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Hosea 14: The Good Shepherd Foreshadowed

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May those who are wise understand what is written here, and may they take it to heart. The Lord’s ways are right, and righteous people live by following them, but sinners stumble and fall because they ignore them.

We constantly look for messages and signs; yet we too often ignore the Word before us. Yesterday we reflected on Jesus as The Good Shepherd. Today we explore the many ways each of us might respond to God’s call.

Hosea, a prophet about whom we know little, brings us the heartbreaking image of one who loves greatly and suffers deeply. Some might say that in pledging himself to the prostitute Gomer, Hosea deserves the anguish she brings him.  Others will admire his steadfastness, mercy, and hope. The imagery we see today leaves us with no doubt that no matter the severity of any pain we cause the Creator, the Good Shepherd will always welcome us back to the sheepfold.

The Lord says:

“I will bring my people back to me.
I will love them with all my heart.

“I will be to the people of Israel
    like rain in a dry land.
They will blossom like flowers;
    they will be firmly rooted
    like the trees of Lebanon.

“I will answer their prayers and take care of them.
Like an evergreen tree I will shelter them;
    I am the source of all their blessings.”

These Old Testament words foreshadow a new prophet who will search endlessly for the last lost sheep. How can we turn away from one who follows us so closely? How can we reject a love that runs so deep and true? How can we reject a hope that transforms us forever?

May those who are wise understand what is written here, and may they take it to heart.


When we compare varying translations of these verses, we open our hearts to the Good Shepherd. 

Tomorrow, Jesus as The Way.

Image from: http://www.timothybrownjr.com/following-the-good-shepherd-and-not-the-bad-ones/

 

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hosea and gomerSaturday

January 10, 2015

Joy and Hosea – Metaphor

The prophets chronicle a people’s yearning for union with their creator and un uncanny understanding of their own vulnerabilities. Their words warn, threaten, exhort, and promise us that God is always present, even though we may not recognize this presence. The Old Testament prophecies foreshadow the good news of the New Testament, and they remind us that no matter our circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds.  Today Hosea shows us his love for Gomer, his unfaithful wife. And he tells us that God’s joy will renew the darkest betrayal.

“A very sensitive, emotional man who could pass quickly from violent anger to the deepest tenderness. The prophecy pivots around his own unfortunate marriage to Gomer, a personal tragedy which profoundly influenced his teaching. In fact, his own prophetic vocation and message were immeasurably deepened by the painful experience he underwent in his married life”. (Senior 1108)

Hosea 2:15: There I will give back her vineyards to her and transform her Valley of Troubles into a Door of Hope. She will respond to me there, singing with joy as in days long ago in her youth after I had freed her from captivity in Egypt.

We might see this prophecy as a description of God’s infinite capacity for unrelenting compassion and restoration . . . and we might also experience it as a call to our own potential to forgive and heal.

I will give back her vineyards . . .

We might see this prophecy as Gomer’s inability to remain steadfast or faithful . . . and we might also experience it as our own opportunity to change.

She will respond to me there . . .

We might see this prophecy as Hosea’s journey from sorrow to joy . . . and we might also experience it as our own deepening joy in God’s presence in our lives.

She will sing with joy . . .

joySearch the verses of this prophecy and look for the metaphors that reflect your own valleys of troubles and doors of hope. In what relationships have you experienced betrayal by someone quite close to you? Where are the deserts and vineyards in your life? What idols and their priests have drawn you into their false promise? What doors of hope and joy have opened to you?

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 1108. Print.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to further explore scripture, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

 

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Proverbs 5:4

Wormwood Growing in the Wild

Wormwood growing in the wild

Bitterness

In the end [the adulteress] is as bitter as wormwood, as sharp as a two-edged sword. 

Although we humans tend to focus on the physical violation of the commitment we avow to a life partner, there are many ways to commit adultery.  Straying from solid principles that support the authentic life, allowing ourselves to be lured into a way of life we know is false, and turning our backs on all that we know to be just and merciful.  These are all pathways that lead to the destruction of ourselves and possibly others.

