Play the harlot

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How would you feel if you had your yearly work review and the verdict on your performance was, “Unfaithful.”  You might expect negatives like “incompetent” or “negligent” or “unqualified” or “lazy”.  But “unfaithful”?  What if your boss said your work was “adulterous”?  “Adulterous”?  You might well protest: “Hang on, I’m not married to my job here.”

And yet, throughout the Bible, the LORD says to His people, “You are unfaithful.  You are spiritually adulterous.  You play the harlot.  You play the whore.”

We expect verdicts like “disobedient” or “wicked” or “transgressing”, but “unfaithful”?  Are we meant to be married to the LORD?  Apparently.

You see the bible is a love story.  It begins with the marriage of Adam and Eve.  It ends with the marriage of the Lord Jesus to His people (Revelation 19).  And all throughout, it insists that our relationship to the Lord is like marriage and marriage is like our relationship to the Lord.  He is not simply our Master, but our Husband.

But the course of true love never did run smooth.  So we come to the Old Testament prophet Hosea.  He was a contemporary of Isaiah, living in the northern kingdom in the 8th century BC.

And the LORD said to Hosea, “I’ve got a treat for you.  You’re going to experience what it feels like to be Me in the great Love Story.”  Here’s what happened:

“The LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.  So he went and took Gomer.”  (Hosea 1:2-3)

When Hosea marries the prostitute Gomer the world will see what the LORD puts up with.  And true to form, Gomer doesn’t stick around for long.  Soon she leaves the marital home and returns to the brothel.  Perhaps Hosea thought his job was done.  He’d married an unfaithful wife, she has left, what can you do? Well if you’re the LORD you pursue your unfaithful wife and you win her back.  So this is what He tells poor Hosea:

“Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. 2 So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley:  3 And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.”  (Hosea 3:1-3)

Hosea actually has to go to the brothel and pay 15 shekels – the prostitute-price – to get his wife back.  Can you imagine it?  Banging on the brothel door.  “I’m here for Gomer…  I’m her husband…  Fine, I’ll pay whatever it costs, I just want her back.”

He is vulnerable, he’s exposing himself to great shame, he’s putting his heart on the line once again with a woman who keeps spurning his love. Why should he pay for his own wife?  Why should he do this?  Because that’s what the LORD is like.

The LORD loves us.  He commits Himself to us.  And we ignore Him, sideline Him, pretend He has no claim over us.  And we slink back into the life we’ve always known.  But what’s He like?  He comes after us.  He pursues us.  He shames Himself to come and offer His love again.  And He pays for us, He redeems us at His own cost, just to have us back in His arms.

What do we see when we look to the cross?  We see a Husband who has left His home, who has come to our house of slavery, who has begged us to return and who is paying the price to redeem us.  There He is vulnerable, pained, covered in shame, arms outstretched to receive us back.

What is your view of the LORD?

An impersonal force?  A Sergeant-Major in the Sky.  A Heavenly Slave-Driver.  A Moral Policeman.  A Cosmic Headmaster.  If we’ve inherited such views, it’s not been from the Bible.

In the Bible, the LORD is a Bridegroom.  A Husband.  A Royal Prince, who pledges Himself in marriage to we who “play the harlot.”

Therefore He’s not looking for soldiers or slaves or moralists, He’s not looking for good intentions or good efforts or good works.  He’s looking for Gomers to come home.

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