Tag Archives: Hosea 12:6

How Good It Is to Return Home

given on Sunday, July 27, 2014–concluding a review of the book of Hosea.


Summer is winding down—at least in terms of vacations and reunions and travels. Having lived all my childhood and adult life following a school calendar, summers have their own rhythm. As a farming family my earliest years meant summers were filled to overflowing with chores, field work, deep cleaning, gardening, and the list just keeps growing.

Then the store shelves begin filling up with school supplies. Closets were checked for worn out or out grown clothes. A trip to the shoe store for that new pair of school shoes was made. And if we were lucky, the family might go on a trip—even if only to a state park for an overnight stay. No matter what though, it is always good to return home.

Regardless of how long one is gone or how far a vacation takes you, the return home is welcomed. Vacations can take us to new places, provide us tastes of new foods, lead us to new experiences, and show us sights unseen at home. Yet, as we drive up to our homes, unload the car, and drop things on the floor, we all experience how good it is to return home.

Returning home after a vacation or any type of extended absence is one of the benefits of having vacations. By experiencing that warm sensation of belonging, we can also appreciate how God feels when any of his children returns to him.

In Hosea 12:6, the prophet is doing all he can to convince the Israelites that they needed to return to their own God:

But as for you, return to your God,

              Hold fast to love and justice,

              And wait continually for your God.

The Israelites had lost their independence and were under Assyrian control. Their very way of life was disrupted and God’s chosen people began following the pagan traditions of worshiping Baal. Such pagan traditions include idol worship or wooden sticks as Hosea referred to them in his prophecy.

God was beside himself just like we are when one of our own kids just will not listen. I remember when my son was only five years old and he disappeared. He had gone out with his fundraiser box to do his best. The parameters were to the neighbors directly around the house just while I was preparing his lunch.

Small town, all the neighbors were within eyeshot, and he never ventured any further before. I was confident that it would be just a few minutes before he walked back in. So I fixed lunch with an eye out the window and not a fear in my mind.

Isn’t that how God felt with his children of Israel? He had chosen them to carry his message throughout the world. He had taught them how to depend on him and trust him. He loved his children and wanted all the peoples of the world to live in harmony, allowing him to take care of their needs:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and I called my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called to him,
the farther he moved from me,[a]
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
and burning incense to idols.
I myself taught Israel[b] how to walk,
leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
that it was I who took care of him.
I led Israel along
with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
and I myself stooped to feed him.

When your son disappears, all these thoughts go zinging through your mind. Where is he? Why didn’t he listen to me? How dare he! By considering how I felt, I can understand how God feels when one or even when a country filled with his children disappear. Crying out for them, searching for them, begging them to return, God never gives up.

In chapter 14, Hosea pleads with the Israelites one last time:

[a]Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for your sins have brought you down.
Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord.

The cry echoes in my own ears. I imagine all the horrible things that can happen when a child disappears. One wonders how can anything like that happen in a small, rural town. Yet, God loves each and every one of us just like we love our own kids. When Israel disappeared from his family, he pleaded for them to return:

“O Israel,[c] stay away from idols!
I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green;
all your fruit comes from me.”

The prophet lists all that God will do:

4The Lord says,
“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;
my love will know no bounds,
for my anger will be gone forever.
I will be to Israel
like a refreshing dew from heaven.
Israel will blossom like the lily;
it will send roots deep into the soil
like the cedars in Lebanon.
Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees,
as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon.
My people will again live under my shade.
They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines.
They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.

My son was just out selling items for his den and never realized that we were searching for him feverishly. I had called his dad at work, and he had no luck. We called all the neighbors, still no luck. We even called the police so all the fire department and police and neighbors were out looking for him. When he came out the door of a house, fundraiser in his hand, he was spotted. Less than five blocks from home, he was absorbed in his purpose and all was good.

Returning home as though he were a king, a reprimand seemed unimportant. All that mattered was that he was home, safe and sound. He had no idea what all had gone on to find him, he returned home and life resumed as normal.

Israel probably did not realize how far they had strayed from God. They were out doing their own thing, trying not to upset the Assyrians now controlling their land. But, they had failed to remain steadfast in their love of God.

