I will never leave you, nor forsake you

image-3.901629.66f4b3c08eThe title of this message comes from the Word of God.

“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

The author of the book of Hebrews uses this quote in his message about the sufficiency of Christ as the Redeemer of all mankind.

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” (Hebrews 13:5)

When you are content in Christ, you will be able to be content in every aspect of your life, including in your marriage. I have been teaching on marriage over the past couple of months. Marriage is a gift from God to humanity. It brings great contentment when practiced according to the Word of God. The problem is, so many do not build their marriages on the Word of God. Why is it important to build our marriages on the Word of God?

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)

Build your marriage on the Word of God and it will endure as long as the Word of God endures!

You may be thinking, yeah, but you do not understand my marriage. You are correct, I do not understand your marriage, but, God does. You may counter with, “but God has never had to deal with being married”. The answer to that is, “yes, He has”. Did you know that God compares His relationship with the children of Israel to being married? Let’s take a look at the Word to see how we can know with confidence that God understands what we are going through in marriage because of His spiritual marriage to Israel.

I. God’s Covenant of Marriage

We need to turn to the book of Ezekiel to learn of God’s marriage to Israel. He outlines this relationship through the prophet Ezekiel. The story is found in chapter 16.

3 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem, “Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite, your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.
4 “As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths.
5 “No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born. (Ezekiel 16)

From birth, Israel was not much to look at. There was not a lot of potential in her. God saw her on the day of her birth. No one else paid any attention to her. She was dirty, naked, and left alone to suffer. She was thrown out and alone. Everyone abhorred her. This is not the picture of a bright future. The is not the picture of a nation through whom the Savior of mankind would come. I love the phrase, “but God” in the Bible. With the bleak future, we discover a “but God”.

“When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ (Ezekiel 16:6)

Although she has no future, God sees her and He takes notice of her. God extends His compassion, mercy, and grace to her. He wants her to have a future. He wants her to live so that she can have the honor of bringing about the Savior of the world. No one else sees hope, but God does.

8 “Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord GOD.
9 “Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil.
10 “I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk.
11 “I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck.
12 “I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.
13 “Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. (Ezekiel 16)

God takes the initiative. God takes her under His wing of protection. God nourishes and cherishes her. She blossom as a woman who is loved properly blossoms. God enters into Covenant with her. She becomes His bride and He continues to nourish and cherish her.

“Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 16:14)

Like any woman who is loved, as I mentioned earlier, she blossoms and her fame becomes well known among the nations because of her husband’s love. This is the picture of marriage the way that God intended. The husband wraps his loving arms of protection around his wife. He nourishes and cherishes her and she responds in a beautiful way. Even in the midst of a perfect marriage, Israel has a sin nature that is just below the surface seeking to be engaged, desiring to be entertained and satisfied. This is why marriage is hard. With us, in marriage, both of us have a sin nature that wants to be served instead of serving. This is where things get complicated.

II. Israel’s Adultery

At the height of the goodness, human nature, sin nature rears its ugly head.

“But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing. (Ezekiel 16:15)

Israel began to place her trust in the gifts instead of the Giver of those gifts. She turned her love and affection from the Gift giver to her gifts and, ultimately, she turns her affection to herself. Once she took her eyes off of her loving husband, she began to play the harlot with every passer-by who was willing to stop and entertain her beauty. Her beauty turned ugly very quickly, even though her outward beauty was at its apex. God still loved her but she had left Him, even though she remained close to Him physically. Her heart was far from Him.

16 “You took some of your clothes, made for yourself high places of various colors and played the harlot on them, which should never come about nor happen.
17 “You also took your beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images that you might play the harlot with them.
18 “Then you took your embroidered cloth and covered them, and offered My oil and My incense before them.
19 “Also My bread which I gave you, fine flour, oil and honey with which I fed you, you would offer before them for a soothing aroma; so it happened,” declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 16)

Once she took her sight off of the Gift giver and began to focus on the gifts, those gifts quickly turned to idolatry and instead of edifying her, they defiled her and all with whom she came into contact in her adulteries.

