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Monday, 9 October 2017

Walking the walk, not just talking the talk!

It's been a while since I posted on the subject of marriage. It is, however, a very important subject - perhaps more than ever in these days when its God-ordained status is being increasingly downgraded - not least by the fact that, Biblically, it is used as a picture of the relationship between Almighty God and His people: El Shaddai and the Children of Israel under the Old Covenant; and the Lord Jesus and the Church under the New Covenant.

The 'Minor Prophets' are a group of Hebrew prophets whose writings are gathered together, in English-language versions of the Bible, at the end of the "Old Testament". However, this is not the case in the Hebrew Old Testament (the Tanakh). One of these men, whose book is at the beginning of the Minor Prophets, is named Hosea, and his message is more than interesting! The book that is named after him commences with these words:

"The word of the Lord that came to Hosea the son of Be-eri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. When YHWH first spoke through Hosea, YHWH said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking YHWH.” So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son." (Hos.1:1-3).

Read those words again - carefully! Did you catch on what Hosea was commanded to do? Not simply to get himself a wife - nothing unusual in that - but to be married to a prostitute!

Hosea came into prominence some 700 years before the birth of the Lord Jesus, during what was a period of stability in the northern kingdom of Israel (Ten tribes; Judah, to the south, was composed of the other two tribes). Indeed, it was known as the "Golden Age" because of Israel's military, political, and economic strength: the greatest since that of the united kingdom under Solomon. Morally, however, she was rotten to the core! She had turned her back on the one thing that made her unique - her faith in the Covenant God Who had redeemed her from bondage in Egypt.

I suspect that I was not unusual when I proposed to the young woman who became my wife. I had high expectations for our marriage, and anticipated that any problems we encountered would be met by the two of us together.  However, when God spoke to Hosea at this point in the nation's history, and commanded him to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him, he "proposed" knowing that, right from the start, his marriage would be plagued with deep and disturbing problems. 

Why would God lead one of His chosen prophets into a marriage of such a kind?! The answer is provided in those opening words: "...  the land commits great harlotry by forsaking YHWH." or, as another translation puts it: "... for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord." (NIV). In Exodus 24:3, we read that, after the Children of Israel had been delivered from Egypt, they entered into a covenant relationship with YHWH (the Lord) that they would be faithful to Him. The vow that they made to Him was similar to a marriage vow. However, by 'flirting' with other gods, the nation was guilty of adultery. So, in effect, God is saying to Hosea: "I need your help! I have marriage problems. Stick to Gomer, no matter what happens, and perhaps the nation will understand, through you actions, something of my undying love."

Hosea faced an astonishing request from God - not only to preach His message, but also to live it!

"Words", the old adage has it, "are cheap!". A similar proverb reminds us that "Actions speak more loudly than words!". Personally, I have to be honest and confess that, if God had given me a challenge similar to the one He gave Hosea, I would have had great difficulty in meeting it! Yet Hosea's is the level of faith to which all who own the name of Jesus are called - a faith that trusts Him, even although it cannot see the way ahead. Indeed, that is the only true faith. William Barclay states, somewhere, that for the disciple of Jesus, "faith is spelled R.I.S.K."

Are you willing to stake your all on Him today? Are you willing to walk the walk - or merely talk the talk? 

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