Sunday, October 16, 2016

Justice and Love--by Linden Malki

 Hosea shows that while God is in control of the universe, He has given us choices in our destiny.  He used Hosea as an illustration. We can make choices which give us results beyond our worst nightmares, but He is also merciful if we listen and respond.  There would have been no point to the whole Hosea experience if there had been no wrong choices, and if there was no hope of recovery.

The situation in which Hosea found himself was about 200 years in the making.  Ironically, it began with a very wise man, Solomon, unwisely getting involved with foreign idols, as well as going on a building binge, using tax money and conscripted labor.    After Solomon's death, the leaders of the northern tribes asked Solomon's  son Rehoboam to lighten the load of taxes and forced labor.  Rehoboam's refusal was an all-time historical blunder that destroyed any relationship between the northern and southern tribes.  Jeroboam, a member of the dominant northern tribe of Ephriam,  became the king of the northern Kingdom, but he disobeyed as well. In order to prevent the northerners from going to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship God,  Jeroboam built shrines with pagan idols in the north and south of his Kingdom.* This idolatry is the "adultery"  that Hosea was denouncing in God's name.

What we see in the story of Hosea is that God judges, fairly and justly--and He also loves, and shows mercy when we repent of our sins. My favorite definition of "repentance" is "recognizing God's right to demand respect and obedience."  God judges because He cares that we do what is right; what is in our long-term best interest. It would not be loving for Him to not care when we mess up and cause trouble for ourselves and others.  To allow the people of the northern Kingdom of Israel to miss out on what God wanted for them, and to behave badly in their idolatry, would not be loving on God's part.  God gave them 200 years and the preaching of not just one, but four major prophets that we have records of: Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea. The other side of the  message is that the love and mercy of God are within reach, if we reach out in obedience.

'This story is one of those that remind us that people have not changed significantly in all these years.  Hosea is one of the most quoted of the Old Testament prophets;  what he had to say were good words for Jesus to quote, as well as Paul and the writer of Hebrews.  We are not that much different, either. When we accept God's love and spread it in our world, we are more than the fallible creatures that we are on our own.  What we see here is an indication that love does come from a source beyond humanity--it can be overwhelmingly good, can be very painful, may be both at the same time.  Hearts can be broken--but He can fix them.
* I Kings 11-12

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