The Sins Behind Sexual Sins

Scripture Focus: Hosea 4.1-3
1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing,[c] lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.

Reflection: The Sins Behind Sexual Sins
By John Tillman

Gomer’s sexual sins of prostitution and adultery were not just an analogy for idolatry. The people of God were metaphorically and literally committing adultery and participating in prostitution as part of worshiping Ba’al. However, idolatry doesn’t have to involve sexual sin to cause similar damage.

When we read about sexual sins in the Bible, we need to take care not to automatically think of sexual sin as the only sin involved. Sometimes sexual sin is also a symptom or a tool of other sins.

The entire point of worshiping a fertility god or goddess in an agrarian economy is financial blessing. The sin behind the sexual sin was a desire to manipulate the economy. The blessing to be expected from Ba’al was a higher ROI.

Sex to gain power is a sin of lust, but it is a lust for power not for flesh. Sex in exchange for money or influence, likewise, is a sinful means to a sinful end. Sex to display power, such as rape or sexual harrasment and abuse, is a sin of domination and control.

People commit today the exact same kind of sins as the Israelites who worshiped Ba’al in pursuit of better crops. When we are willing to kiss any ring, shake any hand, or endorse any person in order to gain power, get elected, make a deal, cut out a competitor, or monopolize an earning opportunity we are prostituting ourselves in lust whether or not there is sex involved. The Israelites attributed their profits and success to their efforts in worshiping Ba’al. We attribute our success to our “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.” It is the same sin of idolatry with a different object.
Many times sexual sins are a symptom of other sins such as greed, selfishness, inequality, and oppression. Prostitution, adultery and other sexual sins rise with poverty rates because the sins of greed and oppression create the circumstances under which women resort to prostitution and men seek dominance and control.

May we confess and weep over all our lusts, not just lusts of the flesh.
May we weep for our greed.
May we cry to be delivered from selfishness.
May we ache for healing for our addiction to power.
May we humble ourselves in repentance from our pride.
And, yes, may we turn in faithfulness toward a biblical sexual ethic that divorces sex from the abuses of sin.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
For you Name’s sake, O Lord, forgive my sin, for it is great. — Psalm 25.10

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Hosea 3-4  (Listen – 3:53)
Psalm 119:121-144 (Listen – 15:14)

This Weekend’s Readings
Hosea 5-6  (Listen – 3:44), Psalm 119:145-176 (Listen – 15:14)
Hosea 7  (Listen – 2:19), Psalm 120-122 (Listen – 2:12)

Read more about Lamenting Materialism :: A Guided Prayer
Today, Ba’al wouldn’t be a rain god, he’d be Gordon Gekko. Or Bernie Madoff. Or Jordan Belafort.

Read more about Prayers God Hates
The sin at the top of God’s list isn’t adultery or any sexual sin…it is systemic oppression of the most vulnerable members of society.

A Chiaroscuro Parable

Scripture Focus: Hosea 2.19-20, 23
19 I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the Lord.
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.”
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,[j]’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

Reflection: A Chiaroscuro Parable
By John Tillman

Hosea makes his life a living parable of God’s relationship with the Jewish people and every single choice sends a harsh message. 

The harshness of Hosea’s messages serves to emphasize two things. Like a Rembrandt chiaroscuro painting, with exaggerated lights and darks, Hosea shows the darkness of our abject failure and sin and the bright, hopeful gleams of God’s love pushing back our darkness to reveal beauty and forgiveness.

Some of the dark moments are the names Hosea gives his children, Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi. The names get gradually worse as does the meaning they imply. 

Jezreel was a place name. It was a beautiful place. However, it had become known for bloodshed rather than beauty. Many different political slaughters had soaked this ground in the blood of God’s children. James Limburg, in his commentary on Hosea, points out that naming a child “Jezreel” might be similar to naming a child today “Auschwitz” or “Hiroshima.” Lo-ruhamah literally means “without compassion” or “without mercy”. Lo-Ammi implies Hosea is not the father.

Jezreel pointed to the fall and failure of Israel’s kings and to the injustice and vindictive violence that had seized Israel. Lo-ruhamah indicated the loss of God’s compassion and willingness to intervene on their behalf. Lo-Ammi indicated a future without God’s presence. This, for Israel, meant losing their very identity as a people. If God left them they could echo Moses’s plea, “What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33.15-16)

We are a beautiful plain, like Jezreel, ruined by violence and bloodshed.
We are ill-behaved children whose parent, out of love, defended us for too long from consequences. It is this love that God withdraws from us allowing our suffering.
We are rebels disowned and disinherited after breaking God’s heart with our self-destructive behavior.

