This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account.
Lenten practice, day #27.
Reference: Hosea 5:1-15
I’m interested by the title of the chapter, first of all. My translation calls it “Judgment Against Israel.” How terrified we are of that word today. It’s absolutely frustrating to me, this fear of words (called “logophobia,” by the way). Even more frustrating to me is the fact that people are afraid of words because—as is almost always the case with fear—they DON’T UNDERSTAND THEM. It’s laziness—words are so easy to understand, you simply need to listen. But rarely do people listen.
“Judgment” is certainly one of those words. I’m sitting here in a crowded student center, listening to the buzz and commotion of several hundred students (gathered for an indoor Relay For Life, due to the weather), thinking about how often I’ve heard that word used fearfully in conversations by these very friends of mine.
“Can I tell you something? *quickly* But don’t judge me!”
“I’m judging you SO HARD right now.”
“Ugh, I don’t like her. I can, like, FEEL her judging me.”
The idea of “judgment” as such stigma in our society. I’d like to help clear it up in order to make this chapter a bit easier to unpack.
Judgment as society sees it:
As far as popular culture (and thus language) is concerned, “judgment” refers to any thought that is less than positive and makes any sort of a decision about another person, ever. In this context, the above quotes make sense. “Can I tell you something? But don’t think anything negative!” “I’m thinking negatively about you right now,” etc.
What the above uses of the word are TRYING to communicate is a desire to not be ashamed. It is a desire to prevent one aspect of their character to being definitely blown up to constitute their ENTIRE character in the minds of others. In other words, “Please don’t take this somewhat vulnerable fact about me, define me entirely by it, and change your opinion about me.”
That’s a reasonable request—if we are really to respect and acknowledge human persons in a God-like way (as we are called to), we must acknowledge ALL of them, allowing their flaws to be just as weighted as their good qualities, giving each is fair and appropriate due.
However, the word that appropriately describes that is not judgment. Let me explain what judgment actually means:
Judgment: noun \ˈjəj-mənt\ — 1) an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought; 2) the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing
So a judgment is, in reality, the exact OPPOSITE of what people seem to think it is. People consider judgments to be rash, harsh, and always, always negative.
But a judgment is ACTUALLY a CAREFUL decision made after discernment, thought, comparison, etc. so that appropriate responses/actions/initiations can be taken.
(What are we without discourse and movement? But that’s a topic for a different day.)
So when the growing, self-conscious people around me express concern about being judged for something like not wearing make-up for the day or for wearing pajama pants to class, I can’t help but be a little frustrated at the unnecessary fear and confusion that spreads with every misuse of the word.
All of that is to clarify that “Judgment” by God is not him frowning on you and being like, “Eww. Put on some make-up.” It’s not even, “Gosh, you’re really a sinner. You’re not worth my time. I don’t like you.”
Instead, it’s a carefully formed decision made in order to take the best possible course of action towards a goal. And for God, the goal is ALWAYS to grow closer to you. He ALWAYS aims to draw you in to him. No. Matter. What.
True human judgment was defined above. Judgment from God, as he’s perfect, has one added stipulation: it is never wrong. He always discerns correctly and appropriately and for the best interest of achieving his ultimate goal: your love.
So God’s “Judgment Against Israel” is way less “Israel, put on some makeup or I won’t want to party with you next weekend,” and way more of a realistic assessment on what problems exist and the most appropriate way to overcome those so that his relationship with her might be redeemed. (The preposition “against” certainly gives it a more negative connotation, thus increasing the slippery slope for us to slip into the more popular understanding of “judgment.”)
That being said, the chapter makes way more sense. The first 14 verses are the assessment God is making. He acknowledges the problems and lets his Bride know that they’re not okay. (Oh no! Negative feeling! He’s judging her!!! – No, please remember that sometimes in bad situations, we need to acknowledge the bad to move past it. He’s acknowledging the bad.)
Finally, in verse 15, he explains that his reprimanding of her is the only way for her to realize what she’s done, be sorry, and return to him with her whole heart.
I’d also like to point out one of the verses that made me laugh a bit, verse 10:
“Judah’s leaders are like those / who move boundary stones. / I will pour out my wrath on them / like a flood of water.”
The fact that they used to mark territory using little stones makes me giggle just cause of the impracticality of it. The fact that people would move those stones to facilitate their own devices makes me laugh even harder. #AncientPeopleProblems