How would you react if the preacher called one of the choir members a hoe from the pulpit? What if one of the deacons stood up in the worship service and said that the head usher was a harlot? Would it shock you? Would you be surprised?
What about when God calls Israel and Judah such names in the Bible?
God Calls Out Israel’s Whoredom
‘ “If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her? Would not that land be greatly polluted? You have played the whore with many lovers; and would you return to me? declares the Lord . ‘ – Jeremiah 3:1
Whore, whoredom or some form of the term comes up early and often in chapter 3 of Jeremiah. It consumes much of the contents of the chapter, especially since it is at the heart of God’s charges against both Israel and Judah. But it isn’t as if God is just tossing it out there as some off-handed remark. He is literally calling out both Israel and Judah for their betrayal of the blessed covenant that they broke with Him “with many lovers.”
In Jeremiah 2:20, God states that the entire nation had “bowed down like a whore.” It is not just in Jeremiah’s prophecy either. In Isaiah, the depiction of Israel as an unfaithful lover is vivid and kicks off early on in the book of prophecy. In verse 21 of the first chapter of Isaiah, we read: “See how the faithful city has become a harlot!. . .” In Ezekiel 16, the prophet lays out how the nation prostituted itself “offering yourself to every passer-by and multiplying your whoredom” (v. 25). Even the prophet Hosea was to take for himself a “wife of whoredom” to depict God’s relationship with Israel in an object lesson of prophetic proportions.
Clearly, the Lord is okay with calling out sin for what it is and what it means.
What’s in a Word?
The Hebrew word used in Hosea for whoredom is zenunim. Zenunim is noted as adultery, fornication or whoredom. In particular, adultery (zenunim) refers to: “Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married woman, or one engaged by payment of the ‘brideprice,’ and a man other than her husband.” Talk about a loaded word! Imagine how it sounded when Jeremiah stood before the holy people of the land called it out with “Thus sayeth the Lord” attached to it.
We have come to accept that much of popular music and entertainment has pushed the envelope so far that we are no longer shocked by curse words and gory violence, even revealing and sensual sex scenes on the screen or depicted in music. We have arrived to the point where we have almost grown dulled by such things in the world. Yet, when the Bible puts it out there, we are taken aback a bit. We have to read the text over again to make sure that we read that right.
God Wants an Open Dialogue with His People
From what we read in chapter 3, it is clear that God is not okay with an open relationship. God is not cool with either Israel or Judah saying that they should see other people. No, God puts it out there in Exodus 34:14 that He is a jealous God. That is not going to fly with Him.
What God truly wants from every indication in chapter 3 is an open dialogue with His holy people. He wants a harmonious relationship with Israel. He desires her as His bride and faithful wife. His pleas in chapter 3 show how much He wants them to return to Him and restore the relationship. He promises to not look at her with anger and to remain merciful.
God does not expect perfection from us. He knows all too well how fallible we are. He does however expect us to remain connected to Him and committed to our relationship with Him. What He doesn’t want is for us to forget and forsake Him as God charges against Israel in both chapter 2 & 3.
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