Here’s a recent study I had with the group of men that I have the privilege of meeting with each week for lunch on Wednesdays. I believe even ladies will find it most interesting. It’s written of course from a man’s perspective…
Men, do you ever wonder if there is a “perfect wife” out there somewhere? Do you get upset when your wife doesn’t do what you want or expect? Do you allow her differences and idiosyncrasies to drive you crazy? (Be careful how you answer that one…because someone may ask her that question about you? Ha!) Do you focus on the “negatives” with your bride?
Maybe we should put it in this context to help us. How are you at work? Do you try to do a good job? Do you attempt to overlook the negative things about your company or employer of job, so as to get the job done? Do you deal with people at work that are kind of a “pain” or hard to deal with? Do you have to get beyond these issues to be able to survive and do your job and make a living? I bet the answer is “yes” to all of the above. I assume you have trained yourself to be able to focus on other things instead of all the negatives.
Well, we must do the same in our marriages. That may sound simple and trite, but it’s true. We have to focus on the good and not the bad. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:28:
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:28
Can I ask you a question? Do you have any problems with your body? I’m laughing as I type that sentence…because, boy I sure do. I have a double-chin, no hair, toothpicks for legs and…well…I’ll stop with that…the mental image may be killing you at this point. Ha! The point is…yes…we all have issues…problems…things about our bodies that we don’t like. So, what do we do about these? We work on them don’t we? I’ve shaved my head because it looks better than having a bird’s nest on top. I wear long pants most of the time, because I don’t want to blind people with how white they are and get laughs about how skinny they are. Bottom line…I try to take care of my body the best I can…because it’s the only one I have. The same is true of our wives…so says the Word of God in Ephesians 5:28. We should love our wives as our own bodies. We feed our bodies, bathe our bodies, clothe it, groom it, exercise it, etc. If it’s sick, we take it the doctor and get medicine and at times, we may even have to take it to the hospital or have surgery to fix it.
It takes maintenance to take care of our bodies…and our marriages take maintenance to take care of them. More on this in a minute…but, for now…I want to show you a marriage that I believe is one of the worst you could imagine. I want you and me to see how a man of God named Hosea chose to obey God and how he was obedient even in very, very difficult marital circumstances.
It was about 760 years before Jesus was born. Jeroboam II was on the throne of the northern kingdom of Israel, and his military exploits had extended Israel’s borders farther than they had been since the days of Solomon’s glorious kingdom. Tribute money from subject nations was pouring into the treasury at the capital city of Samaria, and the people of Israel were enjoying a period of unprecedented prosperity.
As is often the case, with prosperity came moral and spiritual degeneration. But the thing that grieved the heart of God more than anything else was the sin of idolatry (Hos. 4:12, 13; 13:2). The golden calves set up by Jeroboam I about 150 years earlier had opened the floodgates to every evil expression of Canaanite idolatry, including drunkenness, religious prostitution and human sacrifice. Since the Lord viewed Israel as His wife, He viewed her worship of other gods as spiritual adultery. The Old Testament speaks frequently of Israel whoring after or playing the harlot with other gods (e.g., Deut. 31:16; Judg. 2:17). Jehovah had told Israel from the beginning that he would not share her with others. “You shall have no other gods before Me” was the first of his ten great commandments (Ex. 20:3).
The very first thing God ever said to Hosea tells us about his unlikely marriage: “When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.” (Hos. 1:2). These instructions have been variously understood by different students of Scripture through the years. Some believe that God was commanding Hosea to marry a woman who had formerly been a prostitute. Others contend that taking a wife of harlotry would merely refer to marrying a woman from the northern kingdom of Israel, a land which was guilty of spiritual adultery. Personally, I believe she was a prostitute. In either case, it is obvious that she was a woman who had been deeply affected by the moral filth of her society, and God intended to use the prophet’s personal relationship with her as a penetrating object lesson of His own relationship with His unfaithful people, Israel. Whatever her past, God directed Hosea to take her as his wife, and so it was that Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, became the unlikely wife of this young prophet. Can you imagine? It would be like a preacher marrying a prostitute in our day. Can you imagine the scandal? Hosea was a brave and may I say, “obedient” man of God. God has never asked me to do anything like this? Has He asked you to do such? Probably not. Yet, what if He did? Would you? Would I?
