Ma-wij

In the classic film “The Princess Bride”, Cambridge-trained actor Peter Cook plays the Impressive Clergyman, presiding at the almost official wedding of Prince Humperdinck and Buttercup.  His famous lines are known and loved by many moviegoers: “Ma-wij! Ma-wij is wot bwings us togevah today! Ma-wij – that bwessed awangement, that dweam wifin a dweam …”  The contrast between the solemnity and pomp of a High Church of England Royal Wedding ceremony and the comic antics of the actors makes for a droll and humorous scene.

The disparity between a loveless wedding and “twu wuv” (true love), however, is no joke. There have always been and still are many broken and lifeless homes from where passion and joy have long departed, leaving a grey existence and a jaded reality in their stead.

It is thought-provoking that the God of Jacob has used the institution of marriage to reflect the burning center of His love for the human race, for believers in Yeshua, and in a challenging way for the entire people of Israel. Yet though some excellent works have been written about God’s love for the bride of Christ, less has been written and grasped among Christian believers about God’s blazing passion and tender marital love for Israel, Messiah’s own Jewish people. Indeed, the relationship between Israel and YHVH is described by some in a way that lacks passion. Others describe that relationship as being full of hair-trigger anger and toxic silence on both sides.

A marriage covenant between YHVH and Israel

The Hebrew prophets did not blush to describe the relationship between the Jewish people and their God as a passionate connection between a man and his bride on their wedding night: “Then you grew up and became tall. You reached the age for fine ornaments … You were exceedingly beautiful” (Ezekiel 16:7, 13).  The attraction between God and Israel is so powerful that the air fairly crackles on the pages of Scripture. Passages such as Hosea 2:1-13, 14-23, Isaiah 50:1; 54:4-12; Jeremiah 3:1-3; Ezekiel 16:1-6, 7-14, 15-59; 60-63; Song of Solomon 8:6-7 all describe aspects of God’s passionate embrace of His beloved Jewish bride.

Mark Twain once said. “It ain’t the parts of the Bible I can’t understand that bother me.  It is the parts that I do understand” (The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain). There can sometimes be aspects of theology that are hard to grasp, like how God’s love for the Church and for Israel all balance out in the end.

Sometimes theologians try to play down God’s love for Israel or try to elevate God’s love for the Gentiles to be the main issue. Perhaps we can have the grace to allow for both to co-exist simultaneously as we try to delve into the depths of God’s heart about the matter. “For God has revealed these things to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

What is clear is that YHVH is not an uninvolved bystander. He’s passionately caught up with the Jewish people. He is their passionate Pursuer and Lover.

YHVH is a jilted Lover

The prophets tell us that God has not only fallen head over heels in love with Israel. He has also had His heart broken by the fact that His beloved wife has had ‘a case of the straying eyes.’ Her willingness to give her heart over to other passions, to be consumed with other loves, to pour her affections, time and energies into other activities – all these have meant that YHVH is the “owner of a broken heart.”

The prophets convey God’s deep grief at this tragic turn of events, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel? … My heart is turned upside down within Me, and all My compassions are kindled!” (Hosea 11:8).

Holy grief, holy anger

YHVH the Consummate Husband and Lover sent His own express delivery messengers to His beloved wife Israel for centuries, pleading with her to return to her First Love. “Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they didn’t obey Me or incline their ear, but instead stiffened their neck” (Jeremiah 7:25).

YHVH brought military invasion, famine, wild beasts and plagues and even exile to His beloved wife (Ezekiel 14:21) in order to shock her into repentance (2 Kings 17:23; 1 Chronicles 9:1).  Though YHVH expressed His righteous anger, fury and jealousy (Ezekiel 16:38-43) through these judgments, He also expressed His own deep anguish, grief and horror at what He was doing. “I will not execute My fierce anger, nor will I destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, Holy in your midst, and I will not come in burning wrath” (Hosea 11:9).

Empathy —  not just sympathy

The God of Jacob testifies that whenever the Jewish people suffer or are struck in judgment, He also feels their pain – and in ways far beyond that of President William Clinton. “In all their (the Jewish people’s) afflictions He was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9). God not only sorrowfully brings judgment; He cries out with His own beloved Jewish wife as she goes through that suffering, because He feels every blow, every slash, every bullet, every drop of poison gas.

In a very similar dynamic, both the Holy Spirit and the Apostle Paul feel agony at the majority of Israel’s turning away from their God and from David’s Greater Son. Paul testifies that the Ruach HaKodesh also feels the unceasing grief and anguish that is in Paul’s heart (Romans 9:1-2) over the current spiritual status of the majority of Jacob’s children.

  • What is so important to see here, and what is so necessary, is balance. God not only gets angry; He bursts out in heart-rending sobs at the same time. He is not all sweetness and light, neither is He negatively fixated in anger. 
  • The prophetic calling to share God’s heart for Israel must involve the communication of God’s righteousness and judgment, but if it is missing the anguish and tears of God in that process, it is no longer a balanced message. Nor does it adequately or accurately represent the heart of God.

Tenderness in the midst of trouble

The prophet Hosea conveys some exquisite jewels in his descriptions of God’s heart. Whereas Ezekiel will later describe a time of purification in the desert in aggressive terms, Hosea describes this same process from a different angle – that of a Husband who is attempting to woo His wife back into a tender love relationship: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her” (Hosea 2:14).

  • Hosea’s vision of YHVH and Israel in the desert reveals a facet of the prophetic picture that is not covered in Ezekiel 20. Both facets are needed for a balanced biblical scenario.

Singing in the vineyards

The entire scenario of this re-marriage is one of singing, of romance in the vineyards and of tenderness: “Then I will give her the vineyards from there that were hers, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt” (Hosea 2:15).

The language of this encounter between YHVH and His Jewish bride is enscripturated with great tenderness and marital affection. “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in loving kindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know YHVH” (Hosea 2:19-20). As many are already aware, the Hebrew word for “to know” is the same wonderful word used of Adam and Eve’s first intimate encounter (see Genesis 2:24; 4:1).

YHVH declares with great tenderness at the close of this song, that His wife Israel will no longer whisper intimacies to Him using the name “Lord” (in Hebrew, Ba’al). That would remind her and Him both of her prior unfaithfulness to other lords, including to Baal Zaphon of the Canaanite pantheon.  Instead, Israel will have the privilege of calling YHVH “my man” (in Hebrew “Ishi”), signifying renewed intimacy and tenderness at a new level. “It will come about in that day, declares YHVH, that you will call Me Ishi, and will no longer call Me Ba’ali” (Hosea 2:16).

Yeshua never asked us to be rage-aholics

Family counselors use the term ‘rage-aholic’ to describe a person who slips quickly into a violent rage, and who uses that strong anger to keep his or her family in check. Of course, any family member can play that addicting role, although many husbands and fathers in modern society find themselves glitching down the playground slide of rage all too often.

Theologians can have the same problem vis-à-vis interpreting the Scriptures.  It is not an easy challenge to keep Scriptural equilibrium when processing the length and breadth of the Bible, especially when trying to balance God’s love for His Jewish bride with His righteous anger, His grief with His tenderness.

  • It is possible for some to get stuck focusing only on God’s anger in judging Israel and to make that the primary focus, leaving out His tenderness, His tears and His covenant of love with His Jewish bride in the process.

This is why the community of saints, the interaction of believers, is so important in these matters.  Yeshua intended that we each help to balance out the other. When youthful zeal results in washing people’s feet in boiling water, then more seasoned saints can help bring balance (and help avoid medical bills too!). When courage has given way to fear of man in the hearts of some older battle-scarred leaders, sometimes it is the younger saints who can encourage through their fighting spirit and feelings of ‘invincibility.’

Rabbi Sha’ul (known in Latin as the Apostle Paul) put it elegantly: “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Messiah, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-17).

How can we pray?

  • Pray for each other and for ourselves as we read the Scriptures, that we will have revelation and balance to grasp God’s Husband-heart of love for Israel even as we mourn over her sins. 
  • Pray for a revelation (see Ephesians 1:17-18) of God’s love and wisdom concerning how deep His love is, not only for the nations, but especially for His firstborn nation, Israel, His wife by covenant and by affection. 

Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

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