“Put a horn to your mouth. He comes like an eagle against the house of YHWH because they have broken My covenant and have sinned against My law.” Hosea 8:1
Covenant/Law – Why could Abraham Heschel say, “A Jew without Torah is obsolete”? Heschel recognized that the covenant is directly tied to the Torah. If I don’t have the Torah, I don’t have the covenant. I am effectively no longer a Jew and I am no longer a part of God’s covenant community. To be His is to live according to His instructions. Hosea couldn’t be more straightforward. But we might miss it in English, so let’s take a closer look at the text: avru veriti veal-torati pashau.
Avru – to pass over, to cover, to cross over. “They went beyond the bounds of” is the sense of this verb. Israel didn’t simply ignore God’s instructions. They pushed the envelope wherever the opportunity arose. How did they do this? They trod on God’s compassion and forbearance. In other words, they thought to themselves, “Well, this isn’t really that big of a deal. God’s promise is unbreakable, so He won’t really turn away.” The same verb that describes God’s overlooking the sins of His people is now used to proclaim their arrogant assumption of His forgiveness. Does this sound familiar?
Veriti – from berit (“my covenant”). Ah, now we see why Hosea uses the verb avar (avru, third person plural). Israel took God’s covenant for granted. This isn’t about individual and corporate sins. It isn’t about disobedience. That comes next. This is about an attitude of superiority. Israel assumed that because God made a covenant with them, they were not expected to be 100% committed. They assumed that because God loved them, they could slide a bit. They assumed that because God was compassionate and merciful, they didn’t really have to work at fulfilling His assignment. They were a divinely protected class, different from all those pagans. Does this sound familiar?
Veal- torati – “and against my Torah”. Now comes the disobedient part. It’s bad enough to have an attitude of religious superiority that insults the benevolence of the Creator. It’s sinful pride to assume that God will continuously overlook our failures to embrace His covenant agreement. But it’s worse when His people violate His directions for living. It is His torah, not ours. Israel exists because of its prophetic tradition. The prophets gave Israel God’s instructions for life. To disobey is to reject the God who gave Israel its very existence. We might say precisely the same thing about the Church. It exists because God gave it life. To disobey God is to reject the life He gives. We don’t get to choose which set of instructions we will follow. It isn’t our Torah. It is torati – “my Torah.”
An African bishop once commented on the Church in America. “I never knew you could do so much without God.” I wonder if Hosea wouldn’t say the same thing.
Now I am sure you are going to ask, “But what about Billy Graham? What about Mother Teresa? What about my friends or my pastor? They don’t keep Torah. Are you saying that they don’t belong to God’s kingdom?” No, I am not saying that. Neither is Hosea. What I am saying is what Hosea says. If those who call themselves by His name continue to live in disobedience to His instructions once they know what He requires, then they are on very dangerous ground. There are sins of ignorance. They do not damage our relationship with the Father until we realize they are sins. Then we have to do something about them. Once you know, you’re stuck. Welcome to the mud! Now life is going to get a lot more messy.
My greatest concern is for those who refuse to consider rethinking the foundations. It is one thing to be unconvinced. It is quite another to reject the consideration. Hosea speaks to those who should have known better. There are so many today who don’t know because no one has taught them. Those who do know are obligated to live according to their understanding, and to help others see the Way by the way they live.
Topical Index: torah, abar, Hosea 8:1, torati