Hosea 8 Trespasser’s Will

Standard
Questions: Do we claim to know God? How can we? What have we set up in His place? How can we become pure? Why must we? What are the consequences? What good thing has become our sin? Have we forgotten God? Will He forget us? Do we wish He would?

“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 8:1-14

[Set] the trumpet to thy mouth. [He shall come] as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law.

The Message translates “eagle” as the more ominous “vulture”. Certainly the verse as a whole carries the sense of impending judgement. Even Israel can sense it, though their reaction is a bit off:

Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.

Like Bill Cosby’s Noah, we reach for God in times on trouble. More, we presume an intimate connection. But is that justified?

Israel hath cast off [the thing that is] good: the enemy shall pursue him.

Now, this is fascinating. We can’t say we know God unless we know (accept, revere, pursue) what is good. Many people — especially atheists! — want to “know” God as if He were a rock, something tangible they can get around and study at their leisure. But God is more like a lover, who desires to be understood and appreciated on His own terms. And importantly, we must pursue what is truly good with our whole heart (soul, mind & strength) if want to truly get Him.

And despite their protestations to the contrary, Israel clearly doesn’t:

They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew [it] not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.

The older I get, the more I empathize with those who create idols. I (sometimes) define deity as “that which we submit to as non-contingently authoritative.” For some it is Desire, others Reason, and occasionally even our own Pride. Most often it is a jumble of many things, as we constantly invent new deities to make up for deficiencies in the old. But — though each deity may contain a shard of truth — collectively they make up an obscuring cloud, hiding us from who God truly is (which might even be the intent).

And ultimately, our gods fail us, and tick off the only God who can save us:

Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast [thee] off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long [will it be] ere they attain to innocency*

Intriguingly, purity is associated with refusing to worship the work of our own hands:

For from Israel [was] it also: the workman made it; therefore it [is] not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.

As the saying goes, “God created man in His image, and ever since Man has been trying to return the favor.” To me, that is the ultimate question of theism: do we believe that we are the imperfect image of Someone Else, or do I see reality as an imperfect expression of Me? In other words, do I submit, or assert My will as sovereign?

If we choose the latter, then we really do have nobody else to blame for the consequences:

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

Our fields have turned to weeds, and even that is no longer our own; an apt picture of the loss of both productivity and self-determination, when we fail to submit to what is True.

Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein [is] no pleasure.

Bereft and useless, they make an ass of themselves:

For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers.

The last phrase seems almost more poignant than insulting (though it probably is both). There is no greater shame than having to hire fake love, to make up for the lack of the real thing. Especially when true love is within reach, if we but had the courage (humility?) to let go and reach out:

Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.

Another fascinating twist: God apparently gives us over to the tutelage of hard masters when we fail to submit to Him. This rankles my individualist American spirit — but that’s probably the point!

Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin.

The implication seems to be that he nominally built the altars to God, but their very multiplicity testifies against him. Like a business hedgehog, wisdom is inherently simple (if subtle) in its expression. Frenzied activity is thus not a sign of devotion, but rather a sign we’ve lost sight of what truly matters:

I have written to him the great things of my law, [but] they were counted as a strange thing.

And by distancing ourselves from God’s truth, we necessarily distance ourselves from His mercy:

They sacrifice flesh [for] the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat [it; but] the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.

Because ultimately, they have drawn away from Him;

For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.

To the destruction of everything we’ve setup in His place.

Prayer

O Lord my God, I long to submit to Thee, and Thee alone. Forgive me for the many false idols I’ve setup in your place, even altars nominally to you. Remember not my sins, O my Father, but lead me in the way of your Law, in which alone is Life and Truth. Have mercy on me, my God and my King. Break me of the bonds of self-will, that I may dance in your freedom. I ask all this by the blood and in the name of Jesus, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is a comment on Israel’s sinful self-will, an allusion to their impending prosecution, and a tribute to Piglet‘s grandfather.

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