A Strange Romance – Worship @ Home Sunday, 21 February 2021

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Worship @ Home Sunday, 21 February 2021
Major Steven Turner
(Based on an idea by Chris Howlett)

Series Introduction: Redemption

In ancient times, life centred around the extended family, overseen by a Patriarch (literally Great Father). When family members lost their status and security through poverty or enslavement, the patriarch would use all his power and wealth to rescue the lost family member and bring them back into the fold.

In the Bible, God presents himself as a patriarch, redeeming his lost family members from their enslavement to sin, and making them co-heirs with his Son, Jesus. Our reflections over these coming weeks will lead us from our consideration of God’s covenant his people, the Israelites, to their ultimate redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the New Covenant.

Song: Let us with a gladsome mind

Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord, for he is kind:
For his mercies shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.

Let us blaze his name abroad,
For of gods he is the God:
For his mercies shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.

He, with all-commanding might,
Filled the new-made world with light:
For his mercies shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.

He the golden-tressed sun
Caused all day his course to run:
For his mercies shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.

All things living he doth feed,
His full hand supplies their need:
For his mercies shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.

John Milton (1608-74)

Chorus: Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His Glory and grace

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from the evil one.
for yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.

Bible Reading

3 The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’

2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.’

4 For the Israelites will live for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterwards the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.

Hosea 3:1-5

Song: What a faithful God

Lord, I come before your throne of grace;
I find rest in Your presence
And fulness of joy.
In worship and wonder
I behold Your face,
Singing what a faithful God have I.

What a faithful God have I,
What a faithful God.
What a faithful God have I,
Faithful in every way.

Lord of mercy, You have heard my cry;
Through the storm You’re the beacon,
My song in the night.
In the shelter of Your wings,
Hear my heart’s reply,
Singing what a faithful God have I.

Lord all sovereign, granting peace from heaven,
Let me comfort those who suffer
With the comfort You have given.
I will tell of Your great love for as long as I live,
Singing what a faithful God have I.

Robert & Dawn Critchley.
© 1989 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music.

A Strange Romance

Throughout our lives we continually lose relationships and create new ones. Some of them come to a natural end: you lose touch with old workmates when you start a new job, or with neighbours when you move to a new house. Some friendships are based on shared interests such as sports or music; as our interests change, so do the relationships. A child’s attachment to a parent becomes looser with marriage, and even more if children come along.

But other relationships break down because of the behaviour of one person. Marriages end due to unfaithfulness, mistreatment or disagreements over money, responsibilities or some other issue. Friendships can be broken through perceived betrayal or harsh words. Family members fall out over all kinds of things and communication breaks down. Church members quarrel over what songs to sing, who is responsible for cleaning the building and whether someone is committed enough. The shared love or affection comes to an abrupt end and the relationship falls.

What do you do when that happens? Shrug your shoulders and walk away? Cry yourself to sleep at night? Wish (or even plan for) a catastrophe for the other person? Tell everyone around how bad the person is? Spend your days obsessing over the betrayal?

In our Bible reading, Hosea is in just such a situation: his wife (who was a prostitute before they married) has gone off with another man, who presumably mistreated her, as she is now for sale in the slave market. We might forgive him for saying, “You’ve got what you deserve!” But Hosea goes to the market and buys Gomer back. Why would he do that?

If you read the opening of the book of Hosea, you’ll realise that his was a Strange Romance. God told Hosea to take “an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness! (Hosea 1:2a). By this action and in the naming of his children, Hosea was mimicking the situation between God and Israel.

The Israelites had agreed a covenant with God during their wandering in the wilderness. But since arriving in the Promised Land, they had been drawn aside to worship the Baals (literally “lords”) of the Canaanites. The religious practices were full of sexual activity, and the gods promised fertility for both land and people. Who would turn down pleasure and profit?

But in turning to false gods, they had broken the first condition of the covenant with the living God, who became angry with them. (Hosea 2 begins to list God’s complaints against his people. Following our reading, the complaints continue for another 11 chapters!) As a sign of his displeasure, God ordered Hosea to call his second and third children, Lo-Ruhamah (“not loved”) and Lo-Ammi (“not my people”). It may appear from this that God was rejecting the Israelites. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Although much of Hosea’s message rails against the sins of the people—greed, idolatry, unfaithfulness, dishonesty and more—there are hints of hope throughout the prophecy. Beginning in 1:10-11, God promise a reunion of his beloved people, until they grow to numerous to count. God will be faithful to his covenant; he will not give up on his people and will welcome them back when they repent. This is the meaning of Hosea’s purchase of Gomer.

In verse 3 the phrase “live with me for many days” is a little hard to understand. If we compare it with verse 4, it seems to suggest that Gomer would be welcomed back to the house but would not initially enjoy all the benefits of married life.

In the same way, the Israelites would live through a period of exile when they had relations neither with God (as Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed) nor with the Baals (who were assumed to reside in Canaan). This period was presumably intended to encourage Gomer to be faithful to Hosea and Israel to be faithful to God.

Hosea’s story has some parallels with the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24). The younger son had claimed all the benefits of his position but squandered them on “wild living” (v13). But when he came to his senses and went home, his father was so glad to see him that he ran out to meet him, brought him home and threw a party.

How do you handle a relationship that has gone sour? Do you cut off all ties with the one who has upset you? Do you wish or even pray for their downfall? Do you ignore them in the street or repeat your tale of woe to anyone who will listen? That’s how most people would handle these situations.

The Bible confirms what psychologists tell us: that holding grudges and harbouring bitterness and resentment are bad for our health and our relationship with God (Proverbs 14:10; Ephesians 4:26).

Jesus gave both a challenge and a warning to his disciples regarding strained relationships:

‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ John 13:34-35

Love is to be the mark of the followers of Jesus. We are to emulate both our heavenly Father and his Son in our love for others. John expands on this in chapter 4 his first letter, especially:

11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

Jesus also told the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21‑35), ending with the warning:

35 ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’ (Matthew 18:35).

No one should pretend that this is easy; like Hosea’s Strange Romance, it takes great strength of character and a firm trust in God’s work through his spirit in us. Our family and friends may not understand us and even turn against us. But many Christians will testify that it is possible, and even brings a sense of release.

If you have suffered a broken relationships, here are some suggestions for restoration:

  1. Pray for the other person (Matthew 5:44). It’s hard to hate a person for whom you are praying!
  2. If possible (and if it is safe), try to meet with the other person to resolve your differences (Matthew 18: 15).
  3. Regardless of how things work out, make sure that your actions always seek peace (Romans 12:18).

God never breaks his side of the covenant, and he calls us to do the same in our relationships with others. Will you take up the challenge and seek to build a Strange Romance?

Song: Waymaker

You are here, moving in our midst
I worship You I worship You.
You are here, working in this place
I worship You, I worship You.

You are here, touching every heart
I worship You, I worship You.
You are here, healing every heart
I worship You, I worship You
You are here, turning lives around
I worship You, I worship You
You are here, mending every heart

Way maker, Miracle worker
Promise keeper, Light in the darkness
My God, that is who You are.
Way maker, Miracle worker
Promise keeper, Light in the darkness
My God, that is who You are

You wipe away all tears
You mend the broken heart
You’re the answer to it all, Jesus.

You are here, touching every life
I worship you, I worship you.
You are here, meeting every need
I worship you, I worship you.

Way maker…

Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu
2016 Integrity Music Europe (Admin. by Integrity Music)

Prayer

Father God, we are amazed at you faithfulness towards your people, even when we are unfaithful to you. In these days of Lent, may we encounter you afresh. Revive our love for you, we pray.

And as you have loved us, help us to so love others, that we would not only be able to restore our broken relationships, but also help them to restore their relationships with others.

Through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, we pray.
Amen.

Song: Boundless as the might ocean

or can be sung to the tune Cwm Rhondda

Boundless as the mighty ocean,
Rolling on from pole to pole,
Is the boundless love of Jesus
To the weary sinful soul,
Boundless mercy,
Making guilty sinners whole.

Boundless as the starry heavens,
Filled with fiery orbs of light,
Are the promises of Jesus
For the soul in nature’s night,
Ever shining
Till our faith is changed to sight.

Boundless as eternal ages,
As the air we breathe as free,
Is the boundless, full salvation
Jesus purchased on the tree,
Boundless cleansing
From all sin’s impurity.

Boundless is the grace to save us
From the guilt and power of sin;
Boundless is his power to keep us
Now and every instant clean.
Boundless praises
We our glorious Lord will bring.

Josiah Henry Walter (1865-1938)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Cliff Barrows

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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