The Unfaithfulness of Ancient Israel
When God sent prophet after prophet to confront the sin of the ancient Israelites, the main indictment against them was that the people had been unfaithful to him. He sent men of God to plead with the people and ask them to abandon their other lovers and return to him, but the people hardened their hearts and rejected the prophets and their message.
Even though God had been faithful to Israel, his people preferred strangers over him. He had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt and settled them in Canaan. He blessed them with financial, political, and military strength, yet the people went astray and began to worship the gods of the surrounding nations.
To God, their worship of idols was a form of spiritual adultery. Instead of being the virgin bride he hoped for, Israel was a harlot! Amos was one of the first prophets to cry out against Israel’s unfaithfulness. He lamented, “The virgin of Israel is fallen;” (Amos 5:2; KJV)
God also sent the prophet Hosea, whose life was to be an allegory of the relationship between God and his people. Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to him in the same way Israel was unfaithful to God. Hosea shared God’s heart:
A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God. (Hosea 4:12b; NIV)
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, had the same complaint against the people:
During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. (Jer. 3:6; KJV)
The prophet Ezekiel also described how God’s heart was broken by Israel, even though they had become prosperous and blessed by his hand.
But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! (Ezek. 16:32; KJV)
Isaiah’s message was also about the unfaithfulness of the people. He cried out, “How is the faithful city become an harlot?” (Isaiah 1:21; KJV)
Nearly every prophet related this message of unfaithfulness to the Israelites.
Unbelievably, even though their sin was breaking God’s heart, the people didn’t even realize they were sinning! They defended themselves before God:
My God, we know thee. (Hosea 8:2; KJV)
But God pleaded with them:
How long will they be incapable of purity? (Hosea 8:5; NIV)
God said their heart was divided. It was no longer wholly devoted to him.
Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images. (Hosea 10:2; KJV)
The Israelites were in a covenant (marriage) relationship with God, yet they were committing spiritual adultery. They continued to worship God, especially in their ritualistic festivals, but were adding (or blending in) the worship of idols alongside their relationship with God. It was the equivalent of a wife remaining in her marriage, yet cheating on her husband with other lovers, and it broke God’s heart.
The church has been guilty of the same sin in her history! They continued to serve and worship Christ, just as the ancient Israelites continued to worship and serve Yahweh, but over the course of her history, she has added other lovers. This was the concern of the apostle Paul as he explained to the Corinthian church, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2; KJV)
Paul’s greatest fear was that the church would be seduced and become unfaithful in their relationship with God:
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3; KJV)
In the ancient world, the Israelites were adulterous when they worshiped the gods of the surrounding nations, but Paul said the seduction of the church would lead their minds away from the “simplicity that is in Christ.” Satan deceives and seduces us in our thoughts. The “high places” where idol worship once occurred isn’t in the cleared-out groves and under the oak trees; the high places now are the regions of the mind and intellect where Satan wars against the truth.
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2 Cor. 10:4-5, KJV; italics added)
As a result of the unfaithfulness of the ancient Israelites, the scriptures say the hearts of the people became hard and the people acted harshly toward one another. Amos would see the results of their impure worship:
For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. (Amos 5:12; KJV)
Because their love was impure, God didn’t even want to hear their worship anymore:
I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. (Amos 5:21-23; KJV)
God was saying that it was possible for him to reject the worship and offerings of his people!
Isaiah voiced the same concern over the sins of the people. Their impure worship had turned them into a brood of evildoers!
Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: (Isaiah 1:4; KJV)
God didn’t even want to hear their prayers anymore:
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. (Isa. 1:14-15; KJV)
As we look at the American landscape and see more and more of our nation becoming corrupt and crime-ridden, even though we’ve prayed for revival for years, perhaps it’s time for Christians to look at our own hearts. Perhaps God isn’t responding to our prayers concerning our nation because we have been unfaithful to him.
Perhaps instead of praying on behalf of “those sinners over there” who are sexually immoral or getting abortions, we should look at our own spiritual fornication and adultery against God. Instead of performing priestly intercession on behalf of the sins of others, perhaps we should repent of our own sins.
In a future chapter, I’ll share what I believe are the ways Christians are committing spiritual unfaithfulness toward God, but I hope our motive for repenting won’t be for our own gain, in order to restore our own peace and prosperity, because that may never be restored. Instead, I hope we will repent with the attitude of King David, an adulterer who was broken and grieved because he had sinned against God, who was the great love of his heart.