The Jealous Love of God

Original Date: 
Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hosea 2 Divine Romance: The Jealous Love of God

Be Like Mike?
In his book Gods at War Kyle Idleman recounts a story found in one of Michael Jordan’s biographies.

Jordan was visiting his friend Fred Whitfield, who was the president and chief operating officer of another NBA team. The two were getting ready to go out to dinner when Jordan said: “Man, it’s kind of cold. Can I borrow one of your jackets?”

Whitfield said, “Sure,” and told him where the coat closet was.

Jordan disappeared down the hall, and the house fell silent for a moment. Then the star reappeared, carrying an armful of branded athletic jackets, shirts, shoes, and other gear. He dumped the whole pile on the floor and disappeared down the hall again for more.

Whitfield looked at the heap and noted that all the items were made by Puma, not Nike. Jordan had found the closet that had materials made by both manufacturers, and Jordan, so associated in the public mind with the Nike swoosh, did not approve. The Nike items were in his closet because Whitfield was a close friend of Michael Jordan. The Puma stuff had come as the result of his close friendship with Ralph Sampson, an ex-player who promoted that brand.

Whitfield stood and waited to see the fate of his Puma gear. Jordan walked into the kitchen, came out with a butcher’s knife, and cut the pile of gear on the floor into thousands of pieces.

When he had thoroughly destroyed the athletic gear, he gathered it all up again and carried it to a dumpster for disposal.

When he was done, Jordan returned to Whitfield’s side and said, “Hey, dude, call [my Nike representative] tomorrow and tell him to replace all of this. But don’t ever let me see you again in anything other than Nike. You can’t ride the fence.” (41-42)

That is a crazy story. It’s another reminder that while you might want Michael Jordan on your basketball team, you might not want to be friends with him.

But, it is also a pretty good illustration of the kind of total commitment God is looking for from us. He doesn’t want us riding the fence. As Idleman says: “He doesn’t want us to just make room in our closet for Him; he wants the closet to himself.”

Or, to put it in terms of relationships, God is not interested in just dating you. God has no interest in an “open relationship” with you. He wants your full and exclusive devotion. He wants a marriage.

The Press Release
Last week we started a new series from the Old Testament book of Hosea. We looked at the scandalous relationship between the prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer. When Hosea started his public ministry God instructed him to go and marry a prostitute—a woman of questionable morals whom God pretty much guaranteed would be unfaithful to Hosea.

And Hosea did. My friend Matt calls their marriage “a prophetic press-release to the nation of Israel.” God wanted the people of Israel to see themselves in Gomer.

And when Gomer had children of questionable parentage, God used their names to further instruct Israel. “Coming Judgment,” “Not Loved,” “Not my people.”

The way God sees it, Israel is a cheating wife, and God has pretty much had it with her unfaithfulness. Hosea’s job, through his unhappy domestic situation, is to get that point across to his people.

Now, in chapter 2, we are going to look not at the relationship between Hosea and Gomer, but at the relationship between God and Israel.

Spiritual Adultery
To start, I want to show you what God was so upset about. I want you to see that Israel was committing spiritual adultery. The key verse is Hosea 2:5:

5Their mother has been unfaithful
and has conceived them in disgrace.
She said, 'I will go after my lovers,
who give me my food and my water,
my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.'”

The mother here is Israel. And this is what she is doing wrong. She’s practicing idolatry. She’s committing spiritual adultery. There are three symptoms of spiritual adultery that we can pick up on here.

For one, they were believing that there is life somewhere else. Notice what Israel says: “I will go after my lovers…” Israel had a wandering eye. It’s not as though the false gods came after her, she pursued them! She went “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Let me give you an idea of what is going on here. In the culture of the time, most people were polytheistic. That is, they believed there were many gods. Only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob claimed to be the only God.

So, nearly everywhere you went, there was another god. On every hilltop and every valley, there would be another deity. They were called “Baals” or “Lords”. And they were represented with wooden or stone idols.

So, now, imagine an Israelite farmer, out in his field. And let’s say that his neighbor is a Canaanite, who has an idol of his Baal set up in the middle of his field. Every night, he burns a little sacrifice to this hunk of wood. And suppose, come the end of the year, this guy has a better harvest than our Israelite friend.

What’s our Israelite farmer supposed to think? Maybe the Canaanites are onto something. Maybe, if he sets up an idol, his farming will go better.

