Thursday, December 07, 2006

Empty words, even pious-sounding words, don't please

Today's reading contains these seemingly pious lines (someone has even set them to music):
"Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises, he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth."
Hosea 6.3
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? They want to acknowledge, to know the Lord. Or so they say. And they are confident that he's coming again to show goodness to them.

What do you suppose the Lord thinks about this? Well, he doesn't sound happy:
"What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.
Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth;
my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6.4-5
Yow! Apparently their words were insincere. Chapter 5 of Hosea talks about the coming judgment on Ephraim (which here represents the ten northern tribes, the two southern tribes being Judah and Benjamin); the rest of chapter 6 deals with Ephraim's misdeeds.

What is this telling us? The obvious thing is that if I habitually ignore and reject God, if I live a life of violence and idolatry, if I neglect the less fortunate people around me, then pious words alone will not please God; they will only annoy him.

A little less obvious, but still true: if I neglect my wife or my children for days on end, then a few words, even some very nice ones, won't make up for those days of neglect.

Or anyone else for that matter. Do people around me know that I care about them? Do I care bout them?

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