~ I am very dark, but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
like the curtains of Solomon ~
Our Obsession with the Outward
Other than all being blokes with varying degrees of sex appeal, what do Dale Winton, Donald Trump and Bradley Cooper all have in common?
They all have terrible fake tans.
Granted, this probably isn’t the most Solomonic introduction I’ll ever write on this blog but one that still has a measure of poignancy for this second instalment in our Song of Solomon series:
Our obsession with the external appearance of things – the way we look – is one of the most controlling and crippling idols known to man. It leads us to do the craziest of things: gluttony over God; now over forever; prison over mountainous climbs; temporary over eternal; counterfeits over truth and C.S.Lewis’ mud pies over holidays at the sea.
It’s been this way since Adam and Eve lurched naked into the undergrowth to break off handfuls of shrubbery with which to conceal their first furtive blushes before God, (Genesis 3). (more…)
Jack is a young lad who goes to the same gym as us – I guess he must be in his very early twenties – and, very unusually for any bloke in the gym, recently opened up to me while we were stood recovering together next to the leg extension machine.
I’d asked him, “how you doing?” and, rather than giving an off-the-shelf response conveying that nothing in life was even remotely problematic or worrisome, he responded by saying, “I’m doing a bit better now, thanks…”.
What’s going on here then, I wondered. (more…)
“Listen! My beloved!
Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
bounding over the hills.”
He’s leaping and bounding towards us. He’s coming over the horizon. He’s walking up the road. He’ll be here any moment. What do you do? Tidy the house? Hide?
Run out to meet him. And he says: Arise, come with me… (more…)
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.
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”
The book of Hosea is full of a kind of beauty that will take our breath away…if we will let it.
I’m taking Chapter 1 today, solo, just to set the scene, then 2 & 3 together next week and then a couple more posts to cover the remaining 12 chapters. Boom!
- Remember in verse 1, crucially, the context has been set like some kind of historical GPS for us. (More detail here).
- Then verse two begins the first of two prose/narrative sections that act as book ends on the more poetic middle of the book that we’ll come to in another post.
- We’re assured straight away that this is the LORD speaking – as though we needed reminding – bringing to mind 2 Timothy 3:16 that “…all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful…”. This is Hosea speaking but it is the Lord of all creation who is speaking through Him.
In order to speak prophetically to a Nation and to achieve redemption and righteousness for them, God invades, exposes and demands the masculinity of Hosea’s ego, his social and spiritual reputation, his lineage, his peace, his joy, his sanity, his sexual satisfaction and purity and, most ultimately, the emotional bed of his heart.
Day 2 – Mairi
Summary of Chapter 2
The kingdom of heaven is like a King Who prepared a wedding banquet for his Son
A bit later in this chapter of Matthew’s gospel, a Pharisee approaches Jesus to test Him, not love him. (v36)
Try reading Matthew 22: 36-37 like this:
In Matthew 9, Jesus has a bunch of finger-pointing guys come up to Him and demand an explanation for His disciples not fasting while the disciples of John were. (Matthew 9:15)
Jesus’ response was surprising because He pointed immediately to the issue of His forthcoming absence as being the fitting time for His disciples to fast and the appropriate time for their ‘mourning’.
This word ‘mourning’ isn’t sadness as we understand it in human terms. It’s a word linked to the word in Psalm 84:2 that describes what was happening to the psalmist’s soul…i.e. it was faint, pining, longing and homesick for that place of full presence of his God.
The significance of Jesus pointing to His identity as a Bridegroom God in response to the question about fasting has a massive implication about how the end-time church ‘gets itself ready’ (Rev. 19:7). The end-time church will be a praying church full of the grace of fasting, prayer and worship and who are homesick for their God. The end-time church will have an authority in response the spiritual darkness plaguing the Nations…the authority will come from a radical change in lifestyle of the church and transfer of appetites of believers.
Every year, multiplied hundreds of thousands of Muslim believers fast and pray and enter into intercessory places in the spiritual realms. Do their fastings and prayers effect the spiritual climate of the Nations? Absolutely. It is estimated that, by 2040, 50% of Europe will be Islamic. Europe, not the middle East. Things happen when believers join hands in holy prayer and give themselves to fasting in ways that, currently, we perceive to be radical.
Is it really radical that the praying Christian church arise and enter into new lifestyles of personal and corporate prayer? Is it really radical for the young people of this Nation to prefer the place of prayer to Night clubs and bars? There is no high like the Most High. The lifestyle of prayer, worship and fasting that Jesus desires from is bride is not doable in isolation….it requires the strength and safety of a company of believers.
So, like Lucy in Lewis’ Narnia, there is an invitation to have an extra sensory (Eph.1:17) awareness of the movement of Jesus. Of the four children, Lucy has a special relationship with Aslan who, for her, was everything. When it came time for Aslan to leave, Lucy mourned and fasted by leaving the party.
May we miss Jesus. May we become more abandoned in our love for Him. May we encounter His nearness as we give ourselves to prayer and fasting and discover the authority that will break every spiritual bond of darkness in this Nation and see the veil of unbelief blown off the eyes of unbelievers, just as Lucy’s Aslan breathed on stone statues and saw life return.
And may we pray and fast for His return.
“Come, Lord Jesus, come…the Spirit and the Bride say come!”