Hosea 1: 2-10
Hosea was another prophet of doom in the footsteps of Amos, blasting the people of the northern Jewish kingdom (called Israel) for its wicked ways and for trafficking with the Assyrians, the enemy that in fact would soon fall upon them and obliterate them. The prophecy opens with a strange story. God tells Hosea to marry a whore. Ok, he marries Gomer, a prostitute. A baby arrives. Between the lines one reads that they are a happy little family. Name your son, says God, Jezreel, for the Valley of Jezreel is where I intend to destroy the king of Israel and his line. Gomer slips back into her old life, and two more children are born, not fathered by Hosea (2: 4-5). Name them, says God, “Not Loved” and “Not My People.” Hosea, angry with Gomer, puts her from him and makes her life miserable, but in time he changes his mind and takes her back and loves her (2: 14-15). Hosea’s marriage is a living allegory of God’s relationship to his sinful people. He treats his wife as God treats Israel. He loves her, is angry with her, and then for no understandable reason takes her back and treats her lovingly. Generations of scholars have poured over this odd and oddly-told story and every detail within it, yet there is little agreement on the whole or its parts. What I have said above is the best I can make of it, but I am left in doubt.
ALTERNATIVE FIRST READING
Genesis 18: 20-32
Within the story of God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah appears this astonish episode. Though obviously an ancient folk story, its implication as to the nature of God are profound. We see a God of Power of whom Abraham is afraid. Abraham steps out of his place to speak to God, and at the end of the debate he is careful to return to his place. Abraham, a human, sees “what is just” before God sees it, and persuades God to do the just thing. Justice is not something God declares, but something he can know. If so, there is something in the universe that God did not create and cannot obliterate. The standard of justice is independent of God and man, but available to both.
Colossians 2: 6-19
Paul wants his people to turn away from reasoning and debating, which he sees as deceitful philosophy based upon some notion of the elements of the universe. He wants these new converts to have a spiritual life, which he describes in wonderful images. They have submitted, not to a literal, but to a spiritual circumcision. In their baptism they have died and been reborn. Christ’s nailing the record of their sins to the cross is for me a breath-taking metaphor. Paul gives them an image of Christ as a revolutionary, disarming rulers, an image they could not possibly mistake for a literal statement. In the closing lines he reiterates his now famous metaphor of the Church as the body of Christ, and He the head of that body.
©Arthur H. Cash