I typed the single word in black on a white screen, where it remained while I contemplated further words.
It stood alone, ugly and provocative.
Right now I am familiar with at least two families that are being torn apart by adultery. It breaks my heart and at once makes me divinely angry.
When asked about divorce, Jesus himself made a single concession regarding adultery (see Matthew 19). I’ve not much studied divorce and remarriage, though I know the biblical stance is not as cut and dry as some would have it. However, I am not writing today about actual marriage but am instead continuing to look at the picture of the Church as a bride.
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. —2 Corinthians 11:2-3 (ESV)
Paul is speaking to the Corinthians here, expressing his deep concern regarding their lack of devotion. He calls to mind two Old Testament pictures, the obvious one relating to Eve and the serpent and the less obvious concerning betrothal.
A Domestic Situation
The nation of Israel born of Abraham was God’s chosen, his betrothed, as we’ll see, whereas the Church would become the bride. The Church includes all those who trust in Jesus as the Way, the Truth, the Life—involving Jews who accept Jesus as their Messiah and all of us Gentiles grafted in, as it were.
As do we individually and collectively, Israel often struggled with pure devotion. The life and ministry of the prophet Hosea illustrated this best.
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” —Hosea 1:2 (ESV)
If you’ve ever had a hard time reading the Old Testament, and in particular the Prophets, the second chapter of Hosea sums it up: the first half is God going on a tirade about Israel’s infidelities. (I’ll use The Message here because I like its raw tone.)
[Speaking to his wife’s children] “Haul your mother into court. Accuse her! She’s no longer my wife. I’m no longer her husband. Tell her to quit dressing like a whore, displaying her breasts for sale. … Face it: Your mother’s been a whore, bringing bastard children into the world. She said, ‘I’m off to see my lovers! They’ll wine and dine me, Dress and caress me, perfume and adorn me!’ But I’ll fix her: I’ll dump her in a field of thistles, then lose her in a dead-end alley. —Hosea 2:2,5-6 (MSG)
I do believe God is angry.
“I’ll make her pay for her indulgence in promiscuous religion—all that sensuous Baal worship And all the promiscuous sex that went with it, stalking her lovers, dressed to kill, and not a thought for me.” GOD’s Message! —Hosea 2:13 (MSG)
But then, after this barrage, God’s voice softens. You can almost see him trying to hold back tears. His voice breaks.
“And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to start all over again. I’m taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. I’ll give her bouquets of roses. I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley [the Valley of Achor] into Acres of Hope. She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt. —Hosea 2:14-15 (MSG)
And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. —Hosea 2:19-20 (ESV)
Prone to Wander
Returning to the passage in 2 Corinthians, I wonder what is it that leads us astray from a “sincere and pure devotion to Christ”? Paul was specifically addressing false teachers. But there could have been more; the people of Corinth were as worldly, as carnal, as you could get.
What is threatening to rob me of purity? What is luring me away from fidelity to my betrothed?
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
—“Come Thou Fount”
Is the answer simply to keep tabs on my sin? I don’t think so. I think we Christians easily get bogged down with trying to manage our sin, much like we manage our money—we’re drowning in debt and can’t breathe to swim out of the deep. No, Paul hits on it in verse 3: “sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” What does this devotion look like? What does this life look like when it doesn’t look like merely managing sin? What does being clothed in righteousness look like?
I’ll write next week about how the Bride is adorned. In the meantime, let us as his Bride, devote ourselves fully to Christ, to keep our eyes on him alone.