Hosea and the Church

Written by John on Sunday 17/06/07

We looked at the first chapters of Hosea the other evening. Poor Hosea - imagine being an upright member of your congregation known for speaking out against the corrupt and sex obsessed society and then being told to go out and marry a whore (not a pleasant word - but that is the reality of it). Not surprisingly she wasn't faithful. Then you get to name your children as "Nobody", ""No Mercy" and, after one of the most disgraceful bloody and corrupt episodes in your country's history "Jezreel" (think "Soweto", "Rwanda", Auschwitz", "Dresden")

We often look at the world and church and think "If you are so powerful God why don't you just wave a wand and sort it all out?" Hosea seems to take a look at things from God's side. We see God agonising over Israel - he speaks very harshly and threateningly (some of which came to pass with the invasion of the Assyrians and the Exile) at times, and then he displays incredible compassion as he seeks to court his whore and love her despite everything.

When we read Hosea it is easy to think of the world outside of the church as analogous with Israel/Ephraim. However, I think we need also to think of the church and think about how much God hates when the church "prostitutes herself" with the things of this world.

In Chapter two we see that the Israelites were following the Canaanite Baals - or fertility gods. This was not just about sex, but also about following the gods that they thought most relevant to their needs. Their needs were no longer to be lead through the desert, but for the crops to grow and there be a good harvest - so, thanks YHWH for the help in getting here, but now we are here we'll do what the locals do because it seems to work best.

At the time of Hosea Israel and Judah had been through a golden age - 50-60 years without war, with good harvests, and high commodity prices - much like NZ today!

I think that the church today needs to learn a lesson from Hosea. We too block off whole areas of our life and thinking from God. This is particularly true in the public world of facts. We have allowed the scientists and politicians (and I'm a bit of both!) to shut the church out of public affairs and push it into the private inner realm. We no longer look at the WHOLE world from a teleological perspective - the perspective of God's purpose - we tend only to think about God's purpose for me as an individual or perhaps my congregation.

Also, like the Israelites, we tend to have an obsession with potency, power, success as what life is all about. God seeks faithfulness above all. There is nothing wrong per se with large or small churches, flash or plain buildings as long as they are all put to the use of building God's kingdom and not the petty little personal fiefdoms we all seem to crave.