Hosea and Israel’s Bridegroom

Hosea and Israel’s Bridegroom

Thus says the LORD: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. …
On that day, says the LORD, “She shall call me “My husband,” and never again “My baal.”
(Hosea 2)

    Do we ever reflect on how utterly astonishing is the God of Israel, the one true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In what other religious literature of the great world religions do we find anything that approaches such a description of the relationship between God and his people, beginning with the people he made his own, beginning with Abraham? Where else do you ever see God described as the bridegroom of his creatures and using the language of love proper to a nuptial relationship; I will allure her, lead her into the desert, speak to her heart; she shall call me my husband.

    We only find this description of God’s intimate love for his people in the great prophets of Israel, and especially in Hosea and in the Song of Songs, the great love poem of the Old Testament. Nowhere else do we find it until it is brought to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, in the flesh. On the night before he died, Jesus said to his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants … but I have called you friends” (John 15:13). But this is no common friendship He speaks of, but the most intimate of all human friendships, a nuptial friendship, the friendship between the bride and bridegroom. Hosea writes, “She shall call me ‘My husband,’
and never again ‘My baal.” The pagan designation of the chief god as Ba’al, meant the god who is the chief god and master. The great difference between a master and husband resides in the intimate love of a husband for his spouse. Jesus has described himself as a bridegroom, precisely to align himself with the God portrayed in Hosea. While certainly remaining master of his creatures, more importantly his intention is to espouse His people: “I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD. (Hosea 2:21-22)

    How truly astounding that the Creator of the universe should choose to enter into such an intimate relationship with a bit of dust in his creation! Surely Hosea could not have fully appreciated the ultimate import of his prophetic words. To describe the covenant relationship in these nuptial terms is already a tremendous breakthrough, even if the language is considered poetic or metaphorical. Nonetheless, it is anticipating the fulfillment of these words in the relationship established between Christ and his Church. God no longer simply accompanies his bride as her lover, as the bridegroom in the first stage of the Jewish betrothal, before the bridegroom takes the bride into his home. In Jesus Christ, God has become one flesh with our humanity, and in a sense He has truly taken us into his home, just as he has entered into our souls.

    This is the ultimate truth about God’s purpose in creating the human race. First God betrothed Israel; now Christ has betrothed the Church; and through the Church God carries out his nuptial plan for all of humanity. “I will be your God, and you will be my people” now extends to the whole human race, and now it takes a new form, “
She shall call me “My husband,” and never again “My baal.”

    When Catholics fail to worship their Lord at least on Sundays, is it not a sign that they consider God more their “ba’al” than their Bridegroom? Has duty not yet passed over into friendship, the most intimate friendship, with the Lord?    

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Categories: Weekday reflections

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