Israel as a Bride

How did the Lord handle His "bride"?

November 7-13

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When I opened the scriptures this week, I did not set out to find the message that I want to share today. In fact, I thought I had another message planned out way in advance. However, the Lord has decided to take me in an entirely different direction. Though it takes a little bit, I promise it ties in with this week’s Come Follow Me.

I do not share this message lightly, and I feel as though there are a million disclaimers I should start with. Let it be known that I am no professional, and so my words should probably be taken with a grain of salt (and most preferably, through the lens of the Spirit). I hope to express myself well and give perspective. I want people to be able to open their eyes a little more fully. I do not want this message to be seen as any kind of sign.

Though the audience I will be speaking directly to is small (aka someone who suspects they’re in an abusive relationship), the principles are still for all. Regardless of whether you’re in a happy relationship, I can assure you that you’re surrounded by people who are not. 

Abuse in marriage

I want to talk about abuse, and I’d like to address one specific aspect of abuse that I have observed often. It happens both in religious and non-religious marriages though the two groups of people often use different terms and descriptions.

Essentially, this specific aspect is that of charity and forgiveness on the part of the abused. When I have spoken with people who have found themselves in these kinds of situations, I often see how hard they are trying to change themselves to make the marriage work. 

They forgive as quickly as they can. They escape somewhere in their minds to avoid the contention (which, by the way, is called disassociation). They keep an eternal perspective and believe that one day, their spouse will be healed and everything will be okay. They try to de-escalate situations, and they call it charity. They peacefully take what is given to them, and they remember the verse about peacemakers inheriting the kingdom of God. They count their blessings and focus on all of the good things that did come as a result of the marriage. 

One of the tricky things about marriage is that all of these things that I listed can be found in perfectly healthy marriages. Marriage always requires a level of forgiveness. Disassociating is not necessarily a sign that you’ve been abused; people disassociate to avoid boredom for crying out loud. Both partners strive to keep an eternal perspective and remember that flaws will get ironed out over time. There are days when one spouse is metaphorically on fire, and the other spouse is putting the fire out. Counting blessings is a great way to nurture a marriage.

But there is a level that is reached when all of these necessary ingredients for marriage become excessive and dangerous. I wish I could easily define those levels for you, but I can’t. Only you and the Lord can truly do that.  

But even if you are beginning to suspect, do suspect, or know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are in an abusive marriage, leaving can still bring on extreme loads of guilt. 

What if I didn’t give them enough time to change? What if I had reacted differently? I need mercy from Jesus Christ; aren’t I supposed to extend that mercy to others? I can handle it; I don’t mind forgiving them over and over and over and over and over…

And so here is the perspective that I would like to give.

A marriage with the Lord

In Hosea, the Lord starts to give an analogy. Essentially, He compares Israel to a cheating bride, and He casts Himself as the groom. Israel chases after other relationships rather than developing the one right in front of her. Even though He is the perfect groom and He has saved her multiple times, she continues to stray away from Him. She treats Him poorly, takes Him for granted, and curses His name. 

There is no one on earth who loves us as much as Christ loves us. The sacrifice He chose to make is indelible proof that there is no one who will love us as He does.

He loved Israel. He loved Israel deeply and often painfully, and He chose to leave Israel. 

Sometimes, charity means leaving. 

You cannot argue with me that Christ has ever been without charity, and Christ did leave.

Maybe you would argue with me that He came back. He gathered Israel again, remember? Yes, you are totally correct. But what were the conditions on Him coming back?

Hosea 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Let me explain this verse to you. The Israelites were required to give sacrifices and burnt offerings as part of their worship, and the Lord does not excuse them from acting. But He also cries out that He wanted mercy and knowledge of Him more than He ever wanted those actions. The actions are important and required, but Israel was required to change if they wanted Him to come back and gather them. He wanted their hearts to turn towards Him.

It has been prophesied that Israel will change and return to Him, and He will gather them in love and mercy. However, it has not necessarily been prophesied that an abusive spouse will ever choose to change. Can they change? Yes. Will they change? We simply don’t know.

Christ loved the Israelites, and He left them. He left them because He knew He couldn’t force righteousness. He knew they weren’t choosing righteousness, and dare I say it? He knew that staying wouldn’t change them. In fact, it would probably just enable them.

In this specific case, the most charitable act that Christ could perform for Israel was to leave them. It was His very act of leaving that would push them towards repentance, towards salvation. 

Often, in the name of charity, people choose to stay. Unfortunately, sometimes it is that very charity that continues to damn the abuser. Why would they change?

The Lord says this about Israel:

Hosea 2:8 For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.

Essentially, He is saying that He gave them everything and they used it to turn against Him. Sometimes the very charity you give is used against you to their damnation.

This is not your sign

Let it be known once again that this post is not a sign. This isn’t your cue from the Lord that it’s time to leave (maybe the Spirit whispered that to you while you read, but my post isn’t directly your answer). I only ever wanted this post to be informational. I wanted this post to point you towards the Lord so you could have the conversation with Him. Only He knows. 

I have found that in some circumstances, the Lord gives an explicit answer and tells you it’s time to leave. In plenty of other circumstances, I have found that the Lord says, “You can leave if you want to.”

That may sound ominous. Almost like He is saying, “Fine. Go. But it’s on your own head.” I don’t believe that’s how He meant it. 

The Lord is perfectly wise and will handle you carefully and tenderly if you’re seeking His will. If you’re sincerely trying to follow Him, He’s not going to toss you out with a cold shoulder and leave you to damn yourself. 

Sometimes the Lord leaves the choice up to us. He does this for a couple of reasons. One of these reasons is because He’s wise enough to know that making the choice on your own will empower you. It will push you to truly make the decision of what you want your life to look like. He places the power in your court because He knows that power has been taken away from you for a very long time. He wants you to take hold of your own power, and so He sits with you and gives you time to make the choice that you want. It is one of the simplest ways of helping you heal. 

The choice to leave a marriage will always be between an individual and the Lord. Even as I give my two cents (hopefully by the power of the Spirit), I recognize that my advice isn’t meant to be for everyone. I would only hope that my post would lead people to be brave enough to seek out the Lord. Make sure to get your answer directly from Him. Others can be helpful, and others can be hurtful even with the best of intentions. Your answer needs to come from Him, and you need to be brave enough to follow that answer regardless of the voices around you.

I promise that you won’t be alone in any path you choose to take. He loves you. His atonement has the capacity to heal you. He can open your eyes to the reality of whatever you’re going through, and He can give you the courage you need to take whatever path you need to take. 

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