Today’s scriptures address our tendency to stray from faithfulness and the call of a loving and merciful God to draw us back to Himself. When all is said and done, the way of faith is the only path leading to real satisfaction, though it may not be the most comfortable or popular path.
Hosea was a prophet whose personal call from God included marrying an unfaithful wife, watching her leave, and showing his love to bring her back. (See Hosea 1-3). He thus became an object lesson about unfaithfulness and the mercy of a loving God. In the passage for today, he continues his message with words of judgment for a people who had forgotten God. Instead of living under God’s commands, the people had clamored for a king, so that they could be “like all the other nations.” (See 1 Samuel 8). The prophet Samuel had warned them about the extreme hardships that would result from following this path, including losing one’s sons and daughters to the king’s service and paying high taxes that would benefit the king and his associates. (These cautions might also be given about modern governments, actually!)
Nevertheless, the people chose to reject Samuel’s warnings, professing their desire to be like the other folks around them. Not only did the predicted hardships materialize, but their kings became corrupt and led them into trouble by worshiping idols. Syncretistic adaptation to the “no-gods” may have given comfort to some people, but Hosea tells them this comfort is illusory. The idols have no more power than the artisans who created them: no power to give life, no power to heal, and no power to redeem or save.
The consequences of departure from the truth are contained in a familiar saying: “When they sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7). We often deceive ourselves into thinking we can control the consequences of our departures from the path of faithfulness. This behavior is paradoxical, at one level we want desperately to fit in with the crowd, perhaps to avoid the uncomfortable conflict of countercultural beliefs and behaviors. At another level, we also like to think we are special, and that the consequences of unfaithfulness we see in others will not affect us. But even our best efforts cannot contain the whirlwind. We need help.
If the truth be told, we are not different from the people to whom Hosea was speaking. We may not worship idols of silver and gold, but we surely do serve other ideals that are the “handiwork of men”, as the Psalmist describes.
The Gospel gives us hope in these desperate circumstances. The reaction of our Lord to people like us is truly extraordinary. Instead of speaking words of condemnation, he performed acts of kindness, healing, and redemption for this unfaithful people. These acts demonstrated his divine authority, which also happened to threaten those who exercised power over them. His work was countercultural – nothing like it was seen before – and it reflected the compassionate heart of God, which calms the whirlwind and draws the sheep near to himself.
I am glad to know that Jesus looks upon my shortcomings with such mercy and compassion. I can also testify that I do not always reap the whirlwind that I deserve. Reflecting on these truths kindles warmth and gratitude in my heart. But it also causes me to puzzle over how easily I am sometimes seduced into sowing the wind.
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