Okay, the first picture is a clever pictorial joke. The second is of an actual prayer service where a group of people met around the Wall Street Bull statue to pray that the recent bear market would turn to a bull market. Maybe the first one is not so much a joke…
The writer of the book of Hosea uses the unfaithful wife/whore as an allegory for Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. It is also used to show the steadfastness of God’s love for his people – Hosea is commanded again and again to return to his unfaithful wife as God returns again and again to his people.
Chief among the gods with whom the people of Israel strayed was Ba’al[master]. The popular image is of a golden calf [didn’t we see this with Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah?] though the reality of what Ba’al worship was can only be inferred. Hosea says “You have ploughed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten of the fruit of lies. “
The ‘other gods’ of Hosea’s time were perhaps easier to identify. People of that time created statues or images for the largely illiterate masses. So what other “masters” do we have? What do we sacrifice to? On what altars do we place the fruits of our labors?
Hosea points out a few:
“The idols made of gold and silver”.
“The trader in whose hands are false balances” [placing profits above people].
“You have loved the prostitute’s pay on all the threshing floors” [compromising your values for money/continued paycheck].
“You have surrounded me with lies” [twisting the meaning of Christ’s teaching to suit a personal/political agenda].
Attaching some modern names, we have: Fame, fortune, power, ideology, temporal political entities, and of course – ourselves. None of these are “bad” in and of themselves – it is just when we become obsessed with them, placing our focus on them and filtering our actions of what is right or wrong based on them.
I certainly have been guilty of serving other masters, other false gods. I have burnt considerable offerings/ fruits of my labor/time seeking many of the above. As I suspect we all have from time to time.
I am comforted by Hosea’s image of the God-Who-Always-Comes-Back. The God who desires only steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God and not burnt offerings. We need only return to our God, and hold fast to love and justice.
Lord, help me when I stray from you. Help me to see when I am straying so that I will return more quickly.
Amen. Amein. Ameen.