We are commonly told that although we cannot control our circumstances, we do have control over how we choose to respond to those circumstances, even under great stress. What is your default response, especially under stress?
Hosea is prophesying during the final chaos at the end of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Since the death of King Jeroboam, Israel has had six kings, all but one of whom died by assassination. The circumstances of life were chaotic. What appeared to be secure and stable was revealed as a decadent society overtaken by rapid political and religious disintegration. Even family life became decadent. The traditional standards of morality no longer guided choices. Hosea saw lives built on the shifting sands of deceit, theft, and evil deeds. No one kept their promises to God or each other. “Woe to them for they have strayed from God,” proclaims the prophet.
Hosea is the last prophet before Israel is invaded and carried captive to Assyria. (2 Kings 15:23–17:41) The Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom never return from captivity. They vanish from recorded history in 722 BC during the Iron Age—2,743 years ago—to become the ‘Lost Tribes’ of legend and speculative history.
Under stress of circumstance, Israel broke their covenant with God and tried to save themselves by making treaties with powerful foreign countries and worshiping their gods. When they didn’t get the results they prayed for, they did not turn back to God. Their default response was to turn away from God, to deal falsely with each other, and to speak lies about God. They turned to that which does not profit (v. 16). It did not end well for them. If only they had trusted in God’s mercy and let God redeem them (v. 13).
When your news feeds are filled with talk of corruption, wicked deeds, false dealing, theft, bandit raids… Filled with talk of wickedness, treachery, and adultery… When anger smolders, rulers mock, and no one calls upon God… When pride prevails over repentance and no one returns to the Lord, they all plot evil against God… Then what is your default response?
Rejoicing together in a bohemian life of gardening, making art, and Bible study, Margaret Ashby and her husband Gerald live near Asheville.
1. Metaphors chosen from common daily experience help to clarify and illustrate a prophet’s message from God. Hosea chose two types of bread-baking ovens and bird hunting with nets. We don’t live in the Iron Age and these are not part of our daily life. What metaphors would you use to clarify and illustrate the prophetic message of Chapter 7? Try them out on your family at dinner.
2. If your default response to stress isn’t an ideal of humble repentance and trust in God’s mercy, then how would you practice daily to change your default response?
Merciful God of judgment and justice, from you come all holy desires, all good counsels and all just works. Give to us the security of peace which the world cannot give, so that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; defend us from fear of our enemies so that we may live together with you in peace and quietness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. (adapted from 7th Sunday after Pentecost)