Nothing is more corrosive within a relationship then infidelity. Having done marital and relationship counseling, the problems associated with infidelity transcend almost every other problem and ultimately rock the very core and foundation of any relationship. We know that when someone finds that their partner has not been faithful, the fundamental cornerstone of trust in a relationship is rattled. However, in my experience, something much deeper occurs. For the faithful partner, the one who goes elsewhere creates feelings of abandonment, rejection, and inadequacy among others. Often when one partner becomes unfaithful, the individual relationship begins to unravel, and thanks to the ease modern divorce, reconciliation is never possible.
The analogy of an unfaithful relationship undergirds this section of Jeremiah. In this analogy, Israel is the Wife and God is the husband. This is where the cultural norms of the time show; sociologically, in that time the woman held the responsibility of fidelity within the relationship as well as a sense of devotion to her husband, even though the husband may have had multiple wives. While we understand a marriage today to be one that requires fidelity on both partners, here it is important to understand, because ultimately it is the infidelity of Israel that brings about its destruction.
When we think of infidelity, our minds often jump to something sexual. Although that is one sign of infidelity, infidelity is much more insidious than what goes on in the bedroom; in fact, many acts of infidelity within relationship occur in a completely non-sexual way. What makes those acts of infidelity is the lack-of-trust and respect for the partner in the relationship. Moreover, it is the sin in the heart that corrodes the mind to justify others as to having the answer.
Here is where Israel exemplifies infidelity in that they begin to look to other Gods, specifically Baal, for comfort. In fact, what we can glean from our understanding of Baal is that he was a creation God, much like ours, but his worship was carnal and his promises were earthly. In other words, instead of living to God, Baal worship allowed people to live to what felt good. More than anything, by turning to Baal the people of Israel reject God.
However, and this is where it gets interesting, it is not that God goes out of his way to punish Israel for it’s infidelity. Their infidelity is what leads them to their ultimate destruction. Think about it, in relationships where there are those who are not faithful, the problems and ultimate unhappiness are more often than not self produced from lying, cheating, and isolation.
What God wants from us is to be faithful to Him and Him alone, and when we are in an honest relationship with God, putting God first, being faithful to him and him alone it is easier to see and understand God, but when we turn from God to things that are not of God, we find ourselves lost and hurting, just as Israel did, just as a couple who has found themselves no longer faithful to one another.
This week as you prepare for Sunday ask yourself if you really are faithful to God. Do you put God first? Do you respect God enough to listen and to follow?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen