Love Stronger Than Death

Scripture Focus: Song of Songs 8.6-7
6 Place me like a seal over your heart, 
like a seal on your arm; 
for love is as strong as death, 
its jealousy unyielding as the grave. 
It burns like blazing fire, 
like a mighty flame. 
7 Many waters cannot quench love; 
rivers cannot sweep it away. 
If one were to give 
all the wealth of one’s house for love, 
it would be utterly scorned. 

Hosea 1.2
2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”

Reflection: Love Stronger Than Death
By John Tillman

Today, we conclude Song of Songs and move, over the weekend, into Hosea. What a contrast!

From the idyllic, passionate love poetry in Song of Songs, we turn to the tear-stained legal documents and pleadings of a marriage in crisis. It’s like turning from a Hallmark love story to a gritty, true-crime documentary. 

The beloved’s poem about the strength of love is one of the most well-known passages of the Bible. It is often quoted as a positive. “Many waters cannot quench love” is on the mausoleum dedicated to Ida And Isidor Straus, who chose to die together on the Titanic as it sank, rather than be separated. Ida is reported to have quoted Ruth, “Where you go, I will go,” as she refused to get on a lifeboat without her husband. (Ruth 1.16)

However, there is also a warning within this passage. Love strong as death, like a blazing fire, unable to be quenched, unable to be bought off, or denied…this is a confession. Human love can be twisted, becoming sinful jealousy that destroys what it can no longer possess or takes with force what will not yield to it. This leads to rape, domestic violence, abuse, and often murder. This unyielding love can lead to wickedness in humans, but in God it is the motivation for the gospel. The holy jealousy of God leads not to destruction but to redemption and salvation.

Hosea is God’s stand-in depicting this. His anger and hurt are real and justifiable. His love burns. His jealousy rises. Hosea’s human love is as strong as death and by Jewish law, he could have demanded death for Gomer.

God chose, rather than let us sink in the titanic disaster of our sin, to sink himself. His love is so great, that he did not die with us, sinking into oblivion. Rather, he died instead of us and when he sank into the grave, it was only to lift us up after him.

God’s love is stronger than death. His love breaks the unyielding hold of the grave. His love burns through any barrier that would come between us. His love quenches the fires of sin that would burn us. His love gave all the wealth of his house, becoming poor that we can become rich. (2 Corinthians 8.9

Who could scorn this kind of love?

Music: “Love As Strong As Death” – Canticle of Plains by Kevin Max / Rich Mullins

Video: Overview of Hosea by The Bible Project

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. — Psalm 70.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 8Listen – 2:23)
Psalm 123-125(Listen -1:52)

This Weekend’s Readings
Hosea 1Listen – 2:08)Psalm 126-128(Listen -1:158)
Hosea 2Listen – 3:48)Psalm 129-131(Listen -2:03)

Read more about The Naked Emotion of God
Hosea. This shows us a God unashamed of shame, nakedly confessing his love for the unlovable.

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
He strips himself.
He lays aside
His Heaven
His throne
His clothes
His life

The Naked Emotion of God

Scripture Focus: Hosea 1.2
2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.” 

Romans 9.25-26
25 As he says in Hosea: 
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; 
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” (Hosea 2.23)
26 and, 
“In the very place where it was said to them, 
‘You are not my people,’ 
there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ ” (Hosea 1.10)

Reflection: The Naked Emotion of God
By John Tillman

From the life of Daniel, exiled in Babylon, we travel back in time to a pre-exile Israel and the life of Hosea.

Abraham Heschel explained that other prophets focus on what God has done for his people, while Hosea tells us more of what God feels. (The Prophets)

Many prophets engaged in actions that today would be considered questionable stunts. They publicly insulted kings and officials. They wore strange clothing or no clothing, going naked. (Isaiah 20.1-4) They wore the yoke of oxen. (Jeremiah 27.1-15) They starved. They ate disgusting foods. They built and destroyed elaborate models. They lay in one place for months. They sang offensive songs with pornographic lyrics. (Ezekiel 23.14-21)

In marrying Gomer, Hosea engages in the most extreme performance art depicted in the Bible or performed anywhere. It is more all-encompassing than the way Sacha Baron Cohen plays his character of Borat in real life situations. It is beyond the way Steven Colbert created a character out of his own name and likeness for The Daily Show. Hoseas’s stunt goes beyond acting or putting on a show. It is his real life. There is no “character” to hide behind. Instead, he is exposing the character of God. 

Hosea strips bare the inner emotional life of God. Hosea and God are emotionally united in a unique way. Neither will hold back in expressing his love for the people but neither will they hold back in expressing pain, anger, bitterness, and sorrow at how callously they are betrayed. 

Pain and anguish of heart are front and center in a scandalous way in Hosea. This shows us a God unashamed of shame, nakedly confessing his love for the unlovable. 

Gomer is not chosen for her strength but her weakness. She is not chosen for her wisdom but her foolishness. The accusations of culture would fly the other way as well. Hosea, taking a promiscuous woman as his wife would be considered weak and foolish.

Our God uses the foolish to shame the wisdom of this world and the weak to break the strength of the strong. He loves us, the unlovable. He is faithful to us, the unfaithful. He is unashamed of us, the shameful.

When all else is stripped away, the naked emotion of God, seen in Hosea and seen on the cross, is love.

To the world, this is foolishness, but to we who are being saved, it is the power of God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Your way, O God, is holy; who is as great as our God? — Psalm 77.13

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Hosea 1  (Listen – 2:08)
Psalm 119:73-96 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Christ, Our Undeserved Friend :: A Guided Prayer
Though my sins and weakness he sees,
My case before the Father, pleads.
He knows my state and yet he bends
God’s ear to me, for me contends.

Read more about The Flavors of Betrayal
Where do we find ourselves in the garden? What form does our betrayal and abandonment of Jesus take?