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An Adulterous Wife
By Pastor John Partridge
Hosea 1:2-10 Luke 11:1-13 Colossians 2:6-19
I want to be clear that despite the title, today’s message applies to both women and men. My title could have easily been, “An Adulterous Spouse” but aside from being admittedly more “clickable” on the internet, there are scriptural and linguistic reasons that it can, and should, be gender specific. And I hope that by the time we’re finished, everyone will understand why.
With that out of the way, for those of you who are already married, I want you to remember what it was like when you were still looking for a spouse. And for those of you who are not married, and who wish to eventually be married, or even if you can’t ever imagine wanting to be married, I invite you to imagine what it would be like to search for a person with whom you can share your life and build your dreams. So, whichever group you might be in, think about what qualifications you might look for in a life-partner. As a group, we would have a wide variety of potential requirements or at least highly desirable traits that we would be looking for in another person. But, without much difficulty, I would imagine that among those qualifications, absolutely none of us would list “likely to cheat” among the dreams and ambitions that we have for our future spouse.
But that is exactly what God told the prophet Hosea to add to his list.
As shocking as that might be, let’s read the story and find out why. We begin in Hosea 1:2-10 as God uses a highly unusual method to make a point, over the span of a generation, and send a message to the people of Israel that includes illustrations with whom they must live and interact on a regular basis.
2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
4 Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5 In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”
6 Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. 7 Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword, or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”
8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.
10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’
God’s instructions to Hosea, as he searched for a wife, was to choose a woman who already had a reputation for cheating and who was likely to cheat on him after he married her. This was hardly what Hosea expected when God had called him to be his spokesman and prophet. I am certain that Hosea expected that following God would include living a godly life that followed the Law of Moses, living a righteous life and, one would assume, having a wife that was similarly righteous. But God’s call, in this case, is for his prophet to marry a spouse that will cheat, leave him for extended periods of time, sleep with other men, and bear children with questionable parentage. And, despite the unexpected nature of God’s command, and despite how unusual, difficult, and complicated that it would make Hosea’s life, he did as God instructed.
This wasn’t a project that Hosea could complete in a week’s time. This wasn’t the usual kind of mission that God gave to his prophets of “Go to this place and say these words to this group of people.” Instead, God’s words were coming to the people of Israel as a demonstration, or an illustration, which was seen, every day, in the lives of Hosea and his family. God’s point was that Gomer’s unfaithfulness to Hosea represented Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, and so every time that she wandered off, or was missing from Hosea’s life, or was carrying a child that may, or may not, have been fathered by Hosea, everyone was reminded of their unfaithfulness to God.
Worse, the names of Hosea’s children were a daily reminder of Israel’s failures. The name of Hosea’s first son reminded the people of Israel that when Jehu was anointed as king, he took it upon himself to massacre the previous king, the king’s mother, and his entire family. Hosea’s daughter reminded the people that they were no longer loved by God, that God had withdrawn his blessing from them and would now give his blessing to the nation of Judah. And Hosea’s second son reminded Israel that because they had abandoned God, God would now abandon them. Every day, in ordinary, daily interactions from school to grocery shopping, to gossip, the people were confronted with their sins against God simply in the act of speaking or remembering the names of Hosea’s children.
That is a sad story, but it is also a warning. King David certainly knew that story and the lessons of that story were on his mind when David chose not to act on opportunities to take King Saul’s life. Even for us in the twenty-first century, it reminds us that our God is not just a god of love that loves everybody but is also a God of judgement, with high standards, who will remove his blessing from those who turn their backs on him.
I’m sure that someone will want to remind me that God’s standards of judgement changed with the coming of Jesus. But they didn’t. After the birth death and resurrection of Jesus, God did not change. God’s standards did not change. God’s definition of sin did not change. What changed is that when we stand before the judgement seat of God, Jesus has already paid price for the sins that we have committed. And it is because of that change that we are indebted to Jesus and why we live our lives in ways that express our gratitude to him.
How we do that, as well as warnings about how not to do that, are what Paul is talking about as he writes to the church in Colossae in Colossians 2:6-19 where we hear these words:
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self, ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration, or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Paul reminds us that receiving Jesus as our savior and choosing to follow him is just the beginning. We must also continue to live lives in him that are rooted in him, built up in him, and which are strengthened in faith and overflowing with thankfulness. Next, Paul warns us about where our life and discipleship can go astray. He says that we can be taken captive by our dedication to traditions that flow out of deceptive philosophy and spiritual forces that are not godly and which do not point to Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who saved us, and it is Jesus who is in authority over every senator, president, king, prime minister, emperor, czar, ayatollah, or anything else and it is Jesus who has authority over every angel, demon, ghoul, ghost, goblin, or any other physical or spiritual creature. Our sins condemned us to death, but we are alive because of the sacrifice, and the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Christianity is more familiar and more recognizable to the people around us than it was in Colossae in the time of Paul. Our holidays and our celebrations are not as alien and strange to our neighbors and friends than they once were, but still, people often find what we do to be out of the ordinary. They don’t understand why we pray, or why we fast, they think we’re weird, or even lazy because we don’t want to do certain things on Sunday, or at Christmas, or Easter. They think it’s a waste for us to give gifts and offerings to the church when we could use them to buy a car, or jewelry, vacations, or fun toys.
But Paul says that we should ignore their judgement because the little things that we do as a part of our worship are shadows of a larger reality. They remind us that that the world is bigger than what we see and that the governments and powers of this world are not ultimate powers of the universe, that the physical world still bends to the reality of the spiritual world, that God is in control, that Jesus sits on the throne of heaven, and that all that we are, and all that we have, belongs to him.
Paul reminds us that there will always be false teachers who think too much of themselves, who claim to have visions, or claim special spiritual insight, and who will lead us toward the worship of angels and other false beliefs. Those people, Paul cautions, have lost their connection to Jesus, the head of the church, and the head of the body of Christ. And like our physical bodies, when the head is disconnected, growth stops, and death soon follows.
The accusation of Hosea three thousand years ago remains relevant. The adulterous wife that he was talking about wasn’t ever a woman, it was always the church. Both then and now, it was always us. Because the church is the bride of Christ, we can see ourselves as the wandering Gomer as we wander, become faithless, and pursue other interests and put other gods, other hobbies, money, cars, houses, work, or anything else in first place instead of Jesus. To put anything other than Jesus in first place, with priority, is to risk losing our head.
Stay close to Jesus. Live your lives in Jesus. Stay rooted and grounded in him, be strengthened in the faith that you were taught, and be overflowing with thankfulness. Test everything. Don’t hold on to traditions that aren’t godly. Keep hold of worship, and all our little spiritual rituals, holidays, and practices because each of them reminds us of who we are, and whose we are.
God hasn’t changed. God’s standards haven’t changed. God’s definition of sin hasn’t changed. And the need for us to remain faithful, and the importance of faithfulness, hasn’t changed. Because when we stand before the judgement seat of God, the only thing that will save us…is Jesus.
We are the bride of Christ.
Don’t leave him at the altar.
Don’t be… an adulterous wife.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com . All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.