5 July 2010Hosea 2:14-20
"From there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt." (v.15)
Toussaint Louverture was the person who led the slave rebellion
in Haiti to its success and independence from France in 1804, after
14 years of struggle. Like the children of Israel remembered their
freedom from Egypt, Haitians look to Toussaint Louverture as the
Moses who led them to freedom.
Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere but Haitians are a people who value their freedom. In today's passage, the prophet Hosea realises what this freedom means and utters this poem. He was watching his people enslave themselves to other gods, forgetting what that first love and joy of freedom had meant.
Hosea lived this in himself through his marriage. Rather than give up on an unfaithful wife, he has children by her. His children therefore also become symbols of the consequences of idolatry. Yet even though the prophet is painted as a pitiful figure who seems to allow his wife to constantly betray his faithfulness, there is, within him, a man who cherishes hope in the worst of circumstances. Hosea's words about his wife - "I will now allure her ... and speak tenderly to her" - echo how God will win back the people of Israel.
But freedom cannot be guaranteed by force. This is seen in the now desolate ruins of once mighty empires, or in Toussaint Louverture's case, from a lonely exile in a French prison cell. The God of justice, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, promises peace. This peace is spoken about in words like covenant, truth, faith, constant love and mercy. True justice is established not only between humans, but with all creation.
William Wordsworth wrote about the captivity of Toussaint Louverture and said that this most "unhappy man of men" would be remembered and claim as his ally "man's unconquerable mind". For over 200 years Haitians have cherished this freedom and despite many setbacks, have demonstrated an unconquerable faith in God.
Hosea's children with Gomer were given names that echo the pain of a broken marriage - "punishment", "unloved", "not my people" (Hosea 1:2-8). In what ways do children today echo the troubles of their parents' lives?
Haiti's barren hillsides were once covered in lush tropical woodland; many clouded rivers in the UK once ran clear and produced a rich harvest of fish; shores of the world's oceans can be nurseries for all kinds of birds and fish instead of oily traps of death. To what extent can economic development be achieved without justice for the environment being compromised?