Giving in to temptations around us causes us to wander away from God, too. Once we step away from God, we find other worldly pleasures filling our time. We can become involved in activities that make us feel good for the moment, but then feel let down or drained when it wears off (such as with excessive eating, drinking, or any similar addictive behavior).

Each day we stay away from God, we find it harder and harder to return to him. We see that in our own children or even our own lives. It is critical that we “return to our God.” When we return, we will discover all that he does for us. We can savor the treasurers he provides today and on through eternity.

The most difficult thing is to return. The farther or longer one stays separated from God, the harder it is to return. In your own heart, do you need to return? Is there someone who needs prayerful and verbal urging to return to God? Be the prophet Hosea in your world. Talk with your family, with your neighbors, and anyone you meet about what God’s role is in your life. Urge them to return. Assure them that the hardest step is the first one; but once they do return, the joy goes beyond measure.

But as for you, return to your God,

              Hold fast to love and justice,

              And wait continually for your God.

When you return, worship him. Study the messages he shares, demonstrate unconditional love to one and another, and fight for social justice so fragile in today’s world.   Hosea’s last words provide guidance for us while we wait for God:

Let those who are wise understand these things.
Let those with discernment listen carefully.
The paths of the Lord are true and right,
and righteous people live by walking in them.
But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.

Closing prayer

         Dear loving Father,

Hosea pleaded for the Israelites to return to you,

And today we have so many who have turned away

Or who have never known you.

Guide us to look deep into our own hearts

And decide if we, too, may have turned away.


Give us the strength to return to you now,

Even if we have only been gone a short time.

Give us the skills to help others return, too.

Let us hold fast to love and justice

In all that we do, in all our prayers,

And in all we teach to our family, friends, and neighbors.


May each and every one of your children,

Whether here or beyond our neighborhoods,

Find you and discover the joy of your grace.

We will do all that we can, for all we can,

In as many ways as we can

While we wait for you. –Amen

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Connecting then to now

given on Sunday, July 20, 2014:  Scripture reference is Hosea 4:1-14 (NLT)

Okay, I admit that reading and understanding the prophets can be difficult. Yet I know that Hosea 12:6 speaks to Christians all around the world as much today as it did—or should have—in 735 BC. Yes, that is the time frame for the book of Hosea that we reading now over 2 ½ millenniums later!

That little phrase from that one verse in one chapter of the entire Bible is so power packed: . . . hold fast to love and justice. Those six words are buried, in one sense; but even the entire verse is worth memorizing and holding fast to now as much as it was then:

But as for you, return to your God,

Hold fast to love and justice,

And wait continually for your God.

The question today is how do we connect the lessons from the Bible, even the Old Testament ones, to our lives today.

Today we live in a fast-paced world where communication really has neither any geographical nor time limits. What is going on in Israel right this moment is in our own homes within only a few seconds. The typhoon in the Pacific Rim region of Asia is reported right along with the weather for our Kansas City viewing area the instant we turn to the weather apps on our smartphones or pick up the remote and tune in to the Weather Channel or local news.

Today’s world may appear very different from the ancient world recorded in the Bible, but the people are still people. The same life challenges that affect our lives affected their lives. Tempting us are the same things such as wealth, material belongings, power, titillating relationships, feel-good experiences, and the list goes on and on. There is no difference now in how God asks us to live our lives than there was in 735 BC or even before that.

One would think that studying the history of man, there would be no reason to repeat the same sins generation after generation. Still, we need God and we need to hold fast to love and justice and wait continually for your God.

In today’s scripture, Hosea 4:1-14 (the NLT), we can read it as though it were ancient history, and we can read it again as though he is speaking of our world today. We are connected to then even though it is now:

Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel!
The Lord has brought charges against you, saying:
“There is no faithfulness, no kindness,
no knowledge of God in your land.
You make vows and break them;
you kill and steal and commit adultery.
There is violence everywhere—
one murder after another.
That is why your land is in mourning,
and everyone is wasting away.
Even the wild animals, the birds of the sky,
and the fish of the sea are disappearing.

