Ravi Zacharias – Let My People Think: The Prophet Marries a Prostitute (Adelaide, Australia)

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  • When God says ‘I love you’, and I  say ‘I love you’, and we are not giving it a univocal meaning or an equivocal meaning, we are now borrowing from analogy. We are taking an analogical application for you to understand and it is illustrated thus: When I say ‘I love you’, and you refuse to love me, I hurt because I have lost something. When God says ‘He loves you’, and you refuse to love God, God hurts too. Not because God has loved something , but you have lost something. That’s the very perfection of His love.
  • Often times I’ll get a question from the floor that goes like this: „Why is it that the Old Testament seems so harsh and the God of the New Testament  seems so loving and gentle?” That is a total misunderstanding of the Old Testament corpus of material. You go and study these passages and what precedes them and what succeeds them.

The Prophet Marries a Prostitute

Ravi Zacharias takes a closer look at a story from the Old Testament; one that is both confusing and powerful. It’s the story of Hosea and his unfaithful wife.

Ravi Zacharias how do we challenge

Selected notes from the 2013 Influencers Conference in Australia (Video uploaded just very recently):

Ravi Zacharias:

I’ll never forget, when I was doing my postgraduate studies in Chicago, preparing for my doctrinal examination. And you study all of the fine points of historical theology, and all that kind of stuff, and your doctrinal distinctives of your denomination. All of this was in my head. And then I sat down at my desk and you’re not allowed to use any book except the Bible in answering this 6 or 7 page thing. And it said: Keep your answers brief. And the first question was: God is perfect; explain. And I turned yo my wife and I said, „The only more difficult thing I could think of is if it said, „Define God and give 2 examples.”  ‘God is perfect. Explain and keep your answers brief.’ So I just put one line:

He is the only entity in existence , the reason for whose existence  is in Himself. All other entities have their reason for their existence outside of themselves. We are finite dependent caused . God is infinite, not contingent on any necessary being. It is impossible for God, by definition therefore, not to be. He is nondependent. His very existence is perfect. But that, then spawns a myriad questions, one of them being something like this: If He is uncaused, infinite, nondependent, necessary, why does He use language like this when He says ‘you and I can cause Him grief’?

You follow what I’m saying? How does a finite being wield such power and authority to cause an infinite being grief? And yet, God speaks in such analogical terms, doesn’t He? You see, when we use language, Thomas Aquinas reminds us we use it in 3 different ways:

  1. we use it univocally,
  2. we use it equivocally,
  3. and we use it analogically.

What did He mean by that? When you’re using language univocally, what he means is if you use the same word in 2 different sentences, you are assuming and the listener’s assuming  that you’re not equivocating on the terms. The words mean the same thing. If, for example, I say to you, „God loves you,” and you start pondering that thought, and after that, the next statement is, „And, I want you to know I love you too.” You don’t start messing with the word love, at this point. You’re just taking it for granted that I’m using the word  in a univocal sense, I’m not suddenly playing word games with you. But then, all of a sudden, you have to equivocate on the words. Maybe the same word, but it is not meaning in the same way, because the context has changed. For ex. if you were to be on a plane to somewhere and you’re not quite familiar with the person sitting next to you, but you think you’ve seen them somewhere, but prior to your boarding the plane, you say ‘Ravi, what do you love to do?’ And I say, „Boy, I love to play tennis.’ And you say, „Well, are you a good tennis player?’ And I say, „Well, yeah, I do alright. I would say I’m a good tennis player.’ And then you’re sitting on a plane and you look to the guy next to you and you say, ‘Nice to meet you,’ and he says, ‘I’m Roger Federer.’ And you say, ‘What do you do for a living, Mr. Federer?’ And he says, ‘I’m a tennis player.’ And you say, ‘Are you a good tennis player?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, I suppose I’d tell you that I’m a good tennis player.’ You would make the biggest blunder if you would say to him, ‘You know, a fellow named Ravi Zacharias? He’s a good tennis player, you’re a good tennis player. You two need to get together and thrash the ball around  a bit.’ When he says ‘good for tennis’  and I said ‘good for tennis’, there’s an interplanetary disjunction at that point. I could not even see the ball that’s coming my way, let alone ponder a return.

The term is equivocated because of the context. Univocally means the same think. Equivocally, the context changes. How do we use language with God? When God says ‘I love you’, and I  say ‘I love you’, and we are not giving it a univocal meaning or an equivocal meaning, we are now borrowing from analogy. We are taking an analogical application for you to understand and it is illustrated thus: When I say ‘I love you’, and you refuse to love me, I hurt because I have lost something. When God says ‘He loves you’, and you refuse to love God, God hurts too. Not because God has loved something , but you have lost something . That’s the very perfection of His love.

