Hosea 4 Whore-ible

Standard
Questions: Why is God upset with us? Should He be? On what basis? Should we be upset with our fellow man? What do we lack? Why? What are the consequences?

“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Hosea.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father, and manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Hosea 4:1-19

Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because [there is] no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.

Here we switch from narrative to prophetic declaration. I get the feeling that Hosea wasn’t able to hear God’s heart in this matter until his own had been broken by Gomer. I was thinking about that this morning, that I don’t know God well enough to pick up “weak” signals — or ones that contradict my established plans!

Perhaps Hosea had to be sufficiently sensitized by his interaction with Gomer to understand the depth of God’s anger, so that he can accept that God would speak so angrily. For make no mistake, God is well and truly ticked off! That doesn’t make it an irrational anger; He has very good reasons. The high-level summary is that they lack:

* truth
* mercy
* knowledge of God

But in case that seems too vague, He gets specific:

By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.

That last phrase following murder after murder. It is not merely how bad they are, but that they are in a downward spiral. Which, now that I think about, is exactly what truth, mercy, and God-knowledge are needed to break. For it is only when we recognize who we are — and who God is — that we can show mercy to those who hurt us, and act humbly to those we have power over.

Which is important, because when we fail to manifest God’s proper dominion, everything suffers. And I do mean everything:

Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.

Some would call both this — and God’s anger — as anthropomorphism, which usually implies (falsely) projecting human feelings onto non-human entities. While that is a danger, I also worry about anthropocentrism, the idea that human feelings are somehow unique or primary. The biblical view, I would argue, is more like theocentrism. That is, all human experience is a mirror of something in God’s nature (well, except sin, though that is mirror-imaged in Christ :-). Our anger, though not identical to God’s, at some level represents the “same” thing (if only in the way Garfield “represents” a cat :-). And though we are made in the “whole” image of God, all of creation partakes of this to some extent.

Anyway, this is how I rationalize the land “mourning” as more than mere metaphor, but rather a genuine correlate of human mourning. Ecological systems have their own emergent (if non-conscious) “grief cycle” in response to trauma. And in our own day we certainly are experiencing the fishes being taken away for our sins!

It is easy for us to get indignantly self-righteous about this, but God — speaking through Hosea’s broken heart — sees our preachy condemnation as equally grievous:

Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people [are] as they that strive with the priest. Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.

I’m not quite sure what that last sentence means, except that they are in really bad shape. Why?

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

The knowledge in question apparently being “the law of thy God.” I see God’s rejection here as not some sort of petty reaction (“I reject you because you reject me, nyaah!”), but rather the outworking of a fundamental spiritual law. Sin matters, and the consequences persist for generations:

As they were increased, so they sinned against me: [therefore] will I change their glory into shame. They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.

Intriguingly, the spiritual punishment manifests as almost a failure of natural law:

For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.

To me, the spiritual and the natural are deeply interwoven, like the electric and magnetic fields that reinforce each other in (as?) the path of a photon. God created the universe as a reflection of his own rational character, such that there are definite laws we could — in principle! — observe and understand, and thus grow more like Him (which seems to be the ultimate goal).

Alas, when we turn to sin, our minds become clouded, creating a downward spiral of debauchery (physical and/or intellectual):

My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused [them] to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof [is] good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.

The funny thing is, no matter how much we rationalize our own sin, we still get really angry when those we care about sin against us. But don’t come crying to God:

I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people [that] doth not understand shall fall.

Virtue is all of a piece; we can’t destroy it here, privately, and then be shocked when it starts falling apart over there. Well, we can — but we shouldn’t.

Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, [yet] let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth. For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place. Ephraim [is] joined to idols: let him alone.

I’m not sure whether this is warning Israel (poetically identified as Ephraim) to not pollute Judah, or warning Judah to not get mixed up with Israel’s sin. Either way, it should serve as a warning to us:

Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers [with] shame do love, Give ye. The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.

I’m having trouble with the imagery here, so I’ll fall back on The Message:

When the beer runs out, — it’s sex, sex, and more sex. “Bold and sordid debauchery” — how they love it!? The whirlwind has them in its clutches. Their sex-worship leaves them finally impotent.

Huh. And I thought that was an American invention. 🙂 😦

Prayer

Father, forgive me, for I am no better than the Israelites. I have too often been slave to my own flesh, feeding my own desires rather than submitting to you. Forgive us as a nation for our abuse of the land (and seas), as well as our denial of your law — for which we are reaping the whirlwind. Forgive us as a church for our haughty, self-righteous condemnation, which aggravates rather than heals. Lord, have mercy! Show us your face, teach us your law, and glorify your Son! For it is only by his love that we can be restored. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is a play on “horrible.”

Advertisements