If someone tells a married couple they are acting like newlyweds, it is a compliment. Why? Because newlyweds are so infatuated with one another that they see only good things in the relationship. Usually, it is not until later that they encounter struggles. Then we might say, “The honeymoon is over.”
God’s relationship with His people is often described as that of a husband and wife. God is the faithful, loving husband to Israel (in the Old Testament) and the Church (in the New Testament). In today’s reading, God laments over His wayward bride. He reminds Israel of how He redeemed her from slavery in Egypt: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness” (v. 2).
Yet, Israel was not faithful. They worshiped idols (v. 5). They often simply ignored the Lord: “The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD?’” (v. 8). God asks, “Does a young woman forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number” (v. 32). In some ways it might have been easier to understand if Israel was angry with God, that would at least showed that they cared about the relationship. It is as if they forgot they were married.
Often, we picture God as a judge handing down a sentence with dispassionate justice. The picture here is quite different. God expresses a deep sense of betrayal, like a husband who discovered his wife is unfaithful. God laments, “Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam; we will come to you no more?’” (v. 31). This anguish demonstrates God’s love and care for His people.
>> Are we ever unfaithful in our relationship to God? Have we forgotten our first love? The good news is that He does not give up on us. Through Christ, He made forgiveness and reconciliation possible (Rev. 19:7–9).
Forgive us if we have turned away from You. Forgive us for persuading ourselves that hope and fulfillment lay elsewhere. Help our doubting hearts; accept our repentance. Reawaken our love for You, please, God.