My Dear Friends,
And it shall come to pass in that day, I will answer, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. (Hosea 2:21-22)
Jezreel – God is sowing
The prophet Hosea (or at least his editors, for within the text there are notoriously difficult and variant readings) is looking at prosperous Israel. He sees that his country is heading for destruction by Assyria and he finds himself, therefore, in a conflict of love, which he has to express and verbalise. He is led to express the conflict, which he sees unfolding between Israel and her God in terms of judgement and mercy. A judgement from God, which requires “steadfast love” and not sacrifice. Not “sacrifice” because such sacrifice was already indigent in Israel. What neighbouring nations, including Assyria, found in Israel and wished to adopt was one of the most flourishing and sophisticated religious systems of the ancient world. Israel, as far as Hosea could see, had been tempted into self-satisfaction and pride in her achievements so that the prophet was forced to describe a God who was to do some tempting as well. Israel was to be tempted by God to rehabilitate her true vocation. Hosea describes that rehabilitation variously as “ hearing”, “surging with”, and “giving answer to” all that God had done through creation and in history. Israel was to be, through the prophet, called back to, “responding”, “harmonising with”, “integrating with”, and “giving answer to” all that God was doing and would do for his people.
The experience of being answerable to another is one that all of us may be familiar with. It involves a sense of responsibility, responsiveness, and a focussed energy, which is not always easy to maintain. But Hosea’s message is that in a worldly pattern of relationships, accidents and disasters there is a divine desire that we should “answer for” all that we have been given. God creates the stars, Hosea says, the plants, the creatures. Each a bundle of conditions and possibilities and you and I find ourselves in the heart of those possibilities for our world, our society, and those who have been placed into our care.
Your Friend and Vicar,