Bible Cliff’s Notes (My dog ate my Bible!)
Hosea is ordered by God to Mary Gomer, and they have three children. The names of the three children – Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi – represent forthcoming consequences of Israel’s abandonment of their covenant with God. The harshness is softened in verse 10 when God promises that the future of Israel and its people can still be great.
God intends to destroy Sodom for its wickedness, but Abraham is concerned that some good people will suffer for the deeds of others. Abraham goes into used-car salesman mode and starts bargaining with God about how many faithful he would have to find in the city in order for God to spare it. Ultimately, God says that if Abraham can even find 10 good people in Sodom, he will spare the city.
A song of thanks to God for being merciful and generous. The fortunes of the house of Jacob are stored in the future of the people of Israel is hopeful and prosperous.
Another song about the mercy, protection and provision of God. The psalmist notes that God is always faithful to us whether or not we are faithful to God. God is concerned with the welfare of the meek and the oppressed and endeavors to deliver God’s people from their oppressors.
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Paul reminds the early church in Colossae that, in being baptized in Christ, they died to all of the previous values, practices and ways of thinking of the world and were reborn into the fullness of God’s grace. Paul is almost giddy about the disarming power found in the crucifixion, and he urges fellow followers of Christ to lean on such power rather than earthly powers.
Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples. He also explains that God provides what is asked for by God’s faithful people. God is not interested in sleight-of-hand or bait and switch tricks, but rather, God looks upon us as children in Jesus assures us that God’s love is far greater than even that which we possess for our own children.
WTF? (Breaking down scripture in plain language)
Jezreel - Hosea and Gomer’s first child, whose name means “he sows.” This sounds benign enough, but actually, it is in reference to the consequences that will be sewn by the Israelites for their unfaithfulness. The name has several violent connotations, pointing to “Jehu’s Purge,” in which the kings of Israel and Judah are killed. It is also a reference to the location where Naboth was killed by his King, who is greedy and wanted to acquire Naboth’s vineyards for his own.
Lo-ruhamah – Hosea and Gomer’s second child, a daughter, whose name is more explicitly dark. Though it is sometimes translated as “not pitied,” it can actually be more accurately interpreted to mean, “not loved by one’s parent,” or even one who is neglected or abused.
Lo-ammi – the couple’s third child, a second son, has a name that is a direct reference to the covenant between God and the Jewish people. The word “ammi” is used in Exodus when the covenant is established to note that the people of Israel are God’s people. This is effectively a negation of that, and can be translated as “not my people.”
Navel-Gazing (First Thoughts)
- The God presented in both Hosea and Genesis is particularly harsh on first examination. We are presented with a God figure who is intent on exacting brutal violence on those who transgress. But there also is a pervading thread of mercy, love and hope throughout all of these passages. It is worth more than a moment to pause and consider whether these consequences are self-made by the people in the stories, or if, indeed, we believe in a vengeful God who requires satisfaction through the shedding of blood of his own creation.
- Paul’s writings are often used to support the idea of sacrificial substitutionary atonement: the idea that Jesus had to die in order for God to forgive our sins. But in this beautiful verse from Colossians, Paul notes that, in being willing to be crucified as an innocent and not repaying blood with blood, Jesus “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Col. 2:15). It is a glimpse of a nonviolent conquering hero, and the power found in it is incredibly good news.
- The assurances from Jesus in Luke are certainly comforting. We like the idea that God provides what we ask for, but at the same time, this text has been distorted and abused in profound ways. From this, we have prosperity Gospel ministries who teach that Jesus wants us to be rich and presents us with a vending machine God that fills our orders. But if we note the prayer taught by Jesus, there is simplicity and humility in the requests made of God: sustenance, forgiveness and deliverance. No Rolexes. No McMansions. No prosperity gospel.
Digging Deeper (Mining for what really matters…and gold)
We find ourselves at a theological crossroads this week, juggling both a God of infinite love and mercy with a violent, punishing and vengeful God. René Girard suggests that every ancient religion has this sort of friction of apparently opposing God images within it. We find it with Dionysus, Zeus and throughout our own Scriptures.
But if we consider these early stories, particularly ones from the Old Testament, to be metaphors for state of the Jewish people, we have to consider the likelihood that they were written in retrospect, looking back after the fallout from horrible tragedies was already evident before the People’s. It is in our nature, then, to ask, “Why me? Why us? What did we do? Why did this happen to us?”
As such, the authors of the Scriptures draw connecting lines between such tragedies after the fact and points at which the people of God have broken their covenant with the creator. This is not necessarily to say that God did these things to the world, but perhaps more of a cautionary tale that God’s covenant is one of restoration deliverance and prosperity, though not always in the forms the world tells us we should want or expect.
The residents of Sodom often are accused of any manner of sexual deviancy. But the sexual acts referenced actually tend to point to something bigger. The acts described were generally used in two ways within that culture: military rape or religious ritual. As such, the real “sin” here is worshiping a false God or oppressing God’s people with force and humiliation. The story in Hosea points to economic greed and collusion among the powers of authority to maintain an affluent standard of living at the expense of the poor.
When we strip away the fantastic imagery and sexual connotations, we get back to an ever present theme; God calls us to humble service fulfillment of an eternal promise of faithfulness, and to seek out justice for those being crushed by the systems under which they live. In turn, we will find the life we seek, the meaning we long for, and we will not want for anything. It may not mean that God fulfills our every whim, but rather that God fashions our priorities and longings around those things that truly give life.
Heads Up (Connecting the text to our world)
When I was eight years old, I lost my first wallet. Aside from being a proud status of my pending membership in the “grown-up club,” it also had $10 inside of it. That represented nearly a month of allowance for me at that time, and to say I was prudent would be putting it lightly. I was a saver. I loved having that money in my back pocket and knowing that, when I saw something I liked, I could buy it, even if I didn’t. There was something in the assurance that knowing I could that actually was better in some ways than actually owning the thing itself. It was power!
So when I lost my wallet, I lost that sense of identity and power at the same time. I panicked. After looking everywhere I could think, I did what every good, young Baptist boy would do; I prayed for Jesus to help me find my wallet.
A few minutes later, I came across it, tucked underneath some dirty clothes near the head of my bed. I was elated. Iran to show my mom, beaming. “Look, I said, “Jesus found my wallet for me!”
Looking back on this today I encounter a chilling but all too familiar God. One who helps me find my Naugahyde wallet, but who neglects the empty bellies of millions in sub-Saharan Africa. A God affords me the comfort carrying money I don’t actually need in my back pocket, while turning a blind eye two young girls who sell their bodies for a meal and a place to sleep.
This is not my God. God had no more to do with me finding my wallet that God had to do me losing it in the first place. God created humanity, and in doing so, affording us the latitude to live by our own will, the seeds of brokenness were planted.
I believe in a God of love and of infinite grace. I also believe in reality beset with consequences. But the two don’t have to coexist in some seemingly contradictory Godhead in order for me to feel loved. I found my own wallet that day, and rather than waiting for God to fix the ills of the world, perhaps it’s better that we reflect on the abundance of resources and gifts already before us and get to work on making it right with what we’ve got.
Prayer for the Week (Or share your own below in the comments!)
God, I know I tend to break my promises. I tend to want more than I need. I fantasize of a life without consequence. Help me realize my own fullness, and then to release it so that others might feel the same way.
Popping Off (Art/music/video and other cool stuff that relate to the text)
Groundhog Day (Movie, 1993)