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Second Sunday of Lent, March 8, 2020

Hosea 10: False Heart, True Heart

heart-nature-mark-kazav[1]False oaths, fake alliances, evil intrigues, any means to achieve an end: this is what Hosea sees in his community.  The kingdom of David has been divided in two.  Elijah, Elisha, and Amos have warned the people; Isaiah and Micah will add their prophetic words of warning.  Hosea finds himself seeing clearly the devastation that awaits this false-hearted people.   He is ignored.

Yet . . . Hosea persists, telling us that we are people meant to worship God, meant to take the yoke upon fair neck, to thresh, to be harnessed by the plow of the true God with a true heart.  We are created to be workers in the vineyard, to sow justice and reap piety, we are meant to break new fields so that the rain of God’s justice might bring forth new fruit.

Hosea warns that those who have sown discord and wickedness will reap perversity and eat of the fruit of falsehood.  Turmoil will break out among those who have trusted their warriors and chariots rather than trusting God.  The fortresses carefully built against the needs of the world will be tumbled and ravaged; the false hearts who take advantage of the poor will be lost in the utter destruction.  Hosea predicts all of this and does not succumb to the darkness of the world.  He does not surrender to the pressures around him, he endures.

Like Hosea, we might want God’s justice to be clearly visible in the present; we may want all of Hosea’s predictions about false hearts to materialize in an instant.  Those who seek a settling of scores may wish God’s integrity to rain down on those who sit on comfortable couches to contrive wicked plots.  They will want to see a world of integrity replace the world of falsehood they experience.  Yet this is the message of Christ: God has sent one of true heart and true words, one of promises kept and miracles revealed.  God has sent Jesus to live among us.  Lent tells us that the possibility of living a genuine life is here – now – this day.   We need only turn to God and to open our eyes to see.

If we are dissatisfied with the speed of God’s coming or if we doubt that God is even here among us, we must look first to ourselves to begin kingdom-building.  We must examine our own hearts to see if we remain in truth no matter the social consequence.  We must cease the gossip, cease the controlling, and cease the lusting after outcomes, fame, possessions, power and people.  We must amend our ability – and our willingness – to ignore reality.  We must change our hearts so that we do not succumb to the social pressure to acquire goods, dominance or a sense of superiority.  We must nurture our desire to share, our yearning to heal, and our aspiration for peace.  We must ask God to transform the falsehood in our own hearts so that we might receive goodness from God.  We must be open to the reality of the Lenten message that all are welcome.  Welcome into Christ’s own, open heart.

With endurance, with fidelity, and with honesty the prophecy of Hosea will fully arrive.  And thus the false hearts of the world will become the true heart of Christ.

Let us ask for the coming of this kingdom.


Image from: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/heart-nature-mark-kazav.html

First written on Wednesday, December 22, 2010.  Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Hosea 9Exile Without Worship

Francesco Hayez: Ephraim

Francesco Hayez: Ephraim

Chapter 9 of Hosea is a picture of the Jewish people and in particular Ephraim, the largest tribe in Israel and one of the first to be taken into exile where they cannot offer sacrifices. Over a period of several hundred years, Ephraim is divided and carted off north to Babylon and south to Egypt. Hosea sees the corruption and nepotism in the structure and so he calls for reform and as a priest himself, he sees the importance of honest and sincere worship and he understands how the absence of worship will impact the people when they are carried into exile.  Yet, Hosea also knows the promise of God’s enduring love and that although the people will stray God will not.  Hosea enacts this belief through his enduring love for Gomer, and he persists in worshiping his God . . . even in exile.

If we continue our Lenten journey with Hosea we will rise from the despair to encounter beautiful words of covenant and union.  And so, like Hosea we remain in faith.

If we linger over the imagery of marriage as the model of God’s relationship with each of us we will discover the courage and joy of hope.  And so, like Hosea we arise in hope.

If we plod along our own Jerusalem Road to follow the words of Hosea we will find secure refuge in our own relationship with God.  And so, like Hosea we abide in love.

Through the allegory of his marriage to Gomer, Hosea lightens our load so that we find the strength to respond to this call to a special, intense, fruitful and honest bond.  Just as Hosea persists in calling out to Gomer he also persists in reminding us of this message no matter how much and how often we ignore him.  And so Hosea speaks to us today.

