Recently I was reading in the book of Hosea. I always find it amazing that I can read a story that I’ve read many times before and suddenly see it in a different light – in gospel light.
In the second chapter there is the description of the calamities that befall a harlot – the harlot Gomer whom Hosea took as a wife – and the Lord uses this visual picture to warn the people of the calamities that will befall Israel…and his redeeming love for her. But as I was reading, verse 14 of the second chapter caught my attention, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.”
I will allure her… When I first read this story, I thought about God pursuing the sinful and rebellious and his redemption of the unworthy, just as Hosea goes and redeems Gomer and brings her back so he can once more be a husband to his adulteress wife. But allure is not the same as pursuit. To allure something or someone is to attract them to you. Here in this verse, God is not pursuing the wicked or tracking them down to bring them back to Him, he is simply revealing himself and the appeal of his unmerited grace becomes irresistible – it is alluring.
The story of Hosea is a warning of pending judgment on a rebellious nation but it is also a beautiful story of mercy and the appeal of unmerited grace, and yet, I think we often fail to see the real beauty of grace in this story because we do not relate to Gomer or identify with her. It is so easy to read of God’s just punishments poured out on a wicked nation and those who practiced those things that scripture calls abominations and see them as wicked, rebellious, and wayward, and we would be right – they are; but if we could see how often our own hearts seek to satisfy, gratify, and please self – if we could see the depth of our own sin and our love for other things and self pleasure more than God (even in our pursuit of God) we would see that we too are the harlot. We are retched, horrible, sinners worthy of death and yet we are pridefully self-righteous and think that because of the good we do, we are worthy of grace – we may not want to believe we think that, but the truth is… we do. We are not touched and transformed by the gospel story of mercy, grace, and redemption because we do not think we need redemption that badly. We identify with the prophet in this story if we identify with anyone at all, but certainly not with the harlot. We are just too good to be the harlot.
Henry Scougal wrote a small book when he was only 27 years old titled The Life of God in the Soul of Man this book had a strong influence on many great men of God including George Whitefield and Charles Wesley. John Piper quotes Henry Scougal in his book The Pleasures of God. The quote used by John Piper was this, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.”
When reading this quote my first thought is, of course, that the Lord is the object of my soul’s affections, but the more I looked inside my heart and judged it by its actions, I realized that most often self is the object of my affections. Most of the time my heart seeks to satisfy, gratify, and please itself even in its affections for God and others.
Of course there is a desire in my heart to do good, and like Paul, there seems to constantly be an inward war raging between my desires and my nature, but the worth and excellence of my soul cannot be assessed just by what it wills, but rather by what it loves. John Piper says, “The true dimensions of a soul are seen in its delights. Not what we dutifully will but what we passionately want reveals our excellence or evil.” John Piper focuses the first six chapters of his book The Pleasures of God on the attributes and pleasures of God. This is an excellent book and one I highly recommend, but we do not need to read John’s book to discover the attributes God, we can go to the source John used – scripture. Just as affections for others grow – particularly young lovers – as they learn and discover more about each other, so will our affections for the omnipotent, omnipresent, preeminent God grow as we focus our thoughts on the knowledge of him.
“The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” Oh how I want to say that God is the sole object of my deepest affections! But while my heart battles within to understand and know what is the true object of its love, while I am trying to will my heart to love, while I seek to know all I can about a God – and a love – I cannot comprehend; all the while, I am being allured by irresistible grace. He pursues us and redeems us, and just a glimpse of His grace can captivate our hearts and we find He is … at least for the moment … truly the only object of our affections because we are always the object of His.