How can you understand God? I would have thought that when God veiled himself in flesh and appeared on earth as a human in the person of Jesus – when he took on our weakness and saw at first hand how ignorant we were regarding the Being and character of God – that he would have spent his time trying to correct our misconceptions of Him by giving detailed and definitive theological sermons about his nature. Instead, for the most part, it appears he told stories – stories which were open to interpretation, misinterpretation or that simply went right over the heads of those who heard them. The truth is he also appears to have raised as many questions as answers! As far as we know he never preached long sermons, rarely touched on what we now call theology and appeared content to live with misunderstanding.
And yet, perhaps we see by his behaviour, lifestyle, relationships and short stories something much deeper regarding the nature and character of God than a thousand long abstract theological sermons could ever teach us! We see, I believe, above everything else, that the passion of his life was his Father. Furthermore his stories reveal the heart of The Father towards us, his children.
But the revelation of God as Father is complimented throughout the Bible with other metaphors that help us to understand the nature and heart of God – and another of these is God, revealed as the true Husband.
Of course the foundational truth of God, found in both of these metaphors, is that of a God who is infinite Love! But the golden thread of God as our true Husband is one which runs from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Of course there is too much to say in a short blog post – but consider, for instance, the central relationship through which God saw his people in the Old Testament –
“Your Maker is your husband. His name is the Lord of All. And the One Who saves you is the Holy One of Israel. He is called the God of All the earth.”
Furthermore, God, when addressing unfaithful Israel through the Prophet Hosea, and speaking of a time when she will return, says this –
“‘In that day says the Lord, you will call Me, ‘My Husband.’ Yes, I will take you as My bride in what is right and good and fair, and in loving-kindness and in loving-pity. I will keep My promise and make you Mine.”
Hosea 2:16,19&20 (NLT)
Turning to the New Testament we normally see the Christmas story through the eyes of Mary – but at another level the Christmas story is one of a husband remaining faithful to his wife even when, in the eyes of most people, she appeared to be an immoral woman. And, in the teaching and parables of Jesus, it is very interesting to see his references to weddings (Eg. Matthew 9:15 and Matthew 22:1-12) as well as the fact that his first miracle took place at one. And the final book of the Bible reveals that the culmination of all things will be celebrated by a wedding feast –
“Let us be full of joy and be glad. Let us honour Him, for the time has come for the wedding supper of the Lamb. His bride has made herself ready… The angel said to me, ‘Write this: Those who are asked to the wedding supper of the Lamb are happy’.”
And then of course we have John’s enigmatic vision of the beginning of a new age when, he records –
‘I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. It was coming down out of heaven from God. It was made ready like a bride is made ready for her husband.’
There is a very real sense that the history of time is a story which starts with union, is interrupted by separation but ultimately ends in consummation.
I remember many years ago an old preacher pointing out the delicate and almost imperceptible growth and maturity between the beloved and her lover in the Song of Songs. At the beginning of their relationship she says – ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his’ (Song of Solomon 2:16) but as she matures the order is changed ever so slightly – ‘I am my beloved’s, And my beloved is mine.’ (Song of Solomon 6:3) . It is this intertwining of natures and of self giving between a husband and his wife that leads to marital harmony and unity. Marriage was born in the heart of God – it is not strictly a human institution – and marriage, however imperfect, is a reflection of the union that exists between the Divine Husband Lover and His Beloved Wife.
Let me finish this short meditation with a true story. The great Gaelic speaking Highland evangelist John MacDonald lost his first wife about 1814. He was only about 35 yrs old. The weekend following her death MacDonald was due to take communion in an area known as the ‘Black Isle’, in the Highlands of Scotland. His elders expected him to postpone the services but he replied, ‘No, let not the death of my wife interfere with commemorating the death of my Saviour’. In the event, as many as ten thousand people, were at ‘The Burn’ in Ferrintosh to hear him preach on the text from the prophecy of Hosea (2:19 AV) – ‘I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.’
From the very start of the service it is said there was an unusual stillness in the congregation. The vast crowd were touched by the preacher’s self-denial and sorrow – few eyes were tearless. As evening wore on the groans and cries in the congregation at times drowned out the voice of the preacher. Addressing the vast congregation he then asked the question Rebekah was asked by Abraham’s servant in relation Isaac in the Old Testament – ‘Wilt thou go with this man?’ (AV). At that point a tall middle aged woman in the centre of the crowd suddenly stood up, threw her arms into the air, and shouted in Gaelic – “Theid, Theid, O, Theid” (I Will, I will, O, I will).
I still hear that call echoing down through the intervening years – will we take the Divine Lover as our true Husband?