God says: I am aware of the many sirens that call you away from me; I understand the strength of the pull the world has on your heart and mind.  It is for this reason that I am so joyful when even just one of you remains with me.  I am pleased when you put aside all that would make you bitter as you recover from stress and trauma.  I understand how difficult it is to forgive, how hard it is to pray from those who do you harm; yet this is what I ask of you.  This what I hope for you.  For this I have created you: to celebrate with me despite the sorrow and the grief.  All that I ask is that you give me your burden so that I might heal the injuries brought on by life and make you whole.  The double-edged sword has the power to wound just as it has the authority to save.  I dwell in you so that your double edge might lead to me and not to the darkness.  I dwell in you so that you with mercy and justice so that you might witness to my goodness.  I dwell in you so that you might rejoice in peace rather than sink in bitterness.  Come to me always . . . no matter your injuries.

Adultery is more than the physical breaking of the union of two who are committed to one another.  Adultery damages ourselves and many others.  Adultery is the first step  on the trail that leads to annihilation.  Adultery has the power to pull us into the darkness but it also has the power to transform us . . . when we bring our broken-ness to God.

Enter the name Gomer into the blog search bar to further explore the concept of adultery and God’s saving hand.

For more information on the wormwood plant and its properties, click on the image above or go to: http://www.absinthebuyersguide.com/wormwood.html or http://herbs-treatandtaste.blogspot.com/2011/06/wormwood-herb-health-benefits-and-uses.html

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Monday, March 4, 2013 – Hosea 9 – Exile 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

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

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Third Sunday of Lent, March 3, 2013 – Hosea 9 – A Prayer of Return to God

lovehands[1]We have spent time with this prophet for much of the week and we have allowed ourselves to be open to a flood of emotions. When we consider the story of Hosea and Gomer we experience the depth and breadth of God’s patience, fidelity and love.  On this third Sunday in Lent we are invited to be frank about when and how we play Gomer to God’s Hosea.  We are also invited to consider the depth and breadth of Christ’s sacrifice; we are called to sink into the profundity and intensity of the Spirit’s consolation.  With God there is always an opportunity to return.

Israel becomes the harlot when she wanders from the covenant she had entered into with Yahweh. She oppresses the poor and adores idols; the mechanical offering of holocausts by her priests has become a false worship.  Israel’s prophets warn her of the consequences of her infidelity but she continues to ignore these admonitions.  She leaves behind the gift of Exodus when Yahweh brought her out of captivity to a world of freedom.  She scoffs at the notion that a future exile will again enslave her.  And the longer she remains away from Yahweh, the more difficult – and useless – she sees the road of return.  And in her headlong desire to do precisely as she likes, she sends herself into her own loveless and dreadful exile.  If only she might return . . .

While Israel flirts with cataclysm and ignores all signs of warning, Yahweh abides and calls.  Yahweh hopes and prepares.  Yahweh waits and loves.

While Gomer gives herself to any who would have her in order to feel the quick rush of easy pleasure, Hosea abides and calls.  Hosea hopes and prepares. Hosea waits and loves.

Hosea sees this parallel and so must we.   And while Hosea aches for his lost love and yearns for Israel to return to her true role as Yahweh’s spouse, Yahweh waits for Israel to return.  And so does God call and wait on us today.

Picture1And so we pray . . .

Good and patient God, we see ourselves in Gomer when we forget to visit with you each day.  Renew in us a desire to be faithful to you. 

Good and constant God, we see ourselves in Gomer when we are easily lured away from you.  Renew in us a willingness to put aside the quick charms of a self-centered life. 

Good and tender God, we see ourselves in Gomer when we refuse to see the depths of your love.  Renew in us our understanding of your mercy, a willingness to persist through our doubt, and an eagerness to put everything aside for you. 

Good and ever-present God, we see ourselves in Gomer when we fail to return to you. Renew our strength, renew our courage, renew our faith, renew our hope, renew our love, and renew our all . . . so that we might return to you.

Amen.                   

