“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
3 Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
4 “What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.
5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth—
then my judgments go forth like the sun.
6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
7 As at Adam, they have broken the covenant;
they were unfaithful to me there.
8 Gilead is a city of evildoers,
stained with footprints of blood.
9 As marauders lie in ambush for a victim,
so do bands of priests;
they murder on the road to Shechem,
carrying out their wicked schemes.
10 I have seen a horrible thing in Israel:
There Ephraim is given to prostitution,
Israel is defiled.
11 “Also for you, Judah,
a harvest is appointed.
“Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people,
Yes, that is where this chapter leaves off. There are some funny breaks between chapters in Hosea. Kind of a cliff-hanger, right? We’ll get to the rest of Hosea’s woe-filled charges next post.
Jesus quotes v. 6 of today’s reading twice, in Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7. That got me to wondering, what parts of the Old Testament does Jesus quote? I found a list that looked pretty comprehensive, and according to this, Jesus quotes the OT 45 times. Of those quotes, almost a third of them – thirteen, by my count – deal with mercy, love, and correcting the excesses of legalism (which would lead a person to follow the letter of the law but not the spirit of it, meaning they have a deficit of mercy and love in their hearts).
“An acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings” is what God desires in the second half of verse six. And really, most of this chapter is God lamenting how the people come to him with empty words, how their love is fleeting “like the morning mist,” even though God’s love is as reliable “as the sun rises.” Isn’t this something we are all guilty of? Perhaps we go to church, sing the hymns, maybe put some money in the offering plate, and feel like we’ve done our duty. But being Christian needs to mean so much more than that. We need to live God’s values day in and day out.
Yes, a large portion of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and even more especially these prophets, details humanity’s sins against God in great length. But God always forgives us, we are always reconciled with God. If God can forgive us time and again, if God loves us “as surely as the sun rises,” then, to again quote Jesus, who are we to cast the first stone against someone else, for any reason? God does not call us, anywhere that I have seen so far, to judge anyone for their deeds or misdeeds. We are to leave that to God. So political beliefs, sexual orientation, station in life, race or ethnicity simply should not matter when it comes to caring for anyone. We are to show mercy. Mercy and love.
Just to be clear, you do not need to be a doormat. If you have been abused, you can forgive your abuser from afar. If you are in any way being taken advantage of, you do not need to put up with that shit for the sake of God. Remove yourself from that situation, please, because you are also a child of God and deserve better.
But beyond those extreme situations, we can do better. We can abolish the death penalty. We can change the justice system into one that rehabilitates instead of one that penalizes. We can extend medical care to everyone. We can make sure that everyone has enough to eat, a safe place to sleep. These are simple acts of human decency that shouldn’t be that revolutionary, if we are honest about what our Christian values call us to do.
And really, what better way to lead people to Jesus? Let us demonstrate his kindness in action. Let us heal, as Jesus did. Jesus brought a message of hope and redemption, and we grossly pervert it when we turn Jesus into a tool of oppression and condemnation. No one wants to follow such a mean-spirited god. I worry that by loudly demonstrating our faith instead of truly focusing on helping others, we are metaphorically guilty of giving God the empty burnt offerings instead of the true acknowledgement Xe really desires. We can leave the proselytizing behind, and let our actions speak for themselves. We do not need to shove Jesus down people’s throats. Let people find their own way to Jesus: we can pave that path for them through heart-felt care, love, and mercy.