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Idolatry & Doxology: Perfect Love for Imperfect People (2)

. 4 min read

Hosea 13.1-8, 14.1-10 with Luke 17.11-19 (ten lepers) and
Psalm 116

We are “imperfect” people. 
Yet, God loves us perfectly.  Last
week, we heard from the prophet Hosea, listened in on his personal story, on a
story that is in so many ways God’s story – loving the unfaithful one, his
prostitute wife Gomer.  Like Gomer, we
are “prone to wander”.  Like Hosea, God
does not give up on us.  God keeps the
light on, holds the door open, and actually steps into our worst mess to redeem
us.

We hear the words of a prophet like Hosea, describing the
idolatry of ancient Israel,
and we cringe.  Grotesque images of calf
gods and pillars, promiscuity with temple prostitutes, offering human sacrifice
(13.2 – differing translations, but the literal translation).  It’s all a bit disturbing, very primitive,
certainly not like us, is it?  It is like
a Conan the Barbarian or Serpent King flick.  And the prescription of the movies – a
violent revolution – is not much different from God’s prescription of exile to
cleanse Israel
of idolatry.  And what does this have to
do with me?

Exodus 20:2-5  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of
the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 
3 you shall have no other gods before me.  4 You shall not make for yourself
an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on
the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  5
You shall not bow down to them
or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God

            “No other
gods before me” (lit, “in my face”)

Idolatry

– what we have made

            “Do not
make for yourself an idol”

            Hebrew
idol, “peser” from “pasar” for “hew or carve” (making process)

            “made in
our image”, the soap opera of Greek mythology

            beneath us
– under our control – but we cede it

An idol could be described as more than what we make, as a
representation of something greater.  Our
God, however, is beyond representation, beyond our comprehension, bigger than
us.  God is not some projection of our
ego, projection of our need, expression of our social structures or norms.  We do not make God.  We are made by God.  If there is any similarity between humans and
God – and there is – it is because God made us, we are in God’s image … God
is not made in our image.

– what we sacrifice for

            13.2 –
sacrifice humans (NIV, Anderson-Freedman)

            idolatry
and human sacrifice are still linked today

                        industry/business/politics

                        children

– what we emulate (moral framework)

            become like
what we worship, statement of our values

            Those who
make them are like them; so are all who trust in them

                        (Ps
115.8)

They … consecrated themselves to a thing of shame, and
became detestable like the thing they loved (Hos 9.10)

            Gomer’s “Baal”
and Gomer (implied in 2.16)

            Hosea 4.14,
“sacrifice with temple prostitutes”

            “Everybody’s
doing it”

– what we want to save us

The rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, bows down to
it and worships it; he prays to it and says, “Save me, for you are my
god!” (Isa 44.17)

            Ourselves
– an image of ourselves with powers we do not have

            Fundamental
contradiction: we want what we have made to save us!

– what is not God

            You have
never known any god but me.

                        There
is no deliverer [savior] except me.

            (Hosea
13.4, translation by Andersen & Freedman, p 25)

Doxology, Exodus 20.5 
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God
am a jealous God.

Though Yahweh is jealous and responds in anger to our
faithlessness, to our infidelity, to our idolatry, we are still perfectly loved
and desired.  We are called back home: “Return,
O Israel, to the LORD your God” (Hosea 14.1). 
We are given God’s gentle promise:

            I will heal
their disloyalty;

            I will love
them [generously],

            for my
anger has turned from them.

                        (14.4,
NRSV + Andersen/Freedman, p 27)

Redirected worship, from idols to the living God.  Practical: Thanks

When I fed them they became self-satisfied.

When they were self-satisfied, their heart became arrogant.

Therefore they forgot me. (13.6, Andersen/Freedman, p 25)

Resources:

Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman, Hosea, The
Anchor Bible, vol 24.