Hosea, prophet of mercy—Chapter 12: Legal Rights of New Creatures
Dec 01, 2016
Having established the fact of Israel’s divorce, as well as the prophecy of betrothal and remarriage, we must now ask ourselves how these things can be done in a lawful manner. We will start in the New Testament. Paul tells us in Romans 7:1-4,
1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.
Paul was explaining a principle of law “to those who know the law.” A marriage covenant is a legal contract between two parties, which ends when one of them dies. Paul says in verse 3 that if a woman “is joined to another man” (i.e., has sexual relations with another) while her husband is alive and the law is yet in force, then she is called an adulteress. However, if her husband dies, she is free to remarry, because the marriage contract to her dead husband is no longer binding.
This is self-evident, of course. But Paul then applies this legal principle to all of us. Earlier, in Romans 6, Paul explained the principle of baptism and how it represents death and resurrection. Baptism signifies that we have identified with Christ and are “crucified with Christ” (Romans 6:6) in a legal sense, so that we may also be raised with Him as new creatures having new legal identities.
This is how we are justified, for “he who died has been justified from sin” (Romans 6:7, The Emphatic Diaglott). How does death justify us before the law? In a general sense, death pays the penalty for Adam’s sin. But our concern here is in regard to the marriage law. Death frees us from our Old Covenant marriage vows. Since “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), the law has condemned all of us for having affairs with false gods. Gomer, the harlot, represents all of us in our fleshly identity.
But when we were crucified with Christ, we were raised up in resurrection as new creatures, for Paul says also in 2 Corinthians 5:16. 17.
16 Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
When Christ was raised from the dead, the law no longer recognized Him as the same Man that He was in the flesh during His ministry on earth. We too ought to view Christ in a different way and as a different Person. Death and resurrection changes our identity, and the law does not have the ability to see a resurrected Son of God as the same person he used to be while in the flesh. He is a new creature, a new creation man. The old has passed away in death. A new man has come.
Christ’s death on the cross ended the Old Covenant and instituted the New Covenant. From that moment on, no one could claim any benefit from the Old Covenant. No one could claim to be married to God by holding up the Old Covenant contract ratified under Moses. That marriage ended fully at the cross. God’s marriage with Israel ended earlier in the time of Isaiah, who lived to see Israel’s divorce; but Judah continued in its marriage relationship until Jesus died on the cross. Their marriage ended in the death of the Husband.
As we will see shortly, Christ’s Old Covenant marriage ended in two phases, because Israel and Judah had split into two nations. So in a sense, Christ had two wives (Israel and Judah), and each were treated differently. Israel, the harlot, was divorced; Judah, the other harlot, killed her Husband and thus became a widow.
Isaiah 53 is the well-known messianic prophecy about Christ coming as a lamb to the slaughter. The next chapter is less known, but Isaiah 54 tells us how Christ’s death affected Israel. Isaiah was very concerned about the restoration of Israel, having witnessed the Assyrian invasion. So the last half of his book extends comfort to the Israelites, even though they had been divorced and put away.
Isaiah 54 draws upon the theme of Abraham’s two wives (Hagar and Sarah), telling us that the “barren one” (Sarah) was to have more children than “the married woman” (Hagar). Isaiah’s terminology makes the passage somewhat obscure, but fortunately, Paul interprets it for us in Galatians 4:27. Paul puts Isaiah’s words into the context of the two covenants, represented by Hagar and Sarah.
Isaiah 54:4-6 then gives us the keys of understanding, giving the word of God to Israel,
4 “Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; neither feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. 5 For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord [Yahweh] of hosts, and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. 6 For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” says your God.
Christ’s death in Isaiah 53, then, has made Israel a widow, the prophet says. That means Christ—He who died as the Lamb of God—had been her Husband. But her Husband was also her “Maker, whose name is Yahweh of hosts.” John 1:1-3 makes it clear that Jesus Christ is the Logos-Word through whom all things were made in the beginning. He is also her “Redeemer.”
Isaiah then prophesies of Christ’s remarriage to Israel, saying in Isaiah 54:7, 8,
7 “For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion [racham] I will gather you. 8 In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion [racham] on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.
Isaiah’s use of the term racham connects this prophecy to Hosea and to his daughter, Lo-ruhamah (“not My people”), who was later to be restored as Ruhamah, “My people.” Ruhamah comes from the root word racham. Hence, Isaiah calls upon the racham (“compassion”) of the great Redeemer to reverse the situation. No longer would she be forsaken, but regathered. The clear implication is that Yahweh of hosts would remarry her.
The lawful way for this to be done is strongly implied when the prophet calls Israel a widow immediately after speaking of the death of the Messiah in the previous chapter. Even so, neither Isaiah nor Hosea set forth the principle of law by which Christ could fulfill the prophecy. That explanation was left to the apostle Paul, who showed that death ends marriage contracts, and that the law recognizes resurrected ones as new creatures, or new people.
