Pain and Healing

Scripture Focus: Hosea 6.1-3
1 “Come, let us return to the Lord. 
He has torn us to pieces 
but he will heal us; 
he has injured us 
but he will bind up our wounds. 
2 After two days he will revive us; 
on the third day he will restore us, 
that we may live in his presence. 
3 Let us acknowledge the Lord; 
let us press on to acknowledge him. 
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.” 

Reflection: Pain and Healing
By John Tillman

Hosea is famous (infamous?) because of the titillating detail that he married Gomer, a promiscuous woman. There are other sexual details in the text as well.

God is angered by idol worship that involves shrine prostitutes and sexual acts. He expresses concern for the illegitimate children born due to this activity. Hosea gives his own children names that imply that they are adulterously conceived. 

Hosea’s reconciliation forbids Gomer from prostitution, implying that she was a prostitute at one time. Hosea’s poetic analogies, comparing Gomer to Israel, reinforce this. At least one of Gomer’s sexual partners “loved” her. Was she a prostitute or just an adulteress? When did these things occur? Was she always unfaithful or did it develop? Was she sleeping with many men or just “loved by another man”? (Hosea 3.1)

Reading the Bible well includes becoming comfortable with some ambiguity. Obsessing over missing details isn’t the main point of studying the Bible. We can trust that the truths God has for us in his Word won’t be omitted details.

Salacious depictions of Gomer aren’t the point of Hosea. Gomer’s sexual sins only take center stage as a parable comparing idolatry to adultery. It isn’t that God isn’t concerned about sexual infidelity and sin, it is that those actions are symptoms of a deeper disease. Idolatry is the disease. Sexual infidelity was only one manifestation. 

Today, rumors of drug-fueled sex parties might catch headlines and distract us, but God sees little distinction between these alleged events and other expressions of idolatry. Israel worshiped idols promising financial wealth. Alliances formed through idol worship brought political power. When financial benefits, power, or political victories are on the line, do we kneel and kiss whatever ring we must kiss? How then are we different from Gomer?

God describes through Hosea the pain of cutting out the cancer of idolatry from the people he loved. Hosea shows how far God is willing to go to heal and restore. C.S. Lewis describes God’s love as “quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.” God is committed to our healing and restoration. Call on him.

Lord, we have been unfaithful.
In pursuit of liberation, we are imprisoned.
In pursuit of power, we are oppressed.
In pursuit of thrills, we endure tedium.

May your Son set us free, indeed.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Everyone will stand in awe and declare God’s deeds; they will recognize his works. — Psalm 64.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Hosea 5-6 (Listen 3:44
Matthew 9 (Listen 4:56)

​This Weekend’s Readings
Hosea 7 (Listen 2:19), Matthew 10 (Listen 4:07)
Hosea 8 (Listen 1:58), Matthew 11 (Listen 5:06)

Read more about Love Stronger Than Death
The holy jealousy of God leads not to destruction but to redemption and salvation.

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He Is Willing

Scripture Focus: Matthew 8.3, 17
3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.”

Reflection: He Is Willing
By John Tillman

There are three healings in this chapter that add up to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. We will take them in reverse order.

Jesus comes to the home of one of his closest friends and disciples. Peter’s mother-in-law is ill. Jesus heals not just her but many with illnesses and demonic affliction. These were Peter’s friends and neighbors. Fellow Galileans. Fellow Jews. Insiders.

Just prior to this, a Roman Centurion met Jesus at the edge of town, asking that his servant be healed. The Centurion amazes Jesus with his understanding of Jesus’ power and authority. “Just say the word,” he says. Jesus does. He proclaims this outsider an insider by faith and warns many insiders that, when it comes to faith, they may be left outside.

Just prior to this, Jesus is coming down the mountain from teaching the Sermon on the Mount. About love for enemies. About trusting God. About not caring about food or clothing or appearances. He is met by a man who had no choice but to care about appearances. He was a leper.

Cast out of the community, lepers couldn’t work, couldn’t gather to worship, and could not make sacrifices for their sins in the Temple.

Not only did people spurn them for the potential transmissibility of their physical disease, they spurned them for the assumed corruption of their moral character. It was their sins, more than their skin, that people didn’t want to touch.

The leper comes to Christ with an expression of faith but he also comes with doubt. “Jesus, you are able…but are you willing?” Jesus touches and heals.

We may ask the same questions at times. Jesus, are you willing? Are you willing to cross the divide of my sin? Are you willing to even be seen with me? Are you willing to be unclean by being close to me?

Jesus is willing. No matter where you are. Insider. Outsider. Spurned ones. Abused ones. Doubtful ones. Jesus is willing to touch, heal, and restore. It is part of his identity and mission to touch the untouchable and heal. To sit with the sinners and inspire repentance. To confront the proud to bring humility.

He will heal all who come to him. No matter what it costs him. Even if your faith isn’t perfect. Even if you aren’t sure you believe he will. Reach out to Jesus.

He is willing.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Truly, his salvation is very near to those hwo fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. — Psalm 85.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings

Hosea 3-4 (Listen 3:43
Matthew 8 (Listen 4:09)

Read more about Healing the Swollen
Jesus cared for Pharisees swollen with pride. He can heal us too.

Read more about Stretch Out Your Hand
The man with the shriveled hand seems to be there only so the leaders can see if Jesus will break one of their interpretations of Sabbath law. It’s a trap.

The Prodigal Woman

Scripture Focus: Hosea 2.7-8
7 She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
     she will look for them but not find them.
 Then she will say,
     ‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
     for then I was better off than now.’
 8 She has not acknowledged that I was the one
     who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
 who lavished on her the silver and gold—
     which they used for Baal.

Luke 15.17-18
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 

Reflection: The Prodigal Woman
By Erin Newton

As a writer, I struggle with doubt: “How can I say anything that is new?” The teacher in Ecclesiastes would say, “Yeah. There is nothing new under the sun.” Despite this reality, the Bible often reminds me that some good truths are worth repeating.

Many times in the Old Testament we see themes and stories that find a similar counterpart in the New Testament. We see similar tales of watery depths stilled at creation (Genesis 1.2, 9-10) and at the hush of the waves from the voice of Jesus (Luke 8.24-25). There are temptations in the deserts of Egypt and Israel (Exodus 16.1-3; Matthew 4.1-4). In fact, Jesus often responds to questions, “You’ve heard it said…” implying that some truths are worth telling again.

The prophets’ messages were not random, ground-breaking new realities for the people. They spoke messages that reminded people of the truth they already knew. The call to repentance is an ancient word that still speaks today.

The prophet Hosea uses the image of a wayward spouse to speak about the unfaithfulness of Israel. His message compares the divine-human relationship to a marriage. What is expected in such a relationship? Loyalty, love, commitment, and exclusivity. 

Through this analogy, Israel is revealed as disloyal, unloving, uncommitted, and corrupt. The object of her wayward affection is Baal, the god of her neighbors—a deity depicted as a violent storm god engaged in wars for power. She is compelled by her lust and forgets where her substance and beauty come from.

“Well, good thing I would never be a harlot! Never would I worship an idol!” We convince ourselves that we are too sophisticated to be compared to a scandalous woman involved in idolatry.

But Jesus takes the same message and reconfigures the image. No longer is it a spousal relationship. It is father and son. It is not a woman financially dependent on a man but a son who is already destined to receive a future inheritance. It is not Baal who tempts but greed.

This story hits a little closer to home. It sounds like our own testimonies.

Both the woman and the son follow their passions instead of the Provider. Yet both are received within the arms of the one who has always loved them.

God always loved Israel. The father never stopped loving his son. Christ forever loves you.
There is always room to tell this same story—our story—one more time. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
My soul thirsts for the strong, living God and all that is within me cries out to him. 

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Hosea 2 (Listen 3:48
Matthew 7 (Listen 3:31)

Read more about A Chiaroscuro Parable
Like a Rembrandt chiaroscuro painting, with exaggerated lights and darks, Hosea shows the darkness of sin and the bright, hopeful gleams of God’s love

Read more about Trouble and Hope
How does trouble turn into hope? How does the punishment of disobedience become a beacon of mercy in the wilderness?

Heavy Loads Lifted

Scripture Focus: Matthew 6.24-34
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. 

Reflection: Heavy Loads Lifted
By John Tillman

Christ’s moral teachings are the most popular thing about him.

The Sermon on the Mount is recognized worldwide as an aspirational description of a beautiful way to live. Even non-Christians recognize the Sermon on the Mount as the most astute moral teachings ever produced in the history of the world.

It may be a beautiful way to live, but isn’t it impossible? Rich Mullins confronts this humorously in the bridge of his song, “Hard.

