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Thoughts on God: Poignant Pain

For in the relation between man and woman we children of men rise to the highest heaven and fall to the lowest hell. We experience the holiest joys, the most torturing sorrows. Our eyes are opened to behold visions of God, or blasted with the foul vapours of the nethermost pit. This is so because the relation of sex stirs most profoundly the depths of our mortal being. The abysses are broken up. The foundations are moved. Discoveries are made. It is therefore a thing not to be marvelled at that it was through an experience of marriage that there broke upon the prophet's soul a clearer vision of the love that dwells in the heart of God, than had come to any earlier seer of Israel. And it is in accordance with the nature of this strange Universe, whose sign is the Cross, that this vision dawned, not along the primrose path of joy, but upon the valley of the shadow of a poignant pain. Hosea was wedded to an errant wife.

Charles Venn Pilcher wrote that in his devotional commentary on Hosea, Joel, and Amos. A little over a year ago, I quoted those same words here, following them up with thoughts of my own:

It is necessary to realize that Hosea's pain is only seen properly when we gaze upon his horrendous marriage in light of the infidelity of Christ's bride, and the lengths to which the Bridegroom goes to save and sanctify her. In other words, Hosesa's marriage to Gomer is not fully understood and appreciated until we realize that the Lord was allowing His prophet to share in his Savior's suffering in a very real, unique, and vulnerable fashion.

I've pondered this for the past day or so. In the Old Testament, God's love is rarely seen in such poignant depth and detail. The vulnerability of the Holy One of Israel, while revealed more clearly in the New Testament, is not nearly so vivid in the rest of the Law and the Prophets. After all, there are great lengths to which Hosea must go to remain faithful to his wretched bride, and such faithfulness becomes the ancient paradigm for unrequited love. Hosea loves Gomer with a love that transcends mere feeling; indeed, it seems as though the prophet, having already begun to heal from his bride's infidelities of the past, is required by God to dig yet deeper into the wells of love, to rip off the scab that has formed upon his already scarred soul and allow Gomer to be the one to tend to his wound. How so? Hosea is to go and redeem
his own bride from slavery, a slavery she has brought upon herself. Hosea does this at a cost that is not only monetary, but also emotional and spiritual. Why is this? There is a reconciliation that must take place, and although Gomer has torn assunder the fabric of Hosesa's emotions, she is the one whom God has appointed to be with him. Therefore, it is she who will eventually return his love and shine the light of joy into his heart, which has fallen into the shodowy pains of love and trust that has been broken.

So it is with the bride of Christ. We have not loved Him as we ought, and we still grieve our Lord as we should not. We are as Gomer, selling ourselves off to our lovers, not knowing that we have all that we could ever want or ask for in the love of our Savior. Our Lord loves us with a love that is long-suffering, with the secure and steadfast hope that such love will bear fruit that is eternally rejoicing. Indeed, it is for a reconciliation that transcends the pain of our infidelity that He has redeemed us at the greatest of cost, and therefore, we are to look forward to that day when we will be together with our Bridegroom forevermore. Such a hope and joy is held before us, for such a hope and joy fills the heart of our Lord, He who eagerly awaits the marriage supper of the Lamb.

It's an absolutely insane thing to think of Hosea's pain. I cannot imagine the bitterness and hopelessness God's commands must have stirred within his heart. Yet, how profound a purpose for his marriage! Hosea shared in Christ's sufferings in a unique fashion, foreshadowing the suffering and hope of the cross, making vulnerable the heart of the Almighty, revealing a depth of compassion in the shared suffering of unrequited love.

This summer, I was given much opportunity to ponder the love of God, namely, its nature, dimension, beauty, glory, and steadfastness. I would sit for what seemed hours, meandering through the height and depth and length and breadth of His love. I would ask God why He loved me, trying to make some sense of it all. What often helped was looking at the seemingly foolish love seen in Hosea: God chose to love us, and we're to accept it in all its infinite facets. We had no beauty to us, no merit to our actions, no righteousness in our hearts; we were truly the wife of harlotry.

In pondering the depths of God's love and the diverse manners He communicates that love to us, I'm always silenced by the beauty of His long-suffering patience. He does not merely wait for us, He suffers for His bride. The cost of pursuing and redeeming His bride is a cost we do not merit, a cost that He pays with hope and joy. Yes, Christ does indeed long with intense passion for the glorious revelation of His bride! Should we not do the same, knowing that He has changed us from the shameful adulterer to the one betrothed to Him in righteousness and faithfulness, never to turn again from Him to our former lovers, forevermore to live with Him as His beloved bride?

posted by Bolo | 11:57 PM
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