The prophet Hosea, in chapters 8 and 9 of his prophetic book, proclaimed a message of warning and impending doom to his contemporaries in Northern Israel. The ominous nature of what the future held emerged in images like “reaping the whirlwind” and “one like a vulture over the house of the Lord.” Hosea’s messages responded to political and religious corruption in his time. They also reflected how wealth and prosperity can dull a people’s longing for God. The prophet intoned verdicts of horror: “the days of punishment have come,” ”corrupted as in the days of Gibeah” (see Judges 19 if you don’t catch the reference to a most dismal and emotionally-wrenching moment in Israel’s history), and “no birth, no pregnancy, no conception.” The nation that traced its origins to delivery from slavery in Egypt would be surrendered to slavery in Assyria.
The prophet proclaims doom, but his inner tension, and love for his people, emerges in a hastily gasped prayer in Hosea 9:14:
“Give them, O LORD – what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.”
His culture viewed barren women as cursed by God. Hosea’s prayer foreshadows a time when inability to conceive would seem a blessing; the children who had not been born would not suffer the horrors inflicted by Assyria. Times of trouble and suffering can transform our values and our desires. In prosperous times, we pray glibly our thanks for food and shelter. When we lose everything, we pray desperately for bread and water, we cry out our petition for a safe place to sleep.
Have you begun a prayer, then stopped when you realized that you had no words to capture what was needed or possible? That was Hosea’s realization as he halted this prayer, then concluded with a petition that a curse would be made a blessing.
- Bible quotes are taken from the English Standard Version.
O God who warns of catastrophe while we blunder ahead naively, open our eyes and renew our situational awareness. Spare us the horrors Israel witnessed at Gibeah, and later at Bethel. Turn our hearts to trust in you; spur us in love to obey before it is too late. Hear our prayer while we still can pray with hope in Jesus’ name, amen.