The humble walk

An odd thing happens to me many times after a mountaintop experience with God.  Though I knew, when He pulled me onto the peak, that it was all Him–a total gift, and extravagant blessing–somehow once I am standing foot on the mountaintop I nearly utterly forget this and begin to believe that there was something spectacularly meritful I did to receive this experience, that I am more advanced that all my classmates, that I have arrived.

It is a long fall off the mountain.  For as soon as I take a step on my own footing is the moment I walk on crumbling ground.

Sometimes, after God has reached down for me and pulled me onto a ledge to give me escape from my own spiritual death, I wonder exactly how, exactly why I think God is actually willing to use me.  Sometimes I feel like the diseased Israelite outside the camp who should shout,

‘Unclean! Unclean!’ (Leviticus 13:45b)

And between feeling so sorry for myself, so unwilling to admit the devastation of my fall, and so embarrassed that I have dared to fail Christ once again, I want to wrap my cloak around myself and stay on the ledge and disappear from the world’s sight.

But then . . I think of this.

Since God has rescued me from the full fall each time . . since He pulled me from the precipice of Hell itself to make me His own . . since I am the world’s greatest wretch . . I find an unquenchable desire to share my testimony . . rather, God’s testimony.

Hosea was a man commanded by God to do something unthinkable at that time.

 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2, NIV)

This was a real man God was asking to marry a cheating woman.  Hosea, a prophet of God, no doubt would have chosen a wife for himself who he would believe would be faithful to him, who would be inseparable from him.  But God asked him to marry a woman knowing she had a reputation for unfaithfulness.  How could God ask such a thing?

No doubt Hosea’s wedding night had terrible difficulty for him.  He was trying to become one in flesh with a woman who had shared her flesh with others.  In our time, this would have its own difficulty, but in this time?  It was probably nearly unheard of for a man to marry a promiscuous woman.

This, though, would have been endurable in and of itself.  After all, Rahab had been a prostitute.  She married one of God’s men after her repentance and bore him a famous son, Boaz.

The key though is, had been.  Rahab’s husband had an assurance from her that she had turned.  Besides this, Rahab had lived in a pagan city.  She probably knew about Moses and the exodus from Egypt–but had no part in the story until one day two spies came to her door.

But Gomer–Hosea’s wife–did not give him such assurance.  She had not turned from her sin.  Besides this, Gomer very likely lived in Israel and was a part of the special nation God had chosen for His own.

In spite of all this, Hosea loved Gomer.  He redeemed her past by giving her a wedding ceremony and marrying her.  He brought her into his own home.  She was given a chance to restore her reputation, to begin again, to have a husband who dearly loved her and would embrace her tenderly.

But Gomer did not stay.

Gomer left Hosea and their marriage to commit adultery.  Then God gave Hosea another painful command to follow.

Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” (Hosea 3:1, NLT)

God did not command Hosea to merely take her back–though the difficulty of this would have been astronomical.  It would have been humiliating and totally against the culture from him to take his wife back.  It would have been fully within the Law for him to have her stoned.

But this was not what God said.  He said,

Go and love your wife again

Not simply to invite her back home.  Not to pull her back into his house in contempt.  But to love her.  He was commanded to love her.

How could God possibly ask that?  How could God ask Hosea to love the wife he’d already given a second chance to?  How could God ask Hosea to invest his heart in her again?

Hosea pursued her.  He paid for her redemption–which had to be painfully embarrassing for him.  It wasn’t just that he quietly forgave her; he publicly bought her back and showed all who watched on that he still wanted her to be his wife.

Gomer’s story ends in mystery.  Hosea’s words to her are,

“You must live in my house for many days and stop your prostitution. During this time, you will not have sexual relations with anyone, not even with me.” (Hosea 3:3b, NLT)

Does she obey him?  Does she at last become faithful?  We can have great hope she does, because of how the chapter concludes.

This shows that Israel will go a long time without a king or prince, and without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols! But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness. (Hosea 3:4-5, NLT)

Who would want to be Gomer?  A better question is, Who is Gomer?

The humble walk is to know that Gomer is me.  As Gomer gave herself away to men, and diminished herself to the point that she became “property” of untrustworthy, unloving reprobates . . so I am to sin, every time my heart strays from God.

God gives us an extraordinarily painful account of his love for us in Ezekiel.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.

“‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare.

“‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.

“‘I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord.

“‘But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his. (Ezekiel 16:1-16, NIV)

So often, after mountaintop experiences, or when I feel close to God, I am the most vulnerable to attack, and the most susceptible to using the very beauty God gave me to seduce sin.

God could ask Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman, and ask him to love her again even after adultery, because God has done so much more for us.  The relationship between a husband and a wife is the closest bond here on earth (or should be), but it is nothing like the bond between God and mankind.  He is the Creator; we are the created.  He is the Redeemer; we who believe in Him are the Redeemed.

The humble walk is remember that my ministry is not in anything I could say or do or be . . but in revealing to others just how good God has been in my life . . time and time again . . unfaithfulness after unfaithfulness.

The humble walk is the walk I hope Gomer at last learned after Hosea bought her back from a life of unraveling and and death of stoning.  The humble walk is walking on the stepping stones of Christ’s mercy.  And it is when I am honest with myself and others that this is exactly how I walk with God that God draws those who also need to be bought back to Him.

I will tell them, “Come back, and I will cure you
of your unfaithfulness.”
They will answer,
“We will come back, because you
are the LORD our God.”

(Jeremiah 3:22, CEV)

I will tell them, “Come back, and I will cure you
of your unfaithfulness.”
They will answer,
“We will come back, because you
are the LORD our God.”

(Jeremiah 3:22, CEV)

In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness. (Hosea 3:5b, NLT)

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