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Saturday, March 3, 2013 – Hosea 7 & 8 – The Gomer Scale

fire_glory_whirlwind_over_lyford3[1]For much of this week we have spent time with Gomer and Hosea and today when we look closely we hear the warning that Israel will reap the whirlwind of destruction for her lack of fidelity.  We can always pause on our Lenten journey to examine ourselves to see where we stand on the “Gomer Scale”.

  • Do we walk away from problems to go out in search of fresh grain with which to make new drink to dull our senses . . . or do we abide through friction and conflict?
  • Do we pull up our shallow roots to replant ourselves in the newest in-vogue panacea each time we run into an obstacle . . . or do we remain planted in firm soil to draw from our foundation to bear good fruit when we are challenged?
  • Do we lie on our beds or drape ourselves over couches to cry and lament our situation . . . or do we work through our grief so that it might transform and restore us?
  • Do we cast about for a new diversion to distract us from true self-examination when we have erred . . . or do we examine ourselves in open and honest light?
  • Do we build thick walls of arrogance and pride as our self-defense . . . or do we go to one we have wronged and ask forgiveness?
  • Do we mourn our loss of innocence . . . or do we see our trials as stones on the path of the Narrow Way which leads to truth and our own restoration by our maker?
  • Do we seek the flattering advice of false prophets and teachers . . . or do we go to one we have wounded and harmed to truly listen to his or her words?
  • Do we deaden our senses when we feel overwhelmed by emotion and confusion . . . or do we turn to our maker who knows and loves us best to ask what we should do?

Gomer refuses to reform, repent, repair and rebuild.  Hosea waits, abides, calls, and loves, ready to heal and restore.  If Gomer wishes to be more than a flat cake not turned over, a senseless and easily deceived dove, one whose strength the foreigners sap, then she must move toward the curing touch of God.  Only there will she find the true, deep, thrilling and lasting love which she seeks.  Gomer looks for instant pleasure which she can manipulate and control . . . without realizing that in so doing, she forfeits the only joy and happiness which satisfies.  Union with her spouse, her God.

Tomorrow . . . a prayer to return to love.

Yesterday’s and today’s Noontime was first written on October 8, 2007.  They were revised and posted as Favorites.

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Friday, March 1, 2013 – Hosea 7 – Searching for Happiness

Happiness[1]No matter how much time we spend with Hosea we will never find all that this prophet has to say to us about love.  Nor will we ever discover the depths of his grief or the soaring heights of his joy.  He is a man tormented by an unthinking spouse yet he never puts her aside.  And he continually calls her to return.

When we spend time with Hosea we see that he remains faithful to Gomer despite the fact that she is easily lured away by anything which attracts her attention, anything which gives her an immediate rush.  Gomer, a woman incapable of maintaining a covenant, is a symbol for Israel and she may be a symbol for any one of us who tires of maintaining a relationship with a loved one.  But we see something more today, something that a close reading of Chapter 7 will reveal: Gomer does not turn to God when she feels alone or abandoned or worthless, she turns away.  She searches her world of bangles, and music, and quick gratification.   She does not want to work at her relationships.  She does not want to see where or how she might make changes or improve in any way.  She does not see the value in thinking of the other more than self.

We see Gomer crying on her couch, gathering grain for new wine for a new festival, turning to any swift and facile self-indulgence.  We watch her turn away from God where sustaining, nourishing consolation may be found.  We close our eyes because we cannot bear to witness her wanton self-destruction when so close at hand there is a heart yearning to love her continually and endlessly.

Rather than seek a lasting, abiding union with her spouse, Gomer goes abroad to seek instant pleasure.  She does not want to think about who she is, why she was created, how she might improve, or how her existence fits into God’s plan.  She wants nothing more than a series of superficial, uncommitted relationships which will not call her to plumb her own depths, to know her own capacity for love, or to experience the soul-filling sensation of her true and eternal relationship with God.  She turns away from all that will save and restore her and in her search for happiness . . . she loses all.

Tomorrow . . . The Gomer Scale

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Thursday, February 28, 2013 – 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?

Tomorrow: Our Search for Happiness.

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

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Love


Tuesday, 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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