Eventually, after giving birth to their first child, Jezreel, Hosea seems to have noticed a change in Gomer. She became restless and unhappy, like a bird trapped in a cage. He went on preaching, encouraging the wayward nation to turn from its sin and trust God for deliverance from the threat of surrounding nations. “Return unto the Lord!” was the theme of his message, and he preached it repeatedly with power (Hos. 6:1; 14:1).
I noticed something while reading the book of Hosea. I noticed that as I read, it appears Hosea and Gomer grew apart. Hosea was doing his job preaching…Gomer was at home with the child…and soon her past and her background began wooing her away. You know the dangers are great when a husband and wife have few interests in common. It seems that he went his way and she went hers. I see this so often today. Do you? Husband and wife have their own set of friends, their own set of interests and literally their own separate lives. Because of this…there is usually little communication to bring their two worlds together except for the occasional “passing conversation” that centers more on who’s picking up the cleaning and what time are the kids’ practices?
Often I find a man’s preoccupation with his work or sports or hobbies are usually major contributing factors to this “drifting away.” Yes, it can be the wife’s issue as well. Perhaps it’s her growing involvement in outside activities and subsequent neglect of the home. It may simply be a disinterest in the things of the Lord on the part of either husband or wife. But it sets the scene for great calamity. Bottom line…husbands and wives need to do things TOGETHER and as families and to take an interest in each other’s activities. If they don’t…it will almost guarantee a drifting away to the point that they simply “co-exist” in the same house.
Eventually, more children were born. No sooner had little Lo-Ruhamah been weaned than Gomer conceived again. It was another boy. God told Hosea to call him Lo-Ammi, which meant “not my people,” or “no kin of mine.” It symbolized Israel’s alienation from Jehovah God, but it also exposed Gomer’s sinful escapades. That child born in Hosea’s house was not his. The name reflected that fact. It was all out in the open now. Everyone knew about Gomer’s affairs. The entire second chapter of Hosea’s prophecy describes Gods relationship with his unfaithful wife Israel and it parallels the situation with Hosea and Gomer. God, through Hosea pleaded with his people, Israel, (2:2), as I’m sure Hosea did with Gomer. He threatened to disinherit her (2:3). But still she ran off with her lovers because they promised to lavish material things on her (2:5). He tried to stop her on occasion (2:6), but she continued to seek her companions in sin (2:7). Hosea would take her back in loving forgiveness and they would try again. But her repentance would be short-lived and soon she would be off again with another new lover.
Then the final blow fell. Maybe it was a note, maybe word sent by a friend, no one knows and Scripture doesn’t say, but the essence of it seems to have been, “I’m leaving for good this time. I’ve found my true love. I’ll never come back again.” How Hosea must have suffered! He loved her deeply and grieved for her as though she had been taken in death. His heart ached that she should choose a life that would surely bring her to ruin. His friends were probably saying, “Good riddance to her, Hosea. Now you’ll be through with her adulterous ways once and for all.” But Hosea did not feel that way. He longed for her to come home. Just as a side note…a lot of times, well-meaning friends and family will give advice to those that are separated and encourage them to “chuck it all.” They’ll say, “You deserve better. You shouldn’t put up with that.” Yet, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). So, we should be very careful in how we “counsel” someone who is separated. We should take them to Scripture (Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7).
Here’s what is very significant to me. We cannot escape the message of God’s undying love for His people nor Hosea’s for Gomer. Hosea wanted to see Gomer restored to his side as his faithful wife. And he believed that God was great enough to do it. One day word came that Gomer had been deserted by her lover and had been sold into slavery and had hit rock-bottom. This would have been the last straw for most men. But, Hosea loved Gomer “as himself.” While there were those that thought: ”Certainly now Hosea will forget her.” Yet, his heart said “No.” He could not give her up. And then God spoke to him: “The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…” (Hos. 3:1).
