I got a “What if …”

Almost 80 degrees and Tiger wants to snuggle with me and a blanket.
Almost 80 degrees and Tiger wants to snuggle with me in a blanket.

Today’s post is a bit different than usual. During my Tuesday morning Bible study, my cat looked so comfortable snuggled up on my lap that I spent some extra time meditating on the Word. I’d been in Genesis writing about our Creator, and a thought popped into my head. I want to share this idea with you today and ask for feedback. Please comment! Diving deeper into God’s mysteries shouldn’t be done in a void — I believe God wants us to grow together and “sharpen” each other (and also to call each other out if we notice someone studying something that’s not in line with scripture).

Okay, so we know that God has had a plan in mind since before creation and that plan involves building a family (Eph.1:3-6). We also know that the church is described as the bride of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:6-9) and we’re told that human marriage is a “great mystery” that points to the relationships between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-33).

What if God began revealing these aspects of His plan from the very beginning in the way He chose to create man and woman? or, to put it another way, what if the way God created man and woman teaches us that He didn’t want to be alone and that He’s fashioning a helper comparable to Him? Read more

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The Bridegroom Cometh

I love weddings. Smiling faces, happy tears, white dress, flowers, everywhere, dancing, true love … *sigh*. But even the best wedding I can imagine won’t be as wonderful as the heavenly wedding after Jesus Christ returns to claim His bride.

We’re fast approaching the fall holy day season. Yom Teruah/Feast of Trumpets is on Monday, September 14. It’s the day that pictures Christ’s triumphal return, which closely connects it with His marriage.

The Bridegroom Cometh | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Building A House

In the marriage customs of Christ’s day, at least among the Jews, there were strong parallels with God’s plan. After a betrothal ceremony, the bridegroom went away to build a house. In the mean time, the bride got ready and watched carefully because she wasn’t sure when he’d show up again. The timing depended on the bridegroom’s father saying the house was complete and the bride’s father agreeing that the bride-price had been properly paid.

Jesus told His disciples He didn’t know when He was coming back — that was something only the Father could decide (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32). He did, however, tell us what He’d be doing in the mean time.

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (Jn. 14:1-3)

Christ’s house-building functions on two levels. One is mentioned here – His preparation of a dwelling place for us in His Father’s heavenly realm. Another involves us more directly.

For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Heb. 3:4-6)

We just spent the past four weeks talking about our status as God’s temple, how we can build up each other, what obstacles we face in temple building, and how to clean a spiritual temple. The common thread in all this was the key role of Jesus Christ as Foundation, High Priest and chief Builder of His temple.

having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:20-22)

Bridal Preparations

We are built on and in Jesus, by Jesus, so we can be fit dwellings for God. While He is preparing a place for us, He is also preparing us to dwell with and be indwelt by Him and His Father. Still, He isn’t the only one working on getting the Bride ready.

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. (Rev. 19:7)

This verse describing the bride as “ready” is in the future. Since that’s the case, the Bride today should have started preparations if she wants to be ready by the time this marriage takes place.  Yet how can we possibly prepare to marry Jesus? How can we hope to be a suitable helper for Him? Well, we couldn’t if all this preparation was done on our own.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13)

We have to work on ourselves, but that’s all made possible because God is working in us. Since He’s already adopted us into His family, He fills the Father-of-the-Bride role as well as being the Bridegroom’s Father.

Paul wrote to Timothy that if we purge ourselves form ungodliness and iniquity, then we’ll be “a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). That’s what we want to become — purified for use in the temple and prepared to do good works.

The Bridegroom Cometh| marissabaker.wordpress.com

Claiming The Bride

The time between formal betrothal and when both fathers gave the go-ahead for the groom’s return could stretch into years. Like some of those ancient brides, the church has waited a long time for her groom to come back. We know He’s coming, and we’re working on getting ready, but are we waiting eagerly for Him? Do we anticipate His arrival?

But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ (Matt. 25:5-6)

Now we get to the part involving trumpet blasts — they signaled the bridegroom’s return in an unmistakable sign that he was close at hand. It’s enough to wake you up, but doesn’t give you enough time for panicked last-minute preparation. If you aren’t ready when the trumpet sounds, you miss His arrival.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)

Once He’s here, we’re out of time. Either we’re ready to go with Jesus into the wedding feast, or we’re left outside like the five foolish virgins (Matt. 25:11-13).

