“Yes, their mother is promiscuous; she conceived them and acted shamefully. For she thought, ‘I will follow my lovers, the men who give me my food and water, my wool and flax, my oil and drink.’” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever used graphic language when you were upset? It’s easy to do. When we get sufficiently upset, we begin working to find the words to adequately express our rage. When we’re angry enough, that can be a bit of a tall order. When we fumble enough, eventually we just use extreme words because we can’t find any others that will work. That’s a little like what’s going on here.
This is one of those passages that makes you a little uncomfortable to read. I mean, you wouldn’t expect to read about promiscuous women and lovers and adultery hanging between breasts in the Bible. Can you imagine getting called on to read this passage in Sunday school? Most kids would just blush and clam up. So would most adults. What’s going on here?
Well, God isn’t happy with Israel. Okay…that’s seems pretty obvious. But why? What have they done to make Him so upset that He’s using this kind of language to try and put His feelings into word? (And just as an aside, do you ever think about God being this emotional?)
Well, usually when we see language like this, we just think about judgment. God is judging the people for their sins and blah, blah, blah. That’s all He does is judge. He’s judgmental and angry and I don’t want anything to do with a God like that. And…I would have to agree. I wouldn’t want anything to do with a God like that either. Fortunately, that’s not a god who actually exists. Let’s look a bit more closely here to see what we can find.
Come with me back to that question of why. Why is God this upset? I mean, they must have done something. People don’t get this upset for no reason. Well, think about the language here. He’s using language that would be common in a situation when one partner has been caught cheating on the other. This is a lover’s gripe.
And indeed, those are the terms He uses. He wooed Israel carefully. He lavished her with precious and thoughtful gifts. He took her from a place of brokenness and brought her into His home. He called her His own. He made her His bride. He loved her with all of His heart. And she loved Him back. For a while. But she was fickle and started playing the field. She ran after whoever else she could find to see what else was out there. And He’s upset about it.
Actually, we can just go ahead and say He’s mad about it. Really mad. Wouldn’t you be? We can put all the modern, relativistic, sexually-liberated language on relationships we want, but when we have committed our hearts to someone, we aren’t happy when they break our hearts to run off after someone else, especially when we know we’re the better option. God wanted the people to understand this. It’s why He made Hosea take the relationship journey He did. So He could point to him and say, “That’s what you did to me.”
Put in more realistic terms, Israel had received everything from God. All He asked in return was for them to be faithful to Him so He could keep giving them more. But, in the daily grind of life, we tend to go with what looks like it works. And Baal—the common alternative to Yahweh in the ancient near east—looked like it worked. The people could see his altars. They could build them. They offered sacrifices at them, and low and behold, the crops grew. They forgot that God had already told them He was the reason the world worked the way it did. They could see Baal. They couldn’t see Yahweh.
What was worse was that they didn’t keep this awful, sinful, idolatrous thinking to themselves. They passed it down from one generation to the next, a whole line of people who rejected the God who loved them so much in favor of what they could see. They could “see” the gods who made life happen in the ordinary. Sure, they gave God attention as the chief of the gods, but when they wanted something to happen, they went with what worked.
And God was upset about it. Really upset.
How about you and me? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t bowed down before or offered sacrifices to any idols lately. In fact, I’ve never done that. Ever. Except when I have.
No, I really haven’t ever participated in an idolatrous ritual. But I have gone with what worked in a moment instead of turning to God for everything.
Maybe you’ve taken that path too? It’s so easy to do. It works and so we go with it. Of course we still believe in God. We’d never turn our back on Him. Except when we do. Because that other stuff works. The money works. The influence peddling works. The lying works. The consuming works. It all works. And we teach our kids that it works. A whole line of people who reject God in favor of what works.
And He isn’t happy about it.
We’re very little like Israel. Except when we are. Hosea’s words here were for them. Our relationship with God isn’t like theirs. We have Jesus now. And eternal life. And the Holy Spirit. But sometimes—only sometimes, right—we still go with what works. Because it works. Or so it seems. Until it doesn’t. Because it never really worked in the first place. God was just gracious even when we were faithless. He was to Israel too. Until He got fed up with loving them and not being loved in return and quit funding their promiscuity. Then they paid attention.
I wonder: Has He ever quit funding your excursions into what works? That isn’t ever pretty, but if it gets us to look up for a minute to remember who really loves us, it’s worth it. Enjoy what God gives. Richly. Just don’t forget who gave it; don’t forget who loves you.