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Bible, Hosea, Marriage, Theology

Hewn Husband: “Come back!”


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It’s impossible to journey through the book of Hosea in a casual way. You would never slip into your favourite flip flops to start an ascent of Arthur’s Seat and neither can we receive from this book what we’re meant to receive without the serious footwear of meditation and prayer.

There are many lows in this book. Imagine the lows from Hosea’s perspective as he discovers that his wife, Gomer, has been unfaithful to him yet again. Imagine his heart sickness.

But God has also been on display as the One moving behind the scenes and also the One moving the scenes He’s behind. He’s in the grandeur and He’s in the infinitesimal.

Hosea and Ezekiel

(more…)

Church, Culture, Photography

Albania


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A chicken and gherkin sandwich, a mozzarella and tomato salad, some crackers, one of those sealed tubs of airline water that you only ever see on a flight, and a surprisingly tasty chocolate mouse: We’re en route back to Edinburgh from a week’s mission trip in Albania and I’m very thankful for the packed lunch Turkish Airways have just provided for our evening meal.

Our gratitude has been primed.

We’ve been humbled. (more…)

Bible, Theology

Hosea 2: The Promise of Allurement


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Learning to Breathe

The previous post’s title from this series suggested and even seemed to promise an acclimatising to the spiritual geography of the book of Hosea. But do you feel any more acclimatised having read it? Do I feel any more acclimatised having written it?

Maybe slightly; nowhere near fully or enough.

My main conviction is that this peculiar acclimatising – to the theme, to the prophetic message and the application of Hosea – is of Everest scale for us. It’s so grand, so important, so deeply distressing, that we will be seriously tempted to skim over the chapters to maintain our equilibrium rather than setting up a base camp in it and learning a while longer.

So here we are at base camp, looking up at the stars. Our most basic, human function of breathing is now something that we’re having to think about – reflex has regressed into a discipline.

It’s exhausting.

There is a higher summit – it hangs overs base camp like a shadowy, silhouetting God, incarnate in ancient rock.

Who is He?

Recapping – Hosea 1

For both men and women, it’s essential to harness the mind’s imagination in thinking what it must have been like to be the man Hosea:

God has come to you and asked you to marry a Prostitute. He has come to you and asked you to build a family from the adulterous lineage of a Harlot. He has come to you and told you to take a path that will absolutely smash your social standing and confuse the compass of all of your male sensibilities.

God has come to you and He has commanded the obliteration your male ego.

But God has done this to reveal the tectonic power of the inner chambers of His heart and, at the same time, the panoramic pinnacle of His Everest love for us. He is showing us His deepest, highest, widest affections through the churning heart of a husband bereft of the love and loyalty of his wife.

Punishment and Promise

Let’s Read Hosea 2:1-13

  • The futures of Gomer and Israel seem to be hanging in the balance, swinging back and forth like an eternal pendulum. Rebuke is the word of the day but there is the hope of restoration.
  • God is grieved by the betrayal of His people and very deeply. We’re supposed to be imagining what it’s like to be the man Hosea but only to understand the heart and nature of our Maker. Put yourself in Hosea’s shoes – you’ve just married the woman you love, despite her past, but now she runs off with other men that love her. She has sex with them. She is paid to have sex with them. Your honeymoon is the shock that your wife still loves her sinful past more than the present with you.

Perhaps Hosea was imagining the marital bliss between Boaz and Ruth and feeling let down by God

  • We’re shown the inner mechanics and thought trains of both adulterous wife and forgiving Husband, (‘she said…’ v5 cf. ‘therefore I will…’ v6). So there’s an exchange of emotional responses.
  • In the Old Testament, Father God is often understood as being angry – that’s understandable – but every time you sense God’s anger, try to instead imagine God as being grieved and as being gutted rather than as just waving His great, big, cosmic stick around in fury. I’ve found this a massively helpful distinction in coming closer to the heart of God. When you imagine how hurt and bereft and sad and confused and betrayed Hosea must have felt, think of God being forgotten by His bride. (v13). Remember: this is about God not about Hosea; Hosea is pointing us to the heart of God.

We need think of God as being betrayed and distraught rather than just as angry.

The Promise of Allurement

Therefore I am now going to allure her…

  • God’s response to the betrayal of His heart is  the gracious promise of allurement:
v.al·lured, al·lur·ing, al·lures

v.tr.

To attract with something desirable; entice: Promises of quick profits allure the unwary investor.

v.intr.

To be highly, often subtly attractive: charms that still allure.

n.

The power to attract; enticement.
  • Verse 14 is where we begin to learn about the dimensions of the love of God, contrasted with Hosea’s undoubted struggle and Gomer’s flagrant abandonment of covenant.
  • Can you imagine a love that loves like this? Hurt, gutted, sick-to-the-stomach, can’t eat or focus or sleep…this is the picture of God we’re given through the humanity of Hosea’s disaster. And yet, God responds by promising allurement: God resolves to show us how incomparable, how much better He is, how much more desirable than anything else in order that we will come to our senses and love him voluntarily and whole-heartedly as we should. From every charming sin, every unknown idolatry, every diluting agent of our love for Him, God promises to allure us back into the bliss of full betrothal covenant…of ecstatic union and oneness.
  • The LORD conquers the indecision and double-mindedness of His people by restoring them. He pours out instead of drawing back.

