Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Surprising turn around

Have been reading Hosea in my morning readings lately. Though I think I'd seen it before, I'd forgotten what a turn around happens between Hosea 13, the phrase "O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting?" is God searching for the worst possible to pour out on his people, for "Compassion is hidden from my eyes." These sentences, in themselves, are not a message of hope.

In their context in Hosea they're not entirely despair, as they stand within the larger dilemma God is facing which is introduced in chapter 11: "How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?" Yet, within that debate God says he will hand the Israelites over to Assyria to receive terrible judgement. The hint of hope is simply that God won't bring the nation to an entire end. He will judge and the people will suffer, but there will be a future post-judgement for Israel as a nation. For the individual living through judgement this would be little comfort. In Hosea's prophecy, it matters a great deal whether you stand before or after judgement.

And so when Paul picks up Hosea in 1 Corinthians 15 there's this massive turn around. Paul says that at the resurrection, judgement will have been and gone for the Christian, for they will be "clothed with the impreishable" and the sting of death will be gone. In Hosea's history, they will stand after judgement. How is this possible? Because the power of the sting of death (that is, the law that condemns sin) has been dealt with in Jesus, through whom God "gives us the victory". Within Hosea's scheme, Paul is implying that judgement has been and gone. The terrors of death that God would pour out have already been poured out—on the cross.

At once we breath a sigh of relief. But if we've understood Hosea, we also look back at the cross with newfound awe. On the cross, Jesus bore the worst judgement possible, for that is what our sins deserved. What a humbling thought.

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