We have separated ourselves from God and from one another in big and little ways. Hosea says that God waits with open arms. All we need do is repent and turn to God . . . and offer up our open and honest worship.


For more information about the man Ephraim, go to: http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/p131.htm

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephraim

First written on March 26, 2007. Re-written and posted yesterday and today as a Favorite.

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Friday, February 28, 2020

Hosea 2: Expectation

loaves[1]What does God expect of us?

Where is God?

How can God expect so much from us?

Why does God allow us to feel so alone/exasperated/angry/sad?

If we hear ourselves asking these questions endlessly with no hope of understanding, we may need to turn these questions on their heads and think of them in their inverted state.

What do we expect of God?

Where have we put God in our lives?

Why do we expect so little from God?

Why do we turn away from God when we are alone/exasperated/angry/sad?

We spend time today in our Lenten journey with Chapter 2 of Hosea’s prophecy in which the prophet’s unfaithful wife, Gomer, is described.  Metaphorically, this wife is each one of us when we reject the conditions in which we find ourselves.  As difficult as our problems may be, they are our lesson plans in life, our stepping stones to self-discovery and to serenity.  Once we learn to turn everything over to God, the sorrow and anger slip away.  And we suddenly find that we are more at peace with the circumstances that surround us.

In John’s Gospel story of the feeding of thousands (6:1-15) we see that Jesus asks the disciples how they want to feed so many – John writes: He said this to test them.  This does not mean that Jesus wants to throw his friends into turmoil; it means that Jesus wants to see how they hope to solve the problem before them.  Do they resort to themselves, or do they rely on God in any way?

We must remember to ask for miracles, because God wants to grant them.

We must remember to take our woes to God, because God welcomes them and erases them.

We must remember to leave our sadness in God’s hands, because he heals all mourning with his deep and abiding love.

Hosea laments his unfaithful wife.  God misses us when we leave him behind.  Why do we try to solve everything on our own?  And why do we expect so little from God?


Image from: http://ymiblogging.org/2011/06/the-little-boy-and-the-feeding-of-the-five-thousand/

Tomorrow: Our Search for Happiness.

Written on May 6, 2011. Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Hosea: Love


Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2013

Hosea: Love

3[1]Lent calls us to examine who we are and what we do.  Lent asks us to step forward in willing vulnerability to God.  Lent uses unusual images to help us see truths so basic that they are easily overlooked.  With the story of Hosea and Gomer we are given the opportunity to reflect on the beauty and integrity of God’s love.

This prophecy was written by a man married to a woman who found it impossible to remain faithful.  When we read these verses with care we also examine the distance that exists between the two people in this relationship and the distance we maintain in our relationship with God.  We have the opportunity to question whether we are determined to keep God at arm’s length . . . or whether we want to invite God into the most interior part of ourselves.  We consider who, and what, and how, and why we love, or if we even love at all.

As we examine the quirks of the relationship between Gomer and Hosea we might also examine our relationships with others – are we the inconstant wife, Gomer, in all we say and do – or are we more like the sorrowful prophet, Hosea, lamenting loss yet insisting on hoping for the fulfillment of promises made?

From La Biblia de América: The unhappy marital experience of Hosea, who remains faithful to Gomer despite everything he knows about her, serves as the context for an extraordinary deepening of the people’s relationship with God through the perspective of love’s stormy psychology.

Each of us has experienced love in some form or another: filial, parental, sibling, conjugal, familial, spiritual, and even collegial and civil.  Love manifests itself in many contexts from sexual and intimate to public and patriotic.  We express love of people, love of things, and love of ideas and concepts.  We also express love of God.

Reading the words of Hosea gives us the opportunity to experience a hope which is laced with sadness.  Listening to Hosea’s lament that weaves sorrow and joy into an intricate pattern of sharp edges and smooth surfaces, we perceive the bittersweet image of deep misery interwoven with soaring expectation.

Allowing the words of this prophecy to sink into our being, we might move closer to perceiving the amazing generosity with which God pardons the people who consistently betray him.  Hosea describes his unrequited love in such a piercing way that we cannot avoid its impact; yet he remains open to the possibility that not only may Gomer return . . . but that she will love him as he loves her.