The verses written for the people of Israel are as timely as if they were written this week for the people in our communities. We see the very same sins/crimes now. Humans are humans no matter whether then or now. The behaviors are the same whether in our own homes or whether it was written over 2500 years ago in a country on the other side of the ocean. The temptations are the same. The outcomes are the same—war, broken relationships, meanness, bullying, robbery, killing, erosion, and the list continues to grow.

Even God’s anger and reaction are the same:

“Don’t point your finger at someone else
and try to pass the blame!
My complaint, you priests,
is with you.[
So you will stumble in broad daylight,
and your false prophets will fall with you in the night.
And I will destroy Israel, your mother.
My people are being destroyed
because they don’t know me.
Since you priests refuse to know me,
I refuse to recognize you as my priests.
Since you have forgotten the laws of your God,
I will forget to bless your children.
The more priests there are,
the more they sin against me.
They have exchanged the glory of God
for the shame of idols.[

God recognizes that the leaders (priests), the very people who were born to lead the people in worship and to teach how to live, were at the root of the problem. He clearly blames them for all the people doing all the wrong things.

Granted, now we might not place all that responsibility on the clergy of our churches, but when this was written the priests were the spiritual and sometimes political leaders of the tribes. Still, the leaders then were just as susceptible to temptation as they are today. We can create quite a lengthy and colorful list of today’s leaders both political and religious who have or can lead the people away from God. God told the ancient leaders words that leaders now need to hear:

“When the people bring their sin offerings, the priests get fed.
So the priests are glad when the people sin!
‘And what the priests do, the people also do.’
So now I will punish both priests and people
for their wicked deeds.
10 They will eat and still be hungry.
They will play the prostitute and gain nothing from it,
for they have deserted the Lord
11     to worship other gods.

The faithful Israelites began following the conquering Assyrian customs that included idol worship to Baal. Temple prostitutes were part of that tradition. The results then are the same now:

“Wine has robbed my people
of their understanding.
12 They ask a piece of wood for advice!
They think a stick can tell them the future!
Longing after idols
has made them foolish.
They have played the prostitute,
serving other gods and deserting their God.
13 They offer sacrifices to idols on the mountaintops.
They go up into the hills to burn incense
in the pleasant shade of oaks, poplars, and terebinth trees.

“That is why your daughters turn to prostitution,
and your daughters-in-law commit adultery.
14 But why should I punish them
for their prostitution and adultery?
For your men are doing the same thing,
sinning with whores and shrine prostitutes.
O foolish people! You refuse to understand,
so you will be destroyed.

Reading the scriptures is fundamental to remaining faithful to God. How else can we hold fast to love and justice if we do not have the words of Hosea to guide us, then we cannot stay connected to God. In this prophet’s words, we are taught to remain faithful. The analogy of Hosea’s personal marriage to a prostitute is to Israel remaining faithful to God. Hosea listened to God, married Gomer, dealt with her prostitution, yet followed God in remaining faithful and confronting her. His waiting was rewarded, and Gomer too healed.

The key continues to be in Hosea 12:6:

But as for you, return to your God,

Hold fast to love and justice,

And wait continually for your God.

Life is never easy, but following Hosea’s prophecy and God’s instructions to Hosea, we can remain faithful and our lives will be rewarded. The history books tell us of those who failed to follow this advice, and the news continues to report such failures. Then is never far way from now; so return to your God, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.

Closing prayer

Dear God, father of Hosea and all your children,

Guide us through the days filled with such terrible sins.

Teach us how to hold fast to love and to justice.

Reveal to us the false gods in our lives.

and when we stumble and fall into sin,

show us the way out so we may return to you.

Strengthen our resolve so we can hold fast

to love and to justice.

Give us patience while we wait for you

with the gift of your grace and eternal life.


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Battling Today’s ‘Corrosive Culture’

given on Sunday, July 6, 2014

Battling Today’s ‘Corrosive Culture’

July 6, 2014


The headline read:


‘Corrosive Culture’ Cited:

Poor management, low morale, distrust and retaliation

are among issues found in review of nationwide system


The term ‘corrosive culture’ struck my heart. The descriptor sent cold chills up and down my spine. How in the world could our nation turn from being the world’s leader in social justice, humanitarian aide, and democracy be described as ‘corrosive’?

