The set of Bible notes I am reading is taking me through the book of Hosea at the moment. The book begins with God telling Hosea to marry Gomer, an unfaithful wife. She was unfaithful to the extent that Hosea came to realise that their children were not his children at all. Later on, after Gomer reached rock bottom, God told Hosea to buy her back and bring her home.
The story of Hosea and Gomer was a parallel to the story of God and the nation of Israel. Although the Israelites had entered into a covenant with God, they were not faithful. When the Israelites had first stepped into the Promised Land, they were not able to defeat all of the nations and made them woodcutters and water carriers. God had warned them that these people would be a snare and lure them away from true worship. I am sure that there are some things God says that He would rather not have happen.
What remained of the practice of their faith was performing the rituals at the right time, and assuming that as long as they were in place, God would be satisfied. It didn’t matter that their hearts were not in it, and they were looking elsewhere for satisfaction.
“When they come with their flocks and herds to offer sacrifices to the Lord, they will not find Him, because He has withdrawn from them.” Hosea 5:6
My Bible study notes at this point turned the finger to ask questions about church involvement. Was I turning up at the right time, singing the hymns, saying “Amen” in the right places and putting money into the offering tray and assuming God was satisfied? Was I satisfied in God or looking elsewhere?
Hosea made it clear that the priests were responsible for the downward slide of the nation. Through their off-hand and casual attitude towards God, they had spread an unspoken but powerful message to rest of the nation that it really didn’t matter how you treated God. God would always be there to step in and rescue you in the end. The message of holiness was ignored. The nation was limping from famine to drought and never considered that God had any part of it.
The behaviour of the priests didn’t just speak to the nation of Israel, but to the surrounding nations. Way back when they walked around Jericho and witnessed the walls tumbling, the message then was that God was someone to be reckoned with, someone to fear. The tribes of Canaan knew they didn’t stand a chance and one of them, the Gibeonites, went so far as to concoct an elaborate scheme to make sure they were not annihilated.
During Hosea’s time the surrounding nations did not see God in the same way. Israel was not any different from any other nation, and their “god” was not any different from a hundred other “gods” either.
The story that we tell through the words we speak and the lives we live matters. It is little wonder that the secular world sees nothing that demands respect in many Christian churches, or in the lives of people who claim to be Christians. We have settled for something less than holiness and surrendered that which draws people through us to God.
Tonight I am going to a poetry club held at the Sunset Café in Inverness. I went to observe rather than participate. This time I am diving in. I worked out a way to download a number of poems onto my Kindle. I thought about the nature of the group, the kind of poems they shared that evening and trawled through my poems to select the secular ones. They were not there, I reasoned, to be preached at, but to enjoy good poetry.
I thought about my selection this morning as I was sitting with God. I thought of the priests telling the less-than-truthful story to the nation. I don’t really write poems that preach at people. How could I communicate to them the joy that God inspires in me if I avoid those poems that express that joy? If I just stick to my secular poems, which are not inoffensive by any means, where does it say that God has any place at all in my life?
So I am re-thinking the story that I want to share through my poems tonight.
Moreover, I am rethinking the whole message my life speaks and what is says about God.