Transformed by Jolting Grace
June 22, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Hosea’s tumultuous marriage to Gomer provides a jolting picture of God’s relationship with his people. It is meant to be unsettling. God desires it to raise questions in our minds. Gomer’s unfaithfulness, used as a mirror to uncover our own spiritual unfaithfulness, is meant to break us and humble us before God. Hosea’s, and God’s, tender, gracious, and forgiving care for his bride is meant to be just as jolting. This jolting grace has the power to transform us. How does that work?
Hosea 2 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible to help us understand our relationship with God. It addresses sin, the consequences of sin, God’s gracious movements to protect and rescue us from sin, God’s covenant commitment to redeem his people, and our future hope in communion with God. Verses 16-20, using the language of renewing marriage vows, give us a glimpse into how God’s jolting grace changes us. Look at these verses and then let me highlight how this works.
"And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me 'My Husband,' and no longer will you call me 'My Baal.' For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 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. 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. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.”
We are the unfaithful bride that has chased after lesser gods and pleasures. God, in his jolting grace, allures us (v. 14) back to himself and covenants himself to renew us. The beautiful imagery of these verses highlights at least three works of God and his grace to transform us.
- God clarifies our relationship with him. In verse 14 God says that “you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’” The use of the word “Baal” has a double meaning. On the one hand, Baal is the name of the Canaanite idols that Israel chased after for their needs, forgetting that it was God who was meeting their needs. On the other hand, Baal literally means master or lord. Having his people call him “My Husband” instead of “My Master,” God emphasizes what kind of relationship he desires with his people. He is not a taskmaster of slaves. He is not an employer with workers. He is not some disgruntled deity looking to be appeased by his peons. He is a lover who delights to lavish his grace on his people.
How does a clarification of relationship (a DTR, if you will) transform us? It opens the doors to pursue God, to have fellowship with him, to commune with him, to approach his throne seeking mercy and grace in the time of need. We cannot change ourselves. God changes us. If we avoid God and do not seek to commune with God (because we have some faulting view of him), we will never be changed.
- Through knowledge, God wins our hearts. Faithfulness, ultimately, is a matter of the heart. Faithfulness springs from delight and joy and satisfaction and contentment and resting. How does God draw faithfulness from us? Through knowledge. Our hearts treasure that which our minds esteem as valuable. So, God says in verse 17, “I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.” God is promising a renewal of mind. This is a reversal of the root of sin: forgetting God (v. 13). We shall “forget” the idolatry of our hearts and all their empty promises. Then, in verse 20, God says we “shall know the Lord.” Forgetting idols. Knowing the Lord. God does this through the means of grace: his Word (read, studied, memorized, meditated on, preached, etc.), his sacraments (reminding and reassuring us of his grace), and prayer (communing with a God who is more like a husband to us than an employer). Through the renewal of our minds, our hearts are won over to treasure God and all he has done for us, and so faithfulness grows.
- God rubs off on us by binding us to himself. In verses 19 & 20 God says, “I will betroth you to me” three times. In Hebrew, the repetition of a word or phrase three times is used for emphasis (think of “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” in Isaiah 6:3). So, God emphasizes his covenant commitment to his people. He will never abandon or leave or forget his people. We can say that God is more committed to a relationship with you and me than we will ever be. And his betrothal is forever, in righteousness, in justice, in steadfast love, in mercy, and in faithfulness. These are the core character qualities of God (see Ex. 34:6). In covenanting himself to us, God aims to rub off on us, so to speak, so that we become like him. Cultivating that intimate relationship with God leads to transformation.
God wants us to be renewed in Christ, transformed by his grace. He does this work in a covenant relationship with us. Are you availing yourself of God’s covenanted transformation plan? Don’t wander from God like Israel of the Old Testament. Let him allure you.