When I imagine myself in God’s unrequited place, continuing to call as Hosea does, I begin to feel the depth . . . and height . . . and breadth of God’s love.  We are well and truly loved.  Let us spend some time with Hosea today to experience this kind of constancy and steadfastness.  This is not a love which allows itself to be abused; rather, it is a love which loves so much that it risks rebuking the abuse, it risks revealing its vulnerable self, it risks all for sake of the conversion of the beloved.

This is truly an immense and wondrous love.  Let us consider today if we will reject or accept this love.


Tomorrow . . . Hosea and Covenant Love

To better understand Gomer and Hosea and this prophecy, visit the Hosea – Alliances page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/hosea-alliances/

For more on Gomer and Hosea, click on the image above or go to: http://womeninthescriptures.blogspot.com/2011/08/gomer-and-lo-ruhamah.html or go to http://bible.org/seriespage/hosea

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

First written on Wednesday, May 27, 2009.  Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ezekiel 12: While they are looking on . . .

NaysayersBeatsMysapceHeader2[1]In today’s Noontime we are reminded that we do not have to fight against the obstacles in life’s journey that loom so large.  It tells us that when barriers to freedom are gigantic and overwhelming we cannot struggle against them.  It says to us that we must turn to God in trust and obedience.  We must do as Jesus does even while the naysayers are looking on. 

Going into exile was an embarrassment to the “chosen” people.  They who had always been miraculously protected by Yahweh now found themselves going into captivity at the hands of the very pagans whom they had previously conquered in battle.  The Israelites have discovered that while they fought against the barbarian outside of the city walls, it was the enemy within that doomed them.  Corruption and deceit in their own community had decayed their society to the foundation.  There is no other outcome to expect than the one they are living . . . they are to pack their baggage in full view of the enemy, and then they are to dig their way through the broken walls of the city to march into captivity.  And all of this while the unbelievers are looking on.

So many times we find ourselves living among rebellious people, and we sometimes cannot even tell if we have become one with the idol worshipers.  We feel as though the world has gone mad and we are one of the few sane ones who remain.  In our Noontime journey we have reflected on how to weather the whirlwind when we see and hear it approaching; today we reflect on how to journey faithfully into captivity . . . while the world is looking on.

There is a remnant left by Yahweh: Yet I will leave a few of them to escape the sword, famine and pestilence so that they may tell of all their abominations among the nations to which they will come; thus they shall know that I am the Lord.  This just yet merciful God is always willing, and indeed eager to give his people another door to salvation, another opportunity to return.  God will vindicate us even in the darkest and most painful of times even while those who deny us are looking on.

There are occasions when it seems as though we alone are able to see what others cannot.  Circumstances and events speak loudly to us while they only whisper to those around us or speak not at all. The prophecy we hear and see and then repeat for others falls on stubborn ears.  The world mocks those who live simply so that others may live.  Society denies truth so that deception might reign.  Many favor the apparent security of tangible comfort while few remain faithful to the Spirit who is willing to abide while those who wish us gone are looking on.

Ezekiel describes a vision today that seems a long way off and yet is present in the Spirit within.  Ezekiel says that in a distant time to come there shall no longer be any false visions or deceitful divinations and yet this word is fulfilled by Christ in us today.  Ezekiel tells us of a future in which none of God’s words will be delayed any longer and yet this future lives in us today because God loves us so . . . even while the naysayers are looking on.

Let us spend time with this prophecy today.  And let us see that, despite the naysayers, Ezekiel’s vision lives in us in this present moment through the promise, the rescue and the love of God.


To read more about weathering the storms on our journey, type the word whirlwind into the search box on this blog. 

The opening paragraphs of today’s Noontime were written on August 12, 2010.  Today’s post is an amplification of that reflection.  

