Weekly Meditation: 24th July 2016

Hosea 1:2-10

Psalm 85

Colossians 2:6-15

Luke 11:1-13

Hosea’s prophecy begins with what is probably the strangest command in the entire Bible. Hosea is told to take an adulterous wife who will give him illegitimate children (1:2). It was the beginning of an enactment of Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s forgiveness. Each child born to Hosea and his wife was given a prophetically significant name – Jezreel (God scatters), Lo-Ruhamah (not loved) and Lo-Ammi (not my people).

It seems amazing that Hosea obeyed God’s command, but he had the assurance that God’s rejection of his people would not be permanent; the people whom he had called ‘Not my people’ would become ‘sons of the living God’ (1:10). Perhaps Hosea also realised that the troubles that his marriage would bring could eventually be resolved, as indeed they were (3:1-3).

Faithfulness and obedience to God are central to the lives of Christians. Paul gave wonderful encouragement to the members of the church in Colossae. They had already demonstrated their faith and love; now Paul exhorted them to ‘continue to live in him’, putting down deep roots to strengthen themselves and to ‘overflow with thankfulness’ (2:6).

Paul must have been mindful of the centuries of unfaithfulness among God’s people who were so easily distracted by pagan deities and practices – unfaithfulness such as Hosea had witnessed and that had evoked such drastic action from God. Paul warned the Colossians not to be similarly distracted by ‘hollow and deceptive philosophy’ (2:8). He was thinking, most likely, of the influence of Gnosticism which promoted the search for secret knowledge in addition to faith in Christ. Gnosticism was a major stumbling block in the early Church, a temptation to those who found the doctrine of grace through faith too simple. In Colossae, there were also Judaisers who taught the necessity of adhering still to the Jewish law (see 2:16-17).

The antidote to such false ideas was to focus on Jesus. Paul urged the Colossians to be dependent on Christ in who lived ‘all the fullness of the Deity’ (2:9). He reminded them that they had a better “circumcision” than the Jews, performed not ‘by the hands of men’ but ‘by Christ’, and their baptism linked them with Christ who had risen from the dead (2:12).

Paul wrote with powerful imagery of the ‘written code’ (the law) being ‘cancelled’ by being ‘nailed to the cross’, and of Christ having ‘disarmed the powers and authorities’ in his triumph on the cross (2:14-15). It all sounds well worth fighting for, but a battle nevertheless; humans are, it seems, easily led astray. And so our gospel reading reminds us of the importance of prayer, the pestering prayer of someone who will not give up or take no for an answer. In his teaching, Jesus uses imagery of a friend knocking on a door and asking for bread, even though the householder is already settled down in bed (5-8). We might think of a child pestering for sweets or a toy – how many parents give in just for some peace? It might seem strange for God to ask us to importune him repeatedly, to try to wearhim down, but that is exactly what we aretold to do; keep asking, keep knocking and the door will be opened (Luke 11:9).  Sinful humans know how to give good things to their children; how much more will our heavenly Father provide us with what we need (11:11-13).

By Susan Thorne