Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. You have just finished a study of three incredibly challenging and uncomfortable prophetic texts. These are not parables about finding lost lambs or uplifting psalms about the glory of God. The extended metaphor of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer is full of judgement and humiliation. The prophet’s words about her sting; he calls her a whore, a term full of hatred and condemnation. The book of Joel is full of images of agricultural devastation, invading armies, and impending divine judgement. The book of Amos offers personalized curses against the enemies of Israel, and condemnation of Israel itself for valuing commerce and luxury above the basic needs of all of its citizens. The prophets’ words, especially when we remember they are speaking on behalf of God, feel angry and dangerous at times.
All three prophets are describing a fractured relationship between God and humanity. The language used by the prophets suggests that God feels betrayed and let down by God’s people. This language of hurt and disappointment we hear in Amos, Hosea, and Joel is likely familiar to many of us, if we are willing to admit it. I have spoken harshly and made exaggerated statements to partners, friends, and family when I have felt wounded by them. What words have you spit out at a loved one in the heat of the moment that you wish you could take back?
Just like many of our own difficult conversations (often arguments) with beloved people, understanding and a commitment to reconcile are interwoven with the tirade. Hosea 14:4 reads, “I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.” Joel 2: 26 says, “You shall eat plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” Amos 9:14 proclaims, “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.” There it is, the promise of reconciliation when the anger is spent. The relationship with God and humanity is never broken beyond repair; abundance, mercy and intimacy with God are always on the horizon.
Leann Pace is a professor at Wake Forest University, mom to Clemmie (in pic), Solly and Isabella, and wife to Jon. She is committed to cultivating a welcoming but decidedly anti-racist home and classroom. She is also very worried about how the family cats will fare without constant attention once everyone returns to in-person teaching and learning in the fall.
1. Food for thought: How can we show mercy and cultivate abundance with beloved folks with whom we have quarreled?
Dear God, your words in the mouth of the prophets can shock and frighten us. We sometimes even feel deep anger at you, Lord. In these moments of doubt, hurt, and fear, when we feel that important relationships may be damaged beyond repair, remind us that return to a loving relationship is possible. Healing is possible. Abundance, mercy, and intimacy are on the horizon. Amen.