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Jeremiah Was A Dragon-Man: Faithless Marriages Don’t Work

June 8, 2012 1 comment

One of the most powerful and common metaphors in Scripture that God uses to describe his relationship with us is a marriage metaphor. YHWH is the bridegroom and His people are His bride. I believe this helps us understand not only the depth of God’s love for us, but also what sin does to our relationship. Our sin is an act of adultery. Jeremiah 3 uses the metaphor extensively:

“Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this, she will return to me,’ but she did not return.” 3:6-7*

When I imagine myself in these circumstances, with my wife going out and whoring herself to man after man everywhere she can find them, my heart and soul break. God’s response to His bride prostituting herself is far different than my response would be. My anger and brokenness would not let me take her back, but YHWH is not concerned about vengeance or brokenness or finding another bride who would not be so faithless. He just hopes that when His bride realizes there is no life outside of His fountain of living water, she will come back to Him.

Judah also went out and played the whore, and came back to Him, but it was a farce.

“Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.” 3:10

A pretentious return to YHWH is like a wife saying to her husband that she wants to be married to him and have a relationship with him while she continues in unceasing adultery. Faithless marriages are sham marriages. Judah wanted the benefits of being married to their God while keeping up her adulterous ways with other gods. It doesn’t work.**

Beautiful, loving YHWH is still not deterred by the incessant whoring of His wives and their pretense toward Him. He is deeply concerned about, angered by, and hurt by their breaking of the marriage covenant, but He is continuing His relentless pursuit of them. YHWH just wants them to admit their wrong and come back to Him, for He will remain faithful even when they are not. His love will not be stopped even when it is rejected.

In the middle of Israel and Judah’s whoring, YHWH, although He is the last one who deserves to be treated like this, is willing to endure all of the shame their actions cause Him if it means there is still a chance for the restoration of relationship. This God, our God, has always been willing to take the shame of our sin upon Himself and rid us of it through forgiveness, restoration, and the new life of His cleansing waters. The shame Jesus endured on the cross is the epitomic example of what God has been doing for us all along. No one has a more humble and powerful love than our God.

So, you and I, we’ve played the whore. We’ve followed other gods. We’ve pursued life elsewhere. We’ve broken the terms of the marriage covenant with our bridegroom. Our sin is not okay, it’s horrible and disgusting, but it is made okay by God’s love if we would only return and receive His new life. He doesn’t ask us to get better and return, but merely to acknowledge what we’ve done and return with our whole hearts. No longer is there any need to worry about our shame, for our God, as He as always done, has taken our shame upon Himself and eliminated it. Do not fear, with a husband who loves like this, it is always safe to come home and find hope and life and love beyond comprehension in His embrace. May we never leave His arms.

*When I write these, I’m hoping that you’ll be reading the whole chapter along with it. Chapter 3 comes highly recommended by Jeremiah.
** The desire to have both God and other gods is discussed more extensively here.

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A Prostitute, A Bride, and Two Cities

June 14, 2011 4 comments

Revelation is a wonderful book of Scripture. I keep going back to it because its images strike me in different ways almost everytime I read. Honestly, I’m still not quite sure what to do with the book and how to piece together a cohesive holistic interpretation of the book, which is the reason I haven’t written much about any of it. For the most part it is difficult to interpret any specific portion of a book well without first having a strong understanding of what the book as a whole means and how that specific portion fits into the meaning of the whole. There’s a brief hermeneutic lesson for you. Anyway, here is a brief pertinent interpretation of one small portion of Revelation despite not having a strong grasp on the whole.

In Revelation 17* we are introduced to a “great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers of earth have become drunk.” This woman has been with kings and the common person is inebriated by her. She is like an epically powerful mythological being.

I saw the woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.

And as it turns out, this woman is actually a city. The city of Babylon, the symbolic city of timeless abhorrent evil used as a metaphor to describe cities and national powers who dishonor God and destroy his people.

She does just that. The prostitute is described as being “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” She is the one responsible for the death of the people of God. The Prostitute City is responsible because she is seated on the seven mountains, which are the seven heads, which are also the seven kings. The description of being on top of the kings is obviously about the prostitutes power and authority over these kings. So, the evil city of Babylon is to blame for their actions toward the saints. The good news is that this evil city of sexual immorality will not prevail.

New kings, evil in themselves, will rise up and destroy the prostitute. “They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire.” Her greatness, her power, her adornment, her beauty, her dominion, and her sin will all be utterly destroyed and she will be shown for what she is. Revelation 18 says,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons,
A haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
For all the nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
And the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

Her prostitution and greed have doomed her to a violent devastation.

Babylon in Revelation is a pretty close representation of Rome in the period Revelation was written. There is another nation that the metaphor of a prostitute works quite well for. One where sexual immorality runs rampant. One where high schoolers are taught to have safe sex rather than to not have sex. One where nearly everyone as a child has seen sexualized nudity. One where pornography is making billions of dollars and every new wonderful and imaginative technological development seems to increase the hold of sexual images on the nation. One where sexual immorality is tearing apart marriage and families. This is a nation where the prostitute reigns over the rulers and the people are drunk with lust for her. This is the nation where I reside.**

Isn’t this true? Aren’t the parallels astounding? So much has changed in 2000 years and so little has changed in 2000 years. It looks different, but the kings and cities and nations of earth are still under the power of this woman and the beast she rides on. Her deceptions still work. Her ultimate destructiveness has been shown time and time again, but her allure remains. And the people of Jesus, with few exceptions, have been no exception to her deceptive enticement.

Back to Babylon. Many of the people of Jesus were living in this city. They were living as a part of this prostitute Babylon. They were presumably a normal functioning part of this city and its culture. That is why a “voice from heaven” tells them,

“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped as high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.”

I don’t believe that the passage is necessarily talking about these people leaving an actual location to go move to some other actual location. The Prostitute City is a metaphoric one. A metaphoric departure is what is implied. God’s people are to leave the rule and reign of Babylon through faithful purity. Repeatedly in Revelation the author explicitly describes the people of God as those who are sexually pure and heavily implies in other places (such as this one) that sexual immorality is not consistent with being a member of the people of Jesus, but right in step with the evil of the beast and the world that lives in enmity toward God.

God doesn’t just call them out of the city; He calls them into another one. This city sits in direct contrast with the prostitute. It is a bride. In Revelation 21 this city is seen “coming down out of heaven from God.” The city comes from the place God reigns. It is the “New Jerusalem,” Jerusalem being the metaphoric city of God’s people, presence, and reign. It is a holy city. The city is called “a bride adorned for her husband.” Like the prostitute, it is a beautiful adorned woman, but for a totally different purpose. For marriage instead of prostitution. Pure beauty. The holy city is the one God is calling his people into. His people are to live together in beautiful purity under his reign and rule.

So much has changed in 2000 years and so little has changed in 2000 years. Many of us are still living in Babylon under the reign and rule of the prostitute. And God is calling us into his holy city. God is calling us into the New Jerusalem to live under his reign and rule. We cannot live in two cities. There is no straddling of the borders between them. Either we live in the place that is destroying us and is doomed to be destroyed or we live in God’s city where,

“He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”

Let’s leave Babylon. Her allure cannot compare to God’s city where we are His bride. Let’s leave children, come out of Babylon with me and let us move into the New Jerusalem where God reigns. Come out of the prostitute and enter the bride. Let us depart from this city of blasphemies and move into the holy city, entering it wearing fine white linen, washed in the blood of the Lamb.

*All quotations are from Revelation 17 and 18 unless otherwise noted”

**I’m talking about the United States of America

You’re Not Hosea In This Story

December 18, 2010 5 comments

One of the most powerful images of God’s love in Scripture is found in the story of the prophet Hosea. For me, it is one of the most emotionally poignant concepts in Scripture. It strikes my soul. It has transformed and continues to form the way I conceptualize reality. Perhaps telling you why will tenderize you the way it softens my stony heart.

Hosea was stupidly faithful (stupid in a good way). YHWH told Hosea that he was to marry a woman that God knew would be unfaithful to him. God knew that this woman sold her body and would continue to do so even while she was married. Hosea married her. She cheated on him repeatedly and consistently. She even had kids that Hosea named as his own, but would really have no idea whether those kids were his or some dudes that she had an affair with. People Hosea knew talked to him about the sexual relationship they had with his wife. Hosea was betrayed over and over and over by his unfaithful wife and yet He took her back and loved her again and again and again. Why did God want Hosea to do this? He wanted to demonstrate how Hosea’s relationship with his wife was a microcosm of God’s relationship with His people.

I get this, it connects with me. This story hurts me. I feel Hosea’s pain. I think that all people, even if they haven’t directly felt the pain of having a significant other cheat on them, have some understanding of how it feels to be betrayed by someone close to them. I think all of us have some experience of what it is like to feel someone relationally significant to you treat your trust and the relationship flippantly. Betrayal is the second worst feeling in the world.

The worst is feeling the pain that comes from realizing that you have betrayed someone you love and treated the relationship flippantly. You know who wants to feel that? No one. I’ve avoided it myself and watched so many others do the same. Listen to how most people talk about their sin. People talk about it like it’s bad, but not a huge deal because God has forgiven them for it. Or they talk about how it’s human to sin and everyone sins and that’s why we need God’s grace. Maybe they mostly talk about the sin of others and do this sick comparison thing where they perceive others are worse than them so that they can feel better about themselves. People tend to treat sin as inconsequential because it just plain sucks to acknowledge you are the betrayer.

But sin is not inconsequential. It is as destructive to our relationship with God as an act of infidelity is to a marriage. Our sin is absolutely disgusting and it destroys intimacy with God. Our choices of sin are acts of betrayal and infidelity and they hurt God in the way that a husband who catches his wife cheating on him with another man is hurt. We are violating God’s trust, abusing his forgiveness, and showing with our actions how meaningless our relationship with God is to us. Our sin is disgusting and destructive.

It is only when we realize how terrifically horrifying our sins are that we understand and appreciate God’s mercy. It is only then that we can be intimate. If a husband offers forgiveness but an unfaithful wife thinks that what she did was an insignificant act that isn’t really a big deal, how close to you think that couple will be? The wife has to admit that what she has done is terribly destructive, have an appreciation for the forgiveness of her husband, and rebuild trust with her husband through a life of faithfulness or else there is no hope for the relationship. There will be little intimacy for those who make excuses for their destructive behavior. There is no way that you will ever see God’s love for what it is if you do not first see you for what you are.

You are the whore. God has taken you as his bride. You have whored yourself to people that matter little. God has reaffirmed his love for you. You display your shameful infidelity with pride. God shouts his love for you from the rooftops. You have broken all your promises. In His faithfulness, God’s wants to renew his vows. Your heinous acts have destroyed your most important relationship. God wants to restore Himself to you. Your prostitution has left your life in ruins. God wants to rebuild it with you. You have run from him into the arms of many other men. God waits for your return with open arms. You are a dirty, betraying whore. God loves you and wants to make you pure and reconcile with you.

Addendum: It has been brought to my attention that all of the yous and generalized way of speaking about the text disconnects me from the story and it feels like I’m talking from a place of authority to a reader. I just wanted to say that most of this is me trying to make the story hit you in a way similar to how it has hit me. Let me be clear about this: I’m the whore too. We have all been the whore. That’s what’s so amazing about God’s love and infinite mercy. Let’s live to reflect and honor both.

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