For the week of June 4, 2005 / 26 Iyar 5765
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 1:1 - 4:20
Haftarah: Hosea 2:1-22
An Intense Love
"I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot," declares the LORD. "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her." (Hosea 2:13,14)
One of the purposes of the Bible - if not its primary purpose - is to reveal God to us. There are two fundamental aspects of God that we continually encounter in the Scriptures. The first is called his transcendence, which is how we refer to his being separate from and greater than his creation. The second is called his immanence, which has to do with his involvement within his creation.
This week's Haftarah deals with his immanence. While many people have trouble believing in God at all, it is his immanence that others stumble over.
The Bible teaches that God is love (1 John 4:8), which is one of the expressions of his immanence. Love is God's prime motive in his dealings with human beings. The love which motivates God is a sacrificial, selfless love, which gives without necessarily deriving anything in return.
It is this kind of love that expresses itself in what we read in this week's Haftarah. The picture painted through the prophet is that of the people of Israel being likened to an unfaithful wife and God as the jealous husband. God's love is expressed in a tension between a burning anger, which desires to cast Israel off, and a drive to do anything in his power to draw his beloved back to himself again. On one hand Israel faces God's wrath, due to their rejection of him, while on the other hand God is determined to restore that broken relationship, because he is absolutely committed to it.
Perhaps some people are offended by the intense human language used by Hosea in this passage. His depiction of God as a rejected lover may be too much for some of us to take. It could be that the reason for this is that we are not comfortable with a God who is too immanent, too near. Perhaps even too much like ourselves.
But I wonder if our difficulty accepting God depicted this way is that we are looking at this backwards. Perhaps God's depth of emotion is expressed like this, because we are made like him. Perhaps the pain we feel when we are rejected by those we love is actually a revelation of how God feels about us.
God is nearer than we think. Our ability to relate to the infinite, eternal God is as near as our own hearts. While we must be careful not to make God in our own likeness, we need to realize that because we are made in his image, he is more like us than we often are willing to accept.
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