becomes a prostitute.
The plot thickens, and takes a turn almost unknown in human experience. Gomer is abandoned by her lovers and ends up being sold into slavery. Hosea hears that she sits forlorn in the slave market, dressed in rags and reclaims her.
Here's where something not normal takes place and the Book ofHosea breaks new ground: it's not because he has pity on her as a decent man would pity a wounded creature, but wonder of wonders, he still loves her.
When you truly love a woman who loves you and commits herself to you, and then she betrays you, your heart is broken. The sunshine goes out, and the darkness is a bitterness almost like hell.
The question we ask is, Can God feel such pain? Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity in general, have long assumed that the answer is, No. He is impassible, impervious to the heart-pain we feel. Could the Seventh-day Adventist Church be dwelling in that twilight zone of the impassibility of Christ? We may rejoice that He "is touched with the feeling of our infirmities," but can we be touched with the feeling of His pain?
Christ's message to Laodicea stabs us awake. Here is a divine Lover who suffers rejection, based on the vivid scene of the girl who rebuffs her lover in Song of Solomon 5:2. [2] But the Song may not have been understood at the time of its writing. Hosea (about 785 B. C.) invests it with meaning, the first portrayal in Scripture of a divine Husband enduring rejection by the "woman" to whom He is captive in His love. Like Hosea, the heavenly Husband cannot forget the one He loves and replace her. God permitted the hapless Hosea to suffer this crowning human pain because, He says, "this will illustrate the way My people have been untrue to Me." [3]
If the object of Christ's love plays false to Him, can He simply shrug His shoulders and replace her with another "object [of] ... His supreme regard"? [4] Hosea couldn't, and neither can Christ. Offshoots of the Seventh-day Adventist Church proliferate because of a failure to understand this divine mystery of love. They assume that Christ's outrage at her infidelity prompts Him to choose another to take her place. [5] But this can never be!
It may be hard for us to picture a grieving husband who not only loves his faithless wife but, greater still, also has the wisdom to "save" her. Such was Hosea; and such is Christ. Not only a "husband" to her, He is also "the Saviour of the body" (Eph. 5:23). The glad news is thatHosea actually redeemed Gomer to a new life of purity and fidelity, and we are entitled to see them walking off-stage hand in hand in a love that is fulfilled, secure at last in each other's fidelity. We can be sure that the Lord would not withhold from Hosea the vindication of his earthly love which was so prophetic of His at-last-vindicated divine love.
Gomer returned to Hosea "trembling, submissive," repentant, rejoicing the heart of the one who had loved her all along, as surely as Israel was to return at last to the Lord. All should listen who may doubt that a husband's love can win over a wife's infidelity!
The prophecy implicit in Hosea has to be good news for a remnant church that well over a century later is enmeshed in a vast worldwide lethargy, torn with dissension, suspicion, and offshoots. As surely as Gomer at last responded to Hosea's undying love, so surely will the corporate church respond at last to Christ's undying agape. Christ gave Himself in death for this church; His sacrifice cannot prove a failure; a repentant humanity cannot remain more faithless to Him than was the repentant heroine of the Book of Hosea to her earthly husband; God has faith in us that must not prove futile.
How can we let Hosea be more successful than Christ if Christ risked everything in His sacrifice. Unless His church does overcome at last in order to become His repentant and faithful Bride, His sacrifice willbe in vain.
Gomer's repentance foretells Laodicea's. Christ "shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. 53:11). "The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place." "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for Him." There will be a response from "the house of David, and ... the inhabitants of Jerusalem." [6] Discouraged Adventists should not disbelieve the good news in Hosea!
Speaking through Hosea, the Lord assures faithless Israel of a happy reunion: "They will return to the Lord their God, and to the Messiah, their King, and they shall come trembling, submissive to the Lord and to his blessings, in the end times." [7] Since agape is a love that creates value in its object, not dependent on its good qualities, it will create repentance within the church where self-centered fear or hope of reward have failed.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, p. 50.
[2] Revelation 3:20 is a direct quotation from the Septuagint (LXX) rendering of Song of Solomon 5:2.
[3] Hosea 1:2, The Living Bible (LB).
[4] Cf. Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 49.
[5] Before we blame the offshoots and "independent ministries," we must remember that "we" have programmed them to a separation-mentality. We have "in a great degree" kept from the world church the knowledge of agape-love inherent in the 1888 message and the delay in the "wedding" occasioned by the 1888 unbelief. In a blithe and carefree way we have "insulted" the Holy Spirit and have not communicated to the church the pain it has caused Christ. Thus an egocentric mindset has permeated the church.
[6] The Upward Look, p. 356; Zech. 12:10-13:1.
[7] Hosea 3:5, LB.
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