All That Will Be Left
Minor Musings | Hosea 2
Columns and arch ways, colonnades and corridors, a huge theatre in the round. There are steep stairwells and long ramps climbing to the highest and furthest rows. From there the eyed angle is equally as steep and long to stare down upon the action on stage. And as that action takes place way down there, here you and I are way up here.
But the text of Hosea 2 slips in between us, takes our hands; first yours and then mine, and motions for us to come along. The text walks with us down, down, down, slowly, easy, between the chairs and benches, through narrow aisles. Around and around, carefully spiraling in closer and closer, arriving at the stage just in time to hear some of the most magnificent words in all of scripture!
The opening verse serves as a title…
“Say to your brothers, ‘You are my people,’
and to your sisters, ‘You have received mercy.’”
It picks us up where the previous chapter dropped us off, and it hints at where we’ll be dropped off again. But before then, there is this reverberant cry that reaches out from the far away stage to the highest and furthest rows…
“Plead with your mother, plead!”
Imagine the begging, the urgent call: Please, stop what you’re doing! Please!
YHWH God is on His knees – figuratively speaking of course – fists clenched tightly and turned up. His face wrought with desperation. We look like that when our deep abiding love for those closest to us gets tangled up together with our brokenness over their perpetual and self-destructive sin.
“Please, put down the bottle!”
“Please, leave her alone!”
“Please, don’t use those words;
please don’t say that!”
You and I, we’re smart enough to see the end from the here and now. From our vantage point – that highest and furthest row – we can see the consequences and costs that lurk in the wings. We take the text’s hand and follow, closer.
“Please, change your ways…NOW!”
There is a barking response to this manner of imploring; an arrogantly bulletproof reply, snapping with challenge. We’ve heard it. I’ve used it. The text implies it. Lowered gaze. Darkened tone. Slower words.
“Or else what?”
Or else it will get bad. God loves His people – the Hebrews and you and me – He loves His people so deeply and widely, but as well, He is no fool.
He will devastate the hardened will of the selfish with nary a hesitation.
He will confound the resolution of the adulterous leader with not a moments pause.
He will shatter the fettered determination of the proud wayward child with swiftness and certainty.
He will not tilt His head in amusement and turn and walk away.
He will not stand invitingly atop the ruined one.
He will not own the last laugh.
Just watch. You and I
circle in even
Verse 6 is a move on God’s part to love fiercely and recklessly. Go find it and read it. He will erect barriers, which straight stop them – us – from pursuing anything other than Him.
Imagine you or me running down the road after whatever willy-nilly we may want for ourselves and tripping into the thorny brambles or smacking hard into a stone hedge. Welp, I guess that’s not the way to go.
And with all other pursuits stemmed off…
“I will go and return to my first [Love], for it was better for me then than now.” (vs. 7)
And with all other possessions stripped away…
“[But] these are my wages, which my lovers have given me.” (vs. 12)
All that will be left,
is the best that can be left,
which never actually left at all.
And you and I have circled
in now, closer still.
After all has been peeled back, pared down, flayed thin, laid bare, and the whole of who they – and we – are is broken and ashamed amidst all their – and our – arrogant wanderings and wantings, there is the extravagant mercy of God.
Verse 14 – and I hope you’ll read it for yourself – verse 14 to the end of the chapter resonates with all the character of a fairytale, but it is so much not at all a fairytale, because God is not a fairytale God and you and I are not fairytale characters.
There is the text,
holding our hands,
circled in now
just about as near as we can be.
There is allurement and tenderness, good gifts and great things. And it is hard to read it without imagining the heart of God swollen with cosmic compassion and celestial joy as He declares:
“You will call me ‘My Husband’...” (vs. 16)
And then finally we arrive, circled in and close by the stage, with text in hand, and just in time to hear some of the most magnificent words in all of scripture!
“…and I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and judgement, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.” (vs. 19-20)
For at last, He calls us His people and, at last, we have received His mercy.