What is Your Assyria?

Last night, our nine20 group (part of the Christian Union) studied the first chapter of Hosea. The book starts off with some pretty shocking stuff if you think about it – God commanded the prophet Hosea to marry a known prostitute.

Why?

God was making a point about how Israel had treated him. Hosea’s life was to be a ‘microcosm’ of Israel’s relationship with God, and in turn, how God felt and reacted. The following points summarise the understanding of the passage that we discussed:

– Israel’s relationship with God was like a marriage – and Israel was an adulterous wife because she was worshipping other things (Baal and more), and also turning to other nations such as Assyria for security. Israel should have been faithful to God, not turning to other ‘lovers’ for satisfaction and security.

– Because of this, they were destined for destruction, rejection and no forgiveness (these are illustrated by the names of Hosea’s children). This was to happen regardless of Israel’s future actions.

– But God also promised to remain faithful to his ‘Abrahamic’ promises (Genesis 22:17, 32:12) and restore something of the Davidic line. It gets a bit tricky here: was this section only applicable to Judah, or to both Israel and Judah? And if the latter, should it then be more applied to sometime in the future (as Israel has not since been reunited). It seems to me, on the face of it, that it applies to the return of the exiles (Judah), and to the future – where Christ is the one head of verse 11.

– We noted that the book was written to both Israel and Judah, so it can be concluded that the prophecy was what will happen, and a warning of what could happen (in the case of Judah).

So, considering that the God of Israel then is the same as the God now, what can we learn? We can see that God is faithful, beyond that which we can imagine (verses 10-11). Also that God is merciful – like Israel, we at one point were not a people; we really shouldn’t be saved, but thank God for his mercy! We also can see that God is just, and serious about sin (and our actions have real consequences). Finally, it is possible to see that God’s love is a real thing. He is intimately involved with Israel – he cares how faithful they are.

So what about us? We can praise God for his faithfulness, mercy, love, justice and Sovereignty. We can also rejoice because Christ is that head of Israel – and he was the perfect Israel (and we receive God’s mercy because we are united with him).

We should also look soberly at ourselves. What is our Assyria? God is very serious about our trust in him. Who, or what, do we look to when things are tough, or simply ordinary? What is our Baal? How do we get our pleasure and satisfaction? Is it from our husband, Christ?

I was reminded of the sermon at Beeston free, on Sunday. I tend to get by autonomously – without much help from, or reference to, God. Our culture worships the self – and preaches self survival. Make you own life, and “live it your way”… But that is clearly wrong; Israel was punished for as much! Not only that, but we are God’s people, called to live for each other, and with the help of our family.

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