One chapter from the end of Hosea. I’m a little saddened by it, but also relieved to be at the end of this journey. What have I learned? Primarily that the glory of the Lord is unchanging. From the Old Testament to the New, he is consistently a God of both judgement and mercy.
I have always struggled with the statement that God cannot have done something, simply because WE see it as “bad” or “evil”. What we fail to recognize in those moments is that we are using our emotions to determine what is good or evil. We can clearly see where evil is when we see the corrupt actions of people, like the persecution of the prophets we talked about in the last chapter, or the systematic murder of children from earlier still. When we attach morality to things like natural disaster, or the movement of nations we run into difficulty. What is a curse for one is for another a blessing. So the statement that God could not have “caused this terrible thing to happen” is fluffy at best, and fully misleading at worse.
When we come to the end of a study, like the book of Hosea, where we can see the grace of God on display in light of righteous judgement, we can begin to see the reason for suffering and evil in the world.
I have tried hard to find a way to phrase this as a statement of my own, but realize that there isn’t a way to say it in a few words. It is the beginning of an ongoing conversation. The discussion of a lifetime... fuel for a later post.
Into the chapter
This chapter begins with isolating the sin of Ephraim (for the first time) from the more general sin of Israel. Hosea gives us a glimpse into why, through the rest of the book, Ephraim has been a focal point. They had been made great among the people, and were therefore the leaders that should have been pointing them in a better direction than they were chosing to. They had incited the wrath of God on all the people of the nation for their idol worship and temples they had set up to Baal. The people, for their part, had not stopped them.
If there hasn’t been another eerily relevant picture from these texts, this is one. How can we not see our own sins of omission along side of the actions of Ephraim? When we don’t stand for what is right we are inevitably standing with the wrong. I get goosebumps of dread. How often am I guilty of this?
The story of Hosea is wrapping up by this point in the text. This is where all holds are removed in the expression of the violence that is coming to Israel. The warning is shocking, horrifying even, in the descriptions of what will happen to those who persist in their sin.
This is, hands down, the bleakest chapter I have had to write through yet. I write this post at the same time as the one for chapter 14 just so I can look ahead into the hope to come.
Mostly, as I read about pregnant women being disembowled and wild beasts tearing the people I want to mentally look away. The most comfortable thing is to run to the shelter of the poetry, to know it’s there to help us feel the weight of what is coming. The reality is that the people that he was speaking to had no reference for the horror that a siege would be. The graphic prose of this writing was the perfect portrait of what they were walking into in their disobedience.
The end was coming, and Hosea was the man with the sandwich boards on the street corner.
And what for us?
What could any of this possibly mean for us? Are we to think that God is threatening disembowlement if we disobey? When we read texts like this I want to make it very clear that God is not threatening evil. He is not evil and does not do evil. The things they lived through are equal and opposite to the action they were persisting in. Some argue that the judgement the Israelites were under were what we would call natural consequences for the foolishness they persisted in in their pursuit of worldly gain.
The easiest take away for us is to recognize the consequences of foolishness in our own lives. God is over all, so when we have our own natural consequences we can see the working of God in our lives to teach us a more excellent way.
A more difficult reality to battle through is the realization that when these terrible things happen in our lives God is ultimately in control of those too.
So often people despise the notion of blaming God and call any question we would have for him doubt. While we rest in faith on His promises for us, this doesn’t mean we don’t wrestle with the decisions God has made for our lives. Who better to bear the burden of our pain than the one who knows us better than we know ourselves? When we are forced to turn our pain inward, or pour it out on another creature, we risk missing the point of our experience. Everything we go through God has given us to bring us closer to Him. If we can look into the worst circumstances and hope in the promises of God despite our pain, we have won a great victory in our race of faith.
Blaming God isn’t wrong. Allowing our fear of Him to supplant our faith is. If we can learn to suffer toward a greater hope, that is sanctification.