9 July 2010Hosea 14:1-9
"I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them." (v.4)
After Haiti's devastating earthquake, an evangelist from the
Americas suggested that it was the people's practice of voodoo that
caused the earthquake to happen. God, it was claimed, was punishing
Haitians for cavorting with the devil.
Much can be said to counter this ill-informed understanding. Not least is that it runs counter to what we have learned about God through Jesus Christ for the past 2,000 years. You can hardly move in Haiti without seeing a church and even when you are being moved from one place to another you are likely to be transported in vehicles richly decorated with religious icons. Haitians are faithful people and if the example of Jesus is worth going by then as the poorest in the western hemisphere, Jesus is most likely to be found amongst them rather than the wealthy neighbour. The God of justice is a god that finds easy company and welcome with the poor.
In today's passage God's people are offered abundance, good food, wine, water, shelter and beauty. Brazilians have a saying which uses imagery from the Bible. When things are going well there is said to be "shade and fresh water". This is what is promised to God's people not in return for repentance, but because it is the nature of God to love freely. In this context the splendour and power of the rich becomes meaningless and the poor can thrive equally. John Wesley (one of the founders of Methodism) said in one of his letters, "Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge."
When I was in Haiti recently, alongside some horrific sights of destruction, I saw some remarkable examples of love.
It was the hard and painful experience of his broken family that led Hosea to so confidently and with so much assurance declare these closing words as those of God. The final chapter of the book of Hosea calls for God's people to return to the Lord. In these words we discover that love is truly divine. Through Hosea we hear God pleading to God's people to 'return to me'.
If Hosea came to you and told you the story of his wife and wayward children, what might you counsel him to do?
God wills that God's people should be saved. But which people? All people?
Think of the people you love and thank God for them. Then think of the people you don't love. How might your life and theirs be transformed if you did love them?