“Well His eye’s on the sparrow
And the lilies of the field I’ve heard
And He will watch over you and He will watch over me
So we can dress like flowers and eat like birds.”

It is hard to be like Jesus describes in these teachings. 

Jesus generally commended the Pharisees’ moral teaching. “Do what they say…Don’t do what they do.” He critiqued the Pharisees for tying up “heavy loads” of moral requirements but not lifting them themselves or helping people live them out. (Matthew 23.4)

Aren’t Jesus’ hard moral teachings “heavy loads”?

Who can dress like a flower?
Eat like a bird?
Continually turn the other cheek? 
Go the extra mile? 
Give unrestrainedly to the needy? 
Surrender our security for another’s shelter and safety?

In Mammon’s empire, how can we survive without accumulating wealth? In a world that denigrates the poor, how can we be unconcerned with clothing, food, and shelter? In a world where governments fight for the right to end the lives of the defenseless in the womb, the defenseless in war zones, and the defenseless in borderland river crossings, how can we not worry about our lives and the lives of the vulnerable God commands us to protect?

Who can carry this load? Who can “be perfect” as our Heavenly Father is perfect? (Matthew 5.48; 19.21) Not us. Only Jesus.

Jesus tied this load for his own back. He carried it perfectly. He carries it for us. The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount glimpses the Kingdom of Heaven. One day, we will arrive.

It is too simplistic to say, “We don’t have to do it. Jesus did it.” However, we can say, “Jesus did it for me, and he is doing it within me now.” Together with the same power that raised Christ from the dead, strain toward heavenly living today. (Ephesians 1.19-21; Philippians 3:12-14) Don’t walk away discouraged or sad. “With God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19.21-26) Heavy loads can be lifted.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lesons
I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. — Psalm 7.18

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Hosea 1 (Listen 2:08
Matthew 6 (Listen 4:35)

Read more about Hope In the Tree of the Cross
At the roots of the tree of the cross, we find healing, peace, and power. As we follow Christ, we will become like this tree.

Read more about Pause To Read
Listen to our bonus Easter episode that came out Sunday morning! Subscribe and share some episodes with friends.

Maimed Yet Made Whole

Scripture Focus: Matthew 5.29-30
29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Matthew 18.7-9
7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

Reflection: Maimed Yet Made Whole
By John Tillman

Christ’s resurrected body was glorious and mysterious in many ways. Tangible, yet able to move intangibly from place to place. Physically identifiable, yet at times unrecognizable. Living, yet bearing deadly wounds.

So then, would our wounds persist if we took Christ’s words about removing hands or eyes literally? Will we “enter life” maimed?

If we attempt to interpret our Heavenly existence by these words, we have turned the instrument the wrong way around. This saying is not a telescope for looking into Heaven but a microscope for examining our hearts. It does not tell us what Heaven will be like. It tells us how to live on Earth until the resurrection comes. Yet, reflecting on the resurrection can help us live now.

The life we live now, in the body, we live by faith in the Son of God. In the resurrection body, we will live face-to-face with the Son of God. In this life we must discipline our bodies, our flesh, conforming it to the image of Christ. We begin and continue this work in faith partnered with the Holy Spirit but completion only comes at the resurrection. 

The point of the resurrection is not that life will continue as it is now. Thank God. After tasting this life, would we really say, “More, please.”? If we would, the fault lies in our limited palates and imaginations. There is a better world. A banquet worth indulging in.

The resurrection does not condemn the physical; it redeems it. Our bodies are not evil and our spirits good. The resurrection reclaims and restores our full nature as simultaneously physical AND spiritual. 

What we will be is yet to be known, but we will be like Jesus. Our bodies will be so mysteriously glorious that C.S Lewis said if we could see the average human now as we will be, we would be tempted to worship that glorious being as a god.

Resurrection life will be mysterious and unrecognizable to us now. We see through a mirror darkly, yet we know we will be changed. We will be like the angels. We will be as Christ is, transfigured and resurrected, maimed yet made whole.

Let us live now, straining toward what is ahead, with no regrets for what is behind but with wonder at what is to come. This life will maim us, yet we will enter life made whole.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 8 (Listen 2:23
Matthew 5 (Listen 6:03)

Read more about Amazing Jesus
Every person healed in the Bible, died eventually. Every one of them will be ultimately healed at the resurrection.

Read more about Pause To Read
We published a surprise Easter episode Sunday morning! Subscribe and share some episodes with friends.