Illustration: Recently I went on vacation with family and friends. During the late mornings and early days, we’d hit the beach, swim, sun, snack, play Bottle Smash and variations of ladder toss. During the late afternoons/early evenings, we’d frequent one of the local ice cream shops for refreshments. Later we’d gather back at the house for games and meals and fellowship. Most of the folks in the group enjoyed playing card and board games. Some in the group, highly competitive when it came to games, grew animated when someone won with a flush or a full house in Texas Hold’em. (I have never been particularly good at card games. Give me the Scrabble or Boggle board games any day. Words for me, please. You can keep all the geometric and algebraic games; I was not dealt those cards, if you’ll pardon the pun.) Anyway, one evening one of the girls asked a serious question of me as part of one of the games.
“If someone could give you something of great personal value to you, what would it be?”
“A thing—like an object? Or can it be a quality?” I asked.
“A quality is fine, too,” she said.
“That’s easy,” I said. “Loyalty. I like folks that stick.”
A smile of recognition spread across her face. “Yes!” she exclaimed, as if my answer resonated with her.
Connection to Scripture: In my studies currently, I am in the book of Hosea. It is an Old Testament book set in the 700s B.C. centered on the idea of God’s loyalty to his promises. It demonstrates God’s faithfulness, steadfastness, and loyalty to his Word.
Israel, unlike God, was adulterous. In Hosea’s book, Israel was compared to a loose woman, “a wife of whoredom” (Hosea 1:2), a faithless bride, a sullied bride who betrayed her promises. (If you simply read the Bible, you learn quickly that God does not sugarcoat or varnish reality. He calls things just what they are. Seems to be an inextricable quality of telling the truth.)
God commands Hosea to “take to [himself] a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (Hosea 1:2-3). If you were a man of God, how would you like that for a mission? It seems unimaginable. But the point should be obvious. God saw Israel’s faithlessness. To be married to one who does not honor the marriage vow is to face failure, her own faithlessness, her own lies. Where was loyalty to be found, then? Would God abandon Israel? Would God abandon his people he had promised to bless? Would God go back on his Word, too? Would God be no longer loyal?
By no means! God, unlike the faithless bride, kept (and keeps) his Word. He is loyal to his promises. He does not lie. As Moses put it, “God is not man, that he should lie” (Numbers 23:19a).
I like the way the writer of Hebrews phrases it in Hebrews 6:18-20, “so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf . . . ” (6:18-20).
Encouragement: It is vital to read the story through to the end. When you get near the end of Hosea’s prophecy, you see what God was doing. He was teaching that he is loyal. He is faithful to the end. He is faithful to his promises, faithful to his Word. Listen to Hosea 13:14 where he says, “I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting?”
I know that we all have different personality types, and that we like different things. Some like poker while others of us like word games. Vive la difference, when it comes to that sort of thing. But I bet we would all benefit from being people loyal to our words, loyal to the end, those faithful, even unto death. That, in fact, is what the gospel of Jesus Christ hinges upon—that God was and is faithful unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Hosea was called by God to teach us about God’s covenant loyalty—his faithfulness—to his Word. I don’t know about you, but I believe the world would benefit from some loyalty. God is loyal, beloved. That is good news for all those in Christ. But for those who refuse and rebel, God is still loyal to his promise to execute judgment. The great offer of the gospel, however, is this: “ . . . everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) The Lord Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s promises, is the anchor of the soul, the One loyal to the end.