Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Hosea and covenant curse

I taught Hosea to the fantastic guys at Northumbria CU this weekend just gone. I had a great weekend (astounded again by the beauty of the snow-capped Lake District, and seeing a sky minus light pollution full of thousands of stars) and was myself stretched giving four messages from Hosea.

I think the main thing that jumped out over the past week was the way in which so much of Hosea is in light of the national covenant. In particular, Hosea can see the covenant curses being inflicted on the northern kingdom. Hosea makes a lot more sense if you read it after reading Deuteronomy 28-30.

According to the Torah, whereas blessing accompanies Israel's faithfulness to the covenant, curse comes when God's people break his covenant and go after other gods. However, curse is not the final word for covenant breaking. After covenant curse or punishment takes place, the expectation is that the people will confess their sin and return to him (see Leviticus 26:40, Deuteronomy 30:1-3 and so on). This isn't because God is wanting to be a dictator in the lives of the people of Israel, but because he has chosen Israel to be a kingdom of prieststo the nations. Israel are to model to the world what living in relationship with God is like.

Now Hosea can see the curses of the covenant inflicted on Israel (see, for example, Hosea 4:10-11 and compare this with Deuteronomy 28:17-18 and 32:24-28; as well as Hosea 5:14, 6:5, 6:7, 8:1, 9:11 and 9:13). Israel would rather trust the nations of Israel and Egypt than the LORD, and idolatry is rife. Israel's adultery parallels the adultery of Gomer, Hosea's wife. And so severe punishment will follow.

What can we learn from all this?

We see the unique role of the nation of Israel - and their failure. Israel were to be a light to the nations, and had committed themselves as so when the covenant was given. Yet Israel showed themselves incapable of this role (compare Hosea 11:1 with Matthew 2:15). Jesus is the fulfilment where Israel failed.

I think we also see God's patience. Reading through the covenant in Deuteronomy gives us the impression that destruction of the nation will follow very soon after disobedience to the covenant. Yet Hosea prophesied some two hundred years after Elijah. God's patience is shown in giving Israel hundreds of years to repent ('slow to anger...'), despite the very great desire he had to bring justice. What a glimpse of the heart of God! How glad I am of his patience!

Perhaps the thing that jumped out at me is a secondary application. I think we see that God is not happy for people to have an intellectual knowledge of his existence. He wanted (and wants) people to walk with him as their God. And so, the Lord gave and took away from Israel in order that people might know his as their God. We're not the nation of Israel - but I think the New Testament endorses this same truth (Romans 8:28 and so on?).

1 comment:

PostTenebrasLux said...

Thanks for this, Dray. Just what I needed to read tonight. It's so good to have your eyes directed outside of yourself to the amazing things that God has done to procure our salvation.