The prophet Hosea is best known for using marriage as a metaphor for the relationship between God and his people. In chapter eleven, though, we read of a parent and child. The imagery is no less intimate: teaching a youngster to walk and lifting up the little one into an embrace of love:
Thus says the Lord:
When Israel was a child I loved him,
out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the farther they went from me,
Sacrificing to the Baals
and burning incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
who took them in my arms;
I drew them with human cords,
with bands of love;
I fostered them like one
who raises an infant to his cheeks;
Yet, though I stooped to feed my child,
they did not know that I was their healer.
The prophet alludes to some politics of the time: Israel playing the balancing act between two regional powers. Perhaps we are caught in a trap between two seemingly bad options. If one looks worse, we sell out to the other. Does faith in God encourage us to take the high road, even if others tell us it is the path of abandonment and destruction? To whom do we listen?
He shall return to the land of Egypt,
and Assyria shall be his king,
The sword shall begin with his cities:
and end by consuming his solitudes.
Because they refused to repent,
and their own counsels shall devour them.
His people are in suspense about returning to him;
and God, though in unison they cry out to him,
shall not raise them up.
God speaks with passion for his own:
How could I give you up, O Ephraim,
or deliver you up, O Israel?
How could I treat you as Admah,
or make you like Zeboiim?
My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not (a human),
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.
They shall follow the LORD,
who roars like a lion;
When he roars,
his (children) shall come frightened from the west,
Out of Egypt they shall come trembling, like sparrows,
from the land of Assyria, like doves;
And I will resettle them in their homes, says the LORD.
This is a condemnation of political maneuvering of the day. What might be liberating for today’s penitents? Following God out of gossip, materialism, addictions, personal indulgences, lack of commitments? Good material here for the preacher of reconciliation at a communal service. What do you think?