“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Hosea.
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.
But first, let us look back at the last verse of chapter 11:
since it initiates the theme rehashed here:
Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.
Fascinating. What is the connection between lies and deceit on one hand, and diplomacy and trade on the other? I mean, besides the obvious. 🙂
One possibility, I suppose, is that it is the obvious connection: God doesn’t like the way they are becoming skilled in deception by their desire to seek political and economic advantage. But, that doesn’t seem to be the issue here; rather, He is concerned by the very sincerity of their efforts! So, what does God have against the “normalization” of relations with Israel’s neighbors?
In effect, God appears to instituting sanctions against them, and not wanting Israel to seek their favor, or enter into binding agreements. Why? Surely not for the reasons we use them today; Israel isn’t powerful enough to change those countries behavior.
Maybe that is why: because Israel herself would become changed by being bound up such relationships. God knows that those countries swear allegiance to very different gods, and that Israel would end up trading and politicking on their terms. Plus, the very desire to seek security (political or economic) in external partners — rather than trusting God to protect and prosper Israel — is very much “feeding on wind, and chasing the east wind.”
But enough pontification — back to the passage:
The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.
Whoops. So much for “good sister Judah.” God is placing the blame all the way back to Jacob, thus covering all his children:
He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:
That is, not satisfied to wrest the birthright from his brother, he fought with God. Though in the end, he only won by losing:
That is, by submitting to God:
Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD [is] his memorial.
It sounds like the prophet is saying, “Look, you’re all sinners just like your father Jacob, so why not at least repent like he did?”
Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.
Why not? Well, one reason is that sin is so profitable — at least in terms of earthly securities:
[He is] a merchant, the balances of deceit [are] in his hand: he loveth to oppress.
After all, its not wrong if you don’t get caught, right?
And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: [in] all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that [were] sin.
And I [that am] the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.
Huh. I’m tempted to read that as “Since you can’t handle a ‘modern’ economy, I’ll return you to your subsistence past.” Which may not be quite right, but there is a strong sense of God taking Israel to task:
I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.
and Him being dissatisfied with the status quo:
I am struck anew by the travesty of how we want to maintain religious respectability while denying our true obligation towards God. Worse, we treat God like some whimsical spirit wandering the universe rather than the sovereign Author of all natural (and supernatural) order, who alone dictates (and knows) how things ultimately work out.
And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept [sheep]. And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.
I read this as contrasting his self-made failure and suffering with God’s heaven-sent deliverance. With the implication presumably being that Ephraim (the norther kingdom) is choosing to emulate the former rather than the latter:
Ephraim provoked [him] to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.
I think one of the bitterest pills for we moderns — okay, me — to swallow is the notion that the Universe is run by Law; and that we are imperfect reflections of that Law, rather than the Universe being (currently) an imperfect reflection of my will.
It gets back to that very old saying:
In the end, my fundamental sin comes down to the denial of one or the other of those facts. Either I act like there is no meaning or purpose to the Universe, or I assume that whatever there is must be in line with my desires.
But no matter how I pontificate and preen, the blood-soaked stain of sin, and the reproach of my unloving and prideful acts, can never be washed away — except by the blood of Jesus.
God, as I read about Israel’s folly, greed, deception, and sin those many centuries ago, I am reminded my own holiness falls so short of what you’ve called me to. Father, forgive me. Open my ears, that I may hear your voice. Open my eyes, that I might see your light. Open my hands, that I would give generously to a world in need. Open my mouth — but only when it glorifies you. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title — about strength, journeys, and falling down — mocks our desire for control.