Broken relationships

One of the consequences of the people of Judah going into captivity was broken relationships. While God’s people were dwelling in the Promised Land, land ownership laws kept them in the same general location for hundreds of years. Although it was possible to sell land, every 50 years ownership returned to the family of origin. Therefore, there was little change in the city of residence for most people. As a result, relationships were stable and the majority of families remained in tact. Like when the Nazis tried to exterminate the Jews in the 1940s, family members were probably separated and forced into different transient camps by their Babylonian captors. It is possible family members were scattered throughout the Babylonian empire during their captivity so that relationship structures that supported the Israelite culture would cease to exist.

Jeremiah declared, “Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbor and his friend shall perish” (Jeremiah 6:21). The stumblingblock was a symbol of being broken. Jeremiah’s reference to the fathers and the sons together falling on the stumblingblock was most likely meant to convey the idea of a joint effort to sustain the family being a futile attempt against the cruel and merciless Babylonian army (Jeremiah 6:23). The neighbor and his friend were people that had lived in close proximity to each other their entire lives and were like extended family members to each other. In all likelihood, the word perish meant that these kinds of relationships would cease to exist. and every man would suffer alone during his time in captivity.

Jeremiah described a scene of devastation in which everyone would be weeping bitterly. He said, “O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us” (Jeremiah 6:26). The Hebrew word translated spoiler, shadad (shaw – dad´) may have been a term used to describe a calamity. Figuratively, shadad refers to something or someone powerful (7703), but it also carries the connotation of a rushing wind or a tempestuous storm (7665, 7722), something like a tornado that moves quickly and leaves behind a path of destruction. Jeremiah predicted the spoiler would come quickly and unexpectedly as when a child dies of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). In the end, the peoples’ lives would be left empty and worthless. Jeremiah declared, “Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them” (Jeremiah 6:30).

 

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The inner man

God’s main concern when he planned for the people of Judah to be taken into captivity was the condition of their hearts. The relationship God wanted to have with his people was one of love and trust. In order for that to be possible, the people had to be devoted to God and open to his involvement in their lives. The way Jeremiah described this was to use circumcision as an illustration of being dedicated to the LORD. He told the people, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart” (Jeremiah 4:4). Moses used similar language when he said, “Circumcise therefore the foreskins of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” (Deuteronomy 10:16).

The Hebrew words translated stiffnecked, qashah oreph literally mean hard necked or a neck that is unable to bend and be bowed down as in prayer (7185/6203). Looking at this term in relation to the heart, it refers to someone who is hard-hearted, a tough minded person who refuses to submit himself to God. Therefore, to circumcise the heart would mean you cut off behavior that is offensive to God (4135). Jeremiah referred to the cleansing of the heart in connection with salvation. He said, “O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved” (Jeremiah 4:14). Typically, a person is only concerned with washing the exterior part of his body. Jeremiah was pointing out that it was the inner man that needed to be dealt with.

Redemption

The prophet Hosea’s relationship with his wife provided a real life example of what God went through to redeem his people. God commanded Hosea, “Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who took to other gods, and love flagons of wine” (Hosea 3:1). The word used to describe the love Hosea was to show his wife was ’âhêb (aw – habe´), which meant to love “in the sense of having a strong emotional attachment to and desire either to possess or be in the presence of the object” (157).

The kind of love Hosea was to have for his wife was similar to what we think of today as being in love with someone. It was supposed to involve making love and having a romantic desire for her. It was clear that those kinds of feelings would not be natural for Hosea, and therefore, God’s command to love his wife made it a matter of obedience to the LORD that caused Hosea to act appropriately toward his wife, not his own feelings.

The challenge for Hosea was that his wife had been sold into slavery and had to be purchased for more money than Hosea had available. It says of the transaction in Hosea 3:2, “So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for a homer of barley, and a half homer of barley.” Hosea spent all the money he had and also gave up necessary food for his family in order to obtain his wife’s freedom. If his wife had been loving and faithful to him, the transaction might have made sense, but Hosea’s wife was an adulteress that was probably married another man and had been sold to pay his debt.

The reference to Hosea’s wife as a harlot (Hosea 3:3) indicated that Gomer had become a prostitute. In that case, the purchase price Hosea paid could have been the amount owed on her contract for sexual service. Typically, slaves, even sexual slaves, could be redeemed by a family member for a set price. The total value of the silver and barley Hosea paid for Gomer was likely 30 shekels, the redemption value of a woman (note on Hosea 3:2, Leviticus 27:4). In essence, what Hosea was doing was buying back Gomer’s spiritual life, so that she was no longer obligated to server her “true” master, the devil.

The goal of Hosea’s redemption of his wife was to restore their relationship. If Hosea had merely brought his wife back into his house and not resumed their sexual activity, Gomer would have continued to be a slave rather than a wife to Hosea. She was not just a possession, but a member of the family, the mother of Hosea’s children. No doubt, Gomer felt shame after she returned to her home. Like Israel, it says in Hosea 4:19, “The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”

Unfaithful

The prophet Hosea was given the difficult task of modeling for everyone around him the relationship between God and Israel. Hosea’s choice of a mate was symbolic of God choosing the nation of Israel to be his people. Because Israel had been unfaithful to him, God told Hosea, “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredoms, departing from the LORD” (Hosea 1:2).

The harsh picture drawn of the Israelites was meant to be a sort of shock treatment to get them to realize how God felt about their idolatry. Not only did God want them to know how disgusted he was with their behavior, but he also wanted them to know that in spite of their unfaithfulness, he still loved them and wanted them to come back to him. The names of Hosea’s children were used to convey a message of detachment and punishment for their inappropriate behavior. Beginning with Jezreel, God’s awareness of his children’s sin was made public so that his intentional rejection would not be mistaken for a lack of love on his part.

