July 30, 2015

Hosea
The huge, mountainous reality of all existence is that God is love...Each single detail of the real world that we face and deal with day after day is permeated by this love....We require true stories of love if we are to live truly.  

Hosea is the prophet of love, but not love as we imagine or fantasize it...God loves us in just this way--goes after us at our worst, keeps after us until he gets us, and makes lovers of men and women who know nothing of real love. 

Hosea 1-4
Hosea, son of Beeri, had God’s message come to him     during the royal reigns of Judah’s kings Jotham, Ahaz & Hezekiah. This was also the time that Jeroboam was king over Israel.  

The first time God spoke to Hosea he said, “Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children... Hosea did it.  He picked Gomer.  She got pregnant and gave him a son.  Then God told him:  Name him Jezreel...Gomer got pregnant again.  This time she had a daughter.  God told Hosea:  Name this one No-Mercy    since He was fed up with Israel....After Gomer had weaned No-Mercy, she got pregnant again and had a son.  God said: Name    him Nobody.  You have become nobodies to me, and I, God, am a nobody to you.  But down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches....    

In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody.  Everybody in Judah and everybody in Israel will be assembled as one people.  They’ll choose a single leader.  There’ll be no stopping them---a great day in Jezreel!!  Rename your brothers “God’s Somebody.”  Rename your sisters “All Mercy.”  Haul your mother into court.  Accuse her!  She’s no longer my wife.  I’m no longer her husband....I’ll make her pay for her indulgence in promiscuous religion---all that sensuous Baal worship.  And all the promiscuous sex that went with it, stalking her lovers, dressed to kill.  And not a thought of me.

I am going to start all over again.  I’m taking her back out into the wilderness when we had our first date, and I’ll court her...She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt....I’ll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness Yes, I’ll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go.  You’ll know me, God, for who I really am....

Then God answered me, “Start all over:  Love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife.  Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people, even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy....Then I said to her, “From now on you’re living with me.  No more whoring, no more sleeping around.  You’re living with me and I’m living with you.  

God indicts the whole population of Israel.  No one is faithful.  No one loves.  No one knows the first thing about God....But don’t look for someone to blame.  No finger pointing!...My people are ruined because they don’t know what’s right or true.  Because you’ve turned your back on knowledge....

But I am not going after your whoring daughters or the adulterous wives of your sons.  It’s the men who pick up the whores that I’m after, the men who worship at the holy whorehouses--- a stupid people ruined by whores!  You’ve ruined your own life, Israel...Don’t go around saying ‘God bless you and not mean it, taking God’s name in vain.  Israel is stubborn as a mule.  How can God lead him like a lamb to open pasture?

Acts 21:27-21:39
When the 7 days of purification were nearly up, some Jews from Ephesus spotted Paul in the temple.  At once they turned the place upside-down.  They grabbed Paul and started yelling at the top of their lungs....Soon the whole city was in an uproar, people running from everywhere to the Temple to get into the action.  They grabbed Paul, dragged him outside, and locked the Temple gates so he couldn’t get back in and gain sanctuary.  As they were trying to kill him, word came to the captain of the guard.  “A riot!  The whole city is boiling over!”  He acted swiftly.  His soldiers and centurions ran to the scene at once.  As soon as the mob saw the captain and his soldiers, they quit beating Paul.

The captain came up and put Paul under arrest...and then asked who he was and what he had done.  All he got from the crowd were shouts, one yelling this, another that....so the captain ordered Paul taken to military racks.  But when they got to the Temple steps, the mob became so violent that the soldiers had to carry Paul with the crowd yelling for him to be killed. When they got to the barracks and were about to go in, Paul asked the captain, “Can I say something to you?”  The captain answered, “ Oh, I didn’t know you spoke Greek.  I thought you were the Egyptian who not long ago started a riot here and then hid out in the desert with his 4,000 thugs.”  Paul said, “No, I’m a Jew, born in Tarsus.  And I’m a citizen still of that influential city.  I have a simple request:  Let me speak to the crowd.”