“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.
O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
This, the final chapter of Hosea, is both short and sweet. It harkens back to the reconciliation of Hosea 3, where the prophet woos back the wife who’d left him. All it takes — though it is incredibly hard to face! — is for them to realize it is their sins that have led to their fall; and that God is the (only) one who can heal them:
Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive [us]
graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
Which of course implies not trusting in false gods, whether foreigners or idols:
Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, [Ye are] our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.
I’m not sure I can even imagine the horror of what it means to be truly fatherless, except perhaps as the inverse of the gratitude I feel for my father. Though the passage doesn’t say so explicitly, there is a strong sense of discovering God as their true father — their protecter, defender, and restorer:
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
Whew! At last, the storm has passed, and the bright sun of God’s love shines once again. But — and this is crucial — it isn’t God that has changed. The God who judged them is the exact same God who shows them love now. God’s wrath isn’t the drunken wrath of a tyrant, but the heartfelt discipline of a father. He surely punished them more than they liked, but not more than they needed. They had fallen out of kilter with Him, and He had to restore the balance before He could show mercy to them, and prosper them:
I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
Awwww. And not just them:
They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive [as] the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof [shall be] as the wine of Lebanon.
This one of the more painful lessons of Scripture (and history): that when we sin and receive God’s just punishment, so do all those under our authority. We don’t like it, but it is the inevitable flip-side of the fact that our righteousness results in blessing for many.
Put another way, God cares as much about our being responsible as being happy. In this world, it is impossible live a safe, happy life unless we — and those around us! — are all living holy and healthy lives. It seems horribly unfair — except when you recall that we all reap the benefits of others’ virtues; so why shouldn’t we feel the pain of their failures?
Sorry, enough pontificating; back to Israel:
Ephraim [shall say], What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard [him], and observed him: I [am] like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
I like the contrast between a dead piece of wood for an idol and the vision of God as a fruitful fir tree; the difference between death and life. Yet how often do we forsake God’s bounty to choose death — simply because we can control it?
Who [is] wise, and he shall understand these [things]? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD [are] right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.
That really seems to be the bottom line, not just of Hosea but of History. Are we wise enough to fear God, and recognize that His ways are right, whether or not they make sense to us poor mortals? Do we really believe that it is always better to walk in justice, rather than take (deadly) shortcuts?
And will we return to Him when He calls?
Dear God, as we end the book of Hosea — and this volume of my blog — I thank you for your unending faithfulness. I confess my own faithlessness and pride, in seeking my glory and my righteousness, rather than yours. Father, cleanse me this season of Lent. Purify my heart, that I may see your face and know your truth. Make me into the image of your Son, that I may shine your Light (not mine) into a dark and dying world. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
Having finished Hosea, we’ll be taking a short break to evaluate alternate blogging platforms. Hopefully I’ll be able to import my entire blog-to-date onto a new home (that is, not drernie.com). When I do, I’ll post one final blog entry here with the redirection, so my faithful blog readers (both of you 🙂 can keep track.
P.S. Unless something else comes up, I plan to continue straight into Joel.