Saturday, January 29, 2011

Journeying to Salvation – Hosea 14

“I will heal their disloyalty;

I will love them freely,

for my anger has turned from them...

They shall again live beneath my shadow,

they shall flourish as a garden.”

~Hosea 14:4, 7a, b (NRSV).

As false hope (in this case, in Assyria) is swapped for true, salvation—the real deal—is to be made fully known. Healing will take place.

Hosea 14 has a simple yet powerful twofold structure, completing the work of the Minor Prophet succinctly. Hosea speaks out in the first section (14:1-3) and Yahweh speaks in the second (14:4-9).

Plea for Repentance

Always primary to salvation experience—deliverance for the moment and for eternity—is repentance. It’s the only condition that God places on the flock of his creation. “Return to Me,” is the Divine bellow from the bowels of eternity.

Hosea, in this section, is denouncing the false hope laid at Assyria and leading Israel in a sort of sinner’s prayer. The close-to-home allusion was his wife, Gomer, running off to whoredom, but redeemed at a price by Hosea at the behest of the Lord.

Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh was a macrocosm of Hosea’s life. In chapter 3, Hosea sets the standard of repentance; the restitution for sins not repented.

In many ways Hosea (the book, not the prophet) is a portrait of redeeming his wife and (Yahweh) the people, pre-repentance—or in anticipation of repentance; the willingness of the Lord to succour his vulnerable lambs, beyond a help they were capable of—the false hope of idol worship in Assyria.

This is likened to the sense of abrupt salvation we experience after a mini-season out in the spiritual wilderness. God does not delay the slightest vestige of grace.

Assurance of Redemption

Here in the second part, Hosea writes the words of the Lord. Again, the promise of redemption is secondary to the premise of repentance. How can we accept our own bloodguilt without feeling appropriately sorry for it? The feeling of salvation amid repentance is a very personal one.

God shows himself to us at the concept of repentance through visceral, intimate contact.

Guilt and relief coexist for the instant of repentant transaction—the healing is immediate in the moment; then worked out over ensuing life to the discreet level of the forgiven-for sin.

It’s interesting to note that Hosea’s theology of hope in the Eighth Century B.C.E. was distant. The hope was beyond the coming captivity. From a personal viewpoint, it can be necessary to endure more storms before the weather subsides. Healing can still be part of the storms.

But a bright future is extant for the believers of God, according to their hope; one not ultimately disappointed. This place of salvation is a garden, full of growth and vitality; one with a bold tap root, sending strength and security as bywords into the deeper reaches of the founded soil.

“For the ways of the Lord are right,

and the upright walk in them,

but transgressors stumble in them.”

~Hosea 14:9 (c-e) (NRSV).

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: Thomas E. McComiskey, The Minor Prophets: Hosea – An Exegetical & Expository Commentary (Vol. 1) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992), pp. 228-34.

No comments: