Author Flannery O’Connor once wrote that when you’re talking about faith to an unbelieving audience, “you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.” Her story “Greenleaf” tells of a landowner named Mrs. May, her hired hand, and an ornery bull. Mrs. May does everything in her power to keep the bull off her property. Finally, she orders her hired hand, to shoot the offending animal. She drives him to where the bull is grazing and sits on her vehicle’s bumper to wait. In a wild turn of events, the bull gallops straight towards Mrs. May, his horn piercing her heart. O’Connor used this shocking story to illustrate how the grace of Christ can seem violent when it pierces hardened hearts.
Hosea 5:8–14 uses similarly shocking word pictures to describe the war exploits of Judah and Israel. Both nations had flexed their military muscle in foolish attempts at self-preservation. So, with graphic detail, God warned them that this would not end well. “Ephraim will be laid waste” (v. 9) and “trampled in judgment” (v. 11). Judah would drown in God’s wrath, poured out “like a flood” (v. 10).
In verse 12, we read more startling comparisons when God described Himself as a “moth” (or “maggot”) and “rot” to His people. God’s people are like a soldier whose open wounds are festering. God was the gangrene, enabling His people to experience the full effect of their sin. The final metaphor for God (v. 14) is a “lion” who would tear them to pieces and carry them off. No one else would rescue them. While Israel and Judah feared earthly enemies, how much more should they have feared God?
>> Hosea’s audience was “blind and hard of hearing.” What about you? What is God trying to show you that you refuse to see? What is God trying to tell you that you refuse to hear?
Lord, in Your mercy, make Your voice heard in spite of us; don’t let our stubbornness hinder Your Spirit’s work of conviction. Unstop our ears to hear the truths You declare.