Thursday, September 27, 2007

Yahweh and Israel: Fulfilment Beyond Failure

Is Jesus in love with a “woman”? Yes, He is!

It was Christ who invented sexual love and marriage. When Adam was in desperate loneliness in the Garden, the Lord brought Eve to him; He foresaw when He would assuage His own loneliness with the “marriage” to a “Bride.” Jesus is a lone, lonely Man in heaven; He belongs with His people in the earth.

No woman on earth could be so tall, so beautiful, so wise, that she could be the bride of the divine Son of God; the “woman” with whom He is in such desperate love is a “corporate” woman—a “body” of humans, redeemed sinners from “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6, 7). “She” has grown up from her infancy “in Christ”; she has come at last to maturity where she can stand by His side as His “help-meet.” And He needs her! What God said of Adam in the Garden is true of Jesus also: “it is not good that the Man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

In Revelation’s picture, she will share with Him the administration of His new kingdom where He has just been crowned “King of kings and Lord of lords,” for He invites her to sit with Him on His throne (Rev. 3:21). He can’t rule there alone! He has to have someone “sit” with Him whom He can love, trust, and respect as a king his queen.

When God’s people had wandered away from Him, Jeremiah likens Israel’s infidelity to a “wife” treacherously departing from her husband” (3:20). The husband’s brokenheartedness is implied.

Ezekiel spends an entire long chapter on Israel’s youth as a time when she was so charming, beautiful and innocent that He, wanting to be her husband-to-be, fell in love with her (cf. 16:8ff). This, like a surrealist painting, portrays the whole of human history and especially that of God’s people as a divine-human love affair, a husband wooing a wife. It’s the back-in-the-shadows reality that informs the whole of Scripture. Paul likens Christ to His church as a Lover being betrothed (2 Cor. 11:2).

In Ephesians he shocks Christians of all ages saying that agape-love is sexual love: “Husbands, love your wives [with agape] even as Christ also loved the church” (5:25); so Christ’s love for the church is conjugal, that of a Lover for the woman who arouses His love!

This is so shocking extracted criticism. “Bishop Wordsworth ... said that Charles Wesley’s famous hymn “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” was ‘inexpressibly shocking’, and should not be sung in Westminster Abbey.” Even his brother John excluded it from his 1780 Large Hymnbook, “and in other hymnbooks ‘lover’ has been altered to ‘refuge’ or ‘Saviour.’” [1]

This fear of the humanity of the Savior is probably due to the popular Dogma of the Immaculate Conception which cuts the Virgin Mary genetic link to the fallen Adam and thus separates her Son from true identity with humanity. The reticence even in our churches to sing Charles Wesley’s hymn probably derives unconsciously from the same.

Hosea stands in history as the preeminent example of the disappointed but steadfast love of man for a woman, because he still loved Gomer after she played the harlot on him. Paul insists that agape is sexual as well as “spiritual.” Hosea’s love for her was conjugal; it had to be. He was not an angel; he was a man. He illustrates Christ’s love for His church that keeps His commandments in the last days. Why does He single her out to love her, like a man singles out one woman from all the world of women to love?

Something about that “body” of believers, “the remnant” which “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” that has called forth the conjugal love of Christ. He wants to marry “her”; a burning desire, not to be turned aside. The disappointment of that love in “1888” was to Him “beyond description.” [2]

We could say that the little group who went through the Great Disappointment of 1844 were deeply beloved of Him in this special sense. They refused to give up their faith, confident that the true Holy Spirit was in the Midnight Cry through the Great Disappointment. They were especially dear to His heart (Jesus describes them in His message to “the angel of the church of the Philadelphians,” Rev. 3:9, 10).

When new truth came to them (the heavenly sanctuary and the opening of the second apartment), they believed; there was an endearing love for that “little flock” in His eyes. When Rachel Preston brought them the seventh-day Sabbath-truth, they welcomed it; no resisting and fighting it (as “they” did other precious truth forty-plus years later). Then when the first principles of health reform came, again they eagerly accepted, even some “dress reform.” Through the early history of this people, a special heavenly love affair was developing. Not since Pentecost had Jesus found such a group of believers loyal to Him.

Then, “1888.” Here the Song of Solomon 5:2-8 comes on stage. [3] The Lover has come “home” to His beloved after a long safari; tired, lonely, hungry, wet from the rain; He longs to be with her intimately. He “knocks” (the Hebrew says banging on the door). The woman whom He loves disdains him, she is too relaxed, gone to bed for the night; why does He bother her now? (The world is too comfy a place as it is, says the church of the Laodiceans.)

Finally, she forgets about her own selfish comfort and thinks about Him out in the darkness in the rain, hungry and alone; she belatedly gets up and goes to let Him in, but when she opens the door, He is “gone.”

We’ve been looking for Him for over a hundred years (cf. 6:1). Increasingly, thoughtful people see here the story of “our” disdaining Him in the most precious message of the beginning of the latter rain. In rejecting the message, says the Lord’s servant, we disdained Christ, just as “the woman” did her Lover in Song of Solomon 5:3. [4]

Christ’s pathetic appeal in His message to “the angel of the church of the Laodiceans” [5] (“be zealous therefore and repent,” Rev. 3:19) demands attention.

—Robert J. Wieland


1. Michael Harper, The Love Affair (Eerdmans, 1982), p. 75.
2. See Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1904, her statement describing how Jesus felt after the 1888 failure of the church leadership to receive and pass on the message, and the loss of the consequent reconciliation with Him: “The disappointment of Christ is beyond description.”
3. There seems no reason to include this book in the Bible unless it speaks of Jesus and His love for the church. Jesus described it as “scripture” in John 7:37, 38 (4:15). Paul quoted it in reference to the church in Ephesians 5:27 (4:7). Scholars have long recognized that Jesus quoted the Septuagint version in Revelation 3:20, “I stand at the door and knock.”
4. 1888 Materials, pp. 398, 399.
5. Ellen White identifies this as the Seventh-day Adventist Church (op. cit.)

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