So that’s what the nation of Israel started to do. She sought out other lovers. She started to believe that there was life somewhere else.

This is how sin starts. We get to thinking that God is not satisfying enough. And our hearts begin to look in other directions for soul-satisfaction. We begin to think that some other person, some other thing, some other lifestyle might have some life to it that would make us happy.

And so, we wander. Because sin says that there is life somewhere else.

And then, symptom number 2, they started believing good things come from sin.

Notice what Israel said in her heart. “I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.”

Israel convinced herself that the Baals were providing life for her. They set up their idols, and then they decided that the good things in their lives, the blessings, were coming from someplace other than God.

And we do the exact same thing. We worship the creation instead of the Creator, the gifts instead of the Giver, and then we begin to think that the gifts were given to us by someone other than God.

It’s easy to do. God is invisible. But our idols often are not. We can see them very clearly. And they promise to give us stuff.

So, we tell a lie. And we get away with it. And maybe it even helps us get ahead a little bit. Keeps us out of trouble. And we decide lying isn’t so bad.

Or maybe we lose our temper. And it doesn’t make the people around us very happy. But they treat us a little different. They don’t want us to blow our top again. So they start giving in to us. And that makes us happy. And we decide having a temper isn’t so bad.

Israel gave the Baals the credit for their blessings! And we do the same thing!

Or, third symptom, they started believing they could mix the Lord with something else. The first line: “Their mother has been unfaithful.”

If we went back to our Israelite farmer, who now has a shrine to Baal in the middle of his field, and said: “But what about God? What about Yahweh? Don’t you believe in Him anymore?”

He’d say, “Of course I believe in God. 100%. He’ll always be my God. I’m just covering all my bases. What can it hurt to have a little statue of Baal in my field? The Canaanites have been doing it for years. And they’re great farmers!”

Theologians call it “syncretism.” It’s when we try to mix something else in with our faith in God. It’s like saying a prayer to Jesus and then following it up with a prayer to Buddha. We call it exploring all our options. God calls it having an affair. Unfaithful.

Are you tempted to mix something with the Lord right now?

Perhaps a little cheating at work and still stay a Christian? Perhaps “chasing your dreams” even if you’re not sure that they are God’s dreams for you? Perhaps cutting a few corners? Perhaps gluttony, or lust, or greed, or gossip with a nice Christian face on it?

Jesus won’t allow it. It’s never “Jesus plus.” He wants our exclusive devotion.

Hey Jealousy…
So that’s what was going on with Israel. They were idolaters. Mixing their worship of God with worship of idols. They were giving credit to the Baals for the good things in their lives. They were looking for life apart from God. And we often do the same things.

So what does God do about it? He reacts with jealousy. Our God is a jealous God.

Now, you might not think that jealousy is a good thing. Shakespeare called it a “green eyed monster” and he didn’t mean that as a compliment. When we think about jealousy, we usually think about petty things. Like two middle-school girls fighting over the same boy, or a basketball player hogging the ball so he can shoot more, or Michael Jordan throwing a conniption fit over some sweatpants. Jealousy seems pretty…ugly.

And yet, God chooses to describe Himself as a jealous God. He even chooses jealousy as one of His names. Exodus 34:14:

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

When it comes to God, and His claim on our hearts, jealousy is a good thing.

The one place where we don’t think of jealousy as a bad thing is in the realm of marriage. You would expect a husband to be jealous of his wife’s affections. If a man sees another man hitting on his wife, and doesn’t have a big problem with it, then we are going to question the well-being of their marriage. The whole point of marriage is that you do not share your spouse with anyone else.

And God considers Himself married to His people. So it shouldn’t surprise us that He reacts to their idolatry with jealousy.

Deprivation, Frustration, Humiliation, Devastation
So now, let’s move through Hosea chapter 2 and see how God reacts to Israel’s spiritual adultery. His jealousy moves through 5 stages.

First, God reacts with deprivation. Verses 2 and 3:

2Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts. 3Otherwise I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born; I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst

God calls upon the children of Israel—that is, individuals within the nation—to speak out over the nation having left their first love.

And He declares that He is going to deprive Israel of the things she has been using to entice her lovers. The picture is of Israel getting all dolled up for a date night, only it’s not a date night with her husband. So like a jealous husband who takes his wife’s party clothes and throws them out, God says that He will remove the jewelry and clothing she has been using to court the Baals.

