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The biblical theme of spiritual adultery stands in all its bluntness for a deeply offensive sin—the unfaithfulness of God’s covenant people in departing from Yahweh, their husband, and going after false gods.
Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. shows how the Genesis vision of human marriage provides the logic and coherent network of meanings for the story of Israel’s relationship with Yahweh. He traces the specific theme of marital unfaithfulness, first through the historical books of the Old Testament and then through the prophets, particularly Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Turning to the New Testament, he also shows how the sad story of Israel’s adultery is transcended by the vision of the ultimate reality in Christ and his church—the bridegroom and the bride.
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“The people failed to make meaningful connections between their theology, history and worship, on the one hand, and their real-life problems, on the other hand. They put God, his covenant, his power, his wisdom, into a limiting category of thought—they could not bring themselves really to believe the assurance of Deuteronomy 28:1–14—while ‘the real world’ was another category altogether with its own rules and its own resources. They acted as though faith in Yahweh alone were an impracticable policy for life. As a result, they dishonoured him even as they thought they continued to honour him.” (Page 48)
“The announcement of Not My People and Not I Am seems, therefore, the equivalent to a divorce.” (Page 54)
“Where does life, in all its richness and fullness, come from? Does it come from Yahweh alone, or from Yahweh plus others? If it comes from Yahweh alone, then one will look obediently to him alone for that life. But if it comes from Yahweh plus others, then one will spread one’s allegiance around, because Yahweh alone is not enough.” (Page 49)
“Hosea was not merely to accept an adulteress as his wife; he was to love her, and love her until he won her” (Page 72)
“Israel was an unfaithful wife, sharing her love with both Yahweh and the Baals, and her lawful husband could no longer support her affairs with other lovers through further manifestations of his mercies.” (Page 47)
Not only does the development of this theme link large swathes of the canon together, but it simultaneously discloses the profoundly personal nature of God’s covenanted love, exposes the odium of spiritual adultery and, conversely, enriches our view of marriage.
—D.A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Raymond C. Ortlund is senior minister at Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He has pastored churches in California, Oregon, and Georgia. He was formerly professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has written several books, including A Passion for God and Isaiah: God Saves Sinners.