Last week we began the series of studies under the general topic of the covenant of marriage. We continue that series today on a message entitled, “Betrothed in Gracious Faithfulness.” Our message is going to be taken from Hosea 2:19, 20. Here we read: “And 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. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.”
The first thing that strikes us is how gracious this is. What a gracious act. God says, “I will betroth thee, I will engage thee, I will marry you unto Me for ever; yea I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness.” It was an act which finds its source, its cause, in no other place than in God Himself. It was not something that Israel in the day of Hosea the Old Testament prophet deserved. It is not something that the people of God who are saved by Jesus Christ ever deserve. It is simply an undeserved favor, something of God’s grace.
It is very astounding when we look at ourselves and at what we deserve. That is why God repeats it. “I will betroth thee; yea I will betroth thee unto Myself.” That is a gracious word in which God says, “I am going to take you into the marriage relationship of My covenant.” Salvation is not simply that you possess eternal life somewhere off by yourself. But salvation is when God draws you, along with all of His other people, into a marriage relationship with Himself in which He is faithful to you, in which He intimately shows to you His love and tender mercies, and in which you are made to love Him and depend upon His constant care.
But this is very gracious. That comes out when we bear in mind who it is to whom Hosea is speaking. Hosea, an Old Testament prophet who lived in the time of the kingdom of Israel, is speaking to people who certainly did not deserve this. In fact, as we saw last week, they were people who were guilty of whoredom, spiritual adultery. If you have not read the book of Hosea, you should make it an object of your personal study. But if you have any acquaintance with it, you will remember that Hosea the prophet was commanded by God to take a wife of prostitution, or whoredom, and bring forth children with her. Hosea obeyed his prophetic calling. He married a woman called Gomer, and they had three children. The first, Jezreel, was a boy. The second, a girl, Loruhamah. The third, a boy, Loammi. “Loruhamah” meant “not beloved, no object of mercy.” Loammi” means “not my people.” So Hosea’s marriage to Gomer represented Israel as, in her unfaithfulness to God, she was despising God’s covenant of marriage. She was apostatizing, going away from Jehovah, from His Word, and from a life of obedience to God in this world. Thus Hosea’s children represent the children of Israel brought forth from these parents who had forsaken the living God.
Now God says in our text: “I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness.” God says that, although Israel was adulterous, He will not forget His covenant, He will not forsake His people. But He will call His people, according to the first verses of the chapter, He will call them “Ruhamah,” “Beloved,” and “Ammi,” “My people.”
How are we to understand that? The answer is, as we said last week, that God speaks to His chosen people who of themselves are spiritual harlots, yet they are His people whom He will call to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ.
If you read Romans 9, especially verses 25 and following, you will see that the Word of God refers to this passage and teaches us that God has a purpose of sovereign election. That is, from eternity God has decreed whom He will save. And out of His mercy He will bring them to repentance and faith. God, in His gracious election, an election which was not determined upon ourselves (for of ourselves we are sinners) – this God predestinated who will be saved. He determined in eternity who will be saved. Those whom He predestinated, Romans 8 tells us, He also called to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. By that saving faith He also gives us repentance so that we see our sins, we repent of those sins, and we wash our garments in the blood of Jesus Christ and are declared righteous.
To them is this gracious act. When God says, “I will betroth thee unto me for ever,” He is saying to His people in Jesus Christ, “My covenant is unconditional.” That means that God’s covenant is not an agreement between two consenting parties. When God saves us He does not come and say, “Well, I will do this, if you will do that,” as if it is dependent upon us. But God says, “I will bless you, I will work in you, you who are unworthy. And I will so love you and so work in you that you will love me.” A gracious bond God has made with us who are unworthy. And He has made that in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Now, we are to reflect this in marriage. Human and earthly marriage must reflect the relationship that God has with His people. That is the purpose for earthly marriage. If you ever have a question, why earthly marriage, what is its purpose, there is only one purpose: to show forth the glory of God, to show forth God’s faithfulness unto His own people. That is the purpose of marriage. So, as God is to us, so must we be in our earthly marriages. That means, first of all, faithfulness. God says, “I will betroth thee unto me for ever.” There will be no change: for ever. He says in verse 20, “I will even (that is, to this extent) betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.
The great thing of God is that He is fixed, He is unchangeable, He is constantly the same. Malachi 3:6, “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” “Who shall separate us from the love of God?” God’s love is unchangeable. God’s love is faithful. God’s covenant is sure.
That means that faithfulness is the great thing which must be seen in Christian marriages. We vow on our wedding day, “till death us do part.” And that ought to be the vow that you take on your wedding day. You ought not to omit that, but you ought to vow, looking to God, “till death us do part.” How can we possibly vow that? By looking to God who is faithful and true. This is why God says in Malachi 2:14 that He hates putting away, He hates men divorcing their wives. In the day of Malachi it was men divorcing their wives for younger women from the heathen lands, men who were saying, “Well, I get more understanding from this other woman. My wife just doesn’t know my needs as a person. Our relationship is stagnant. I have to be free and I have to have a happy life. This other woman is so wonderful.” God says, in Malachi 2:14, to men who talk that way, “You are covering violence with a garment. You think that by throwing on the garment of your high-sounding phrases, you are covering what you are doing. But you are doing violence. You are dealing treacherously. You are stabbing that woman, your wife, in the back.”