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Monday, February 10, 2013

Ezekiel: Necessary Conditions

Michaelangelo: Ezekiel

Michelangelo: Ezekiel

“Ezekiel became a prophet in Babylon – the first prophet to receive the call to prophecy outside the Holy Land.  As one of the prophets deported by Nebuchadnezzar in 597, his first task was to prepare his fellow countrymen to be inviolable.  Accordingly, the first part of his book consists of reproaches for Israel’s past and present sins and the confident prediction of yet a further devastation of the land of promise and a more general exile.  In 587, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, Ezekiel was vindicated before his unbelieving compatriots.  After this time, Ezekiel’s message changes.  From now on his prophecy is characterized by the promise of salvation in a new covenant, and he is anxious to lay down the conditions necessary to obtain it.  Even as Jeremiah had believed, Ezekiel thought that the exiles were the hope of Israel’s restoration, once God’s allotted time for the exiles had been accomplished”.  (Senior 1034)

Believing that we have a better way to learn what God is teaching us, we often balk at accepting the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  We set up pre and post conditions.  We lay out parameters and guidelines for how we will or will not accept God’s teaching.  We want to control how and when and why and even if we will accept God’s necessary conditions for us, often refusing to comprehend that the obstacles before us are our lesson plans from God.  Ezekiel explains to us that even when we believe we have suffered beyond our limits we will often find that there is “further destruction” yet to come.  For those of us who rely on our own power as supreme and reject God’s compassion and guidance, this is difficult to take in.  And we ignore the opportunity God offers to us to experience God fully beyond the devastation.  We miss knowing that we are inviolable.

In our fear of failure we too often refuse to succeed.

In our fear of loss we too often avoid gaining the eternal.

In our fear of rejection we too often reject love that is openly offered.

In our fear of further devastation we too often throw away the lesson plan that brings us transformation.

In our fear of necessary conditions . . . we too often refuse to become God’s inviolate people.

Ezekiel wants to bring us a message of newness despite any defeat we suffer.  Ezekiel warns us that when we think we have hit bottom there may be further devastation to come.  Ezekiel wants to tell us that beyond that ruin and loss there is a new covenant and a new promise.  There is our relationship with God which is unbreakable, unchangeable, and inviolate. And this relationship is love.

When we live in the shelter of God’s protective care we cannot fail.  When we follow the example of Christ’s call to love and be loved we will rise with him to become one with all of humankind.  When we relax into the compassion of the Spirit we also allow ourselves to become God’s precious, God’s beloved, God’s inviolate people.


A re-post from February 10, 2013.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezekiel

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1034. Print.   

This week we will reflect more closely on portions of Ezekiel’s prophecy.

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Sunday, January 26, 2013

Ezekiel 5: Considering Our Image of God – Part I

Cunieform tablet mentioing Jehoiachin in Babylon

Berlin: Cunieform tablet mentioning Jehoiachin in Babylon

It is no mystery why so many scripture readers see God as an angry deity to be placated or even avoided.  We must admit that if the supreme being of Ezekiel 5 were the only God we knew . . . we might not seek an intimate relationship with our creator.  This castigating image is one in which God stands in severe judgment, metes out dreadful and complete consequences, and uses his overwhelming strength against nearly powerless creatures who have broken his laws.  We can see why so many cringe at the thought of knowing God intimately . . . or of God knowing us at all.

I will inflict punishments in your midst . . . These verses might terrify anyone looking for consolation for the only solace here comes through a neurotic obedience to an enormous number of laws that are sometimes contradictory.   We can see why these words might panic an already fragile soul into flight; and yet we remember . . . Jesus read this prophecy.  And Jesus lived his life as a practicing Jew, adhering to the Mosaic Law.  If we allow ourselves to pause, we also remember . . . Jesus tells us that he comes to supersede and to fulfill the old law rather than negate it.  Jesus comes to us to let us know that in the end there is only one law, The Law of Love.  But how do we juxtapose this thinking with the verses we read today?

This week we have spent time reflecting with 2 Kings; we have witnessed the unfolding of events which Ezekiel rails against.  These events lead to the destruction of the kingdom, the exportation of God’s people, and the scattering of the Jewish faithful.  What do we learn from our reading?

When we explore who Ezekiel is and to whom he writes, we find some skepticism about the identity of the author.  This frequently happens with ancient texts but when we search commentary we discover that most scholars believe the writer to be of a priestly family taken into exile with King Jehoiachin in 597 B.C.E.  He was married and is believed to have had a degree of freedom while in exile, even having his own house in a village called Tel Abib on the river Chebar.  He lived well, benefited from the structure yet saw its corruption.  As we read his prophecy we understand that he writes at God’s insistence and this fact enables us “to appreciate better how he could be objective and distant and yet intensely present with his audience”.  (Senior RG 337)  Ezekiel writes these words that come from God, rather than his own initiation, in order to transform and save. We sense his urgency in wanting to make an impression on his readers . . . and this he unquestionably does.

