Today our reading finishes the book of Hosea with a couple more penetrating thoughts to mull over.
As unpleasant as it is…
One of the most dangerous misunderstandings common among “casual” western “believers” is that since God is love, that He couldn’t possibly punish. The Bible is, of course, full of examples of God’s punishment; but Hosea probably does the most among all the prophets to destroy this misunderstanding. In Hosea God is portrayed accurately as a God deeply in love with His people, deeply wounded by their unfaithfulness, and deeply conflicted about the punishment they rightly deserved; but it also is clear as crystal that He would “pull the trigger” on the punishment: (Hosea 13:14) “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.”
Interestingly enough, Paul quotes this passage (in part) as the crescendo of his teaching on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 (vv. 55-57) in triumphant irony! Because though God will definitely punish the guilty, He also victoriously redeems the penitent through the “thorny” and “stinging” death of His Son, Jesus. So, which will it be for you and me?
Presenting our lips “as bulls”
There’s a beautiful picture in 14:2 that is generally hidden from the English reader, unless the reader adventures into the side notes of his/her Bible. The Masoretic text, arguably the authoritative Jewish Hebrew text, actually says, “Forgive all iniquity, and accept that which is good; so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips” (Jewish Publication Society translation). That is, those who have been redeemed would offer their praise and thanks like an offering to the LORD. To get the full impact of this, you need to recall that such sacrifices are the LORD’s property alone, dedicated completely to Him and Him alone. These lines from Hosea, therefore, are offering back to God completely a committed relationship and praise — “holy unto the LORD” in the original sense of the phrase. This verse would, in fact, seem to be foundation of the New Testament passage, Hebrews 13:15, 16, “Through Him [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Present your lips — and life — as bulls this Sunday in worship among the saints.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.