October 5, 2012

The Lavish Love of God


For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. (vs. 5)
I promise you that every single struggle I've had in my relationship with Christ, behind every lie I've ever allowed myself to believe, they were and are always rooted in a skewed perception of God's character. I need to have the attributes of God hammered in my head over and over and over... and over again. That's exactly what God is doing in this verse. Did you happen to catch them all? He's disclosing and describing Himself in 6 specific ways to His people: Maker, [Soul] Husband, Lord of hosts, Holy One, Redeemer, and the God of the whole earth. So the question to ask is "Why?" Why does God choose these 6 here? I want to zoom in on the three that stuck out the most to me for now.

Lord of Hosts. Lord of hosts is used in reference to the warrior side of our God. He fights for the Israelites, His chosen people, His bride, the church... for you and I. The first time God ever describes Himself in this way in scripture is found in Hannah's story (there's so many echos of Hannah's story in this passage), which we touched on earlier:
Now this man [Elkanah] used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh... (1Samuel 1:3)
The Hebrew word for Lord of hosts is tseba'ot. It's meant to convey God's "plentifulness." I don't think it's an accident that God chose to pronounce His plentifulness in a story that's about a woman who is lacking... who is that exact opposite of being plentiful. Because we have the theme of barrenness woven in her story and in Isaiah 54, it makes sense that God wants the Israelites to remember that though they may be barren, they serve the God of plenty.

God as THE Redeemer. The root word for redeemer is ga'al. It's similar to when 'redeemer' is used in the context of Ruth's story. (Boaz redeems Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, when he marries Ruth) To 'redeem' is to buy back something or someone. Recall that Israel is in captivity to the Babylonians at the time, and remember that in each way God is disclosing Himself, He is conveying an action or promise on His part to fulfill. With Him, the Israelites will no longer be barren, as He will make them plentiful. With Him, the Israelites will be "bought back," or rather redeemed by Him, no longer in Babylon's "cage."

God as (Soul) Husband. I'm single, and have yet to be married... so to be honest I don't have a whole lot of context as to relating to God as Husband (I feel for you guys here too... I don't know how you relate to that either), and it's a hard idea to wrap my head around. Really, I can only go off of how others have defined what being a husband means, in which case I love this quote from Elizabeth Elliot:
To husband means... 'to take care of,' 'to cherish.' As Christ cherishes His own Body, His Bride-that is, us-- so a man cherishes a woman: holds her dear, values her highly, treats her tenderly. -from The Mark of a Man
Cherish. I agree. If a man cherishes and treats a woman tenderly it's only a matter of time before he has her heart. To cherish means "to protect or care for something dearly... keep in mind... hold dearly... and treat affectionately" (New Oxford Dictionary), and tenderness means "to be sensitive, gentle, and kind" towards another (New Oxford Dictionary). In Isaiah God wants His people to know that He does indeed cherish His children, Israel, like a husband. He protects and cares for us, shows us great kindness, loves us with much affection, and rejoices (to take delight and joy) over us:
...and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.  ~Isaiah 62:4-5
The Israelites, in the midst of their exile, probably were not relating to God in light of who He said He was, and if you're anything like me there are times where I don't either. But, even when we don't feel like He is, God is indeed all of them. He knows us fully, and cherishes us. He redeems us from all our sin and whatever seeks to hold us captive. He rescues us from trouble as a warrior would fight and protect for whom he loves. No matter what season we find ourselves in, be it of bounty, or barrenness, He calls us to worship Him in light of who He's revealed Himself to be.
For the Lord has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.  For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you," says the Lord, your Redeemer. (vs. 6-8, emphasis mine)
We need to remember that for Israel... this exile was kind of a deserved "time-out" so to speak. They had disobeyed God and gone to worship other idols. Because of that, God says they are like a wife whose been deserted (stigma #3), meaning to be left without resources. See, without God, you and I have nothing. We need Him desperately. And when we choose to worship false gods rather than Him, essentially, we can and do cut ourselves off from the God of plenty. False gods can't truly provide for us, only God can. As mentioned earlier, we cannot bear fruit, unless we remain connected to the true vine, Christ Jesus. Here in Isaiah, God isn't going to desert His people, but rather out of grace, He's going to first, show them compassion (raham: to love deeply):
True compassion is based on true knowledge, to take action on what is truly needed, ~Unknown
Secondly, He is going to gather His people (and you and I), which is to say, He protects and holds us close, out of His everlasting love... it has no end, and it is not merited by anything we do or don't do, but because of how wonderful He is and that He extends grace. When barrenness sets in, it's easy to forget who God is, but throughout verses 5-8, God lovingly reminds us. He beckons us to trust and act upon His good, gracious character: Isaiah 55.
The future of God's people is not rejected or even cool relational distance, but the joy and passion of a marriage forever young. -Raymond C. Ortland Jr. 

2 comments :

  1. Goodness you're clever. I love this and love that you'r sharing it with us!

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  2. We're going through the attributes of God for Bible Study and it's so great you posted about this! It's so important to know who God is before we can now who we are (His, of course!). Thank you so much—your series are really timely

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