Back in the ’80s, when a large number of my girlfriends and I struggled with being “thirty-something and still single,” teachings arose that encouraged us to regard Jesus as our Husband. Even some of my married friends began thinking of their relationships with Him in romantic (and sometimes slightly erotic) terms. One married friend of mine supported her position by appealing to Hosea 2:14-20.
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. (ESV)
A few days ago, as I started reading Hosea in my morning Quiet Time, I thought back to that conversation and shook my head at the misapplication of those two verses. Thrilling though it may be to imagine an individual romance with the Lord (especially the ideas of Him “alluring” us and “‘betrothing us to Himself forever”), we need to understand the context of this passage.
Hosea prophesied to the kings of Israel and Judah in the years leading up to God’s judgment on these two kingdoms by the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities (Hosea 1:1). To illustrate God’s displeasure with the unfaithfulness of His chosen people, Hosea married a harlot. The marriage produced three children whose names illustrated the Lord’s temporary rejection of Israel and Judah in judgment of their rebellious infidelity. In other words, God commanded him to live out a very graphic demonstration of the spiritual adultery that Israel and Judah committed.
From there, God pleaded with Israel and Judah to return to Him, warning of humiliating and degrading judgment if they persisted in unfaithfulness (Hosea 2:2-13). Therefore, the passage that follows assured Israel that, after they had suffered through that judgment, He would once again show them such tender mercy that they would respond with fidelity to Him.
Certainly, Christians can apply the basic principle of this passage, but not as a defense of the Jesus-is-my-Boyfriend mentality. Rather, we recognize that He “wooed” us to Himself by dying on the cross to bear the wrath of God that we deserved. He rose from the dead to give us His life, which empowers us to resist sin so that we can be faithful to His commands. And He will return one day, as a Bridegroom comes to claim His Bride, to take His Church to be eternally with Him. Please don’t settle for a lesser, if not cheaper, application of Scripture.