God’s Case Against Israel, Part II: Divine Disappointment   1 comment

Above:  Dew (Hosea 6:4)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART V

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Hosea 5:8-6:6

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Remorse for and repentance for sins must be sincere if they are to prove effective.  Hosea 6:1-3 offers an example of insincere remorse for and repentance of sins, hence the divine rebuttal in 6:4-6.

The (northern) Kingdom of Israel had erred by breaking the covenant with God.  The way to resolve the problem was to repent, to return to God.  Instead, Israel turned to the Assyrian Empire.   One historical reference was to King Menahem (r. 747-737 B.C.E.), who paid tribute to the Assyrian monarch, Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 B.C.E.) in 738 B.C.E.  (See 2 Kings 15:19-20).  The once-powerful (northern) Kingdom of Israel had become a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrian king did not have Israel’s best interests in mind; God did.  Another historical reference may have been to King Hoshea (r. 732-722 B.C.E.), the a rebellious vassal of the Assyrian Empire and the last King of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1-41).  Ironically, “Hosea” and “Hoshea,” literally “rescue,” were the same name.

For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

–Hosea 6:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Alternative translations to “goodness” and “obedience to God” exist.  These include:

  1. “Loyalty” and “acknowledgment of God” (The Revised English Bible, 1989),
  2. “Loyalty” and “knowledge of God” (The New American Bible–Revised Edition, 2011),
  3. “Steadfast love” and “knowledge of God” (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989), and
  4. “Trust” and “knowledge of God” (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019).

The Law of Moses commands certain burnt offerings, of course.  The Book of Hosea does not argue for nullifying any portion of the covenant with God, bound up with the Law of Moses.  The Book of Hosea does insist that these mandatory sacrifices are not talismans.  People must offer these mandatory sacrifices devoutly and sincerely if these sacred rituals are to have the desired, divinely-intended effects.

John Mauchline (1902-1984), of the University of Glasgow, wrote:

It is not necessary to conclude that Hosea regarded sacrifice as having no value whatsoever as an act of worship.  What is meant is that sacrifice as an expression of a living faith in the Lord may be a genuine religious act, but the Lord’s delight is in the true knowledge of the demands of his service and in the cultivation of that love which is the cultivation of that love which is the will for his people.  It should be noted in passing that whereas Samuel is reported to have called for obedience, not sacrifice, from Saul, Hosea’s demand is for love (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22).

The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 6 (1956), 628

Gale A. Yee, late of of the University of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and of the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, added:

It is not the sacrificial system that Hosea condemns, but the dishonesty of its worshipers, whose conduct blatantly contradicts the demands of God’s covenant.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7 (1996), 252

Sister Carol J. Dempsey, O.P., of the University of Portland, Portland, Oregon, wrote:

Ethical living is more important than religious rituals.  True worship is not defined solely by ritual practice; rather, it consists of an attitude and way of life characterized by justice, righteousness, and steadfast love–the hallmarks of the covenant and the necessary ingredients for right relationships with all creation (cf. Jer. 9:24).

–In Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 1495-1496

If one could be a card-carrying ritualist, I would carry that card inside my wallet.  Proper liturgy, as I understand it, sets the table for worship for me.  Low Church Protestant worship, which throws out the proverbial baby with the equally proverbial bath water, leaves me spiritually cold and uninspired.  Visiting houses of worship where such a poor excuse for liturgy is the offering is, for me, engaging in a mere perfunctory social gathering.  I feel like saying yet never say:

There, I was a sociable human being; I put in an appearance.  I did what you expected of me.  Are you happy now?  And do you call that a liturgy?

In some settings, I develop the difficult-to-resist urge to quote Presbyterian theologian and Davidson College professor Kenneth J. Foreman, Sr. (1891-1967):

One does not plead for the use of incense–Presbyterians are not likely to come to that–but at least one may protest against mistaking a general odor of mustiness for the odor of sanctity.

“Better Worship for Better Living,” Presbyterian Survey, August 1932, p. 482

Rituals occupy important places in cultures.  I admit this readily; I am not a Puritan, taking time out from whipping Baptists (see here and here) and executing Quakers (see here and here) to argue that God’s altar needs no polishing and, therefore, will get none.  Neither am I a Pietist, speaking scornfully and dismissively of “externals.”  I like externals!  Externals are important.  Yet even beautiful liturgies, entered into without devotion, are mere pageants.  Conducting splendid rituals, even in accordance with divine commandments, while shamelessly practicing human exploitation, for example, makes a mockery of the rituals.  And, on a less dramatic level, I recall having attended some Holy Eucharists when I, for reasons to do solely with myself, should have stayed home.  I remember some times that I habitually attended church on Sunday morning, but was not in the proper spiritual state.  I recall that I got nothing out of the ritual that usually feeds me spiritually because I brought nothing to it.  I remember that I merely got my attendance card punched, so to speak.

All people and societies have disappointed God.  We have all fallen short of divine high standards, possible to fulfill via a combination of human free will and divine grace.  The grace is present and sufficient.  But do we want to do what God requires?  Do we–individually and collectively–want to fulfill the ethical demands of divine law and covenant?  If we do, we become partners with God.  If we do not, we disappoint God and condemn ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, BOHEMIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1393

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF THE SUDAN, 1983-2005

THE FEAST OF SAINT UBALDO BALDASSINI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GUBBIO

THE FEAST OF SAINT VLADIMIR GHIKA, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1954

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One response to “God’s Case Against Israel, Part II: Divine Disappointment

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  1. Pingback: God’s Case Against Israel, Part III: Israel’s Treachery | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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