Oct 13 2010

Hosea 14

UP-Upper-Tahquamenon-Falls-023Tonight I’ll be wrapping up a Bible study on the Book of Hosea at the church where I serve.  This book, like all of the prophetic volumes, contains a lot of harsh words of judgment.  It is obvious that God was upset with Israel for turning to other gods and that He felt they needed to be punished.  But punishment was not the final word in Hosea.

In the concluding verses of this book God speaks of healing Israel’s waywardness and loving them freely.   God then goes on to use several references from the natural world to explain His intentions.  He says, “I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily.  Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send his roots; his young shoots will grow.  His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.  Men will dwell again in his shade.  He will flourish like the grain.”  Finally, God says “I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.”

Each reference here to items from the natural world has significance.  In the mention of dew, for example, God revealed that His presence would bring fruitfulness and support life.  Dew in a desert region can represent the difference between life and death.   The shade provided by plants is symbolic of God’s protection provided for His people.

Scholars are uncertain exactly what specific tree is intended at the end of this text.  Some translate the Hebrew word used here “fir tree,” others use “pine tree.”  What is clear is that a coniferous tree is in mind, a tree which is always green and not diminished with the changing seasons.  Old Testament scholar James Luther Mays suggested that this biblical reference “is used not so much as a particular species as a type of tree of life.  In Yahweh alone Israel may find life!”

Israel’s primary problem in Hosea’s time was that they had turned to the fertility god Baal.  They thought mistakenly that it was Baal that brought life and fertility to the earth.  Through the prophet Hosea God reminded Israel that it was He who had created the earth; it was He who sustains it.  In the end God points to particular elements of His Creation to remind Israel of His never-ending love and care for them.  If God is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” as the Bible says, then my guess is He still wants us to see in His Creation the evidence of His love and concern for us.  Perhaps as we all enjoy the beautiful foliage of fall, now would be a good time to do just that.


(I took the image above of Upper Tahquamenon Falls last fall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)

Sep 15 2010

Learning About God & Ourselves From Nature

MR 427As I read the Scriptures I continue to be amazed at how often the biblical writers use nature imagery to make theological comparisons.  A case in point is the passage I’ll be discussing tonight at church, Hosea 6.  Starting in verse 3 the challenge is made to “acknowledge the Lord” and to “press on to acknowledge him.”  Then we read: “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.”

Here we see God compared to the sun which rises each morning and to the winter and spring rains that you can count on like clockwork.  Such images prove helpful to us.  Since we must deal with an unseen God, it is beneficial when the biblical writers reveal that God is like something we can see with our own eyes.  “What is God’s faithfulness like?” we might ask.  The Bible says it is like the sun that comes up everyday—without fail.  It is like the rains that return each winter and spring.  In other words, God is as faithful as you can get!

In Hosea 6 nature imagery is also used to demonstrate our own unfaithfulness.  God says to His people here, “Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears?” (v. 4)  By pointing to the “morning mist” and “early dew,” both which come and go quickly, God declares that His people’s loyalty to Him is fleeting at best.  Here again, by referring to something in nature that everyone is familiar with, the point is driven home powerfully.

One of the primary goals Rob and I have in sharing our thoughts with you on SeeingCreation.com is that people will realize that by paying attention to the world God has made they can learn much about God and about themselves.   As Hosea 6 shows, the Scriptures can help us do that.  When the sun rises tomorrow morning, I encourage you to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.  If you happen to experience a morning mist or see dew around you, you may want to consider whether these may be a reflection of your own loyalty to God.  There is so much in nature that makes us think about things that really matter.


(The image above of an Indian paintbrush surrounded by dew covered leaves was taken last month at Mount Rainier National Park.)

Aug 18 2010

Reaping What We Sow

ONP 2257Later tonight I will begin teaching a study on the Book of Hosea at the church I serve.  As I have prepared for this study and read through this Old Testament book again I am convinced that Hosea, an 8th century B.C. prophet, still has a word for us today.  This is true in a number of areas, one of which is the correlation of human sin and environment degradation.

In Hosea 4:1-3 the prophet says, “Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel; for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land.  There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land.  Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed.  Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea are perishing.”

The biblical prophets note repeatedly how our failure to obey God’s laws causes harm to the Creation.  Even if this wasn’t noted in the Scriptures I think we would still recognize this.  So often the land, sea and air suffer due to our sin. 

When I read the scripture passage above I couldn’t help but think of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  We now know that shortcuts were taken for the sake of economic gain that had they not been taken this disaster would likely never have occurred.  Because of greed, one of the seven deadly sins, “the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea are perishing.”

We cannot treat the earth any way we please and not expect there to be severe consequences.  The Bible clearly teaches that “we reap what we sow.”   Hosea himself said, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” (8:7) 

I believe that when we look at Creation we must recognize that our actions do indeed have consequences.  If we fail to be the good stewards of the earth that God has called us to be there will be a price to pay.  In fact, we are already paying that price in many areas.  If, however, we can be good stewards of the earth the consequences will be positive.  I encourage you to join me in trying to sow a better tomorrow.


(The image above was recently taken in Olympic National Park.)