First Reading: Hosea 2:16b, 17b, 21-22
Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
16 It will be in that day," says YHWH,
"that you will call me 'my husband,'
and no longer call me 'my master.'
17 For I will take away the names of the Baals out of her mouth,
and they will no longer be mentioned by name.
21 It will happen in that day, I will respond," says
"I will respond to the heavens,
and they will respond to the earth;
22 and the earth will respond to the grain, and the new wine, and the oil;
and they will respond to Jezreel.
World English Bible
2:16b, 17b: Hosea the prophet preached God's Word in the waning days of the Northern Kingdom, called Israel. Both his actions and his words send contradictory messages. God would come in justice to punish the people for their idolatry. Yet, he would woo them back, like a lonely suitor pursuing his beloved.
What made Hosea so striking was his lifestyle. He married one of the ritual prostitutes of Baal, the local fertility god. Hosea, then, lived with a woman whose fidelity was questionable. Instead of divorcing her for her indiscretions, Hosea condemned her adultery but pursued her to win her back. So, Hosea lived his message. Damn the sin. Love the sinner.
In these two verses, Hosea proclaimed God's plan. He would bring the people into the desert for a new Exodus, a time of renewal. Alone with his people, he would pursue his lover and renew their marriage vows (an reference to the covenant on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19-24). While taking the people into the desert might sound like forced displacement, it was actually a chance to start over.
2:21-22 While the people might be unfaithful, God's fidelity was sure and never-ending. He would never revoke his marital promises (actually a simple matter for a Semitic male at the time). He would never abandon his people, like a divorced woman who became homeless. God's people would always remain so, no matter what they did to abandon him.
His fidelity did not stop the Assyrian conquest of Israel in 721 B.C. and loss of the kingdom. But God did promise to remain with his people, no matter the circumstances.
How has God remained faithful despite our sin? How does God call us back, especially when we don't return his love? Or love others as we should?