Photo credit to Dr. Gemma Andrada.
“Israel has cast off the thing that is good…” Hosea 8:3
Oh, that’s sad, isn’t it? It’s so sad when people stop doing good things and stop doing what’s right, isn’t it? Is that what this is about? Is Hosea telling us that God is bringing judgment on Israel because they aren’t doing the good things He said to do? Is this all because Israel isn’t meeting the good requirement? Or is this about something more?
Is God looking for people who are concerned about being good performers? Are You, Lord? When Israel cast off the thing that is good, was it really about them or was it about casting off and abandoning the ONE THAT IS GOOD? Were they abandoning every thing that resembled You in their thinking and acting and honoring and desiring? And when we do that, does it make an impact on what our lives look like and the influence we have on others and on what influences our own lives?
Maybe it’s best to take the time to look back at what “good” is in the first place. And that search takes the seeker back to Genesis where You, God, saw the light, that it was good. Now, in calling light good, You first needed to see that light and You needed to be able to distinguish that it was good. This is just a thought, but maybe it’s worth thinking about. What does it mean when You saw the light? What does it mean for You as God to see? Is it just about looking and describing? Or is it more?
What about the story of Hagar, lost and alone with her son in the wilderness. And You spoke to her. And she identified You by this name: the God of Seeing, El Roi, and remarked concerning that name, “Have I even here seen Him that sees me?” But I wonder if there isn’t some subtle difference between this same word root raah used for Hagar’s seeing and for Your seeing. It’s related also to the description in Your name of roi. And I ask that because if You had never seen and identified Hagar first, would she have seen and identified You? I think not. So I think there is a greater depth and quality to seeing that You demonstrate that far surpasses our human thought of sight.
So did You just see light and describe it’s qualities? Or did You see so deeply into the essence of light that You knew all its purposes? I mean, after all, You saw even how to create it. And when You called the land Earth and gathered the seas and saw that they were good, were You just naming them? Or did You know something deeper about each? And creatures producing after their kind and not after another kind, is that because of seeing something deeper in them than just being or existing?
Think of God’s warning to Adam. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) Jesus said, “There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18) So, you might ask, where does Jesus get the right to say that? There is no direct quote in the Old Testament Scripture saying it that way. Maybe it’s just as simple as seeing things through the right lenses.
The Shema, from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 starts with, “Hear, O Israel; the LORD our God is one LORD: and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the posts of your house, and on your gates.” And we, like Israel, have seen this all wrongly. This God of unity in diversity somehow became seen as a God who strips us of our being. But You, God, are the One who placed diversity into the world and into Your children. Only You place this diversity that is most glorified and only glorified when it shines according to Your making and Your purpose.
None of this was too hard or bad for us. It should have been our delight because You should have been our delight. Everything we do and are was to reflect what You are for us. You called us to a relationship of uninhibited love for You and from You. We should be giving You our whole hearts and souls and might and living that out before all around us. Your goodness should be like jewelry adorning us. But somehow our vision got impaired and we don’t see things Your way, the true way.
There’s an interesting thing I noticed about seeing. That word for seeing, raah, is also the word for evil, only it’s stressed differently. Two words, so close, yet so different. And maybe that’s important to see, that how I see You will make all the difference in whether I am good like You or make evil choices. Because You are Good. Therefore, to choose anything other than Your will and Your way is evil. That’s what You’re telling us. And You have the right to tell because You created us.
“I YHWH [the LORD] and none else, forming light and creating darkness; making peace and creating evil-I YHWH do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:6-7 translation: M. Buber) In most translations we won’t see the word evil, but calamity instead. It makes it too hard for us to see if we think You create evil. How do we explain that. But isn’t the truth that anything that is not of You and of Your goodness, is evil? Twist goodness and what do you have? Change the stress on raah, just a little, and it’s no longer good. Could that be what Israel had done? Could that be what we are doing? Could I be guilty of that?
Let’s think about Isaiah’s time and what he said. During the 4th Century BC the Babylonians had their astral gods. These gods were the creators of light and darkness. These same astral gods were the ones who produced the offspring that were the lesser gods causing good and evil. They determined the fate of men and to receive favor from them, they required appeasement. Isaiah blew that pagan belief away. God was totally different. He revealed Himself to Cyrus. He created without any help light and darkness and everything in the human sphere, everything that controls what we think of as peace and evil. It’s shalom- absolute well being contrasted with ra-evil. Tob or good is taken to a deeper level of shalom. It’s not about performance. Shalom and peace and well-being is from God and in God. Evil comes “as a result of resistance to God.”(Buber) But then there is that evil that we call adversity and affliction. God fashions that for His purposes and our good, though shalom shall rule. One day, there will be no form of evil from resistance or from adversity or affliction.
Maybe the Old Testament saints never had to call You good for You to be good. Skip Moen shares, “‘Good’ is not a separate category of qualities that are attached to the character of God. In ancient Hebraic thought, whatever God does is good because good is defined by what God does. God does not have moral qualities called ‘good.’ God is good since God Himself is the standard that determines goodness. There is no outside code of conduct applied to God to see if He measures up. Good is defined by what God does. Therefore, when Isaiah speaks God’s words and says, ‘creating ra,’ this also is part of the standard of God’s goodness. God cannot do what is morally reprehensible because what God does is, by definition, good- no matter what it appears to be from a human perspective.” Yep, we’re still suffering from the same problem as Hosea’s day.
Israel has spurned the good. That’s the same as saying, “Israel has spurned God.” See, it’s one thing to cry out, “My God, I know You!” and it’s another to really live as You are my God or that I really know You. We can choose our own kings and our own way without ever consulting You and just drag You behind us. Well, not really, but that’s how we can act. My silver and gold and job or kids or friends or lifestyle can become an idol and my own destruction because I just can’t see the truth because I just don’t want to see it. I can want to see things my own way and design my own good. But I’m not the Creator. What is good has already been designed and set. The standard is not mine to choose. But I am invited to live in the well-being of that already established standard by living in the presence of the One who is that standard.
The problem then and our problem today is that we have forgotten our Maker and have busied ourselves with pretending to be makers ourselves. But all the pretending we do, won’t make it true. I want to remember that You are my Maker and the Maker of everything and everyone around me. I want to really see the way You see. I want to live in Your goodness, whether it brings laughter or tears. Because Your goodness isn’t about rules and regulations. It’s about an eternal relationship with You that starts in the here and now. You alone are GOOD. Everything about You. Who else would send Jesus to go through what He did for people like us? Who would suffer for someone who didn’t deserve it? And if my absolutely Good God accepted evil as something that You had to live through, then shouldn’t I accept the good with the evil? I just want to understand Your way, to see Your way, and to live in You Your way. May I ever pursue You and not my own way.