Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, "Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, 'Our God,' to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy."
I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon. His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon. They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; your faithfulness comes from me. Those who are wise understand these things; those who are discerning know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
Jesus said to his disciples, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."
While Hosea is not explicitly said to weep, his text is packed with such intense emotions that this highly charged prophet must have given vent to tears. The gospel too, while it does not mention tears, implies them as brother hands brother over to death, and children "turn against parents and have them put to death."
In the book of Hosea, the prophet's pure and lofty ideals for marriage would not permit divorce, despite the infidelities of the spouse. The covenant model kept the prophet from compromising his ideals; he would not accept life as a jungle; it must be life with justice and peace. Hosea condemns the situation in which "There is no fidelity, no mercy." Repentance must be sincere, as inferred in chapter 6, where the prophet concludes, "That is why I slew them by the words of my mouth." But then he evokes God's compassion, "I will heal their defection, I will love them freely; my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel.." Because Hosea's patience bore this abundant fruit, the final editor of the book adds the advice, "Let the one who is wise understand these things; let the one who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, and in them the just shall walk."
In their meeting, Jacob and Joseph realized that tears of grief and of hope can be turned into tears of joy, for as soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his elderly father's neck and wept a long time in his arms. So too, when Jesus warns of family hostility and even of betrayal, he advised us to persevere with high hopes and grand ideals. We are not to fight betrayal with betrayal, but with complete trust in God's ideals of forgiveness and fidelity, and "hold out till the end." Along the way "you will be given what you are to say.. the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you." When this ideal of goodness extends through the entire world only then can humanity's best hopes be realized, and the Kingdom of God will have come.
The gospel is very realistic about the kind of reception that friends of Jesus are likely to get from the world when they bear witness. The reception will be predominantly hostile, and some of that hostility will come even from within their own families. Jesus assures them that they will not be alone when they have to face this hostile world. The Holy Spirit will be given to them as a resource and will inspire their witness.
It could be argued that society today is not as hostile to the faith as when Jesus sent the first disciples. Yet, we know that the values of the gospel are not always respected in the culture of today; many see those gospel values as a threat, especially a threat to what is called human freedom. We are just as much in need of the Holy Spirit today, as the first disciples were, if we are to bear witness to the Lord and all he stands for. We still need the Holy Spirit to inspire our witness to the Lord. The church is as dependant on the Holy Spirit today as it ever was. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is just as available to us today as he was in the earliest days of the church, because the Lord needs our witness today as much as he did then. [MH]