The New Marriage
When Jesus died, His marriage contract at Mount Sinai ended fully. Jesus was raised up as a new Man in the eyes of the law. This made Christ eligible to remarry Israel, for insofar as the law was concerned, it was not a remarriage, but a marriage. The law said that if a divorced wife is married to a second husband, and if that husband dies or divorces her, the first husband could not claim her as his wife a second time. But Christ died and was raised as a new creature, so the law did not view Him as the first husband, but as a new husband—a third husband, legally speaking.
Christ’s death thus made Him eligible by law to marry Israel under a new covenant. But this new marriage would only take place under an entirely new marriage covenant. This new marriage covenant was not like the original one. Hebrews 8:9 says it was “not like the covenant which I made with theirs on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.”
The difference is that the Old Covenant depended upon Israel’s vow of obedience and her ability to keep her vow. The New Covenant depends upon God’s vow to make Israel—and all others—His people. Deuteronomy 29:12-15 describes the New Covenant this way:
12 that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God, and into HIS OATH, which the Lord our God is making with you today, 13 in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God… 14 Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today.
This is God’s oath to make Israel His people and also to make all nations His people. The covenant was given to Israel, but it included “those who are not with us here today.” It also included the aliens who had come out of Egypt with the Israelites (Deuteronomy 29:11). In fact, both the Old and New Covenant had included the aliens (foreigners). Neither covenant was designed to be exclusively for genealogical Israelites. So we cannot say that the Old Covenant was for Israel only, but the New Covenant is for all nations. Both were alike in that way.
Because this marriage depends fully upon the promise (or oath) of God, it is guaranteed to succeed. Yet it can only succeed if God’s new wife is perfect. She must be like Christ, and so she must become a new creature as well. Otherwise, Christ would be remarrying a fleshly bride who would inevitably follow the pattern of Gomer, the harlot bride. If that happened, she would again be divorced in the end. But there is no provision for (and no need for) divorce, because the law is written on her heart, as Hebrews 8:10 says,
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put My laws into their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
The point is that when Jesus was raised from the dead, He was eligible to remarry his first wife, but she was still not in a position to marry Jesus. Why? Because she was still a harlot in her character or nature. The law had not yet been written on her heart. She was still in the process of being perfected.
So on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came upon the church as a starting point for the implementation of the New Covenant. This can be viewed as the betrothal. But the wedding cannot take place until the Holy Spirit’s baptism of fire has done its full work in writing the fiery law upon the hearts of the people.
Christ has no intention of marrying a fleshly bride for the second time. Fleshly Israel was “Hagar” when she married Christ at Mount Sinai (Galatians 4:25). God’s New Covenant marriage is with “Sarah,” the New Jerusalem. Those of the “Sarah” company have died to the old identity and have been raised as new creatures in Christ.
Those who think that the new bride of Christ is fleshly Israel (or fleshly Judah) are mistaken. He has no intention of remarrying Hagar. Hagar must be cast out.
Ezekiel 37 portrays Israel as dead men in a valley of dry bones. The prophet was then told to prophesy Israel’s resurrection (Ezekiel 37:10). This was a national prophecy, but it utilizes the same principle of death and resurrection as we see with individual men and women. The nation itself had to die and to be raised from the dead in order to fulfill the promise of God.
Who died? Fleshly Israel. Who was raised as a new creature? Children of the flesh? Obviously not. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44,
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body…
In the same way that resurrected ones are new creatures, so also is the New Israel different from the old Israel. Old Israel was sown as a natural body, but New Israel is a spiritual body. This is the new body that Christ will marry under the New Covenant.
Israel died a natural body, but is raised a spiritual body. The new form is not the same as the old form. Hence, we also see in Rev. 21:2 that it is not the old Jerusalem, but the New that comes as a bride. Just as the new city is not the same as the earthly, fleshly city, so also is the New Israel not the same as the earthly, fleshly Israel of past centuries. It is exclusive in that only overcomers can be part of the Sarah company. It is inclusive in that all of mankind will eventually become part of the Sarah company, once they have followed the lawful path through the feast days—Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
Lord, How Long?
How long will that take? Well, as individuals, it takes a life time. Speaking corporately in the big picture, we must wait until the time of the end. Many generations have lived and died, and each generation must experience the same baptism of fire. Hence, the wedding is postponed until the time of the end. That is why the marriage supper of the Lamb does not occur at the start of the book of Revelation, but toward the end in chapter 19.
Meanwhile, as believers, we prepare our hearts—or, more accurately, God prepares our hearts in order to fulfill His oath. It is His work of writing the law in our hearts and minds that makes us eligible to be part of the bride company at the end of the age. If we remain lawless, or ignorant of the law, it is evidence that the law is not yet written on our hearts.
There are unbelievers, believers, and overcomers in this world. Only the overcomers will be eligible for marriage at the end of the present age, because the others show little or no evidence that the law has been written on their hearts. But in the ages to come, God will fulfill His oath to make them His people and to be their God. In the end of time, at the Creation Jubilee, all people and all nations will fully benefit from the New Covenant oath that God made.
This is part 14 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Hosea." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones