Monday, February 27, 2012

Lenten Devotional 06: Prostitutes Called, "Children of the Living God"

Monday, February 27, 2012
Scripture reading: Hosea 1:1-11

Don’t you just love it when God calls people whores? If you haven’t read the selected text, I bet you will now. Forget the marriage imagery (v. 2) there’s more to this story than prophets marrying prostitutes.

The Northern kingdom of Israel is about to fall (vv. 4-6). King Jeroboam II (meaning, “the people will contend”) has led the people of Israel to contend the Lordship of God. This is a violation of the Lord’s covenant with the people of God (Deut. 6:4-5). Hosea (meaning, “salvation”) is told to marry the prostitute Gomer (meaning, “complete”). Recap, we’ve got a king whose name has a meaning of contention, a prophet whose name means salvation, and a whore whose name means complete. What’s going on here?

What happens next is even better! Hosea and Gomer have kids: first, Jezreel (“God sows”); second, Lo-ruhamah (“no mercy”); third, Lo-ammi (“not my people”). The fate of these three carries a heavy message. The Israelites (under their king) have contended against YHWH. Blood will be shed, no mercy will be given, and the people have lost their God (vv.4-9). There are consequences to breaching a contract and breaking the law. Enter, the divine curveball, those heavy sentences are met with a promise – reconciliation.

YHWH makes it clear that the broken covenant should mean total and lasting destruction, but the fallen people will hear the words, “Children of the living God,” as they are reconciled with God and the people of Judah (vv. 10-11).

There is hope in this story. My friends, we are the prostitutes, we have contended against the Lord, we have shed the blood of the complete (I’m getting to the hope, I promise) as people we violate God’s covenant because it’s in our nature, but the nature of God is grace. Where our sin is great, where we invite no mercy, where God has a covenantal right to deny us, and all of this might be fair expectation – God keeps the covenant – and grace fulfills the expectations. This is the hope of the book of Hosea, this is the hope of Israel, and this is the hope of all God’s people.

Lord, God, as your grace is justice over condemnation, so may we show grace to the people who wrong us. May your scriptures teach us that retribution is not the final word and that you reconcile the fallen, the prostitutes, the idolaters, the sinners, the betrayers, the cheaters, the liars, and all humans through your grace. Lord, give us the courage, the wisdom, and the strength to give grace to all the people we harbor ill feelings for; just as you have given grace to them and to us. In the name of the Holy Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.    

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