The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah; he will punish Jacob according to his ways and repay him according to his deeds. In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there–the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name! (Hosea 12:2-5 NIV)
Judah does not escape notice in Hosea. They were as much a part of God’s chosen people as Ephraim or Israel. They also had forgotten their beginnings and Hosea goes further back in history, beyond the Exodus to remind both nations of their beginnings.
I find a several messages in this chapter. The first is that God would prefer we wrestle with Him rather than ignore Him. Jacob was not what we would call a good man. He was selfish and devious. His family is generally described as dysfunctional. Without God Jacob would have been unknown and his family would have disappeared. Instead, God took a personal interest in Jacob and Jacob recognized that he needed God to survive. The conclusion of the verses above makes it clear that all Jacob’s faults mean nothing compared to the unchanging nature of God Almighty.
The message of judgment continues in this chapter.
But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always. (Hosea 12:6 NIV)
While the overwhelming theme of this chapter is the evil of both Judah and Israel there is still a message of hope. A decision can be made to return to God. I’m fascinated by how we look at Jesus’ statement of the greatest commandment as a revolutionary and new thing.
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Luke 10:27 NIV)
I think Jesus is just reminding his audience of what the prophets said repeatedly. When Hosea says to ‘return to your God’ and ‘wait for your God always’ he is reminding his listeners that God must come first. We may struggle with Him and God certainly doesn’t do things on our timetable, but He is always God and only in relationship with Him do we find life and the ability to live out what He calls us to do. The Old Testament way of stating ‘love your neighbor’ is found in the words ‘maintain love and justice’. Love means to seek the best for others and justice means to ensure that everyone is treated right. It may be easiest to understand these values by looking at the opposite which characterized life in Israel. Instead of seeking the best for others the people of Israel sought wealth by cheating and stealing from the powerless among them. Rather than seeking to empower their fellow citizens the powerful sought to enslave them. This was not right and God repeatedly condemned them for this.
God has cared for Israel and they have responded by not caring for Him or each other. God’s response may make us uncomfortable, but it is what we should expect.
But Ephraim has aroused his bitter anger; his Lord will leave on him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt. (Hosea 12:14 NIV)
Fortunately, God has a plan that will extend His love to all the people of earth. I hope you had a Merry Christmas and were reminded of your experience of God’s love in your family’s history. I certainly have been.
For my grandchildren:
Thank God every day for great grandparents who love God and you.