God’s Adulterous Lover

Why Jesus Is My Hero #42 of 52

What kind of a God is God? And how does he feel about us and the way we treat him?

When we hear the word “sin” it’s easy to think in terms of broken rules or a general feeling of guilt about things we’re doing that we know we probably shouldn’t. But the Bible often talks about our sin using relational categories – it reminds us ultimately our sin is a rejection of God himself. When we love other things more than we love him – when we turn and start to rely on idols – from God’s perspective that’s no different from a wife cheating on her husband. It’s spiritual adultery.

One particularly hard-hitting passage that picks up on this relational view of sin is Hosea 2:

“Plead with your mother, plead–
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband–
that she put away her whoring from her face”

“For their mother has played the whore;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.'”

God sees his people turning aside from him and going after other gods, and it deeply grieves his heart like a husband discovering his wife has been giving herself to other men. The language here is the language of divorce proceedings: “she is not my wife, and I am not her husband” marking an end to the marriage relationship. Yet God is still pleading with his adulterous lover, Israel – still longing for her to turn back to him in repentance, rather than trusting in the pagan fertility gods – the Baals – that she’s started to rely on to provide for her needs.

What makes this scenario so tragic is that it was all so utterly unnecessary:

“And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold,
which they used for Baal.”

It’s as though she was a prostitute working her trade in the upper room, as various men brought her payment, and she thought she was so clever and self-reliant for earning all this cash without having to depend on her husband. Only what she never realised was that all this time, those guys had been slipping in to her husband’s study downstairs and stealing £50 notes out of her husband’s drawer in order to pay her. The same supply of money that her husband had told her about on many occasions should she ever be in need, that she was welcome to help herself to at any time to provide for her. It was her husband who had been providing for her all along – it was his money they were using to pay for her services. If only she’d turned to her husband and looked to him, instead of thinking she could find what she wanted elsewhere.

That’s what makes our sinful idolatry so stupid and so utterly abhorrent. God our Creator is the only one who can really provide for our needs, and he longs to care for us and give us what we need. We can look elsewhere – to our education, to our wallets, to our relationships – to make us happy and protect us from evil, but ultimately all those things come from God in the first place. How it must grieve him to see us reject him for the things he has made.

Seeing sin in these relational categories makes it all the more amazing when we then recognise God’s grace towards us sinners. How incredible it is that he sticks with us, patiently persevering with his wayward wife. It’s a beautiful picture later in the Bible when we see Jesus as the heavenly bridegroom who laid down his life to present the church spotless and without blemish before him. It’s an amazing thing when a spouse forgives the one who has betrayed them so deeply and chooses to stick with them in spite of their adultery – and it should truly blow our minds when we remember that that’s exactly the way Jesus treats us, his people.