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  (1Thes. 4:16-17)

This is what Yom Teruah — the Feast of shouting and trumpet-sounding — pictures. It’s a yearly reminder for the Bride of Messiah to get ready. Your Bridegroom is coming! Do you hear the trumpet?

 

Credits for photos used in blog images this week:

Writing A “Husband List”

Every girl who wants to be married has dreamed about what he will be like. Many of us have written lists of the traits our ideal man will have. Over the years, we’ve also heard various views on writing husband lists. Some people say you should have a list, so you know what you’re looking for. Others say that having a list makes your focus too narrow and that you’re “limiting God.”

Writing A "Husband List"  | marissabaker.wordpress.com
bg image credit: Anonymous on Flickr

I had a nice long list when I was in my teens, then a short list of “must haves,” and now a more specific idea that’s not written down. Recently, though, a married friend encouraged me to write a new list to pray over. She had a list, and when she was in her 30s she met a man who fit every thing she’d been praying for (right down to the kind of car he drove) and married him 2 weeks after their first meeting (yes, you read that right. They’re still happily married and have two teenage kids). I know other girls who’ve been told their standards were “too high” yet found guys who matched everything on the list they were praying for, and there are also ladies like blogger Lucinda McDowell who prayed for 24 things in a husband, and God gave her 23. Writing a list doesn’t make you “too picky” — it means you have standards, and that’s a good thing.

So I started work on my new list. And I thought perhaps other girls might find it useful to read about how I decided what to include. There are articles out there offering lists of non-negotiables for you to base your list on, but even the essential qualities are going to look a bit different for everyone. For example, if you’re Christian, some form of “He’s a practicing believer” is probably at the top of your list, but what does “practicing believer” mean to you?

Just a quick note … guys can write “wife lists” too, and I suspect that much of what I talk about here might be useful for that as well. Since I’m a girl thinking about a future husband, though, that’s what I’m going to focus on for this post.

Free Writing

I’ll be honest — I actually didn’t start with this step, but I think now I should have. You want your list to reflect the things you feel like you “should want” as well as what you truly desire, and so there’s often a feeling of not being able to ask for “little thing” or mention appearance at all. But if we’re honest, things that might seem shallow at first glance are still there in the back of our minds, which means they do matter on some level. Starting with free writing gives us a chance to put those little dreams on paper without feeling bad about them.

Writing A "Husband List" | marissabaker.wordpress.comGrab a piece of paper and just start writing the first phrases and descriptions that pop into your head when you think about what kind of guy you would like to marry. Think about guys (real and fictional) you’ve had crushes on and list the things about them you found attractive. Think about guys you’ve dated and list things that you liked about them, and the opposite of the reason you broke up with him (i.e., if you’re boyfriend didn’t respect your boundaries, you might add “respects my boundaries”). Think about happily married couples you know and list things you want to see in your own marriage. Write down literally anything that you think of, no matter how unrealistic it sounds.

Now look back over your list. Circle anything that 1: doesn’t have to do with physical appearance and 2: you consider absolutely essential in a relationship. You’re looking for things that have to do with who he is as a person, like “loves God,” “good communicator,” and “we worship together.”

Next, look at the things you haven’t circled yet. Cross-out anything that you know is 1: not essential for you in a relationship (I crossed out “rich singing voice”), 2: only related to physical appearance (such as “taller than me), and/or 3: completely unrealistic. While you’re doing this, you might find that you can replace an unrealistic goal with a related realistic goal. For example, instead of “rich as Mr. Darcy” you might list, “able to provide financially for a family.” I would encourage you to pray about the things you want but know are unrealistic. Sometimes, we use unrealistic expectations to push other people away and shield ourselves from being vulnerable in relationships.

Now you have a sheet of paper with things crossed out, things circled, and a few things that are neither. For now, set this list aside.

Red, Yellow, Green

There’s a book called True Love Dates by Christian relationship counselor Debra Fileta that recommends writing three separate lists, and that’s where we’re going to start. Before you spend any more time writing down the things you want in a relationship, we’re going to write a list of things that are never okay.

“Stop” and “Slow”

The first thing you’re going to write is a Red list of traits that always mean “stop” when you notice them in a relationship. If a guy has any characteristic from your Red list, you do not pursue a relationship with him (no matter how many good traits he has). My Red list includes things like “does not believe in God/won’t respect my belief” and “refusal to communicate,” along with others like the examples Debra Fileta gives in her book:

  • Abusiveness (physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual)
  • Dangerous and uncontrolled temper or displays of aggression
  • Pattern of dishonesty or betrayal

The next step is writing a Yellow list. This is for things you’re not sure about and would need serious consideration and discussion before moving forward in a relationship. They give you pause, but don’t mean the relationship can’t work. A few on my list are “previously married” and “trouble handling money.” Here are more examples from True Love Dates:

  • Family of origin issues and problems
  • Unhealthy habits or behaviors
  • Lacks motivation, goals, and dreams

“Go” For It!

green light
credit: Raymond Brown

Now for the fun part — the Green list or “husband list” of things you want to have in your relationship. If Red means stop and Yellow means slow down and reevaluate, Green means you can feel good about going forward with a relationship. Here’s where we get to go back to the free writing exercise.

I sorted my list into four categories: “Personal Values,” “Family and Relationships,” “Makes Me Feel …” and “Personality.” The circled phrases from my free writing exercise ended up in the first three categories, and many of the phrases that were neither circled nor crossed out ended up in one of the last two categories (you might even list a couple of the ones you crossed-out if they are still important to you). I saw the “Personality” category as representing things I want, but some of which could be negotiable. Here’s a few specific items from each list, so you can see what I’m talking about without me sharing a copy of the whole thing:

  • Personal Values
    • follows God and Christ first
    • uses his gifts to serve in some way
    • demonstrates integrity, commitment, faithfulness
  • Family and Relationships
    • respects and helps set boundaries
    • wants children
    • hospitable; welcomes guests and visitors to our home
  • Makes Me Feel …
    • protected and cherished
    • listened to and understood
    • like I’m valuable and contributing to his life
  • Personality
    • slow to anger
    • good communicator
    • enjoys discussing ideas

Looking At Yourself

Now that you have your list, turn it back on yourself and ask if you have those qualities. Would the guy you’ve written about want to date, or marry, you? Some of this should match pretty easily — you wouldn’t list a guy who wants 6 kids if you didn’t want 6 kids.

Others might be harder. If you listed a man who spends time with God every day, will he want to marry you if you regularly forget to study? Or if you ask for a guy who will never cheat on you, are you prepared to be faithful to him? If you want an Ephesians 5 husband, will you be an Ephesians 5 wife?

I hope this post was helpful to you — writing the list that inspired it has certainly helped me. While we know that God knows exactly what we need without us telling Him, I think it is helpful for us to have something more to ask Him than “please give me a good husband.” You’re putting effort into pursuing a relationship by figuring out what it is you’re looking for. God bless you, my dear readers.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4)

 

5 Weird Ideas I Picked Up From Courtship

If you grew up in a conservative Christian setting or the home-school community of the late 1990s and early 2000s, you mostly likely read I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. After its release in 1997, it quickly became the go-to book in the courtship-vs-dating debate. If your friends didn’t hand it to you with an enthusiastic, “You have to read this book,” your mom probably thought it “would be good for you.” Or maybe you just picked it up on your own because of that suave guy on the cover tipping his hat (you know what I’m talking about, girls).

When I first read this book as a very “Christian” never-been-kissed teenager, all this courtship stuff seemed like a good idea. I mean, who doesn’t want a relationship guaranteed to lead to true love while keeping both God and your parent’s happy? The problem is, courtship doesn’t reliably work, and it gives you some pretty weird ideas to carry around if you eventually start trying to date like a semi-normal person.

Never Be Alone With A Guy

After reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye, my teenage self wrote up a list of things I would and wouldn’t do now that I knew the “right” way to interact with guys. Number 4 on my list was “ I will not put myself in a potentially compromising situation by being alone with a guy unless there are other people in the near vicinity.”