You drive love out of your life when you drive God out of your life.

There’s a beautiful book, probably the most compelling boot of the Old Testament on the nature of God’s love and probably the most slender book I have read on the subject by famed expositor G Campbell Morgan, in his book The heart and the holiness of God– it is on the Book of Hosea. My message this morning is entitles: The Prophet Marries a Prostitute.

Let me read for you, a few verses:

Hosea 1:1-8

1 The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.

Hosea’s Wife and Children

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking theLord.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

Three children- Jezreel, meaning judgment, Lo-ammi, which means not my people, and Lo-ruhama, which means she has not received mercy- Judgment, no more mercy, not my people. Who would ever think to give their children such names? Every time they named their kids and called their name, it was a reminder of what God was about to do to the nation. And what I take you through is a whirlwind tour of this.

Undeserved and Unmerited

The first thing you see, so profoundly stated here is that God’s love is always undeserved. You will never ever merit that love. You do not earn that love. Why did He speak to you, why did He draw into the orb of His love, so that you may understand how deeply He cares about you. Why is it that the apostle Paul refers to himself  as the chief of all sinners, one abnormally born, dragged out of the womb as it were. God’s love is undeserved, always unmerited. How much this is the case is shown again and again as you trace  the story of God’s love in the Old Testament. Often times I’ll get a question from the floor that goes like this: „Why is it that the Old Testament seems so harsh and the God of the New Testament  seems so loving and gentle?” That is a total misunderstanding of the Old Testament corpus of material. You go and study these passages and what precedes them and what succeeds them.

You see, Hosea is speaking to the northern kingdom of Israel in the late 700 B. C. They’re already a divided kingdom after Jeroboam’s time. He did it for so called religious reasons, because Jeroboam did not want to lose the North, going to the South to worship. So he sets up his own system in the North. And now, we are looking at the late 700 B. C. and Hosea is a prophet to the North  only for a few fleeting moments  does he pause, in the middle of his message, and looks to the South when he says to them, „The North has joined itself to idols, leave her alone!” In other words: Don’t be imitators of them. But his primary message is to the North, and he is talking to them about their imminent collapse, which should take place in about 722 B.C. And he is describing what happens in this part. A man by the name of Hosea, a holy man of God,  joined to a woman called Gomer, who is a harlot, prostitute- paid by her lovers to lie with them.

And as Hosea sees these 3 children born and the home being shattered because of the prostitution, he wants to buy her back because he’s commanded by God to love her. And you can imagine him standing outside the brothel, in a lineup, where other men are paying for her affections. She must have been an attractive kind of young woman to be in this kind of profession, And He’s standing in line, waiting to buy her back for half the price of a slave and a day’s rations. You can imagine the conversations amongst the customers going on. But some rather saintly person comes to Hosea and says, „You know what? I’m puzzled. You’re a holy man of God. You’re married to a prostitute like this. How do you justify this?” Hosea probably said, „You know, I’ll be delighted to answer your questions if you will first answer mine, „How can a holy God like that, be joined to an adulterous nation like ours?”

…God chose the tiny little nation (Israel) that Rome enslaved, Greece mocked and the Babylonians ultimately bullied. „You are the apple of my eye,” He said. You know, that was what it says in English. There’s no such phraseology in the hebrew. In the hebrew, it actually says, „You’re the little maiden of my eye”. Do you know who the maiden of your eye is? That person whom you love so dearly  that when she comes closer and closer and closer to you, if she looked into your eyeballs she would see her own reflection. She is that little maiden of your eye. And God says to them, „Come close, come close. Come even closer. Look into my eyes, you are that little maiden in my eye.” How odd of God to choose the jews, how odder still are those who reject whom God chose. You, today, if you know Him, are loved by Him, not because of any merit that you and I displayed. This truth of God’s loving kindness, unmerited favor, divine mercy, I want you to hear me now, it is unique to the judaeo-Christian faith. You will never find this in any pantheistic religion of the world.

You will not find it in Islamic teaching. Why? In Islam, your good deeds are weighed against your bad deeds.In the pantheistic religions, you pay- every life is a rebirth. Every birth is a rebirth, but you pay the karmic consequence of your previous life. In other words, when you finally shake off karma, you have earned it. When you finally enter paradise in the islamic world, you have earned it. Not so, when the father runs out of the home and sees that little boy of his returning, all messed up and all ruined, and the older boy living in the house could not figure this out. Do you know what it means in eastern narrative, for a father who has been  disrespected and abused by the son, by the son taking the right to his will , even before the father has passed away? The son’s request was tantamount to saying: I want you as if you were dead. Give me my portion of the money . And the boy takes off. How many eastern fathers, when that son returns, would leave the confines of their home and run to meet him? Not so. That son would have to come into the house, fall flat at the feet of his father, clutch the ankles and feet  and beg and beg and beg for mercy. This father runs out , wraps his arms around him and embraces him and finds him now to be alive. That is divine loving kindness and mercy – UNDESERVED by that boy. Thats the love of God. (22:00)

