Book of Hosea
Any time we open the Bible, we can see the multi-faceted, mysterious character of God. Every passage we read gives us new insight. We tend to take particular interest in how He relates to humanity. The texts in Hosea that we have been reading during the past few days have shown us His holiness; He is without sin and, therefore, cannot have sin in His presence. We have also seen His judgment. The strong language of that judgment can be particularly jarring to the 21st century Western reader.
Today’s passage shows us yet another side of God. In the midst of the expressive language of judgment, we are overtaken by His tenderness. He loves, He longs, He does not want to hurt, He heals, He helps, He gently guides. The language of Chapter 11 suggests the image of a parent lovingly caring for a young child. God remembered fondly of that early relationship He had with the Israelites. As He recalled what happened, we get the feeling that we are looking at snapshots: rescuing the child (1), teaching him to walk, feeding him. The picture of the Lord “bending down” reveals how willing He was to humble Himself to help. Because His love is so deep, He was deeply hurt – not only by the people’s turning away from Him, but also by the harm that would come to them as a result. We suddenly catch a glimpse of a father who knows he must discipline his child, but weeps as he does it. Because of God’s profound love, He promised eventually to restore the people. (He doesn’t say exactly when…)
Tucked into this tender passage, one of the fundamental problems the people faced emerged yet again. While God was humbling Himself lavishing His love on the people, they did not even realize it (3). Their passiveness went beyond not acknowledging the Lord; they became utterly unaware.
When encountering such love, how can we respond? One of the answers Hosea gave us again and again is to acknowledge God; we have come to see how essential it is simply to remember Him. Immersed in the lessons of Hosea, we might take a renewed understanding of the actions of Jesus. Before humbling Himself in love and taking on the burden of all sin, Jesus shared bread and wine with His followers: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in REMEMBRANCE of me.’” (Luke 22:19) When encountering such love, how can we respond? We take Jesus at His word, we believe Him in our hearts, then we remember Him and what He did on the cross. All of this is wrapped up in the simple act of communion. Jesus echoed His Father in teaching us how important it is to remember Him. As His followers, we can do that today when we participate in communion. Has it become an empty ritual for some of us like the Israelites had made empty rituals in their day? Let us renew our worship through honest, heart-felt remembering. We can do that simply the next time we take communion.
“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” ~ Hosea 11:3,4
Questions to ponder:
- What other examples in the Bible do you see of God’s tender love?
- What examples in your own life and in the lives of those around you do you see of God’s tender love?
- How do you personally feel about participating in communion as a part of worship?