God had a right to be angry because he had gone to such great lengths to deliver his people from their sins, and yet, they made no effort to follow his commandments. In fact, the Israelites openly worshipped other deities and gave them the credit for their success. The seriousness of their transgression was reflected in the name of Hosea’s third child. “Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for you are not my people, and I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:9).

In spite of Israel’s lack of interest in having a relationship with the LORD, God did not want to permanently cut them off. His intention was to show them that their idol worship was pointless. In order to bring them to their senses, God allowed Israel to reap what it had sown, ruin, and destruction. Speaking of Hosea’s unfaithful wife Gomer, the LORD said, “Therefore behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now” (Hosea 2:6-7).

More than wanting to punish Israel for its unfaithfulness, God wanted to restore the relationship that existed between him and his people when they first entered the Promised Land. God was capable of forgiving them, but he would not allow his people to worship other gods. The end result that God expected was sincere devotion to him and him alone. He said, “And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hosea 2:23).

God’s family

God’s relationship to the people of Israel was the basis of his involvement in their lives. It says in Amos 3:2, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” The Hebrew word translated known, yada’ is properly translated as “to ascertain by seeing” which includes observation, care, recognition; and causatively instruction, designation, and punishment (3045). In a sense, Israel had become a member of God’s family, and vice versa. God treated the Israelites like a father would treat his own child.

Because God had been involved in the lives of the Israelites and knew them in a personal way, it says in Amos 3:2, “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” The Hebrew word translated punish, pâqad (paw – kad´) means to visit or be concerned with, to look after and make a search for, as well as punish (6485). Another way to look at paqad is “to intervene on behalf of” and in the normal course of events to bring about or fulfill a divine intent.

Over the course of time, Israel seemed to have forgotten or were unaware that there was a reason for their existence. In particular, the nation of Judah was designated to bring forth the Messiah. At the time of Amos’ ministry, the primary focus of Judah was preservation of the most favored nation status they were entitled to as God’s chosen people. Their worship had become meaningless as if they were just going through the motions. In an effort to remind his people that he was in control of their destiny, God asked the question, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).

The Hebrew word translated agreed, yâ‘ad (yaw – ad´) means to meet at a stated time (3259). The idea behind this word is to make an appointment or set a time for an event to take place, such as an engagement when a wedding date is established. God was letting his people know that a time had been set for his Messiah to be born and he intended to keep his appointment. Therefore, God’s people needed to be brought into alignment with his plan through divine intervention.

God’s punishment was intended to bring his people back to him. He wanted them to repent, make an effort to change, “to re-grasp the situation, and exert effort for the situation to take a different course of purpose and action” (5162). What needed to happen was the people needed to be converted. “The process called conversion or turning to God is in reality a re-turning or a turning back again to Him from whom sin has separated us, but whose we are by virtue of creation, preservation and redemption” (7725).

God had made numerous attempts to bring his people to a point of repentance, but each time there was no response. Five times in Amos chapter four, the LORD stated, “Yet have ye not returned unto me” and then concluded, “Therefore thus will I do unto thee O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12). The LORD’s people would encounter an enemy so fierce, they would be forced to cry out to God for mercy.

Not chosen

The prophecy about Edom recorded in the book of Obadiah was a result of the nation’s rebellion against Judah (2 Kings 8:20). Edom, also known as Esau, was the older twin brother of Jacob who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:32-33). Esau was predestined to serve his younger brother, and yet, he refused to accept his position. The struggle between the two brothers was manifested in hostility between their two nations, and after Israel went into captivity, Edom sought to take advantage of Judah’s misfortune.

Edom made the mistake of aligning itself with the world powers hostile to God and his kingdom. Therefore, the nation was doomed to destruction. Instead of defending their brother nation, Edom joined a confederacy that stood against Israel and made a pact to support their enemies. It says in Obadiah verse 10, “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever.”

Like a gambler that makes a wager against his own team, Edom showed no loyalty to God’s chosen people, but rather reveled in the thought that they would be beaten by their enemies. Since a time had already been set for his people to be justified, God made it clear to the nation of Edom that they had chosen the wrong side. “For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee; thy reward shall return upon thine own head” (Obadiah 15).

While the foreign nations may have been able to claim ignorance about God’s plan for the nation of Israel, Edom could not. As descendants of Abraham, the people of Edom were aware of the promise God made to bless his chosen people. Jealousy and envy caused Edom to resent the choice God made. The nation, like their forefather Esau, could not get over the fact that God was in control and he would decide their fate. “And there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken it” (Obadiah 18).

Edom could have been saved if they would have continued to serve Judah. It was because they broke away and became hostile to Israel that they were condemned. The problem was that Edom wasn’t interested in God’s mercy. God’s plan for Israel included salvation for the gentiles. The only requirement was that they had to submit to God and do things his way, but Edom would not. “And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (Obadiah 21).

Turn it off

After my ex-husband told me he was having an affair, I was an emotional wreck for about a year. We spent many hours talking, going over the details of what had happened. In spite of our effort to straighten things out, I struggled to understand what had happened and why he had done it. At one point, my ex-husband told me I needed to just “get over it,” so we could move on.

Solomon said, “Therefore, remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:10). The word translated remove, sûwr (soor) means “to turn off” (5493). The implication being that we can control our emotions if we want to.

Looking back at my situation, I can see now that my ex-husband’s advice was biblical. There was no way to make sense of what happened and understanding the reason why it happened didn’t lessen the pain, it actually made it worse. Although it seemed impossible at the time, I could have stopped thinking about  it and the emotions I felt would have eventually gone away.