Sustsained through relationship

Secondly, it also shows that this love is one that grows and is sustained through relationship. It doesn’t build in a vacuum. You see, when you have your own kids, that available stock of emotion is so expended in worry and care and all that stuff that goes around the house, you’ve got very little time to sit back and say, „Wow.” And then, when you’re a grandkid, you’ve got all that available emotion and let the second generation take care of the expenditure of energy and you just sit back and enjoy it. But the first time I became a father, I’ll never forget it. You know, when you marry, you are two adults that say ‘I do’, and you go and do. But with the little one, there’s no such pledge from the other one coming into the world. I remember standing by the crib, looking at the little one and thinking, ‘What on earth have I done? This life is now going to be totally dependent on me.”  And my brother in law, who is a nuclear physicist by training, always had a way of asking questions, wrongly phrased, at the wrong time. So, he said to me, after I walked out of the delivery room and he and I were heading for dinner  that night, and he asked, „What does it feel like to be a father?” I said, „Why do you ask such questions? It’s been a great day. Let’s eat and let’s enjoy it.” That night I went back to my room and our home and I got a call about midnight  with my wife saying, „We’ve got a problem. Sarah has got a blood malady where she is allergic from her own blood and her blood is actually being destroyed faster than it is giving her sustenance.” All of a sudden, at the midnight hour on the day 1 of our child, I knew what it felt like to be a father. You know, if you’d have taken that child and put her among 100 others, I had barely seen her, I would have hardly recognized her with all the babies there. But if you would have asked me, „Are you sure you really love her?” You yourself would have felt foolish  asking that question.

Love grows and sustains on the basis of an established relationship that’s not just a unreality of love, there is a particularity of that person and the relationship that you enjoy. Once you learn to walk in the knowledge of God, you have that particularity of relationship with Him. He has that will and that purpose for you. You can grow and nurture it, as only He promises it, He wants you to experience it and understand it. May I say to you, this knowledge of a particular love in your life will rescue you from many a difficult philosophical question in your life.

You know, I came to know Christ in the city of New Delhi, the land of my birth, IndiaI came to know Christ when I was 17 years old, on a bed of suicide. Life had fallen apart. Everything had fallen apart. Why? To a careless, indifferent, undisciplined youth does God send a man with a little Bible in his hand to talk to me? When I never cracked open one on my own? I fled Him down the nights and the days, down the arches of the earth, down the labyrinth and ways of my own mind, in a mist of tears I hid from Him. All this running away…

by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

The Prophet Marries a Prostitute Part 2

Ravi Zacharias continues his look at a story from the Old Testament; one that is both confusing and powerful. It’s the story of Hosea and his unfaithful wife.

Ravi Zacharias: Love’s something we need, but it is something we grow on, as it blossoms. ANd that’s the segue way I make to the next segment: We need it.

  1. It is unmerited
  2. it grows in relationship
  3. and it is something that’s desperately needed.

I don’t have time to trace back, actually forward to the Book of Ezekiel,  and on to Malachi. The Book of Malachi begins with a verse „I have loved you”. And you say, „In what way?” They didn’t even understand what He meant. In Isaiah, He says, „What more could I have done for you, that I haven’t’ already done?” The idea of God’s love  punctuating through the Old Testament, read Ezekiel 16 sometime, it’s powerful in its analogy. So here it is, God’s love unmerited, grows on relationship, desperately needed. But then, God comes up with a complaint. Chapter 6  „Your goodness is like adorning cloud, like the morning dew.” What is HE saying? He is saying, „You know what? Just like Gomer, you come back home and apologize to your husband  and to your children and say, ‘I won’t do it again.’ But a few days later , you’ve gone back into your prostitution like the dew is here for a moment, and then is gone; a cloud comes and it’s gone.”Your goodness is like the morning cloud, like the early dew, it goes away.

You know what God’s biggest problem is with you and me? A fluctuating will. You can come forward, make a commitment, and a month later you say, „I don’t feel the same anymore.” What happened? You see, the will  is the greatest  gift that God has given to you, but it’s also the greatest vulnerability. What was the temptation of the garden? Very simple, „Why don’t you do this, and you’ll be as good as God.” Knowing good and evil, what it really was, „Why don’t you do this and you can define good and evil?” You become the definer. You make your own absolutes. What greater privilege than that? You don’t need God’s absolutes, make your own. And the day you defy this one law, you become the definer of all laws. The will.  (From the fist 8:27 minutes with 20 minutes remaining from second video).

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