To do anything but tell this story as it is, would be to downplay the extent of offense You, God, feel from Israel’s rejection of You. Much of what You say here, is for an R-rated audience. You don’t hold back from the degradation of it all. You say it as it is.
I feel like the reader of this blog could well say to me, “You do go on!” Post after post reads like page after page of the book of Hosea – countless times in which Israel had turned from you, countless ways they had offended You.
An old ditty from my childhood went like this –
“How do I love you?
Let me count the ways….”
Your version may well go –
“How have you rejected me?
Let me count the ways…”
You don’t recount their actions in order to get revenge, or even to hold it against them, for You do not hold our sin against us (2 Corinthians 5:19, NIV), rather as a broken-hearted Lover, out of despair, anger, grief, and loss, You state Your case, reveal Your heart…it does not make sense how Israel has treated and betrayed You –
“Caught in a whirlwind.”
(Hosea 4:19, MSG). Israel was caught up in depravity and swept violently onward as it destroyed them. The rights they claimed to do as they pleased, and what they thought was ‘freedom’; the actions that followed; unable to escape the turbulence as it swept them up in its path; caught in the whirlwind of self-gratification and blind religion; losing the ability to understand what they were doing to their hearts and souls; and continuing to walk in the way of their brokenness; all resulted in them reaping the entire consequences of its destruction, “They sow the wind, they reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7, NIV).
“They will eat but not have enough.”
(Hosea 4:10, NIV). Oh, how I wish you had stuck to this metaphor…to see scrawny hungry people walking around in a continual, unrelenting search to fulfill a hunger inside would be a more palatable visual image to the one You use next. This next metaphor is morally disturbing. They exchange You for, “a life of rutting with whores” (Hosea 4:10, MSG), the image being, going from one lover to the next in order to fulfill their insatiable inner hunger, “they will have sex and get no satisfaction. They walked out on me, their God, for a life of rutting with whores. Drunk on sex, they can’t find their way home. They’ve replaced their God with their genitals. Before you know it, your daughters are whores and the wives of your sons are sleeping around…When the beer runs out, it’s sex, sex, and more sex. Bold and sordid debauchery—how they love it!” (Hosea 4, MSG).
“They’ve replaced their God with their genitals.”
It seems the spiritual prostitution of Israel was closely linked to the physical. One lead to the other. When they gave You up, they gave themselves to all kinds of physical prostitution, replacing You “with their genitals” (Hosea 4:11-14, MSG). Frankly speaking, they replaced You with sex. This is how these chapters in Hosea crudely read. Israel, walk away from Your love for the ritualistic worship of the false gods like the nations they admired – and cultic sex was one of these practices. They believed it stored up sexual energy in order to produce fertility in crops and in families. In his blog, Timothy Wilkinson writes, “…among the most well-known of their practices was the invocation of “sympathetic magic.” During the dry summer season vegetation died when Mot triumphed over Baal, forcing him to withdraw into the depths of the earth. Baal (and the rain) would return only after Anat conquered Mot and Baal could mate with Ashtoreth, ensuring fertility for the coming year. To encourage Baal to do so, Canaanites held huge sexual orgies in which the priests had sex with any and all women they desired. The priests might also re-enact Baal’s copulation with cows, and offer sacrifices of infant children. In some cases, Canaanites would appeal to their dead relatives for help in overcoming Mot; this was done by having sex with one’s closest living fleshly relative” (Wilkinson TS, The Horror of Canaanite Religion, Random Jottings). Sex with anyone – and anything! Their beliefs were stooped in superstitious type enslavement. If they didn’t appeal to Baal in this way, they would perish.
We may have discarded religion and idolatry as being primitive and see ourselves as modern thinkers, but today instead of it being the worship of Baal, ‘sex’ is still god – minds that have become clouded and deluded, thinking what we are doing is OK, that it is our right to do as we please, that the “it’s my body and I’ll do with it what I like” worldview, is the way to freedom and fulfillment, and we cannot see that what we do is ruining us. Oh God, I know that I cross a line with writing this stuff to a world that believes they can do as they please “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else”. What You wanted to protect us from has become a God-wants-to-withhold-pleasure-from-us world belief. And yet the things we chase after brings about all the brokenness and sorrow we are trying to avoid, “leaving us more lonely than ever” (1 Corinthians 6:16-20, MSG). We believe You are the kill-joy and yet these beliefs are destroying us.
“They do not acknowledge me.”
(Hosea 5:4, NIV) You were Israel’s provider, but instead, they offered ‘thanks’ to Baal, “For she did not know that I gave her…” (Hosea 2:8, NIV). It’s such a parable relevant to us now. The endless pursuit to find our needs met in any place other than in You, the true source – and then offering our claim in this false attainment of satisfaction, to things that don’t even have the ability to fill us. Convincing ourselves that these lovers give us what we need – lovers like substances that dull or temporarily fill for a while, “wine and whiskey leave my people in a stupor” (Hosea 4:11, NIV 1984); philosophies, alternative religions, thoughts, pilgrimages, practices, and beliefs, “my people consult a wooden idol, and a diviner’s rod speaks to them” (Hosea 4:12, NIV 1984). None of these things can fill us like You can.
