Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Love of a Father: Bible Commentary on Hosea 11:1-11 with a poem by Robert Browning, The All-Loving

Daily Readings
Job 20 Exodus 7:25-8:32 Hosea 11:1-11 I Thessalonians 4

Daily Text: Hosea 11:1-11

The Love of a Father
Love may not be the central theme of Holy Scripture, but it is of Hosea 11:1-11. Buried here in this strange little book about the love of a man for his unfaithful wife and the children she has borne him, is the full blown expression of the love of YHWH for Israel expressed as the love of a father for his child. The images are those common in every parents experience—teaching a child to walk, picking her up when she falls and kissing her bubu’s, nestling his cheek against your own, feeding him. This homey experience is all reproduced as part of God’s love for Ephraim.

The sadness in the piece is that the ‘child’ wants nothing to do with the father. He is bent on finding another guide, another god, one whose existence is not even sure, but illusory and false. This ‘child’ rescued by the God-father from slavery and oppression makes the inevitable choice to return to that state, and God will not prevent him.

Loving father though he may be, God’s otherness is clearly maintained. He is deeply angry with this ‘child’ for his waywardness, but he chooses not to execute his anger. He is not at the mercy of his feelings, though he has them. He is God and no mortal. “The central feature to the understanding of God in the Hebrew Bible is divine superiority to nature” [478:357]. He cries out in agony as he watches Ephraim move towards his own destruction, but he promises not to destroy completely this sinful prodigy. While his very being recoils, his ‘compassion grows warm and tender.’ Later, in the New Testament, on ‘the cross, God himself pays the penalty for man’s sin and satisfies his own justice’ [482:56]. Such a father! Here he allows accountability, but when suffering exile causes Ephraim to once again pursue ‘after the Lord,’ he welcomes them back, returning them to their homes and to the Lord’s land.

The All-Loving
Robert Browning

So the All-Great were the All-Loving too—
So, through the thunder comes a human voice
Saying, “O heart I made, a heart beats here!
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself.
Thou hast no power nor may’st conceive of mine,
But love I gave thee, with myself to love,
And thou must love me who have died for thee!”

Collect for the Day
Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. [BCP 216:Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany]


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