This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account.
Lenten practice, day #26.
Reference: Hosea 4:1-19
At this point, Hosea switches out of the symbolic narrative of his marriage to Gomer and speaks directly of Israel and God.
In my translation, the entire section is labeled, “Israel’s Guilt and Punishment” and the individual sections are “Crimes of Israel” and “Guilt of the Priests.”
The chapter starts with God officially proclaiming to Israel that he has some bones to pick with her. (When I say “God” speaking, it’s understood that it is God speaking through the prophet Hosea, so even though it is Hosea’s literary voice, “I” is God speaking in 1st person.) He lists the crimes: “false swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery.” The common theme in all of these is idolatry. In false swearing and lying, their vanity became their god—disadvantage others for the sake of themselves if need be. In murder, their anger, special interests, and desire for power became their god. In stealing, their desire for possession became their god. In adultery, their lust became their god. God cries out in pain against Israel for idolatry, illustrated by Homer crying out against his harlot wife Gomer. In both situations, one (Israel, Gomer) does not give proper love, affection or attention to the other (God, Hosea), much less honor his vows. Instead, she/She is swept up in infatuation with something far less wonderful and far more dangerous for her/Her.
I think, however, the part about the priests is my favorite. God is especially critical of the priests—the people appointed to lead the people—for intentionally and selfishly leading them down destructive and terrible paths. I think this hits home for me especially because I’m going into a career in ministry and I’m well aware that the mental, physical, emotional, and especially SPIRITUAL welfare of many people is being entrusted to me, and it is SUCH a critical task. In other parts of Scripture, God talks about how he who intentionally leads his friends/followers/loved ones away from the Truth brings not only his damnation upon himself, but also the damnation of the people he is misleading. This isn’t just God PMSing or being irrationally harsh. These people—myself and my fellow ministers—we are CHARGED with the responsibility and privilege of being the hands and feet of God in this world. We are CHARGED with the responsibility and privilege of directly working with people and explicitly trying to get them to heaven, well aware of their terrible fate if they are mislead. How betrayed God must feel when his own soldiers, his own leaders, his own followers intentionally mislead other innocent children for their own personal gain. God is rightfully harsh to them. What they have done deserves harsh, harsh punishment.