In other words, some of the blessings that Israel has been crediting to their idols are about to disappear. The harvests and the rain that have so factored into Israel’s affair are going to disappear. Israel thought blessings came from their sin, God is going to start depriving them of those blessings.

Which leads to frustration. Verses 6-7:

6Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. 7She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'”

God is going to frustrate Israel. Baal will no longer be effective or satisfying.

The image that occurs to me—and forgive me if this seems sacrilegious—is the cover of a romance novel. I picture Israel as the maiden with the long hair and the tight dress in the hands of a pirate or a ruffian. And in the background stands God, her husband. And He’s handsome and tall and rippling with muscle.

Israel has run off with other lovers, but God has not given up on her. He will not be played for a fool. He’s big and He’s strong and He’s going to start putting up obstacles between His wife and her lovers.

She has a roving eye, but God is going to block her way. She thinks there is life to be found elsewhere, God is going to prove her wrong. Verses 8 and 9:

8She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold–which they used for Baal [in other words, they used his gifts to make idols!]. 9‘Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens, and my new wine when it is ready. I will take back my wool and my linen, intended to cover her nakedness.

Notice how the pronouns have switched. In verse 5 it was her food, her water, her wool and her linen which she believed came from Baal. But now God is pointing out that it was all His in the first place, and He has the right to take it back from His wayward wife.

Which leads to humiliation. Verses 10:

10So now I will expose her lewdness before the eyes of her lovers; no one will take her out of my hands.

Israel was supposed to be a classy, well-dressed woman. The head of the nations. But she acts like a whore and will be shown to be one.

It’s not a nice picture, but understand God’s righteous anger here. He intends to expose her for what she is. He’s going to send Israel into exile and there is nothing the Baals will be able to do about it. He is big and hulking and strong, and they are puny and wimpy and weak.

Which leads to devastation. Verses 11 and 12:

11I will stop all her celebrations: her yearly festivals, her New Moons, her Sabbath days– all her appointed feasts. 12I will ruin her vines and her fig trees, which she said were her pay from her lovers; I will make them a thicket, and wild animals will devour them.”

The religious celebrations which were supposed to set Israel apart as the LORD’s will end. The land and its vineyards will be laid waste. The land will be devastated. Israel will be punished for her spiritual adultery. Verse 13:

I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,’ declares the LORD.”

It is sad and a little alarming. God is aggrieved. You hear it in that last line. “She… went after her lovers, but me she forgot.” Israel has spurned God, and HE is going to respond with judgment.

Date Night
Deprivation, frustration, humiliation, and devastation. That’s how God’s jealousy leads Him to respond to our idolatry. It’s not a happy list of words. It’s not a hopeful picture.

There’s one more word I’m going to share with you, one that will change the picture a bit. But before we move there I want to make sure we understand the appropriateness of God’s response here.

I want you to imagine that you go out to a local restaurant and see me sitting at a corner table having a romantic, candlelit dinner with a woman who is not Beth. Imagine yourself walking up to me and asking me who I was with and what it was all about.

Now picture me smiling casually and saying, “Oh, I’m on a date!”

“But what about your wife?”

“What about her? I love her too. I’ve taken her out plenty of times.”

I’m pretty sure you would walk away angry and disgusted. I’m also guessing I wouldn’t have a job much longer. All for good reason.

But now, imagine my wife, afterward, meeting me at the door with a big smile and saying: “Hi, honey! Did you have a good time on your date?”

I cannot imagine that happening! It would NOT happen!

Beth’s anger, her hurt, and her pain would be enormous! And, in fact, there would be a problem if she didn’t feel that way. If she was anything other than jealous, it would show that she didn’t really care about me.

Kyle Idleman quotes a philosophy professor named Paul Copan:

A wife who doesn’t get jealous and angry when another woman is flirting with her husband isn’t really committed to the marriage relationship…Outrage, pain, anguish—these are the appropriate responses to such deep violation. God isn’t some abstract entity or impersonal principle… We should be amazed that the Creator of the universe would so deeply commit himself to human beings that he would open himself to sorrow and anguish in the face of human rejection and betrayal. (p. 45, the date night analogy also comes from Idleman)

Understand: God’s jealousy is not petty or vindictive. He doesn’t react like this because He is mean or a bully. He is jealous because he loves us.

