My wife is a primary school teacher. One of the less pleasant parts of her job is having to discipline children who have misbehaved. And over the past generation, the discipline options for teachers have (rightly, in most cases) become far more limited. So teachers have to be more creative than just sending children to the deputy for six of the best.
One of my wife’s favoured approaches – which I’ve witnessed first hand when we were youth leaders together, and think should be banned under the Geneva Convention – is the Excruciatingly Long Lecture About Exactly What It Is You Did And Why It’s Wrong. She brings it out particularly in cases where a student has done something to hurt another student, as her way of standing up for justice and fairness. It’s effective because it stops students muttering a perfunctory and insincere “sorry” (like Israel did back in chapter 6) and avoiding having to face the full reality and consequences of their actions.
By this point in Hosea, Israel should have got the message: you’re cheating on God by worshipping fertility gods and seeking security from foreign (ungodly) nations, rather than looking to God to provide. So God’s going to judge you. But then we get three more chapters of pretty much the same message, just expressed using different poetic images, for quite some time. It’s God giving his disobedient people The Lecture – long enough so they are forced to come face-to-face with their sin.
Today, we’re going to read that lecture. Even though you’ve (probably already) got the point. Because the length of the lecture, to some extent, is the point.
Read Hosea 8-10, and contemplate again the times when you’ve been a bit like Israel.
Then tomorrow, we’ll turn to chapter 11, in which God is described not as a school teacher, but as a conflicted parent.