Marriage begins with great love, joy and happiness. It begins with a vow of faithfulness, a promise to love our spouse until we die. With all hopefulness, couples begin their new lives together, expecting to love one another through all the challenges that life may bring. Unfortunately, about half of marriages eventually end in divorce, a devastating experience for both spouses and their children. The loss of love affects us deeply. Many members of a family, who experience a divorce, carry the scars for life. When unfaithfulness is the cause of divorce, it can leave even more profound wounds from which many do not fully recover. Feelings of betrayal and shattered trust are often carried into future relationships. After the shock and disillusionment, a natural response to unfaithfulness is anger. It is a justifiable anger that expresses our unfathomable disappointment for a trust that has been crushed. Have you experienced the unfaithfulness of someone who you loved?
On numerous occasions, scripture uses unfaithfulness in marriage as an analogy to express the disloyalty of man to a God who loves us immeasurably. When God makes a covenant with man, it is often compared to a marriage vow. It is an eternal promise, and when God makes a promise, He is never unfaithful. One example, which illustrates God’s faithfulness to an unfaithful people, is found in the Book of Hosea. The tribe of Ephraim led the 10 northern tribes of Israel in a revolt against the two southern tribes of Judah. It was one of the northern kingdom’s wives, Jezebel, who introduced the worship of Baal and caused the people to abandon God. Hosea lived decades later, during the time when Israel was about to be overtaken by the Assyrians. Hosea warned Israel of impending destruction, if they did not repent and return to the love of God, but they did not heed the warnings. Assyria would soon attack Israel and the people would be taken into captivity and exiled from their land. The 10 tribes would eventually be scattered among other nations.
The prophet, Hosea, begins his story by recounting his own experience. God commanded him to marry a prostitute. Yes, that’s right, a prostitute. Through Hosea, we are given insights into the fidelity of God’s love for us. Hosea relates how he felt when his wife was unfaithful as he expresses God’s disappointment in His peoples’ disloyalty. At first, Hosea conveys God’s anger: “I will put an end to all her mirth…And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees…the beasts of the field shall devour them...And I will punish her for the feast days of the Ba′als…when she…went after her lovers, and forgot me” (Hosea 2:11-13).
Although God expressed His anger in Israel’s unfaithfulness, God is a loving God. Hosea 11:8-9 beautifully articulates God’s compassion for Israel:
How can I make you like Admah! (one of the cities destroyed near Sodom)
How can I treat you like Zeboi′im! (another city destroyed near Sodom)
My heart recoils within me,
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my fierce anger,
I will not again destroy E′phraim;
for I am God and not man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come to destroy.
Hosea also has compassion for his unfaithful wife. Throughout his account, Hosea relates the depth of understanding he developed about unfaithfulness through his own experience. He eventually redeems his wife by buying her back out of slavery. In His infinite mercy, God could not allow the destruction of Israel. Instead, Assyria removed the 10 tribes from their land, some in captivity and others in exile. The remnants would eventually make homes throughout the nations of the Middle East and along the Mediterranean. Instead of destroying the northern tribes, God scattered them to await a future time of redemption.
God would send His Son to redeem His people, to die for Israel, Judah and all of mankind. His love for us, even in our unfaithfulness, is so overwhelming, that He chose to become a man like us to demonstrate His own faithfulness toward us. God’s covenant is a promise to love us eternally. Those who choose to love Christ will “rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb (Christ) has come, and his Bride (Christ’s Church) has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure” (Revelation 19:7-8). The Church is made pure through the blood Jesus shed on the cross. His perfect sacrifice has washed away our unfaithfulness. Through the mercy and compassion of Christ, we are able to present ourselves as a faithful bride, who is forgiven of every sin.