Reftagger

Saturday, July 6, 2019

In One Sitting: Hosea

Recently I decided to do something special- read certain books of the Bible "In One Sitting" and write blogposts about them, sharing what someone can glean when they take a book of the Bible as a whole, rather than segmented like we normally do. Modern chapters, verses and headings are mean't to act as reference aids, but we use them as artificial dividers in the text, where they often don't belong. This wasn't a concept that was brand new to me, but in order to read some books with the focus and dedication they need, I needed to set aside a special and concentrated time to read and meditate.
This past weekend I did the Book of Hosea- which took me a little less than an hour to read in one sitting. Here are my thoughts on the book, after reading it all at once- no interruption. Comment below your own thoughts- I would encourage you to do for the Book of Hosea, or even another book- we may feature your thoughts by allowing you to guest blog. See what God will do. You can do this by ignoring chapters in your Bible, or even use a reader's Bible, which strips away everything but the biblical text.  

The Message

People of faith can turn to other things, material goods, people, experiences or even sin outright- thinking that will it satisfy their desires. When people commit "spiritual adultery", God will allow them to remain in sin for a time to suffer their own consequences. God desires to bring them back into a faith relationship with him, but allows them to undergo a period of testing so that they may realize the fleeting nature of their sin and have a genuine heart transformation towards satisfaction in God. Then God fully accepts them back, the relationship with God is even closer and people realize only God can truly provide sustenance. 

In the Book of Hosea, God lays out all of the sins Israel and Judah. Both of these nations have committed spiritual adultery, both by relying on the power of foreign alliances with Assyria and Egypt as protection and reassurance, not the provision of Yahweh. Additionally, Israel prostituted itself to worship of the Ba'als and their idols. After allowing the Israelites (both nations) to remain under exile in the future, a remnant will return to their homeland and back to the relationship with God they once had.
God demonstrates the current relationship trajectory with his people and his future plans to restore the relationship through the prophet Hosea. Not only does Hosea reveal the charges against Israel, God asks him to depict Israel's relationship with him through his own life. Hosea is asked to marry and then remain faithful to an adulterous woman. She has several (likely illegitimate) children, all with symbolic names to describe what will happen to Israel and how Israel will be restored. Then after her adultery, Hosea repurchases his wife, remaining separate from her from a time until she is ready to come back to him with a dedicated heart. This narrative from Hosea's life is not actually the main point of Hosea, like its often made out to be; while a very real event from Hosea's life, it is primarily symbolic and teaches spiritual truths. This was common occurrence in the life of a prophet- not only would they preach God's word, he would alter their lives to symbolically portray Israel's fate (like in the lives of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc) . 

What Stuck Out

Distance For A Time

"...You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so I will also be to you. For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return ..... they shall come to fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days"- Hos 3:3-5
One of the major themes of Hosea is God's redemption through separation and distancing himself. Yes, you read me correctly. Hosea makes it clear that one way God brings people back to himself is allowing them to dwell in their sin for a time. Paul follows this model when he tells Corinthian believers to allow an incestuous man to be "handed to Satan" (1 Cor 5:5). When God tells Hosea to reunite with Gomer after infidelity, Hosea is not "united" with her (whether that be domestically, sexually or both) for some time until she becomes fully dedicated to him. In the same way, God sends Israel into exile for some time and brings them back after they become fully dedicated to him.

Wisdom of Righteousness

Another theme I noticed, reading Hoses as one cohesive book is the wisdom of right living. 
"Whoever is wise, let them understand these things, whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of Yahweh are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them"- Hos 14:9
The book ends with the above quote, indicating that this is a major theme of Hosea. Many places throughout the book's poetry references how most people are too foolish to realize the worthlessness of their sin. Therefore, those who recognize that sin is unsatisfying are in the minority and are very wise. Only the wise will understand that God provides true satisfaction. Most people in the world do not know God, so by the standard of the text, most people are "fools". Most people without God may be "fine" without him, but only those who know him get a blessing that most will not get in this life.

Other Reflections

While I have a greater understanding of Hosea reading it altogether, I also experienced the inverse effect- I realized just how little I understand the book, even after reading it all at once. So much of the book is repeating the same message over and over again in poetic language in a format that the original readers would have understood. Much of the book talks about specific cities and refers to things that "happened" at those places. Many of the referenced events are lost to us or at best a guess. Therefore, so much of the content is difficult for us to understand and may not be possible for us to understand with our available information. One can only pray for those on the front-lines of biblical research and for God's revelation of the intricacies of Hosea.

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