7 July 2010Hosea 10:1-12
"Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you." (v.12)
For the prophet Hosea, the nation of Israel was defined by the
values of the people. The soul of their faith was identified by
visible justice. It was not good enough for priests to point to
fine altars as an example of their commitment to God. All that did
was to demonstrate their material wellbeing. Right religion was not
seen in fine buildings but in gracious deeds.
In Haiti, there are many buildings that, at first sight, appear undamaged or only slightly so. What the earthquake did however, was to shake buildings so severely that although they only appear slightly damaged, they are crisscrossed with so many internal cracks that they are now totally unstable. The tower of the main Methodist church in Port-au-Prince is a case in point. When the true extent of the damage was discovered, more and more of the tower had to be demolished. Today, there is not much left of it.
Injustice spreads like a crack in a building. It cannot be hidden, and it is not long before it is exposed as sham. This will result in God's punishment, but for the people of Israel, this will not occur before the prophet lovingly calls for a change of heart. Hosea paints a wonderful, gentle picture of the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel, crafted lovingly by God to complement each other in establishing justice - "Judah must plough; Jacob must harrow for himself".
In today's concluding verse, God pleads with the people to work the field in a new way and not just to plaster over the cracks. They must harvest justice like the unfailing love that God has for the wayward people. Or a gentle prophet has for his unfaithful wife.
Read Matthew 7:15-20. Can you see ways in which Jesus echoes the words of Hosea in this passage?
Read again Hosea 10:1-2. People throughout Latin America ask me why it is that in Britain - where Methodism started - the Methodist Church appears to be struggling so much. How can these verses help you to draft a response?