Hosea in chapter 14 depicts the heart of salvation history. Despite our wanderings and wailings and wonderings, even after our fickleness, our refusals and our settled decisions to do things our way or to just not do things at all, God has never given up on us and never will. God will not let us go. Our Lover is faithful and his love can be trusted. The marriage holds. We are still his.
We remember that in earlier more tumultuous chapters of the prophet Hosea’s story, he was commanded to go and love a woman who is beloved of a paramour…, even as the Lord loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods (3:1).
Isaiah realizes how useless is its own self-sufficiency in relying on Assyria and the horses of war, their calling god the idols which their hands have crafted. They are nothing without the God who made them and who loves them. God loves Israel, and us, with a love that is tender. The words Hosea uses for this love are emotional words that expresses a father’s or a mother’s tender affection.
I too have faithlessly wandered from the One who has loved me, literally, unto death. And tender has been his search for me wherever I have taken refuge to escape the demands of the relationship he has initiated with me. I am weak. I am poor. I am incurable. And I know beyond a shadow of doubt after so many attempts to improve this relationship on my own terms that it is only God who heals me, who loves me, as he revived and reconciled Israel to himself.
The images that Hosea uses to describe what God brings about in the life of his loved one are images of nature at the fullness of its beauty and bounty. They are images of the bountiful Giver of goodness, images of freshness, stability, and vigor:
I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
I will love them freely;
for my wrath is turned away from them.
I will be like the dew for Israel:
he shall blossom like the lily;
He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth his shoots.
His splendor shall be like the olive tree
and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.
Again they shall dwell in his shade
and raise grain;
They shall blossom like the vine,
and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon (Hosea 14:4-7).
No god that I craft with my own hands, my mental acumen, or my gifted ability will ever compare with the endless River of living love that is my God. I am the loved one and now my Lover waits upon my word. What will be response? What will be yours?
What a perfect reading halfway through Lent. Pope Francis in his straightforward and sincere homily on Ash Wednesday 2021 sums it up this way: “Return to me, he says, with all your heart. Lent is a journey that involves our whole life, our entire being. It is a time to reconsider the path we are taking, to find the route that leads us home and to rediscover our profound relationship with God, on whom everything depends. Lent is not just about the little sacrifices we make, but about discerning where our hearts are directed. This is the core of Lent: asking where our hearts are directed.”Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay