This a time for romance. For love. For commitment. For loyalty.
Interestingly, God describes his relationship with his people in those terms.
We know that “God is love” (1Jn 4.8, 16)—that he has always been in relationship among the persons of the Godhead; he has never been alone. Love is natural for him; it’s part of who he is.
We know that “we love him because he first loved us” (1Jn 4.19)—that he initiated the relationship with us, even though we had wronged him (Ro 3.23). In fact, he lovingly anticipated that relationship before we even existed—before the earth itself existed (Ep 1.4).
We know that his most oft-repeated description of himself includes “lovingkindness” (Heb hesed), a far-reaching word not captured by any single English word, but including loving loyalty to a covenant relationship. It’s the attribute that keeps 60-year marriages together in spite of everything.
That’s the kind of relationship God wants with us.
We can imagine, then, how our sin must grieve his heart. In fact, he describes the sin of his people as adultery, violation of the marriage relationship.
I’ve been a believer for more than 60 years. Every day of those 60 years, I have fallen short of the glory of God. I’ve been unfaithful to the relationship.
That’s over 22,000 days of adultery.
How many would it take for you to give up on your spouse?
Yet God continues to welcome us back, to forgive our unfaithfulness, to restore the relationship.
God illustrates his love for us in a couple of stories he tells his people. One is in the book of Hosea, where he tells the prophet to marry a woman who will be unfaithful to him—as Israel has been unfaithful to their God.
There’s another story, a less-well-known one, in Ezekiel 16.
Ezekiel is writing long after Hosea—so long, in fact, that Judah has now gone into captivity in Babylon, and Ezekiel is prophesying to them in the Jewish community there. He speaks God’s words to the community—
- One day God found an abandoned baby by the side of the road, newborn, unwashed, unwanted. He took her home and cleaned her up, and then he began to provide for her needs: food, clothing, shelter. For years he raised her—lavishly—as his own daughter.
- When she became an adult, a beautiful woman, his love for her led him to take her as his wife.
- But she was unfaithful. She went after other lovers, not merely being seduced by them but seducing them, and aggressively. She pressured them; she even paid them. She made Sodom seem mild by comparison. She broke his heart.
What a horrifying account.
But it doesn’t end in divorce, or retaliation, or expulsion, or murder, or any of the things we would expect from a human relationship of this sort.
It ends in restoration, reunification, love.
And not because the unfaithful wife pleads for forgiveness.
Because the maltreated Husband remembers and is faithful to the marriage covenant, to the permanence of the relationship:
60 Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. 61 … . 62 Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord (Ezk 16.60, 62).
O wondrous love that will not let me go,
I cling to You with all my strength and soul;
Yet if my hold should ever fail
This wondrous love will never let me go!
(Steve and Vikki Cook)
Happy Valentine’s Day.