If we allow ourselves to spend time with Ezekiel in the context of the New Testament and if we are honest . . . we suddenly see that in viewing life as a race to be won, we hurry to placate a god who is extreme and unreasonable.  We panic, we look away, we scrabble against one another in our rush to show God how good and obedient we are, how much better we are than others.  And we forget to look at the Spirit within each of our neighbors whom we so anxiously judge.  Sadly, we fail to experience God in others.  We frighten ourselves and we cannot see God as the constant, merciful, just, forgiving and adoring lover.   We miss God’s capacity and willingness to absolve.  We mistake God’s passionate embrace for the chains of doom and damnation.  We miss entirely God’s warmth, safety and goodness . . . until we remember Jesus.


Tomorrow . . . some of Jesus’ words to live by when we consider our image of God.

Post image from: http://www.livius.org/ne-nn/nebuchadnezzar/anet308.html

For more on Ezekiel, visit the Ezekiel – Dry Bones Come to Life page on this blog, or go to: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/ezekiel-dry-bones-come-to-life/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 337. Print.  

 

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Saturday, January 25, 2013

2 Kings 5: The Cure of Naaman

Pieter de Grebber: Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman

Pieter de Grebber: Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman

Naaman is cured of leprosy not by his faith alone but through the faith and encouragement of a small child who believes in Yahweh and the power of his prophets.  It is worth our while to read this story and examine commentary and footnotes because once we do – and this may seem unbelievable – we will find that we have a greater understanding of the modern world we live in today.

Through the child in this story we see that prophets are not the only ones among us who are called to heal, cure and serve as instruments for miracles. We see that we are also called to heal one another either with the direct laying on of hands, or by our intercessory prayers.

Jesus tells us in a very clear way that we must pray for our enemies: You have heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy”.  But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you . . . If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  (Matthew 5: 43-47)

Christ constantly presents us with a world of inversion. We die in order to be born; we give in order to receive; we sit at the lowest seat in order to be called higher; we humble ourselves so that we might be exalted.  The examples Jesus gives us are endless.   Today we hear God’s urging to heal others, even those who harm us, so that we in turn are healed.

I believe that we are called to be healers, even when wounded ourselves, because the prayers of a victim rise ever so quickly to God’s altar. God, in all of his compassion and mercy and desire to love, will reward the prayer of one who is wounded who – like God – forgives and then petitions healing for the abuser.

We must be present in spirit to our fellow pilgrims, and when we wade into the river of forgiveness, just as Naaman enters the river Jordan, we will find that the our willingness to intercede for our enemies will wash away the things of this world.  Suddenly we find ourselves present to the Spirit. And just as suddenly we will know that we, like Naaman, will “know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”  This one God, this Yahweh, sent his son to heal us and ransom us from our dark place.   It is this God who calls us to heal one another . . . so that we in turn may be healed.


First written on May 31, 2007.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

2 Kings 2: Weathering the Whirlwind

imagesCAD24SSZThe whirlwind is something we fear – when we feel its ominous approach all we can think of is change with instability and unpredictability.  What if we were to shift our perspective slightly so that rather than be governed by fear of the future, we might be governed by trust and obedience?   What if we respond with awe at God’s power rather than fear of the unknown?  This is what we witness in the story we read today in which the mantle of prophecy passes from Elijah to Elisha in the presence of an amazing whirlwind.

Elisha wisely asks for a double portion of spirit rather than wealth or fame, and when we read to the end of the chapter we see the dimensions of the power invested in Elisha.  What he blesses is blessed many fold; what he curses is cursed harshly.  And all of this comes from his perseverance in trusting his creator.

Footnotes give us more information about Gilgal, the Jordan River, and the prophets guild; but the more important message here might be this: That when the earth shifts beneath our feet in a tectonic tremor of change, when a quick drop in barometric pressure harbingers one of life’s devastating storms, and when our hair stands on end with fear of what we suspect is coming and do not fully understand . . . we will do well to respond simply rather than rashly.  We must trust the Creator who has made us and loves us, follow the example of Jesus as the Christ who saves us and protects us, and we must hold in awe the overwhelming power of the Spirit who heals us and transforms us.  Then we too, will speak like the holy prophets to kings.


Written on August 11, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

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