Gomer was still married to Hosea even though she was an adulteress, and God wanted him to seek her out and show his love to her again. How could anyone love that deeply? The answer was right there in God’s instructions to Hosea, “as the Lord loves.” Only one who knows the love and forgiveness of God can ever love this perfectly. And one who has experienced His loving forgiveness cannot help but love and forgive others. Remember men…as Christian husbands, we are commanded to love our wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph. 5:25), and Hosea is an outstanding biblical example of that kind of love.
So he began his search, driven by that indestructible divine love, love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love that never ends or never fails. (1 Cor. 13) And he found her. In my mind I see her as ragged, torn, sick, dirty, disheveled, destitute, most likely chained to an auction block in a filthy slave market, a repulsive shadow of the woman she once was. We wonder how anyone could love her now. But Hosea bought her from her slavery for fifteen shekels of silver and thirteen bushels of barley (Hos. 3:2). Then he said to her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.” (Hos. 3:3). Isn’t that amazing! He went and “bought” his wife! Can you imagine the look on her face when she saw him and then actually heard him bidding for her? Can you see the tears and the humiliation, the gratitude, the shame, the joy of being freed, all those emotions…all rolled up into one?
So, men…how many times should a husband or wife forgive? Some contend, “If I keep forgiving, then it looks like I condone their lifestyle and pattern of sin.” Or “If I keep forgiving, she’ll think she can get away with anything she wants.” Others say, “If I keep forgiving, it’s like putting my seal of approval on his behavior.” Or “I can’t take another hurt like that. If he does that one more time, I’m leaving.” Those are human responses. Listen to the response of the Lord Jesus. You see, Peter had asked the Lord this same question: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” The Lord’s answer was, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21, 22). What Jesus was saying is we must be willing to forgive over and over again. He was saying it’s an infinite number…there is no end to forgiveness. And indeed…there is no end to God’s forgiveness! Hallelujah!
Sometimes it’s just the little slights and daily agitations that need forgiveness, the occasional sharp word or angry exchange before you walk out the door. But what do we do? We harbor it, let it eat at us, and build up bitterness and resentment which brings down the relationship and causes that “emotional drift.” Maybe it is a major offense, like Gomer’s, and we can never forget it. We stew on it and fret over it, and we keep bringing it up in a subconscious attempt to punish our mate for the hurts we have suffered. We try to forgive, but a few days later it’s right there again, preying on our consciousness. Big wounds sometimes take longer to heal. They will come back to our minds. There is no way to avoid it. But every time they do, we must first remind ourselves that we really DID forgive, then rehearse how much God has forgiven us, then ask Him to take the destructive, unforgiving thoughts out of our minds.
I understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean that we must not guard against and take positive steps to keep the sin from recurring. This may even require some extended counseling. It might demand an honest reassessment of our personalities or habits. It may mean that some priorities must change in the home. It probably means there has been little praying and little reading of the Word of God together and this must change. It might even mean that you downsize your life and simplify to the point that you can truly have time with one another as a family. It might mean drastic changes in our life-style, a job change or even a relocation. But, is there to great a price to pay to “buy back” the marriage. Hosea didn’t think the price was too great? Nor did God…and it cost Him His one and only Son.
In light of God’s forgiveness…we learn that true forgiveness means someone will pay for the other person’s offenses. We will refuse to retaliate in any way to make the guilty person pay. We will absolve him of all guilt. God uses that kind of “forgiving” love to melt hardened hearts and change callused lives quicker than anything else in this whole wide world. That is the lesson of Hosea and Gomer, the lesson of forgiveness. Please hear me…God hates sin; it grieves His heart; He cannot condone it; His perfect righteousness and justice demand that He deal with it. But He still loves sinners and diligently seeks them out and offers them His loving forgiveness.
We need to love like that. We need to forgive like that. We need to drag the festering hurts we have been harboring in our hearts to the cross of Christ—where we laid our own burden of guilt down one day and where we found God’s loving forgiveness. And we must leave them all there. When we fully forgive, our minds will be released from the bondage of resentment that has been building a wall between us, and we will be free to grow in our relationship with our brides.
You know what? I think I’ll go shave my head…it needs it (husbands loving their own bodies)…and after that…hmm…I think I’ll go do some dishes and fold some laundry…because she needs it.
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:28
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