The names of Hosea’s children (or Gomer’s children, since Hosea implies that they may be children of adulterous relationships) seem harsh yet God makes it clear that his purpose is to lovingly reverse the meanings of these names.

Hosea’s second chapter contains poetic lines indicating that God will still pursue his people with love. He will still work to turn us back. He will still heal us when we return. He will reverse the meanings of our names, making us beautiful, making us loved, and making us his own again.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. — Psalm 106.47

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Hosea 2  (Listen – 3:48)
Psalm 119:97-120 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Restoring Relationship
Regardless of how the Israelites have sinned or been unfaithful, God is strong enough to overcome their sin and restore their relationship.

Read more about Taking Sin Seriously
Jesus doesn’t “let the woman go.” He sends her out. Jesus, instead of taking the woman’s life, redeems it. He buys it for his own.

The Naked Emotion of God

Scripture Focus: Hosea 1.2
2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.” 

Romans 9.25-26
25 As he says in Hosea: 
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; 
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” (Hosea 2.23)
26 and, 
“In the very place where it was said to them, 
‘You are not my people,’ 
there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ ” (Hosea 1.10)

Reflection: The Naked Emotion of God
By John Tillman

From the life of Daniel, exiled in Babylon, we travel back in time to a pre-exile Israel and the life of Hosea.

Abraham Heschel explained that other prophets focus on what God has done for his people, while Hosea tells us more of what God feels. (The Prophets)

Many prophets engaged in actions that today would be considered questionable stunts. They publicly insulted kings and officials. They wore strange clothing or no clothing, going naked. (Isaiah 20.1-4) They wore the yoke of oxen. (Jeremiah 27.1-15) They starved. They ate disgusting foods. They built and destroyed elaborate models. They lay in one place for months. They sang offensive songs with pornographic lyrics. (Ezekiel 23.14-21)

In marrying Gomer, Hosea engages in the most extreme performance art depicted in the Bible or performed anywhere. It is more all-encompassing than the way Sacha Baron Cohen plays his character of Borat in real life situations. It is beyond the way Steven Colbert created a character out of his own name and likeness for The Daily Show. Hoseas’s stunt goes beyond acting or putting on a show. It is his real life. There is no “character” to hide behind. Instead, he is exposing the character of God. 

Hosea strips bare the inner emotional life of God. Hosea and God are emotionally united in a unique way. Neither will hold back in expressing his love for the people but neither will they hold back in expressing pain, anger, bitterness, and sorrow at how callously they are betrayed. 

Pain and anguish of heart are front and center in a scandalous way in Hosea. This shows us a God unashamed of shame, nakedly confessing his love for the unlovable. 

Gomer is not chosen for her strength but her weakness. She is not chosen for her wisdom but her foolishness. The accusations of culture would fly the other way as well. Hosea, taking a promiscuous woman as his wife would be considered weak and foolish.

Our God uses the foolish to shame the wisdom of this world and the weak to break the strength of the strong. He loves us, the unlovable. He is faithful to us, the unfaithful. He is unashamed of us, the shameful.

When all else is stripped away, the naked emotion of God, seen in Hosea and seen on the cross, is love.

To the world, this is foolishness, but to we who are being saved, it is the power of God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Your way, O God, is holy; who is as great as our God? — Psalm 77.13

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Hosea 1  (Listen – 2:08)
Psalm 119:73-96 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Christ, Our Undeserved Friend :: A Guided Prayer
Though my sins and weakness he sees,
My case before the Father, pleads.
He knows my state and yet he bends
God’s ear to me, for me contends.

Read more about The Flavors of Betrayal
Where do we find ourselves in the garden? What form does our betrayal and abandonment of Jesus take?

Things Even Angels Question

Scripture Focus: Daniel 12.5-6, 8-9, 13
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?” 
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” 
9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel…13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” 

1 Peter 1.10-12
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 

Reflection: Things Even Angels Question
By John Tillman

Most responses to apocalyptic prophecies start with what, when, where, why, or who.

Daniel asks questions. (Daniel 7.15; 12.8) John asks questions. (Revelation 10.9) Even the angels in Daniel’s visions ask questions. (Daniel 12.5-6)

Peter seemed to have this passage in mind when he wrote that even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1.10-12) The “these things” Peter was writing about are prophets, like Daniel, who searched with care regarding times and dates. Yet, Jesus also told the disciples, including Peter, that times and dates were not for them to know, but only the Father. (Acts 1.6-8)

End times prophecies are one of those areas in which well meaning believers can start missing the forest for the trees. We can become so obsessed with finding some little hint or clue regarding the life to come that we forget to live the life God calls us to now. 

