This third week of reading the Twelve may fulfill too many of your caricatures of prophets, fulminating against the moral failings of a people. I can’t deny it, and should not minimize it. Who would listen to such stuff?
As we often say in my household, watching commercial advertisements, ‘we are not the target market’ – they are selling to richer, younger, upwardly-mobile people. Hosea is the opposite, perhaps, scolding the rich and powerful lest the poor and weak think God is on the side of the powers-that-be in Israel.
Hosea is the last of the prophets to Israel in the ‘8th century’, the 700’s BCE, following Amos, but also Elijah and Elishah. In periods between aggressions from Assyria, prosperity was not equally shared. Can you imagine a long ‘peace dividend’ that did not serve distributive justice? Me too.
If Elijah, Elishah, and Amos were unambiguously the prophets of justice, Hosea tries to introduce the balance of love from and for Yahweh. Even as this week rolls out with accusations of infidelity, it is within the assumption of a covenant love between God and this people. There is hope, if fleeting and prospective.
Monday to Thursday, chapters 4-7, are traditionally called Israel’s Indictment, the list of charges against the nation, with a warning of the punishment associated with each crime or misdemeanor. Friday and Saturday, the general warning gets specific to Assyrian captivity.
What’s the good news this week? Perhaps only that when God appeared to be letting injustice abound, it was not because God was impotent, but as a loving spouse allowing Israel freedom even when it was misused, repeatedly. We can wait for God to reveal justice, without having to rise up against our powerful.
Take time this Sunday, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that stopped the guns in 1918, but failed to deliver peace in our time, to wonder at Hosea’s warnings to the last century, and to this one.