Hosea 11:1-4, 8c-9
The prophet Hosea helps us understand God’s persevering love for his people.
Too often in the past, some people have characterized the God of the Old Testament as a God of anger and punishment, while contrasting that totally negative image with the God and father of Jesus as a God of love and forgiveness. This generalization about two opposite images of God is false, as all such generalizations tend to be. In the Old Testament, God often had reason to be discouraged with the people he rescued from Egyptian slavery and blessed with the gift of the Ten Commandments as guides to holiness. But, it is also true that the greatest challenge of God’s people was not their wilderness journey for forty years. Their real problems started when they felt they had to make peace with the pagan worship, the ‘Baal’ religion, awaiting them once they arrived in the Promised Land.
Today’s lament by God in the prophet Hosea helps us understand God’s persevering love for his people who had abandoned him for false idols. Hosea, personally, had known the feeling of betrayal since his wife had apparently become involved in the unsavory religious practices associated with the hillside shrines of Baal worship. What a stroke of genius for God to choose Hosea as spokesman for Himself, a God who was a spurned lover but still ready to forgive!
Even though the glory days of the United Kingdom under David had long ago been shattered, God does not take back his promises. Though the tribes of the northern kingdom were prevented from worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, they were still beloved by the Lord for the sake of their ancestor, Ephraim, one of the children of Joseph of Egyptian fame.
All of this may seem very far away from us on a midsummer day in the United States or wherever we live. However, faithful Christians struggle with the same temptations to “make peace” with the secular forces that suggest the God we have come to know through the Bible is little more than a fairy tale with some inspiring thoughts here and there. Yet, God says, “though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.” May we never forget that.
(Father Paul Zilonka, C.P. is a Member of the Passionist Preaching Team of St. Paul of the Cross Province).