Allure
Which leads us to the fifth stage of God’s jealousy: restoration. Verses 14-15:

14Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. 15There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”

Allure. This is an amazing, startling word. God is not done with Israel. He’s going to win her back. He’s going woo her.

He says He’s going to take her back to the desert, back to the day she came up out of Egypt. In other words, He’s looking back to their honeymoon. The days right after the Red Sea. He’s going to romance Israel all over again.

And notice the pronouns. “I am going to allure her… I will lead her…I will give her back her vineyards.” God is going to do the work. Israel’s sin led them into this mess, but God’s grace is going to restore her. Verse 16:

16“‘In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master.'

Master is a word that sounds like Baal. God is saying that there will be no more mixing up who the LORD is and who Baal is. Verse 17:

17I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked.

They will be forgotten. They will be left in the dust. The LORD will win 100%. This relationship is going to be fixed. Verse 18:

18In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.

No more Assyria. No more war. No more danger from the creation.

What is the fulfillment of all of this? It’s come in part with Christ and will come fully when He returns and sets up His kingdom that will be forever. Forever. Verse 19:

19I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. 20I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.”

This relationship will be perfectly fixed. I love the word “betroth.” It’s a romantic word. It oozes love.

Everything that was wrong will be made right. This relationship will be marked by righteousness, justice, love, compassion, and faithfulness. It’s like Israel’s purity will be restored! God can do that! He can forgive sin and make it as though it never happened.

“You will acknowledge the LORD.” The very opposite of verse 8. You will know there is no life somewhere else than the Lord. You will know that good things only come from the Lord. You will know that nothing need be or can be mixed with the Lord.

The LORD is promising to take Israel back to her pre-marriage days and start all over again. It’s a description of the New Covenant and the blessings that will come from it. A complete reversal of all of the judgment. Verses 21-23:

21‘In that day I will respond,’ declares the LORD ‘I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; 22and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. 23I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one. 'I will say to those called 'Not my people, ''You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.'’”

A chain reaction that will reverberate through all of creation. The judgments of chapter one will be reversed. God will plant instead of scatter. God will show love again. We will be His people.

And we will say: “You are my God.”

Just as verses 2 through 13 pictured the sinfulness of our sin, verses 14 through 23 picture for us the splendor of our salvation!

The LORD is going to fix the relationship so that the other lovers name won’t even cross anyone’s mind.

That’s the jealous love of our God.

Francine Rivers
Finally, I want to mention the book Redeeming Love. Several people have mentioned it to me after last week’s sermon. It’s a romance novel, kind of like the ones I mentioned earlier. Only this romance novel is based on the story of Hosea and Gomer, set in the American West.

It’s a chick book, not the kind of book I normally read. But I have read this one, and I highly recommend it.

But what’s interesting is the story that lies behind it. The author, Francine Rivers, started out as an author of secular romance novels. In fact she was pretty popular, and rode the wave of the historical romance boom in the mid 70s and 80s to some success. But then she became a Christian, and her writing stopped.

Not because she didn’t want to write anymore, but she couldn’t. She writes in her blog:

I struggled. Writing was my “safe place,” it was my “identity,” or so I thought. It took three years for the Lord to get through my thick skull and show me how my priorities were upside down. I could almost hear Him saying, “You say you love Me, but you don’t even know who I AM.” Sadly true. For most of my life, I longed for a Savior, but I didn’t want a LORD.

She figured out that she had made an idol of her writing. She was putting her writing ahead of Jesus, and Jesus was frustrating her.

About the same time she realized she needed to surrender her idol, she read the book of Hosea in her Bible. She writes:

I could see how I had been like Gomer (a harlot) for years--always turning to other things (like writing) to “fulfill” myself. I felt God nudging me to begin writing again, this time, His story, so that readers who had followed my career and had been asking why I had stopped writing would see what God had done in my life.

Redeeming Love is the book of my heart. It is my confession of how I viewed and treated God before I knew Him, my yearning for a Savior and my deepest, life-long need for a loving, all-knowing LORD to direct my steps. (francinerivers.com, 8/12/2011)

Francine Rivers realized how jealous God’s love for her was, and when she did she found the freedom to write one of the best selling Christian fiction novels of all time.

Let me ask you: where are you riding the fence with God? Where are you two-timing Him? What do you need to let go of (maybe even a good thing, like Francine Rivers’ writing) in order to let Him be truly first in your life?