Humans were created for relationship. No one goes through life alone. Yet our cultural landscape is dominated by the ruins of broken relationships. Our souls bear the scars of isolation and betrayal like some ugly roadmap. In our “enlightened” world, it’s easy to dismiss the outdated idea of “sin.” But we can’t deny the way that loneliness haunts us like a ghost.
God’s word explains why. See, you and I were created for relationship—with each other, but also with the God who created us. But there’s a problem. We too easily and too regularly are entrapped by the vacuum of self. The result of sin is death—not just natural death, but spiritual death. Relational death. Emotional death.
This, as they say, is the bad news. And it’s a message written in the pages of scripture, and in the very life of a man named Hosea. We met Hosea yesterday—the man with the unlikely task of marrying a prostitute. What did that show? Two things: (1) just how far the nation had sunk in their spiritual adultery, and (2) just how far God was willing to go to redeem His people.
Nearly every major religion agrees that there’s something wrong with the world. Religion commonly says: “You’re broken. Here’s how you may be fixed.” And then you’re handed a holy book that reads like the instruction manual for the space shuttle. In other words, you and I are left to fix ourselves. We may enter back into fellowship with a god—but only if we can become worthy through obedience and hard work.
Christianity is radically, inconceivably different. Christianity says: “You’re broken. And there’s nothing you can do to fix it.” Again, that’s the bad news. The good news is that in His great love, God actually steps in to fix the relationship that you and I tore apart so recklessly. And if we understand this, then we begin to understand exactly what Hosea is saying.
STILL THE ONE
Listen to what God says through the prophet Hosea:
14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. (Hosea 2:14-20)
Do you hear what he’s saying? This is God speaking. It is through an act of God—not man—that the relationship might be restored. And this is a supreme expression of love.
It’s a theme common in modern music. In 1976 the band Orleans released a song called “Still the One,” a song that has since been performed by a variety of musicians. The lyrics of the chorus might sound familiar:
You’re still the one I run to
The one that I belong to
You’re still the one I want for life
You’re still the one that I love
The only one I dream of
You’re still the one I kiss good night
Obviously, man’s relationship with God stops short of an actual romance. We are not God’s equals—but that’s what makes this gesture of love all the more staggering. Despite our great sin, God still shows us His great love.
RESTORING THE BLESSING
When I was younger I used to assume that the best we could expect from God was forgiveness. And this is a spectacular, undeserved gift, to be sure. But the gospel says that God has even more for us. Just listen to what He said through Hosea:
21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, 23 and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.'” (Hosea 2:21-23)
Do you remember how the names “Jezreel,” “No Mercy” and “Not My People” were given to the sons of Hosea and Gomer? Now God is saying that this won’t be their lasting fate. He will show mercy. He will show blessing. He will place His people “in the land,” meaning He will restore Israel forever in her promised land.
That means that the gospel means more than just “getting off the hook.” God also offers us blessing. Here’s what God’s word later tells us:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:2-4)
God’s desire is not just to eliminate the bad, but to restore the good. And the best aspects of this comes to us in a doctrine known as “reconciliation.”
In Hosea 3 we see two wedding photos side by side on the mantle. One photo is Hosea and Gomer; the other is God and His people.
- Hosea and Gomer
And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (Hosea 3:1-3)
Despite her unfaithfulness, God told Hosea to pursue Gomer. Their relationship would be restored.
- God and His people
4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days. (Hosea 3:4-5)
Despite her unfaithfulness, God would pursue His people. Their relationship would be restored. This is the very heart of the gospel, that “…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 2:19)
In the classic novel Don Quixote, the title character falls in love with an ordinary farm girl—renaming her “Dulcinea del Toboso.” In the novel, this was part of Quixote’s larger madness. Towards the end of the novel, he begins to realize that sometimes ordinary things are just that—ordinary things. There’s no need to mistake an inn for a castle. But in the 1972 musical adaptation, we hear him say something quite beautiful:
“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? To surrender dreams – -this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all – -to see life as it is and not as it should be.”
This is what God does for His people. It would be madness indeed to see only adulterers and whores. It is supreme love for God to see life not “as it is” but “as it should be”—the way He intended it before the cancer of self ripped us from His embrace.
God’s people find their strength not in their own beauty, but in the splendor bestowed upon them despite our wayward reputation. And despite our faults, despite our failings, despite our fears, it is God alone who is still the One to whom we look for lasting comfort and enduring joy.