Identifying a date, a time, a leader, a moment, won’t matter if we are not doing justice, walking humbly, and loving mercy (Micah 6.8). Knowledge can be a clanging gong and a symbol (pun intended) of self-interest rather than care for others. (1 Corinthians 13.1-2

Asking questions isn’t bad. But eventually Gabriel, instead of answering Daniel’s questions, tells him to move on. 

Two other humans in Scripture question Gabriel. In contrast with Daniel, who is strengthened to speak so that he may ask questions, Zechariah is struck mute for expressing doubt through his questions. Mary questions Gabriel, but instead of being struck mute is indwelt by the Holy Spirit to prophesy when she meets Elizabeth.

From Zechariah, we can learn that even without speaking, we can testify to the message of Christ.
From Mary and Daniel, we can learn that revelations and prophecies are sometimes meant to be rolled up and sealed until the proper time—to be pondered and treasured in our hearts rather than shared.

From all three, we learn that at the right time, our tongues will be loosed to sing (Luke 1.64, 67-80), our hearts will be moved to prophesy (Luke 1.41-55), and our scroll of revelation may be unsealed. (Daniel 12.9-10; Revelation 5.2-5)

We can follow the instructions Gabriel spoke to Daniel. (Daniel 12.13)
We can go. Move on from doubts and questions to faith and action.
We can rest. We can trust the outcome of life and eternity to Christ.
We can rise. At the proper time, in this life or the next, we will be raised up.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Short Verse
I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. — Revelation 1.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Daniel 12  (Listen – 2:40)
Psalm 119:49-72 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Breaking the Rhyme Scheme
Christians do not believe in cyclical, neverending, repetition. We know that an end is coming and a new beginning. However, history does rhyme.

Read more about Living Is Harder—Readers’ Choice
Living for Christ in the world often makes a larger difference in the world than dramatic sacrifices.

Breaking the Rhyme Scheme

Scripture Focus: Daniel 11.36, 45
36 “The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place…
45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.

Reflection: Breaking the Rhyme Scheme
By John Tillman

Daniel’s visions of nations and wars most directly depict the near future for the region leading up to Antiochus Epiphanes.

Many texts Christians today see as pointing to a future Antichrist, Jews prior to Christ saw as having been fulfilled in Antiochus. He was the villain-oppressor whose desecration of the Temple inspired the Maccabean revolt and the holiday celebrated today as Hanukkah. Jesus and the disciples are separated from this conflict by only a few generations and would have been familiar with it.

Daniel sees the same events through multiple visions that use slightly different images. To many this implies that the visions can have multiple interpretations and apply to more than one moment in history. New Testament writers seemed to see more than fulfilled prophecies of the past, but a pattern for the future. They looked to Daniel, echoing his style and language in their writing about Christ’s second advent. 

It can’t be proved that Mark Twain actually said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” However, he certainly expressed similar ideas. Behind this quote, there is a karmic concept of ever-repeating history that will never end. 

Christians do not believe in this kind of cyclical, neverending, repetition. We know that an end is coming and a new beginning. However, we can see through Daniel’s and other apocalyptic prophecies, that history does rhyme. There is a pattern to oppression. There is a template for empires. 

There have been many people biblical interpreters have thought followed the template of the Antichrist figure from Daniel: Diocletian, Nero, Hitler, etc. These men show us that there is a modus operandi for evil that will continue to repeat until Christ puts an end to history.

History does rhyme. It rhymes with oppression, suffering, violence, rape, racism, greed, destruction, and victimization of the most vulnerable. 

The distinctive belief of Christianity is that Christ will break this rhyme scheme. The rhythms of oppression will be rewritten. The drumbeat of violence will be silenced. The time signature of terrors will give way to rest. There will be new music that sings ever-repeating refrains of the love and faithfulness of our God.

Nations always rage and shake tiny fists. 
God always laughs; their victims he lifts.
Time will tock tick out, darkness will flicker out.
By God we’ll be kissed; our lightened souls he’ll lift.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation forever. — Psalm 12.7

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Daniel 11  (Listen – 8:13)
Psalm 119:25-48 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Revelation of Love :: Love of Advent
Christ’s apocalyptic second Advent is about releasing God’s love and about releasing us to be received by God’s love.

Read more about Prepare for the End
Whenever and however “the end” comes, we can be soberly prepared, watchfully vigilant, and unwaveringly hopeful. If we suffer, let it be for doing what is right.