I will show my love to the one I called, “Not my loved one”

I will say to those called “Not my people” , “you are my people”

And they will say

“You are my God”

Bible, Theology

Live Like a Limpet


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English Riviera

Back in the day, one of the best summer-time things to do was to roll down Headland Park Road on our mountain bikes and go crabbing in the rock pools of the English Riviera. We’d raid the ‘fishing box’ (an old Wall’s ice cream container) and arrive at the big pools with a bright orange H-shaped crabbing line. (more…)

Bible, Marriage, Theology

Hosea: History, Style, Theology (Intro)


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Letters on a Page

Thinking/praying about the historical, theological and literary contexts of biblical passages is pretty darn important if your hope is to grow in love for God.

How come?

Well, have you ever thought why it is that God decided to make the primary medium of His Self-disclosure to us to be through specific details and letters on a page (yes, pixels on a screen) rather than numbers or code of some kind? Or that He even chose to have a Book at all?

Perhaps God chose words because they convey thoughts and personal information which, in turn, hold potential to convey emotion and therefore form relationships?

Numbers can’t do that.

Whatever the reason, I figure that it’s good to start a study by recognising that words forming different styles of literature, as part of this, history and theological motif, are a big deal to God and packed full of meaning.

So, coming to study Hosea needs thought in each of these areas to really delve into its ‘riches’ (Col.3:16), otherwise it’s like buying a top-of-the-range DSLR camera for thousands of pounds and then only using it for selfies! (more…)

Bible, Theology

Cold Feet? Reconsidering the Call


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How beautiful [and delightful] upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)

There isn’t a question mark in this verse because God is making a statement through the Prophet Isaiah rather than asking a question – notice the exclamation of ‘How beautiful’ – it’s as though God can’t take in how beautiful our feet are to Him. There is a longing in the Word of God for the ones God has made.

Listen to King David in Psalm 16:3,

As for the saints (godly people) who are in the land, they are the majestic and the noble and the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.

Similarly, in Romans 10:15 quoting this exact verse from Isaiah 52 above, Paul makes a bold and missionally motivating proclamation of the beauty of the church rather than asking the church in Rome to go away and work out if they were worthy or able enough.

No. God delights in us and this is the boiler room of our ‘going’. He call us Hephzibah not Azubah or Shemamah; He calls us My Delight is in her not Abandoned or Desolate (See Isaiah 62).

Publishing Good News

God delights in us enough to have orchestrated the great condescension of Jesus from the glory and majesty of the throne of God to the frailty of human frame and the freezing temperatures and animal muck of a farmyard.

Imagine being a Daddy and having a beautiful newborn baby boy. Imagine laying him on a cross of torture and suffering. Imagine placing him down naked on a cold, wet winter pavement, turning away and abandoning him.

What love is this?

This Love is our God and our Saviour.

This Christmas – Cold Feet?

This Christmas I’m taking this verse from Isaiah 52, where God describes our feet as being beautiful, and digging down into why it often is that we live and move and have our being with cold feet rather than the experience of feet that are beautiful.

Why?

Cold Feet is a term often forming part of the stereotype for men and women who have a fear of commitment to long-term relationships or marriage. I’m sure that all of us can relate to this same ‘fear’ when it comes to going hard after God and the great commission – of taking the gospel to the lost.

How about you? Do you have cold feet when it comes to the glorious gospel and ‘publishing’ and proclaiming it boldly for popular consumption? I know I often do.

We need to walk more closely with the Spirit of God.

This Advent – Beautiful Feet

This Advent I’m making room to reconsider Jesus, the call of God on my life and how it is that I “Go” for the sake of the lost, the church and the glory of His name.

Would you join me?

Cold Feet

 

 

 

 

1 John, Church, Culture

Back Stories


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We all have back stories – recorded and unfolding narratives of the span of our life forensically written by the sum of our experiences: great highs, often greater lows, innumerable memories all woven together in the finest detail to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art, hanging as a priceless tapestry in the inner gallery of our heart.

We don’t always want the public to view our own piece hanging there and we don’t honour the pieces that we see of others every day.

Do we walk through these galleries we’re in every day paying cursory glances at the pieces on display? Or could we stop to really look at what we see?

A biblical perspective for back stories is a faith-primed hope of a better future – all because of Jesus: He promises to never leave us alone and in the fullness of time to make all things new.

The difficulty with back stories is that we even struggle to know and understand our own let alone those of others – they require attention, thought and counsel. But understanding and attending to our own will help with our understanding of others.

The thing is – because everyone has come from somewhere, is currently somewhere processing the past and dreaming of a future; and because they are in fact headed somewhere into an unknown place, we must treat each other with the love that John talks about in 1 John. (I won’t quote chapter and verse but how about picking up your Bible, reading 1 John and noting the correlation between our love for Christ and our love for each other?).

See what I mean?

My prayer for myself and for you is that we would draw the same boundary lines as Jesus draws: grace upon grace upon grace upon grace upon grace [until it becomes annoying, ‘unfair’, even ridiculous] upon grace upon grace. You’ll need an eraser for sure; so will I:

We all know the feeling of being found outside of the boundary lines that others have drawn for us, (even in ink), essentially leaving us in relational exile where grace has run dry; but in the power of the Holy Spirit of God we can all be prayerful students of back story masterpieces and come to truly understand that each piece really does paint a million words.