Hosea is such an intense book.I read it last night and was absolutely floored by the description of the pure devastation that God pours out on the nation of Israel for turning their back on Him. I mean, I think that we sugar coat it a lot and blanket stuff with terminology like "wrath" which I don't think even begins to describe it! (Even though that is the word I am going to use in the rest of this entry).
Here are some things that struck me in this book.
Firstly, I always thought Israel deserved God's 'wrath' because of how stupid they were. Like when they are wandering in the desert complaining to God about how they would rather be in slavery again in Egypt...I am like REALLY!? Really Israel, you would rather be slaves than free? Under any circumstances freedom sounds better to me. But then I took the time to really think about the Israelites. Their entire identity had been defined by being slaves. Working, all day every day. They didn't have time to do much else, so when they were given the chance to be in the desert and to do nothing essentially...they lost a piece of their identity, even if it was being someone else's property (by the way, thank you Steve Carter for talking about this at RH...don't think I am this smart all by myself..ha) and to add to that they were wandering in a foreign land with only the voice of God guiding them...which they were not used to at all.
So I went through my sympathy for Israel phase and really wrestled with why God would be so cruel to people, I mean...he created them and he knew before time began how they were going to treat Him. Much like Hosea was warned that his wife would be unfaithful (man, I love the parallel that is provided by this story...such a great way to be able to grasp it). So if he knew all this, why was He so hurt and surprised? Yeah they betrayed Him, but He created them to be human and to make mistakes...to sin. How can he justify unleashing his wrath when it is His own creation?
Sympathy over. For a while at least.
God gave Israel so many chances. In the book of Hosea alone, there is like 5 listed...and I know that isn't even all of them. It talks about how they literally just turned away from Him. Ran away from His goodness and did everything they possibly could to avoid Him. Multiple times. No shame, just blatant disregard. They were the people He had chosen, and delivered from captivity and they built idols to other gods in place of Him, and committed so many ridiculous sins in straying away from Him.
But have you read what He does? (Sympathy, round two).
He talks about drying up women in Ephraim so they cannot have children, and if they do...killing them. Like slaying them. Brutal. He says he will give them wombs that constantly miscarry.
Samaria, destroyed. Rotted, uprooted and wiped out.
God talks about becoming like a lion, lurking upon them and devouring them. He is serious.
This is not a seemingly fair punishment...this is unbelievable.
I actually stopped reading at about chapter 10 or 11 because I didn't want to be more angry with God than I already was.
But then, through words and pictures from God I realized I was not angry with God for punishing them...but rather terrified, because I see so much of myself in Israel.
Chance after chance, thrown away. I run to things that are clearly not what God has for me, flat out sinful things because I just don't want Jesus to have authority in my life. I am Israel. I am the unfaithful wife. I am adulteress and unholy. I deserve the punishment. In chapter 5 it says, "their deeds do not permit them to return to their God." (verse 4) I am screwed.
So now I am scared. I start imagining all the things that God is going to do to me because of my sins. I am going to be punished like Israel. And yeah, I think that they had enough chances and stuff...but some of things are so extreme that I just have no positive thoughts about them.
Then comes chapter 14. Always read the ending. It usually is important.
"I will heal their waywardness, and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them." (14:4)
Whew. For me and for Israel. As a human, I realized that I won't ever grasp the depths of the loves Jesus has for me. When I lie, cheat, steal, blaspheme, hurt or gossip, he loves me the same.
Israel messed up. A LOT. We have already been over that. They deserved destruction, I deserve destruction. But instead I get love. I get the touch of a Father who is standing right beside me even when I break His heart and run away from Him. A lover who never leaves my side. A Hosea to my Gomer. A God to my Israel-d (yep, a word. Because I said so...) heart.
Repentance leads to redemption. Redemption is a transition from being a slave to being free. Bought for a price that is much to high for anyone besides the Lord to pay for.
But still not done with all this punishment stuff. I mean, once again...did they really deserve all that?
"Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them." (14:9)
Similarly to the fact that I will never be able to grasp the love God has for me, I will also never be able to grasp true justice from the Lord. He is the sovereign ruler over all the earth...and he says that the wise and discerning will see these things as right. We have a passionate and powerful God who steers his children in the direction of purity. If this means wiping them out, slaying their children...his intentions are always to refocus them on Him, which if I claim I am a follower of Him, I should agree is the ultimate goal. He does all things for our good, even if they are not what we would normally think.
Someone once told me that the worst wrath of God is when he abandons you and does nothing. I think that punishing Israel was a reality-check for them...showing them that He was still there whether they acknowledged Him or not. He was still there and He was still holy. He was waiting for them to FINALLY get the hint and turn to Him, the only place they would find the true promised land.
I have not read the rest of the Old Testament in a long time, so I am curious to know how long it takes them to get it...but I know that they do eventually, right?
This was a very long rant, but I think it helped me process this book of Hosea. Which I recommend reading. All the way through. Chapter 1....well pretty much the whole book will make you mad, but hopefully open your eyes to places where you are like Israel, and also to the love that God pours out over us, even though we are so unworthy.
Cheers, if you made it all the way through.