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Friday, 13 October 2017

What's in a name?

When a couple are expecting a child, one of the exciting things that they tend to do is to think about what name(s) they will give the baby when it is born. When my wife was pregnant, we had chosen two sets of names - one if the baby should be a girl, and another if the baby should be a boy. Today, of course, the gender of the unborn child may be known from quite early on in the pregnancy - giving the lie to any suggestion by the pro-abortion lobby that what is aborted is merely an amorphous lump of cellular material!

In the last post, I looked at the Old Testament prophet, Hosea, and how he was commanded by Almighty God to take a wife - who would be unfaithful to him! However, as we read the book that bears Hosea's name, we discover that his marriage to Gomer appeared to have started well. Before too long, their first child was born. What name would they give this little boy? They didn't name him after his father - or after any other relative. Instead, in obedience to God, they gave him the name 'Jezreel' = 'God shall scatter' for, said YHWH, "... yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day, I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." (Hosea 1:4-5; see II Kings 10:1-11).

Then gradually, Gomer's interest in her marriage began to fade and, soon, the symptoms of an extra-marital affair began to show - unexplained absences; unreciprocated love; endless excuses; etc. However, although Hosea's suspicions were surely growing, it was not until the arrival of a second child - a daughter - that his doubts became certainty. "And YHWH said to him, “Call her name 'Not pitied', for I will no more have pity on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will deliver them by YHWH their God; I will not deliver them by bow, nor by sword, nor by war, nor by horses, nor by horsemen." (Hos.1:6-7).

After this little girl had been weaned, this unfaithful woman bore a second son. "And YHWH said, 'Call his name 'Not my people', for you are not My people and I am not your God'." (Hos.1:8).

What a sad story! According to the law of the time, Hosea was entitled to have his wife stoned to death for her repeated adultery. However, he chose to forgive her. His love for her was too strong to be broken by her infidelities. Of course, he was considering God's particular interest in his marriage. It was, after all, to be a visual aid for Israel, enabling them to see what was happening in the bigger 'marriage' between themselves and their Covenant God.

This, Hosea declares to the people. Speaking the words of YHWH, he says: "Plead with your mother, plead - for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband - that she put away her harlotry from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked  and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and set her like a parched land, and slay her with thirst.

Upon her children also I will have no pity, because they are children of harlotry. For their mother has played the harlot;  she that conceived them has acted shamefully." (Hos.2:2-5).

As I look around me, I see so much of that which claims to be the Church - the Body of the Lord Jesus, the Christ - acting like the kingdom of Israel. I hear those who have been ordained to the ministry of the Word, diluting it; diminishing it; denying it; destroying it. Those who proclaim from their pulpits that when Jesus said: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me." (John 14:6), He didn't really mean that He is the only way! Those who support the 'marriage' of persons of the same gender, in spite of it being contrary to the clear teaching of the written Word of God. Those who appear to be happy with the latest fad of 'transgenderism', by which I may simply declare myself to be a woman, and society must treat me as such - including allowing me to share the ladies' showers at the gym: a veritable pervert's charter!

There are those who claim that it is only by conforming to the standards of the contemporary culture that the Church can survive. Yet I see those denominations, and congregations, that espouse this point of view continuing to lose members (many of whom were only 'paper-members' in any case!) hand over foot. Perhaps they need to return to the Word; to reflect on the inspired words of Paul that we should "... not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom.12:2).

Of course, all of us may learn from Hosea, and the patience and forgiving love that he displayed towards his wayward wife. We will be learning from the Lord Himself - Whose love for us is beyond anything that we can think, or imagine. As I shared recently, in a preached message (you may hear the message here: but I should warn you that it is in French!), He cannot love you any more than He already does - and Calvary proves it!

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