“A people without understanding will come to ruin.”
(Hosea 4:14, NIV). I don’t think Israel did, nor do we, think deeply about things until we are nearly destroyed by them. We don’t delve into what will happen if we do this or that. We just seem to find ourselves in it. It’s like we blindly follow our self-gratification, making excuse for it, developing a new belief or understanding around it so we can do what we want with our minds, our bodies, and our lives. You are the only One who truly knows the severity of the ruin of Israel, of us. Jesus pleaded with You to forgive humanity when He was on the cross – “they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).
“A spirit of prostitution is in their heart.”
(Hosea 4:12, 5:4 NIV) Having “a spirit of” meant to have a disposition towards prostitution that pervaded their thoughts, feelings, and actions. In Hosea 4, the people engaged in (v10), gave themselves to (v11), were led astray by (v12), turned to, consorted and sacrificed with (v14), and continued in (v18) prostitution. Their spirit, their attitude, their pervading thoughts, and tendencies were not towards You. They didn’t have a spirit of commitment or a spirit of faithfulness. Their mindset was towards their other lovers, walking out on their promises made, “we will do everything the Lord has commanded: we will obey” (Exodus 24:7, NV).
You knew, Yet You entered relationship with them anyway. It’s what love does. “…these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them…When I have brought them into the land…and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant…I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them…” (Deuteronomy 31:20-22, NIV).
“Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.”
(Hosea 5:4, NIV) Sinful deeds had become obstacles that prevented Israel from returning to You. Deeds that did not permit them to make their way back. My own thoughts, motives, decisions and actions, and what I read here, reveal that I too am in this same place – my person and existence has been ruined. I am not talking about how You see me. I am not talking about my worth or value to You, for You created me as very good (Genesis 1:31, NIV) and You continue to see me as very good. I am talking about what sin has done to me and how it has ruined me. Without Your Love at work, I cannot turn to You – my sinful nature is bent on pulling me towards destruction and all that is in opposition to You.
“The natural man has no ability to come to God, nor does he even have the desire to come. Because his heart is hard and his mind is darkened…he doesn’t even realize it: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Therefore, it is only by the drawing of God through His mercy and grace that we are saved…God enlightens the mind (Ephesians 1:18), He inclines the will toward Himself, and He influences the soul, without which influence the soul remains darkened and rebellious against God” (God draws us).
I’ve thought about this when it comes to him, a friend of mine. Much of his life has been in opposition to both the law and his own set of values. The struggle is that he has known truth. He has known right from wrong, and yet constantly finds himself making decisions that war against what he would claim to value, creating turmoil in his mind. He has known something of You in his life and experienced Your goodness, but his deeds stop him from returning to You. The lifelong result of bad choices means he finds himself enslaved to these things and continues to make bad choices though trying to right the wrongs. He knows what is good and right, what he should’ve or shouldn’t have done, and because of this, guilt and shame prevent him – have become obstacles to returning to You. He thinks that You won’t accept him, that he is too far from You, that he has gone beyond forgiveness, that he cannot change his ways, and these do not permit his head or his heart to see or accept that You Love him, forgive him, would set him free, would bring him new life. His deeds have created a wall so thick and reinforced with lies, that they will not permit his return to You.
“They have become thoroughly polluted.”
(Hosea 5:3-4, MSG) Sin and its ruin of them had ruled their lives, every part of it. It seemed they had no say. This dominating, merciless and unrelenting, cruel, powerful ruler had controlled and manipulated and directed them at its will, according to its own desires. So victimized by its domination, that they even offered themselves to be used and abused by it, like they were blinded, hungry for more, in ever-increasing wickedness, oblivious it seemed of its misery and ruin of them. It had thoroughly polluted them. This grieved You in Hosea’s day. It is the same today.
I might think we are not that bad! Some people are perhaps, but there are a lot of good people, so surely we can’t label everyone as ‘bad’, can we?
I know this belief is not popular to many psychological, philosophical, worldly, and religious views, and though it, “does not mean that man is as wicked or sinful as he could be, nor does it mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong. Neither does it mean that man does not or cannot do things that seem to be good when viewed from a human perspective or measured against a human standard” (John G. Reisinger), our humanity is ruined – something that was created good, has now been destroyed, wrecked, fallen.
Sin desires to have us (Genesis 4:7). It is so burdensome and oppressive in its way with us. Ezra prayed “I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens” (Ezra 9:6). In the story of Job our sins are described as endless and our wickedness great (Job 22:5). The Psalmist cried out, “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head” (Psalm 40:12). And says of us that we are “bent on rebellion and we waste away in [our] sin” (Psalm 106:43). Our deeds ensnare us and hold us fast (Proverbs 5:22). Trapped. Entangled. Deceived. Perverted. Polluted. Utterly corrupt. Completely lost. Absolutely ruined. (Loved). The urgency that I seem to display to return to sin, the arguing and reasoning in my head to rationalize a wrongful thought or behaviour, the lack of abhorrence toward sinful ways, the inability to stop myself, a habit I’m so entangled in, “their evil life is a bad habit” (Hosea 5:3-4, MSG) – are all evidences of this ruined state before You.
We are ruined…
Oh God…please do not give up!
Continued in next week’s blog…