Posted by: alisonwalley | 8 November 2009

And more on Hosea

The great thing about Hosea is God’s great love for that same rebellious people. More on that next week. Actually, it’s two weeks since I last blogged, but it’s given me the chance to prepare a Bible study, do it, and think more about the book.

Hosea chapter four is all about the ‘charge’ that God brings against his people. ‘Charge’ as in accusation in a court of law. It’s pretty drastic: “no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God”. Instead there’s “cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery”. The worst thing about it seems to be that the priests who should have been teaching the people how to live have in fact been the worst sinners and have positively encouraged them their way of life.

However, I don’t intend to turn this blog into a Bible study on Hosea, just to raise a question about applying what we study, particularly with regard to Old Testament books.

To us modern Christians, it is obvious (well I hope so!) that our faith has certain practical consequences for the way we live. There are certain things that as Christians we are urged to leave behind, “to put off your old self” and “put on the new self”, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:20–24. That means that we read Hosea 4:2 (“there is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery”) and immediately connect this with the “no acknowledgement of God” in the previous verse. So, when we do acknowledge God and we’re faithful to him, our lives should match up to our calling.

And indeed, that’s exactly what Hosea means. The Israelites had been called to be God’s special people. Because he had rescued them from Egypt, certain standards were expected from them – the 10 commandments were given to show them how to live in light of the fact that they now belonged to God. Similarly, if we have been saved through Christ and given new life, our lives should match up to the new standards expected of us, even if it’s usually more of a work in progress. So, an application from the passage to our situation.

And then we come to verse 3: “Because of this [the lack of faithfulness, love, etc.] the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and all the fish in the sea are swept away.”

Can we apply this verse in the same way as we did the previous two? Is the current ecological crisis a direct consequence of our unfaithfulness and the fact that we don’t acknowledge God? It’s very tempting to make the direct comparison.

Here is where we need to be careful. The people Hosea addressed were a particular people in a particular place. God’s people are now the church, who don’t have a specific ‘place’. The kingdom of God is not confined to one location. A better comparison would be to look at the curses of Deuteronomy 28:15–28 (which are given after promises of blessing). Disobedience will result in the curses, obedience in the blessings.

But do we conclude that Hosea 4:3 says nothing to us? I don’t think that’s true either. There is something in the fact that because we are sinful, we haven’t stewarded the Earth and its resources as we should, that we have and are too greedy.

So, tricky applications, but worth struggling with to see what God says to us in all the Scriptures.

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