I have a terrible habit when reading books. It’s so bad and embarrassing that I hesitate to even confess it. But I’m going to risk it.
When I read books, I sometimes move quickly through difficult passages. So, if a character is about to do something they are not supposed to do, and I know that what they are about to do is going to get them in serious trouble, I have this intense desire to skip over the section or skim the chapter. I want to move on to the resolution or the redemptive movement as soon as possible.
My aversion to the dark moments in books (and movies and TV shows) probably requires a trip to the therapist. Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. I want to skip ‘em all and get to the light as soon as possible. But, of course, you miss a great deal of beauty when you skip over those parts of the story.
It would be really easy to get distracted when reading chapter four of Hosea. Or to skip over the chapter altogether. After all, the author uses the word “whore,” or a variant of it, about a dozen times. It can either distract you or cause you to move along quickly without hearing the full weight of what God is saying to Israel.
These are God’s people. And yet, the picture of their falling away from the worship and character expected of them is so dark and twisted, it’s hard to read. We all love the redemptive story of Hosea, but man, chapter four is dark.
But really, without chapter four, there is no great redemptive love. If we skip over all the ugliness of the story, we miss out on all the beauty of God’s pursuit of His people. Top to bottom, God’s people were mired in sin that seems almost unimaginable. Even the priests were in on the action. They seem to have rejected God altogether and were acting just like pagans.
Think about it. If they had only been mildly rebellious, this story of God’s redemptive pursuit of them would have been less than it is. What if they just had an issue with greed and that was it? What if they were sexually chaste and went to church like they were supposed to and were otherwise nice people? Would they still need to be saved from their sin? Sure. But through the story of Hosea, God wanted the glory of His grace to be clear. He wanted it to be something we would stand up and gawk at.
So maybe we should slow down when reading chapter four. Maybe we should read it slow enough to catch all the shadows of our need for redemption. Maybe we need to read it carefully enough to see the beauty of God’s redemptive pursuit through Jesus’ blood on the cross. Those are the sins He died to save us from. Read them slowly and then quickly, and remember that they no longer separate us from God.
Written By Matthew B. Redmond