Unfortunately, another term I heard about 20 years ago had caused almost the same reaction: litigation society. The superintendent of Wentworth Military Academy used that in a casual conversation in which I was included. At the time, the discussion concerned how we were to conduct discipline at the academy honoring the parents’ expectations and what students really needed. The culture was changing and a military academy needed to make some adjustments.

Change is never easy, yet the changes our society has been making are certainly not following the Christian standards exemplified by Jesus. The laws are becoming so complicated that such a simple basic as God’s one commandment becomes lost.

Corrosive culture. The phrase just sums up so much in so many ways. The article itself was focusing on the terrible reports of the Veterans’ Administration of the healthcare system meant to provide for the veterans of all arms and all times of service to this country. As terrible as the investigation reports on the health care system have been, that term honestly applies to a much broader culture than one system.

Of course the deterioration of a culture is not a new problem nor will it ever be eliminated when good and evil continue to battle. John Wesley saw a corrosive culture among the working poor in England, and he determined to show how God’s love can handle the problems while also attacking the source of the problem.

Wesley became God’s hands as he stepped out of the church building and went to the people with needs—food, shelter, and clothing Obtaining the basics of life was as difficult for the working poor in the 1600s as much as it is today. What is different is how globally aware we are due to the immediacy of communication from any point in this world to our own homes in just a span of seconds. We hear it. We see it. We react.

Or do we. Do we react or do we distance ourselves from the corrosion of another facet of the globe’s culture? Are we following Jesus’ example and exercising our Christian authority to intervene in the corrosive effect on our culture?

During the 1960’s when Vietnam was the country’s focus, or when the Civil Rights movement seemed to shake our own neighborhoods, the Methodist Church was in mission. Remember how the Methodist Women were studying the different 3rd world culture, the materials kept introducing new countries, new problems, and I even remember, new food types, as we bought canned tamales and taste-tested them at a dinner.

What happened since then? Have we become lulled into a sense of safety and security? Have world problems eased up? Have we heard from God that everything around us is ok and we can let up? Or have we just closed our eyes and ears to what is around us?

While looking through the little book last week, God Bless America, I started reading and thinking about the different categories, I found an entire section on “justice.” Reading through those Bible verses and reflections, I kept thinking what do I do that addresses the ‘corrosive’ culture and keeps us developing our own faith. The search was on.

The phrase from Hosea 12:6, now at the top of our bulletin, seems so simple and so defining: “. . . hold fast to love and justice”. Hosea, a prophet from the Old Testament, becomes an example of God’s vast love and compassion for his children. He demonstrates how love can overcome so many trials in one’s life, and he also knows that God’s judgment is not human judgment.

During the next few weeks, Hosea will guide us in the art of love and justice. Never does one outgrow or outlive the ability to love as Jesus taught us. Never does one lose the ability to fight for justice even in a corrosive culture. We have no excuse to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to what happens in the culture around us. We are equipped to stop the corrosion because we have God on our side and the Holy Spirit within us.

Today, renew your relationship with God. Remember your baptism when you accepted Christ into your life. Remember how you raised your kids, and how you pray your grandchildren come to know God. We have the power, we just need to learn how to use it no matter what the calendar says, no matter what our worldly interests are, or what we fear.

The complaints of the corrosive culture can only be addressed if we take a stand and act. Take the challenge. Listen for God. Pray when the reports are corrosive. Write letters when a change needs to be made. Make a determined effort to share your faith with others who need hope. Return to being a proactive Christian. Use the power God gives you to protect our Christian, our American culture.

Listen to the words from Hosea 12:6

But as for you, return to your God,

            hold fast to love and justice,

            and wait continually for your God.

This is our Christian authority and our Christian responsibility—stop the corrosion. Today, as we share in the bread and the wine, pray. Pray for your own directions. Pray for our nation. Pray for our world.

Closing prayer:

Dear loving and just Father,

We are at your command.

We know you see all the corrosion

And hear all the complaining,

We know you sent Jesus to teach us

And to demonstrate your love.

We are ready to recommit

To the call you have for us.

We know you stand beside us

And we have nothing to fear.

Guide us in the days ahead.

Grow our love to overflowing.

Let us become your tool

In battling the corrosive culture

Now and forever. –Amen


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