Prone To Wander
When we crack open the pages of Hosea, it might feel like we are sitting in the counselor’s office with the husband on the right and the wife on the left and a shattered marriage lying wounded on the floor.
A throat clears.
“So let’s start at the beginning.”
If we happened to be the stranger sitting in between the Lord Most High and the people of Israel, where do you suppose their story began? If we looked beyond the immediate devastation of this divine marriage ripped to pieces by betrayal and adultery, could we perhaps get a glimpse of when His eyes met hers?
Where did the love story between God and Israel begin?
This week in our homework we travelled back to that moment in history and gathered invaluable information which helped to unlock the great tragedy of Hosea’s time.
One of the cross-references we looked at was found in Ezekiel 16. I don’t know when I first read Ezekiel 16, but when I studied it in the context of the book of Hosea, I could not stop crying. And I’m normally the “locked and loaded” emotional type, even despite being pregnant right now. The throbbing detail of Israel’s appalling rejection of God in this chapter is so overwhelming, that by the time I reached the end, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t summarize the chapter. I couldn’t even digest everything I’d just read. I literally sat in silence for 10 minutes.
I wonder if this is what marriage counselors feel after hearing the details of a shattered covenant? All these warm love stories gone cold. All these smiles turned upside down. All the feelings and promises and forevers evaporated. But unlike the oftentimes hopeless air that fills so many counselor’s offices, there is a unique member of this marriage that changes everything about how we’d expect this story to end: God Himself.
In last week’s blog I discussed the fragile definitions the world (and even the church) applies to love. The world operates under the rule that if it makes you happy, then it must be love. It’s such a dangerous definition that it feels similar to putting a toddler on a bike without training wheels. You better expect a big, ugly crash. But God doesn’t operate within that definition. And that fact changes the way we expect Ezekiel 16 to end.
The world preaches a “Hollywood” love story. It’s replayed and remade over and over again. It boasts in the beautiful characters, the effortless affection, and stories that tie into perfect bows at the end of the show. And yet we leave those perfect stories without any holy examples of loving someone when emotions begin to fade, desires clash, or when words become knives and bodies are withheld or given to someone else. Hollywood fails to shows us what to do when the heart we once trusted becomes the heart prone to wander.
But God does. Hosea does. And Ezekiel 16 does.
I remember reaching the final verses in Ezekiel 16 like one approaches a large cliff; my soul watched with one eye closed in anticipation of how God was going to end this horrible confrontation with His haughty bride …
“For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. (Ezekiel 16:59-60, ESV)
Did all of heaven gasp?! Wait… what did God just say?
“I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 16:62-63, ESV)
In essence God says, “You might have shattered our promises, you might have given yourself to any stranger who would have you, you might have wandered away from everything beautiful and holy that I have lavished on you … but I will keep My promise to you -- in fact, I’m going to make an everlasting covenant with you.”
Not only did His love remain, but He planned to atone for all her harlotries, all her lust, all her wanderings. This word “atone” can also be translated “forgive, reconcile, appease, cleanse, cover.”
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil. (Proverbs 16:6)
Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. (Psalms 78:38)
When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. (Psalms 65:3)
All of our lives touch heartbreak, betrayal, rejection, and unfaithfulness. And all of us have wandered away from His perfect goodness, we’ve grown unfaithful, we’ve become too friendly with the world, and committed adultery in our hearts. We’ve all walked in the counselor’s office fully expecting the other seat to be empty with final rejection and disgust. But He was there, always ready to forgive and reconcile.
Even though He has every right and reason to slam the door in our faces forever, just like He did with Israel, instead He offers us “a door of hope.” (Hosea 2:15, ESV)
Kaysie Strickland is definitely nothing fancy. Jesus found her in a mess and won her with His Words. She feels called to be a servant of the Word and His people through spending her life and words proclaiming the reckless restoration available in the gospel. She is married to her best friend on earth, drinks lots of coffee + tea, constantly rearranges the furniture in her house (God bless her husband), loves gardening and DIY projects, enjoys long conversations over coffee, and loves all the words. She and her husband are expecting their first little one in February! You can find her on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Blog