After the Whirlwind—Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Hosea 8.2-4, 7
2 Israel cries out to me, 
‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’ 
3 But Israel has rejected what is good; 
an enemy will pursue him. 
4 They set up kings without my consent; 
they choose princes without my approval. 
With their silver and gold 
they make idols for themselves 
to their own destruction. 

7 “They sow the wind 
and reap the whirlwind. 

Psalm 125.3-5
3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain 
over the land allotted to the righteous, 
for then the righteous might use 
their hands to do evil. 
4 LORD, do good to those who are good, 
to those who are upright in heart. 
5 But those who turn to crooked ways 
the LORD will banish with the evildoers. 
Peace be on Israel. 

Reflection: After the Whirlwind—Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

I am writing this devotional on Thursday evening October 29th based not on political events (whatever may occur) but on our readings in Hosea. We have been in this section of the Bible for every election week since 2012 when we started following this reading plan.

Not only is this reading plan nothing new, contentiousness in politics is nothing new to the world or to people of faith. The Athenians thought their fellow Greeks in Sparta to be embarrassingly immature in their voting practices. Whereas Athenians (and most Greeks and Romans) voted by show of hands or by secret ballot, the Spartans rejected these. Sparta preferred to vote by which side shouted the loudest. 

Tomorrow’s vote in the United States concludes a Spartan-like election. Shouting is the new norm, even if our actual votes are by secret ballot. 

With the validity of the United States election process being attacked, from within and from without, many fear that careless, vitriolic words from leaders may inspire physical violence that could erupt from either side of our fractured political spectrum. The outcome itself may be delayed longer than impatient partisans will be willing to wait.

To paraphrase Hosea, we have sown the wind with our violent rhetoric and we may reap the whirlwind of violent outcomes.

This week, we will pray for repentance, patience, peace, and faith using the scriptures from our reading plan. We will pray through the closing chapters of Hosea, beginning today in Hosea’s eighth chapter. 

We pray that in every nation, Christians will repent of any political idols we cling to. Our faith in them will only reap the whirlwind. May we place our trust instead in our true and only king.

After the Whirlwind
Oh God, we confess we have sowed the wind
Of idolatry
Of violent words

We fear reaping the whirlwind
Of violence
Of suffering
Of humiliation

Forgive us for rejecting what is good
Forgive us for dehumanizing our brothers and sisters
Forgive us for demanding
Our freedom
Our lusts
Our way

Help us, Lord, to remember
To repent
To soften 
To turn back to you
May we not waste away, crops lost to the storm
May you have mercy on us, redeem us, and replant us
After the whirlwind

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

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

Today’s Readings
Hosea 8  (Listen – 1:58)
Psalm 123-125 (Listen – 1:52)

Read more about The Language of a Good Neighbor
Where machine-gun-like blasts of vitriol cut through the airwaves, it is only a matter of time before actual bullets fly.

Read more about Killing With our Hearts
We rush to soften Christ’s teaching about violent thoughts and words because we are unwilling to let go of them.

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.