How easy it is to be unfaithful in one’s thoughts in marriage. Satan knows that, and he knows that he can wear down a mountain a little at a time. When we allow distance to exist between us in our marriage, when we allow cruel words to be left unresolved, when we allow bitterness and resentment, then Satan is sowing the seed of division. It is like putting a pry-bar between us as husband and wife and beginning to pry us apart. You must watch over your heart. You must be faithful.
But then you must also be holy, for God’s relationship to us is a holy relationship. He says, “I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment.” God is saying that He would take us to Himself as His bride in a righteous manner, in a way in which judgment is done. He would do it in a way in which no one would be able to object to anything unpure or soiled. He would do that in righteousness and in judgment. And that righteousness and judgment is in Jesus Christ. There, upon the cross, God punished our sins upon His own Son. There, in judgment, He visited our damnation upon the soul of His own Son. Therefore He takes us to Himself in the way of holiness, in the way of righteousness, in Jesus Christ.
That has to speak to our marriages, too. Every day we need to be refreshed and cleansed at the foot of the cross in prayer. We must be kept holy before God. We must keep ourselves in the love of God. How do we do that? We keep ourselves in sexual purity and holiness. The world corrupts marriage. The world makes of marriage simply legalized lust: carnal, sexual lust. No! We must keep ourselves pure and holy. We must serve the Lord, we must bring our marriages day after day before God’s inspection.
Finally, if we are to reflect God’s bond of covenant fellowship in our marriages, then our marriages must be filled with tenderness. God says, “I will betroth thee unto me in … lovingkindness, and in mercies.” Can you conceive of a more tender husband? Can you conceive of someone who is filled with greater lovingkindness than our God in Jesus Christ? The word “lovingkindness” refers to the tenderest affections: to mercy, to a steadfast love even in the face of miseries, devotion to someone who is lowly and in a bad state. God’s covenant with us in Jesus Christ is tender. It is intimate.
I think we fail to appreciate the depth of God’s compassion, the depths of God’s tender love for us as His children. He is a devoted husband. His heart is in it! And God’s heart is large. God is perfect, and His infinite love is fully involved in our marriage. You see, God does not simply take out papers and sign those papers and throw them into some drawer in heaven and say, “Now you are My people.” No, God says, “You are the apple of My eye.” That must be reflected in our marriages also.
Marriage is not simply a truce, a cease-fire. It is not simply two sinners set in their own ways who will never humble themselves, who constantly slug it out and slug it out in front of the kids. But Christian marriage is when hearts have been touched and melted in the love of God for each other. To be tender to your spouse means that you must root out that sinful pride and self-centeredness. You must bend low. You must stoop! You say, “But I don’t want to stoop in front of my wife or husband.” That is not the point. You must learn to stoop before God. You must come to awareness of your sin before God, of how unreasonable, of how hard to live with, you are before God. Then you must have an apprehension of His tender mercy. In tenderness He does not cast you off, He keeps you, forgives you, brings you to repentance. And in the experience of the grace and tenderness of God you can be tender to your spouse. Do you know God’s lovingkindness? Do you really know it? Truly know it? Then you will also show lovingkindness to your wife or to your husband.
Then, Hosea says, there shall be this result: “Thou shalt know the LORD.” The result will be that God, as He leads us into His covenant, gives us one great blessing: we know Him! What is the blessing of eternal life? What is the blessing of having a relationship with God? What is the great good to be found in believing in God and having God as our God? What is it? It is this: that we know the living and holy God. There is nothing greater. Our hearts soar. That is eternal life, said Jesus in John 17:3. When we know God our souls leap and soar. Everything else fades away in comparison. God knows me and I know Him.
This is the purpose also for our marriages. Our marriages exist in order that we might grow together in the knowledge of the Lord. What are you expecting from marriage? What are you expecting from your husband/wife? The world gives all kinds of answers: happiness, she’s the person who makes me feel good, personal growth, someone to care for me. Jehovah says that marriage has one great blessing. Through that marriage we grow in a knowledge of God. When we live before God’s Word, God promises us something. What He promises us is not a new house, a new car, success, trouble-free life, long life. No, God may give you sorrow, hardship, adversity. But He will give you this precious jewel: you will know God. And through your marriage you will grow in the love of God and in faithfulness, compassion, and in a holy contentment. Contentment is something that money cannot buy. The world cannot give it to you. Contentment is found only in the knowledge of God.
Then you will acknowledge God. That, too, is the blessing of marriage. You will call Him, “My God.” You will worship Him.
When at last our marriage comes to its end in death and when, from eternity, we look back upon our life, then there must be one thing that is in our mind: God has been faithful, God has shown Himself to be God, God has kept me in His covenant love.
Now, as God is faithful to you, so also must you be faithful in your marriage. God is faithful to you; go and do thou likewise in your marriage.
Let us pray.
Father, we pray that Thou wilt bless this word to our hearts, that we may live in faithfulness, holiness, and tenderness, and thus be the children of God in our marriages. Amen.