Thursday, January 20, 2011

I will allure her: Espousal Evangelism & Discipleship with Hosea 2:14

The book of Hosea is up there as one of the oddest prophets. Hosea is comissioned to marry a prostitute so that he can feel and display the horror of Israel's spiritual adultery. Their relationship graphically shows how sin isn't just law-breaking but a matter of the heart as Gomer wanders away from Hosea and credits others with giving her all that she has from Hosea. The lesson is clear to the tender hearted listener.

I am so wayward as I fawn around seeking the approval of others, hoping they'll think much of me when I'm already more loved than I could begin to imagine. Protecting myself by keeping my distance instead of opening my heart.

There will be punishment for sin, for Gomer and Israel - the jealous love of the LORD burns to strip away her blessings, to expose her lewdness, to punish her idolatry.

As Gomer sinks to her lowest she is in the wilderness. A classic Biblical location. A place of wandering, a place where the promised land should look beautiful but where sin can also seem attractive. The wilderness is not a place for living, it's not where the repentant are, its where those hiding and running are likely to be found, a place of testing and temptation - where only one has held his ground.

What comes next? Abandonment? Further chastisement? Compulsion? He comes:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her."
(Hosea 2:14 ESV)
No! Jesus the LORD will come and allure her in the wilderness, he has tender words to speak to her. Spurgeon observed: "instead of wooing sinners and alluring them, there are some who, if they do not go to the length of physical force, nevertheless seem as if they would bully them to Christ, they speak to them so sharply and sternly. There is never any good done in that way. There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and more souls are brought to Christ by sweet words than by sour and bitter ones" 

He will address her wayward heart and romance her. He finds reason for grace where there is none. He will win her heart again. He will show her mercy. And then she will call him not master but Husband (2:16) and betroth her to himself (2:20 'I will betroth you to me').Matthew Henry has it: "believers are enabled to expect infinitely more tenderness and kindness from their holy God, than a beloved wife can expect from the kindest husband." For he will be their husband:
"For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough."
(2 Corinthians 11:2-4 ESV)
With what words will Jesus the LORD allure this prostitue? With the gospel.

For the goal is to betroth to Christ with sincere and pure devotion. At times a prophet is sent, at times Jesus himself comes directly - but the goal is the same, whether in the ministry of an evangelist or a pastor, at all times to win the heart to Christ, feeling Jesus' divine jealousy for his bride. Alluring is persuasive but cannot be cold and intellectual, it must engage the heart, it must involve beauty, it must bring beauty to bear upon the heart. It does not just say what is beautiful about Christ, but shows Christ to the heart. Spurgeon preached it this way:
"Do any of you feel some soft drawing? Is there a pierced hand touching you and a loving voice saying, “Seek the Lord”? Have you been very hard, up till now, but does an unusual gentleness steal over your spirit as you are sitting in this House of Prayer? Give yourself up to it—it may be that the time of Divine Grace is now upon you. I hope that it is so, that your birth-night has come and that you are passing from death unto life!"
The gospel does not just speak of Christ, but in the preaching of the gospel he is brought to the heart of the listener, in the moment, in the room: Christ who came out to me in the wilderness, laying himself down, bearing the punishment due to me, and speaking with his very life and death to my heart to win me for himself...


  1. Absolutely beautiful and timely reminder. Having recently married, I am amazed each day when my husband's love allows me to understand God's love a little more. He is like a window to the Divine - if only more Christians could enact this principle.

  2. The question would be why would people be reluctant too think in marital terms when God so massively does? And just maybe that's why he made us like we are and designed marriage for us...