Ezekiel 23 … Consider His Unrequited Love

“Their names were Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister. And they became Mine, and they bore sons and daughters. And as for their names, Samaria is Oholah and Jerusalem is Oholibah,” (23:4).

Have you ever been in that painful place of coming alongside someone who has discovered their spouse is cheating? I have. There is this need to speak about the betrayal. Today felt like that as God walked through the story of His people. He speaks of sisters, the divided kingdom, referring to Samaria (the northern kingdom of Israel) as Oholah and Jerusalem (the southern kingdom of Judah) as Oholibah.

“Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah.—Samaria, as the capital, is put for the northern kingdom, and is called Aholah = her own tabernacle, because she set up her own worship instead of resorting to the Temple; while the southern kingdom, represented by Jerusalem, is called Aholibah = my tabernacle is in her, because she still contained the sanctuary of the Lord.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

And God described, in graphic detail, the lewd behavior of these two sisters that began from their very youth. Parts were just downright embarrassing to read. And I couldn’t help but think that it had to be more agonizing for God to speak of than it is for us to read. After everything He had done for them, after the way He had Loved them, they offered Him no love in return, but answered His Love with faithlessness, treachery and betrayal. And I wondered again how to see Him in the midst of them; until I read the final verse of this chapter.

Your lewdness will be requited upon you, and you will bear the penalty of worshiping your idols; thus you will know that I am the Lord God,’” (23:49).

While God speaks of what will be requited upon His people, the glaring reality of what was not requited upon Him emerged; His Love.

Unrequited: unanswered; not returned; not reciprocated; not repaid.

Unrequited Love refers to a love that is one-sided and not returned. Tragically His Love was one-sided, was not returned, not answered in kind, as those who had been graciously called to belong to Him persisted in choosing others, betraying Him in their chasing. And the sad reality is they would indeed take hold of everything they had chased after, and it would all be returned, reciprocated and repaid to them. What a horrific exchange.

Unrequited Love. It’s a subject that occupies the thoughts of many, a subject that is all too often the story of human reality. I found a website listing 127 songs about Unrequited Love, and I am certain it is not an exhaustive list.

Many of us have experienced Unrequited Love in some way, from our school day crushes to our first love. But I can think of nothing worse than the betrayal of one’s marriage vows.

Well, actually, yes I can. For as we consider His Story, we are faced with the story of an Unrequited Love like no other.

Consider His Unrequited Love

God expressed His Love as a Covenant Love, a Love that would be kept by His mercy, His grace and His truth, a Love everlasting, a Love that longed and waited to be gracious and display His compassion, a Love that would never be shaken or removed.

Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; (Deuteronomy 7:9).

But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth,
(Psalm 86:15).

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
(Psalm 136:26).

Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you,
(Isaiah 30:18).

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
Says the Lord who has compassion on you,
(Isaiah 54:10).

And rather than reciprocating His Love, His people persisted in rejecting and betraying the Love of God. And in rejecting His Love they were rejecting all He had offered; and His Love was Unrequited.

  • Though His Love was Rock-solid and enduring, though He gave them birth, His Love was Unrequited.
    • “You neglected the Rock who begot you,
      And forgot the God who gave you birth,”
      (Deuteronomy 32:18).
  • Though He continually had compassion on His people, His Love was Unrequited.
    • The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; 16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets… (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).
  • Though there was nothing He did not do for them, His Love was Unrequited.
    • “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
      Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?”
      (Isaiah 5:4).
  • Though He took them by the Hand as a husband to bring them out of bondage, His Love was Unrequited.
    • “…the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord, (Jeremiah 31:32).
  • Though He lavished them with beauty and benevolent guidance, His Love was Unrequited.
    • “How I would set you among My sons
      And give you a pleasant land,
      The most beautiful inheritance of the nations!”
      And I said, ‘You shall call Me, My Father,
      And not turn away from following Me.’
      20 “Surely, as a woman treacherously departs from her lover,
      So you have dealt treacherously with Me,
      O house of Israel,” declares the Lord,
      (Jeremiah 3:20).
  • And though His Love was Unrequited, still He would give even more, He would give His only begotten Son.
    • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
    • But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, (Romans 5:8).
    • In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, (1 John 4:10).

How do we respond to His Unrequited Love?

It seems incomprehensible that we would not return His Love. But as history proves, it is just not in our nature. We can only love when we accept the Love God gave through His Son.

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him, (1 John 4:8-9).

Oh such a Great Love! But how can we possibly ever Requite His Love; what do possibly have to give Him in return?

Well, Jesus actually told us how.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” (John 14:15).

And Jesus even told us that if we keep just two of His commandments we would be keeping the whole.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 22:36-30).

So keeping all His commandments is Loving Him with all that we are, our heart, soul, and mind. But in truth, how can we really love someone we don’t know, and how can we get to know someone without spending time with them?

God has given us His Holy Scriptures, passed down by the prophets that we would know Jesus and be led to obedience through faith.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen, (Romans 16:25-27).

But can we really say we love Him if we neglect His God-Breathed Word? It’s a hard question, but one that we must ask. Would the time we spend with the Lord in His Word fall into the category of Unrequited Love?

The late R. C. Sproul, theologian, pastor, host of Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast and founder of Ligonier Ministries, a Christian discipleship organization that “exists to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible,” is quoted as saying,
“We cannot love God at all if we do not love His truth.”

If we are struggling to love God and obey His commandments, falling in love with His Word would be the best place to start. And Psalm 119 is a wonderful chapter to encourage our love for His Word and for the God of the Word.

Psalm 119 is different than most of the other psalms. “Psalm 119 is a devotional on the word of God… Whereas elsewhere in the Psalter the focus falls primarily on God’s mighty acts of creation and redemption and his rule over all the world, here devotion to the word of God (and the God of the word) is the dominant theme,” NIV Study Bible.

In closing we may need to begin by confessing our sin of taking His Love for granted, for not answering when He calls us to set apart time for Him, for not returning to Him with gratitude daily, for not reciprocating His Love by loving His Word. For though we can never repay His Love, we can do all that we can to ensure that our relationship with Him does not fall into the category of His Unrequited Love.

Let’s spend some time reflecting on His Word in the following verses as we ask the Lord to give us a heart like the psalmist, that He would grow our love for His Word and for the God of the Word, that we would be motivated in our love to keep His commands and wholeheartedly Requite His Love.

  • “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” (John 14:15).
    • I shall delight in Your commandments,
      Which I love.
      48 And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments,
      Which I love;
      And I will meditate on Your statutes
      , (Psalm 119:47-48).
    • O how I love Your law!
      It is my meditation all the day,
      (Psalm 119:97).
    • I hate those who are double-minded,
      But I love Your law,
      (Psalm 119:113).
    • Therefore I love Your commandments
      Above gold, yes, above fine gold,
      (Psalm 119:27).
    • Your word is very pure,
      Therefore Your servant loves it
      , (Psalm 119:140).
    • Consider how I love Your precepts;
      Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness,
      (Psalm 119:159).
    • I rejoice at Your word,
      As one who finds great spoil.
      163 I hate and despise falsehood,
      But I love Your law,
      (Psalm 119:162-163).

Let’s Grow Together!

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