For us girls, this idea makes interacting with both married and single men awkward because you just know if you’re alone with them for any length of time you’re practically forcing them to have impure thoughts about you. This simply isn’t true, but having that idea in the back of your mind makes you feel guilty even in completely innocent situations. There are other concerns, though, such as what other people will think and the fact that you really don’t want to be alone with some people, so just use some common sense.

Brothers, Not Boyfriends

That cute guy or girl you walked past at the supermarket? the coworker who smiles at you every morning? They are not potential dating material. Girls, you’re are supposed to treat every man you meet just like you would your brother. If you even think about him as a potential boyfriend, you need to get your thoughts under control because you’re defrauding him and his future wife (who probably won’t be you). The reverse advice is considered true for guys.

There are several problems with this idea. 1) Even after being told how “wrong” this is, you still wonder (even briefly) if every attractive man or woman you meet is “the one.” The only difference is you feel guilty about it. 2) I’m perfectly comfortable leaning against my brother’s shoulder, looping my arm through his, going to him when I need help with something, and laughing and talking freely with him. That’s okay, because he actually is my brother. If I treat another guy like that, he’ll think I’m flirting and people will ask if we’re dating. 3) if you really do succeed in thinking of all your friends in a completely unromantic way, you’re less likely to pursue a romance.

Daddy Has To Approve

Ideally in courtship, a man will decide he wants to pursue a relationship with a girl he is friends with, and then he will ask her father for permission to court her. As a young teen, having parental approval before you go out on a date makes sense when you have involved, caring parents. But courtship extends this principle to any age, and it becomes more and more impractical as you get older.  If a girl plans to move out of her parent’s house, go to school, or work outside their home, she’ll end up interacting with men who’ve never even met her parents and who haven’t heard of courtship. Have fun trying to explain to a really great guy who just asked you out for coffee that he needs to talk with your dad first because there’s no such thing as a casual date.

Personally, I have a good relationship with both my parents and I want them to approve any man I marry or even seriously date. However, they haven’t met all the guys I know, and I’d be comfortable going out with a guy who hasn’t met my parents but is respected by our mutual friends. Other girls don’t have a good relationship — or any relationship — with their parents. Courtship gives the impression that if her father is not in the picture, the guy better hope there’s a male authority figure in her life to talk to because heaven forbid she make up her own mind about something like this.

First Comes Courtship, Then Comes Marriage

Up until a couple is officially courting, they aren’t supposed to be alone or interact romantically in any way. Groups outings are the rule. Then as soon as they’re courting, they are set on the fast-track to marriage (it’s basically like an engagement, which makes proposals almost a moot point). Either you’re “just friends,” or you’re “exploring the possibility of marriage.” There’s no in between.

courtship

This brings us to a problem with courtship that underlies all the ones we’ve talked about already — courtship assumes that every interaction between men and women is extremely weighty. You can’t go on a casual date hoping to get to know someone better because courtship tells you  there’s no such thing as a “casual date.” You’re either friends, or you’re on the road to marriage.

Most people I know who’ve bought into the idea of courtship don’t actually get to the courtship part. It’s too intimidating of a commitment. When you leave courtship and try to date normally, though, you still have this idea that if a guy asks a girl out, that must mean he’s thinking of marrying her someday.

No Touching!

Courtship rules say absolutely no physical intimacy before you’re married. Depending on who you talk to, this even includes hand holding, hugs, or a quick kiss. Also, they add in the idea of “emotional sex” so that even having feelings for someone becomes wrong. Now, I do believe that God intends His people to save sex until marriage, but going to this extreme is a recipe for – you guessed it – more guilt.

People have written whole articles about how the teachings of physical and emotional purity from courtship books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye actually damage healthy relationships. You second-guess every hand-hold and shoulder touch, wondering if you’re sending the “wrong message.” You’re scared to fall in love because you don’t want to give pieces of your heart away to someone you might not marry, as if caring about someone leaves you with less capacity to care about someone else later (I wrote a whole post addressing this idea).

So what’s the alternative? The Christian community ran away from worldly dating for a reason, and those problems (like shallow short-term relationships and accelerated intimacy) are still there. But courtship didn’t give us a viable alternative. Instead, I rather like the idea of going back to a more old-fashioned version of dating (as suggested by Thomas Umstattd, whom I also linked to in the intro). Debra Fileta supports a similar idea in her book and website True Love Dates. It’s not perfect, and I don’t think relationships will every be easy, but at least it sounds better than courtship!

Are We “Too Picky”?

If you’re single (and you don’t want to be), you’ve probably asked yourself the question, “Am I being too picky?” There’s got to be a reason why you’re not in a relationship with someone, right? and you’re sure the reason has something to do with you. People of the opposite sex do exist, and if you’re not in a relationship with one of them you might think that 1) you’re not attractive and so they aren’t asking you out, or 2) you’re too picky and so you’re avoiding/turning down relationships with certain people.

As a 25-year-old single woman, I ask myself this question, too. And I’ve been encouraged to do so by much of the relationship advice I’ve read. You might have read some of this, too. I’m talking about those articles that tell girls to tear-up their “perfect man” list and give any decent guy a chance if he asks them out. Which sounds pretty good in theory, but that’s pretty much how two of the three dates I’ve been on were with guys literally old enough to be my father, and the third was with an atheist who obviously didn’t meet my first requirement that a guy I date have a strong, Christian faith.

Now, I’m not saying you should hang onto unrealistic expectations that will leave you like this skeleton over here –> but you do need to have some standards, and you don’t have to feel guilty for insisting people meet those standards. You are under no obligation to “pity date” anyone, or fling yourself at the first living breathing human who shows the slightest bit of interest in you.

“The One”

This weekend, I spent a good bit of time catching up on Boundless.org articles that I’d missed and checking out TrueLoveDates.com. What stood out to me on Boundless was two articles that offer step-by-step guides for men and for women on how to get married. They can both be summed up in the deceptively simple advice “be more attractive.”

Well, thank you Boundless-author. Previous to reading this article I was going for unattractive. I’ll change that now, and dates will magically appear.

Or not.

“What if I meet the one?”

These articles are part of a three-part relationship series. The first article was devoted to debunking the myth of “the one.” I actually agree with most of what he writes in this one — many Christian singles are too passive, waiting for God to drop their perfect match in their lap or hit them with a revelatory bolt of lightning when he or she shows up. But usually when people tell you to stop looking for “the one”/”your soulmate,” they are also telling you “you’re too picky” (also see my article “Why I Still Believe In Soul Mates“).  And I think it’s a little more complicated than this Boundless authors seems to think.

He says that if you’re a guy, there are only two reasons you’re not in a relationship: “1. You’re not asking. 2. No one’s saying yes.” The solutions are equally simple: “Man up” and “Be awesome.”

If you’re a girl, the reasons you’re single are “1. You’re saying “no” a lot” or “2. No one’s asking.” We’re given three things we can do to turn this around: “Demonstrate respect,” “Look good,” and “Be fun.”

Be (at least a little) Picky

Much as I love Boundless, TrueLoveDates.com had much more helpful tips this time. It’s a website run by Christian relationship counselor Debra Fileta. I’m really looking forward to reading more of her blog posts, and eventually her book. She has some great insight into the whole dating vs. courtship thing, but I won’t digress on that topic right now.

Her most recent articles have been 10 Guys You Should NEVER Date, 10 Girls You Should NEVER Date, and The Boyfriend Checklist: 10 Guys You SHOULD Date (I assume her next post will be a girlfriend checklist). They are focused on qualities you should either avoid or look for in a potential boyfriend or girlfriend, and eventually spouse. And they presuppose a certain level of picky-ness — that you won’t settle for Mr. On Again & Off Again, or Ms. Nothin’ In There But Air, or Mr. Sorta Spiritual, or Ms. One-Way-Street.

Even more helpful lists can be found in Fileta’s article What Women Really Want in a Man and What Men Really Want in a Woman. They are great, both for “this is what you should look for” and “this is the kind of person you need to be.” She says women want honesty, purity, strength, compassion, and humility. Men want realness, confidence, beauty, and passion. These aren’t impossible standards, and you really should be “picky” enough not to settle for less.

Mercy For My People (Hosea 1-3)

Of all the minor prophets, Hosea is probably the one I spend the most time reading. But I usually just focus on the first three chapters, where God is talking about His marriage covenant with Israel. I thought it might be interesting to look at the book as a whole and see what God has to teach us in the entire prophecy. I still only had time to get to the first three chapters today, but we can save the rest for a later post.

An Unfaithful Wife

Hosea’s book begins with God telling him to marry a prostitute. This rather unusual marriage was meant as an illustration of God’s relationship with Israel.

When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son (Hos. 1:2-3)

The covenant established between God and Israel was like a marriage, to which Israel was unfaithful. To further illustrate God’s message to the people through Hosea, He gave Gomer’s children meaningful, specific names. The first child, which Hosea fathered, was named Jezreel. This name means “God will sow,” and is also a place name in the land of Israel.

Then the Lord said to him: “Call his name Jezreel, for in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. It shall come to pass in that day that I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: “Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away. Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen.”

Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then God said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I will not be your God.” (Hos. 1:4-9)

It’s chilling to hear God say He will not have mercy and will no longer call someone His people. This isn’t something we picture God ever saying in the New Testament church that we’re a part of, but Paul tells us that the things which happened to physical Israel were our “examples, and they were written for our admonition” (1 Cor. 10:11). We often think we’d never do anything like Israel did, turning away to worship other gods, but evidently the New Testament writers — and God Himself — thought there was a danger or they wouldn’t have given us warnings like John’s admonition “keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly — and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! (2 Cor. 11:1-4)

Paul is worried about the Christians he’s writing to doing exactly the same thing Israel did. They went after something that was not in line with the truth which God had given them. This started at Mount Sinai, when they made a golden calf to replace God just a few weeks after promising, “All the words which the Lord has said we will do” (Ex. 24:3). They made a covenant with God Himself, and when Moses took a bit longer to come back than they expected, they “corrupted themselves” by turning away from God’s commands and trying to replace Him with something else (Ex. 32:7-8).

Justice and Love

God’s covenant with His people is consistently compared to a marriage agreement. Because of Israel’s conduct, however, when Hosea was told to model the relationship between God and Israel in his own marriage he had to marry a harlot. That’s how unfaithful Israel was to God.

Bring charges against your mother, bring charges; for she is not My wife, nor am I her Husband! Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked and expose her, as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. …

She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.’ For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold—which they prepared for Baal.” ( Hos. 2:2-3, 7-8)

You can read the full conversation in verses 2 through 13, but this gives the general idea. We might think these words sound excessively harsh coming from God. Isn’t He a God of love and mercy with loads of forgiveness to pour out on us when we do something bad? yes, but He is also justice (Ps. 89:14). And His justice involves consequences for sin. Is there any one of us who wouldn’t be upset, angry even, if our spouse used the gifts we gave them to entice other lovers? and how many of us would then die to pay the price for that unfaithful spouse’s transgression, and freely forgive them the way God already has died for and forgiven us?

Ammi and Ruhamah

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.

And it shall be, in that day,” says the Lord, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘My Master,’ for I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, and they shall be remembered by their name no more. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.

I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” (Hos. 2:14-20)

Hosea acts out this redemption in chapter 3 by buying back his unfaithful wife. He says, “I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.” My study Bible notes that the price paid in verse 2 adds up to 30 shekels — the same amount Judas was paid to betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16). 30 pieces of silver to redeem an unfaithful wife, 30 pieces of silver to betray the One whose sacrifice made the ultimate redemption pictured by this transaction possible.

It shall come to pass in that day that I will answer,” says the Lord; “I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth. The earth shall answer with grain, with new wine, and with oil; they shall answer Jezreel. Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ and they shall say, ‘You are my God!’” (Hos 2:21-23)

Remember the names God gave Gomar’s and Hosea’s children? This promise hearkens back to them, and reverses the decrees of “No-Mercy” and “Not-My-People” that were contained in the names Lo-Ruhamah and Lo-Ammi. This is was also addressed earlier in Hosea, in some verses we skipped over in chapter 1.

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and appoint for themselves one head; and they shall come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel!

Say to your brethren, ‘My people,’ and to your sisters, ‘Mercy is shown.’” (Hos. 1:10-2:1)

The King James translates this last verse, “Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah.” Essentially, dropping the “Lo-” prefix changes “not my people” into “my people” and “not having obtained mercy” into “having obtained mercy.” God’s plan is to bring Israel back to Himself, and reverse the judgement that separated her from Him. This process began with Christ’s sacrifice, and will be completed after His return.