Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls
We are thrilled to welcome the writing of Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls for the Preaching Notes for this worship series. Dr. Smalls is senior pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Michigan, and an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Click here to read more about Dr. Smalls.
Hosea, in the third chapter, is commanded to go and secure his wife from the life she seemed prone to live. We don’t have too many details about where she was, with whom she was, and why she was there. Biblical tradition places her in the category of being a prostitute, while are other Jewish writings suggest she was a harlot. We don’t hear from Gomer herself.
What we know is that Hosea loved her—not just because she was the mother of his children, not just because she was an intricate figure in their household. He loved her so much that he went to secure her by paying her to return. At least, this is what it looks like on the surface.
Hosea is deeply involved in the crisis of his personal life. It is a mess. It is a horrific situation. Hosea 3 suggests they are separated—if not physically, they are separated emotionally and certainly spiritually. This continues to shed light on the deep chasm between God and Israel. Both stories are unfolding simultaneously.
It’s not until Hosea gets married, has children, and goes to seek his wandering wife and restore her to a full relationship with him, however, that he knows what it is to speak to this situation in Israel. He is now equipped to hear what God is saying and convey like no other the emotions that God emits in Hosea 11.
As a loving parent, God is reflecting in Hosea 11. He is remembering what it was like to love them only to see them fall to a non-existent god, Baals. Using the imagination of a parent, he is recalling those days of teaching his people, guiding them, blessing them, and loving them. Yet, he had to be in the role that no parent really enjoys: that is the role of chastising a strong and separate will of the child who seems to abandon his parent’s protection. Even God can’t go back on God’s word, and, as a result, the people have earned the consequences that come with idol worship and turning their backs on God which leads to destruction and exile.
But, even here, we see God not wanting this. We see God struggling with this. We see God not able to just leave his children, Ephraim. As Hosea sought to secure his wife from bondage and to reestablish their relationship, similarly God does this to Ephraim and Judah.
Here’s the challenge: Ephraim continued to resist and reject. Ephraim continued in the way of sin. But God had a vision and a promise. He’d restore them with the power of his voice, but until then, God endures the heartbreaking experiences of watching the people he loved dig themselves in a deep spiritual hole.
This too, is the work of the prophet. It is to weep, plead, beg with a people who sometimes just won’t listen. To be a prophet is to mourn over results that the people just don’t see.
“I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people, will get to the Promised Land” (King, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” April 3, 1968). These words were spoken, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the night before he was killed. He gave his life for a nation that resisted him and hated him. He would confess a year before his death that his dream had turned into a nightmare. This was the voice of despair. It is a voice often known too well by the prophet who hopes from the margins.