The People of God: God's Wife--I
A second metaphor the Bible uses often to describe God's relationship to his people is that of a husband and wife. God (or, sometimes in the New Testament,Christ) is the husband and Israel (or Jerusalem or the church)is the wife or bride: Hosea 1-3 (and scattered throughout Hosea); Isaiah 1:21-26; 50:1; 54:1-8 (and elsewhere in Isaiah); Jeremiah 2:1-8; 3:1-4:4; 31:31-34; Ezekiel 16; 23; Romans 7:1-6; 2 Corinthians 11:2-3; Ephesians 5:21-33; Revelation 21. This metaphor communicates several important truths concerning the relationship between God and his people.
1. God's relationship to his people is personal, intimate, and daily, not impersonal, cold, and sporadic. God has strong inner feelings toward human beings, and yearns for them to respond with similar strong inner feelings. The primary feeling in this relationship is love, which is genuine, personal, ongoing affection coupled with unbreakable commitment. God initiates this love "with no strings attached," and yearns for human beings to react in like kind out of genuine gratitude for his prior love. 1 John 4:9-11, 19:
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: NOT THAT WE LOVED GOD, BUT THAT HE LOVED US and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so lovedus, we also ought to love one another. . . . WE LOVE BECASUSE HE FIRST LOVED US."
Human love does not and cannot initiate the relationship we have with God. God initiates that relationship, and all we can do is to respond appropriately: by loving him in return for the great way he has already loved us.
2. Another strong feeling God has for human beings, closely associated with his love, is his faithfulness. Passage after passage after passage in the Bible exalts God's "steadfast love and faithfulness." The author of Psalm 89 begins her/his long poem with these words addressed to God in verses 1-2:
"I will sing of the Lord's STEADFAST LOVE forver;
with my mouth I will make your FAITHFULNESS known through all generations.
I will declare that your STEADFAST LOVE stands firm forever,
that you established your FAITHFULNESS in heaven itself."
The shortest psalm in the Bible (Psalm 117) says:
"Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his STEADFAST LOVE toward us,
and the FAITHFULNESS of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord."
God wants and expects his people to be faithful to him as he is to them, like a wife is faithful to her husband, who is faithful to her. Sadly, often those who claim to be God's people, God's wife, are unfaithful to him--still, he remains faithful to them. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:11-13:
"Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself."
Throughout the centuries, one of the greatest human failures is unfaithfulness: to God, to one's spouse, to one's children, to one's commitments, to one's moral standards and values, to one's friends, to one's faith community, and on and on the relationships go. This is very disorienting; but in the midst of it all, it is reassuring that there is one who always remains faithful: our husband, God.