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God's Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Paperback – March 28, 2003
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"Not only does the development of this theme link large swathes of the canon together, but it simultaneously discloses the profoundly personal nature of God's covenanted love, exposes the odium of spiritual adultery, and conversely, enriches our view of marriage." (D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Illinois))
About the Author
Ortlund (Ph.D., Unversity of Aberdeen) is senior minister at Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He has pastored churches in California, Oregon and Georgia and was formerly professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is also the author of A Passion for God (Eerdmans).
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Ortlund explores the “one-flesh” unity for male and female as described in Genesis 2 because the marital bond provides the foundation for the biblical use of the metaphor of the harlot. He traces the specific theme of marital unfaithfulness, first through selected passages in the Old Testament historical books and then through the prophets, particularly Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah. He then moves toward completion in the New Testament, demonstrating that Jesus and the NT writers share the OT’s concern that God’s people remain faithful in their relationship with the Lord. In addition, the NT writers anticipate a day when Jesus Christ will take the church as His bride. In a brief conclusion, Ortlund reflects on some the hermeneutical, theological and pastoral implications of his study.
Ortlund has created a work that is needed in the church today. By taking us beyond the academic to the practical, he shows us that God treats our spiritual adultery, our idolatry, pretty seriously. The drastic nature of the Bible’s language in this area brings us face to face with the ugliness of our sin and our deep need for a Savior. Although this is a work of scholarship and careful exegesis, Ortlund’s work is quite readable.
While it may not seem at first glance a subject matter worth tracking through Scripture, in reality, looking closely at the topic of spiritual adultery is quite essential as it provides us an understanding of what God expects from us as well as being a teaching tool for grasping where spiritual adultery leads and how God responds. Ray Ortlund, Jr. in his excellent book God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery, walks the reader through what the Old and New Testament has to say on this issue, digging into the text along the way to extract sound theological nuggets on what exactly this has to do with us today.
As alluded to earlier, any successful biblical theological endeavor must inherently begin in Genesis, especially when it comes to this subject matter. Ortlund aptly roots his discussion in those beginning chapters of Scripture, noting the significance of God’s creation of man and woman, in particular the relational elements that can be found in those chapters. Human marriage between the man and woman was to be an earthly reflection of God’s relationship with humanity. That foundational truth is something Ortlund returns to in the concluding chapters of this book when he examines how the New Testament reveals the relationship between the bridegroom (Jesus) and his bride (the people of God).
After discussing the foundation, Ortlund then proceeds to examine key Old Testament texts that demonstrate the tendency of God’s people to play the harlot and to chase after other husbands (i.e. false gods). This is where this book shines brightest, specifically in Ortlund’s salient analysis of these key passages and how they speak to the on again, off again (mostly off again) relationship God’s people had with their Creator despite a history replete with God doing the miraculous on their part. While most are likely familiar with the reality of this unfaithfulness and how it led to removal from the Promised Land, I submit the importance, most notably of the relational truths found in Scripture are often lost on us today. We have a hard time viewing ourselves as chasing after other gods like the Israelites, especially given there are not an Asherah pole in our homes, not do we set up an altar on a high hill or mountain. With that said, we have our own gods that we commit spiritual adultery with today and thus understand what Ortlund presents in this book is extremely important and relevant for the people of God in a day and age when spiritual adultery is on the rise.
The marriage motif and the ensuing spiritual adultery committed by the people of God from the time of Adam and Eve to this present day is an important subject matter for us to ponder and understand. Ray Ortlund does a fantastic job of unpacking this topic from a biblical theological perspective, providing the reader with sound exegesis and practical application. God has called us to be His – a call to marriage. This involves faithfulness to the marriage contract provided to us in the pages of Scripture. Learning from the mistakes of our forefathers in the faith and identifying that even in the midst of our unfaithfulness, God remains faithful is a definite key to understanding what it means to grow in maturity in our relationship with our Creator. Ortlund’s book is a treasure trove of information on this subject matter and I highly recommend taking the time to read this helpful and important book.
I received this book for free from IVP Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”