20 “Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter?
21 “You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire. (Ezekiel 16)

Things got so bad that she began to turn on the children who were produced from her Covenant marriage to God. The people of Israel began to offer their children as sacrifices to the pagan gods around them. The children of Abraham, through whom the promised Messiah was to come were treated like disposable garbage, eradicated in the fires of idolatry. Just imagine how painful this must have been to God. He had done everything for her. He made her who she was so that she could be a blessing to the world and now, she has turned everything into a curse. God shares how He feels in Ezekiel 23.

35 “Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, bear now the punishment of your lewdness and your harlotries.’ “

God feels forgotten by His wife. She has committed lewd acts in His very presence. His heart is broken. But, He still loves her and He still has hope for her.

1 God says, “If a husband divorces his wife And she goes from him And belongs to another man, Will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers; Yet you turn to Me,” declares the LORD.
2 “Lift up your eyes to the bare heights and see; Where have you not been violated? By the roads you have sat for them Like an Arab in the desert, And you have polluted a land With your harlotry and with your wickedness. (Jeremiah 3)

Even though God has hope for her, she simply will not renounce her lovers. She has polluted the land with her wickedness.

6 Then the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there.
7 “I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. (Jeremiah 3)

God must act for her own good so that one day, she will finally come to her senses and return to Him. What must He do to get her to come to her senses and renounce her lovers?

“And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. (Jeremiah 3:8)

God writes a certificate of divorce and gives it to her, hoping that this will be the thing that brings her back to her senses. This event happened in 722B.C. when the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This Northern Kingdom consisted of 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel. God allowed the Assyrians to take the children of Israel into captivity. This was to be a wake up call for the Southern Kingdom of Israel. It did not work. The Southern Kingdom continued to commit adultery with idols until it too was conquered by Babylon in 605B.C. God allowed this to happen for Israel’s own good. She needed to understand what it was like without Him so that she would renounce her lovers and embrace Him once again as her husband. God understands the pain of a cheating spouse. God understands the pain of having a spouse forsake Him. That is why He promises never to leave us or forsake us and He teaches us to do the same in our marriages. God understands your pain in marriage. Praise the Lord that the story does not end here. Restoration will take place. Israel will come to her senses and embrace her husband once again. There is still a hope and a future for her.

III. The Restoration of Israel

Even before going into captivity, God informs Israel of her future restoration.

53 “Nevertheless, I will restore their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and along with them your own captivity,
54 in order that you may bear your humiliation and feel ashamed for all that you have done when you become a consolation to them.
55 “Your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to their former state, and you with your daughters will also return to your former state. (Ezekiel 16)

This restoration will take place once she has felt the weight of her sin and the shame that she has brought upon herself. She will come to her senses and finally be willing to embrace her husband.

60 “Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.
61 “Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both your older and your younger; and I will give them to you as daughters, but not because of your covenant.
62 “Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD,
63 so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord GOD declares. (Ezekiel 16)

Not only is God going to welcome her back, He is also going to forgive her sins. This is a unique trait for the God of the Bible. All the other religions, i.e. false gods, only offer punishment for disobedience, while God offers forgiveness. Immorality can be forgiven. Adultery can be forgiven. It is painful and it causes much harm but, it is not too much for God to forgive. That same forgiveness that is offered to us by God can be extended from us to our spouses.

26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.”
27 “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”
28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;
29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11)

One of these days, all of Israel will acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah and fully return to God. It is a promise that God will keep. He is patient enough to wait for Israel to come to her senses. God is willing to fight for marriage. Are we willing to fight for our marriages today? We should be if we are followers of Christ. That is His will for our lives, for our marriages.

May the Lord help us understand that He understands what we are going through in our marriages and turn to Him for help and support!

 

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