This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account.
Lenten practice, day #32.
Reference: Hosea 10:1-15
Again, the Lord goes on about the constructive punishment he has planned for Israel, but this time he’s more specific: the punishment will be exile.
Not that that’s new.
Really, you’d think the Israelites would have learned by this time that if they want to hang out in their homeland, they need to kick it into shape.
Again, I find myself struggling to find much that catches my interest in this chapter—it’s mostly stuff we’ve already covered. Thus, instead of one relatively cohesive overall point to his reflection post, I’m just going to mention brief bits that pop to my mind as I read through this.
In verse 3, I love the point God makes. He originally didn’t want Israel to have a king. The Israelites had been pressuring him to anoint one because they wanted to be like other nations who had a tangible, physical leader to guide them in times of peace and war. The Israelites, however, had the Mosaic law as the most tangible reminder of God’s leadership—and that was a bunch of scrolls. Thus, they begged God for a king, and he ultimately conceded. (Hence the eventual anointing of the mega-famous King David.) (Clarification: He wasn’t the first king. He’s just he’s most popular, so I mentioned him.) Here, in verse 3, God sort of throws that back at them. Just like he thought, they relied too heavily on the king and focused way less on God. Now, as they’ve turned against God and rely on their king as their main leader (who also worships pagan gods with them), their situation is terribly ironic. What good will the king do? He is nothing without God—even in giving Israel a king, God makes the point that early kings are futile without the King.
In 7 and 8, the evoking of nature to rinse away the wickedness is really cool. Not only do the pagan altars get destroyed and the very people wish their sin could be destroyed with it, but it’s being destroyed by the very natural creation of God. That’s something we often miss. We see the “thorns and thistles…overgrow their altars” and think of them falling into disuse or neglect. Sure, that’s one way to look at it. But we fail to realize that really, the altar of God—the beautiful creation he crafted and then sat upon as a throne—is overtaking the altars of the false God. What a beautiful, freeing image. The good—the Truth—will always conquer.
(Side note: This reminds me of a great quote attributed to St. Augustine, “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”)
Finally, I love the phrasing in 11 (under the title “Time To Seek The Lord”) in which God says, “I myself laid a yoke upon her [Ephraim’s] fair neck.”
That’s certainly an odd combination of words. First, the “yoke” is, to Christians, reminiscent of Christ’s promise of “an easy yoke” and a “light burden.” If the cattle were intended for heavy towing (among other things), then a beast at work pulling the plow is achieving its purpose. The beauty of God’s call to us is that he wills that we do, in fact, achieve our purpose (pull our yoke), but desires so strongly to make that something GOOD and ENJOYABLE for us. A light burden. Secondly, this love he expresses towards us comes to life in the included note of Ephraim’s neck being “fair.” God finds us so beautiful, and he desires to make us desire the honorable and dignified work he has for us. The work we were created for (which really means it isn’t that much like work at all).