As The Lord Loves
If God had wanted empty obedience, He could have asked for it. In the same way that a marriage between a husband and wife can sometimes become nothing but rule-keeping, the marriage between God and His people can lose its vitality – the difference is that while two humans both bear responsibility for the failure of their relationship, it will never be God who makes the first move away from true love. Consider the heartrending, powerful story of Hosea the prophet. He is asked to find a “wife of harlotry” (Hosea 1:2), a woman named Gomer, and have children with her. The reason for such a strange command becomes clear as the prophet discovers Gomer has difficulty avoiding the life of harlotry that brought her so much attention and pleasure (2:5-7).
Gomer is Israel to God. He had taken her from among the nations and made her strong. Israel had every blessing it could have imagined – not the least of which was a relationship with the Almighty, who deeply, unselfishly loved His people.
Along the way, something changed in Israel’s collective heart. They sought idols and the customs of the heathen nations. They tried to integrate profanity into their worship. They indulged in the flesh flagrantly.
And yet, God said, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel… Afterward the sons of Israel will return to seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and His goodness in the last days” (Hosea 3:1,5).
This is not the only time in the Old Testament that God uses the husband/wife relationship to describe His love for Israel (Isaiah 62:4-5; 54:5-6 says, “Your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of hosts”; Ezekiel 16:30-35 describes Israel’s harlotry; Hosea 2:19). The analogy of marriage works so well because it is the original relationship. We relate to this better than any other relationship. And just as marriage opens our eyes to the most blissful highs it also reveals the most painful lows. Nobody is capable of hurting you more intimately than a spouse.
The love that we share goes beyond rule-keeping – though it is a necessary part of it. As a wife is obedient to her husband because of respect for him (Ephesians 5:22,33) so we do as Christ says because we trust His wisdom, power, and pure intentions. We obey Him and love Him but because He made the unequaled gesture of self-sacrifice. Marriage is the greatest object lesson in true love that we can experience. We must see our own husbands and wives in the way that Christ sees us and constantly cultivate our willingness to sacrifice all for our most precious companion. Doing so also deepens our faith!