Hosea 13 – Silver and God

Hosea 13 Bible with Chocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch

Today’s ChocolateChocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch

Today’s PassageHosea 13

I’m wary of drawing analogies between our present-day situations and those in the Bible. Sometimes the Bible isn’t about you. Moses’ story doesn’t exist solely so you can draw parallels between the Exodus and your putting in your two weeks’ notice at your old job. God made Moses a unique individual and called him to a specific historical purpose; he had a particular relationship with God, and he isn’t just a vehicle for our modern-world metaphors.

That said, man: if Hosea 13 doesn’t seem to me like it could be about 21st-century America.

The chapter is about idolatry, which, as I’ve noted before, refers in the Hebrew scriptures to the act of worshipping an actual physical statue of a god. In Hosea’s day, the people of Israel made idols out of precious metals and other materials. Earlier Hosea mentioned gold and wood (cf. 2:8, 4:12), but here he specifies the work of a silversmith:

And now they sin more and more,
And make for themselves molten images,
Idols skillfully made from their silver,
All of them the work of craftsmen.
They say of them, “Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!” (2)

Hosea’s countrymen encourage each other not only to offer sacrifices, but to kiss the bovine statues representing the Baals. Israel has fostered a culture of idolatry.

In America, we too have fostered a culture of idolatry, in the broader sense of worshipping lesser things. The object of our devotion? Money. If coins hadn’t been rendered so trivial in the past few decades by inflation and digital transactions, I could legitimately say our gods are just tiny idols stamped out by a machine rather than sculpted by a craftsman. Paul tells us to kill off “greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). The connection was readily apparent in an economy where currency meant coins: literal cold, hard cash. America may have gone off the gold standard, but the same idolatrous attitude is alive and well in our hearts, even as our money takes increasingly abstract forms.

Attitudes like this don’t happen overnight. Hosea traces their formation in the hearts of his fellow Israelites: “As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me” (6). I can’t help recalling Yoda’s “fear is the path to the Dark Side” progression: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Similarly, according to Hosea, prosperity leads to satisfaction, satisfaction leads to pride, and pride leads to forgetting God. Prosperity isn’t necessarily or inevitably the path to the Idolatrous Side, but it certainly was for Israel, and we in America are certainly prosperous.

The imagined gods of mythology can’t save us. Statues can’t save us. Wealth can’t save us. Speaking through Hosea, God reminds us that only he can save: “You were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me” (4). He’s speaking in the context of the Exodus from Egypt, and in the next verse, it becomes clear that he’s referring specifically to salvation from the hazards of the desert: “I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought” (5). But I think it’s fair to extend our understanding of salvation to a broader sense. Sated with material goods, we forget our spiritual need for God, for a being who can save us from ourselves.

Prosperity leads to satisfaction. Satisfaction might have led to gratitude. But for the people of Israel, it led to pride. What has it led to for present-day America?

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