Today’s passage: Hosea 2
In our Sunday morning service this weekend, we’re continuing our journey through the book of Hosea. Hosea is an interesting prophet; called by God to be a living demonstration to his people – and to us today – of the heart of God. As we saw last week in Hosea 1, God told the prophet to marry an adulterous woman, and to start a family with her. And Hosea did. He married Gomer – a woman as fickle and prone to wandering from Hosea as God’s people are fickle and prone to wander from Him. Each of the children she bore spoke of God’s judgement and pained love.
And yet the God that Hosea presents to us is more than an angry cuckold. God is the God who will have His bride. God is just, and doen’t tolerate unirgheousness. But God is also the God of grace and mercy – who acts to save a people who many would think aren’t worth saving. God does this simply because of His love and faithfulness.
Hosea 2 is a bit different to Hosea 1. This chapter lifts us from the family life of the prophet Hosea. It is a poem spoken by God to His people – both corporately and as individuals. Each of God’s people are challenged to rebuke their mother – to take a stand against a community that claims to be God’s, but is in fact practiced in unfaithfulness towards Him.
God’s charge against Israel was clear: they chased after other lovers, thinking that the reward for doing so was well worth it. In Hosea’s context, this involved chasing after the Baals – a Canaanite fertility god, whom they though would bring them agricultural – and thus economic – prosperity. In our context, there are many things that God’s people chase after, thinking that in so doing we will find life. The world bombards us with subtle (and not so subtle) messages on how to get the best out of life. We’re taught to think that a big house is a sign of success. We’re taught to live for the pleasures of food, drink, and sex. We’re taught to bow at the altar of materialism and success. We’re taught that unless one has a partner, one’s life is unfulfilled. And, just like the Israelites in Hosea’s day did, many of us in the church find ourselves drawn into assuming that what the world offers is real life.
The irony is that all good things come from God. In the Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis writes about how Satan cannot make any pleasures – pleasures are God’s domain. All that the enemy can do is twist pleasures by encouring them to be sought after in the wrong contexts. The formula of hell is every diminishing returns of pleasure for ever increasing investments.
In Hosea, we see, I think, the pain of people using God’s good gifts not in honour of Him and in relationship with Him, but in adoration of false gods. God is no weakling. And He isn’t into enabling our adultery. His aim is to win His bride, and to transform us, His people, into people who know and love Him. But why do people follow after idols? And what can God do to win people back?