Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind
If you’ve been walking with us on this journey though the Bible, you’ll know the history of God’s people. How He rescued them from Egypt and how in their stubbornness, they rebelled against Him time and time again. How they turned to the surrounding nations for help and adopted their pagan ways, rather than sticking to the path set out for them by the one true God. And then each time things would become tough, they would call out to God for help and He would hear them. He delivered them again and again. They came to depend on His mercy and love to get them out of all the messes they created for themselves, however far they strayed from Him.
But now in Hosea 8, the prophet tells of a time where the people will cry out to God and He will not rescue them.
Israel cries out to me,
‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’
But Israel has rejected what is good;
an enemy will pursue him. Hosea 8:2-3
God never intended for His nation to have a king. But they wanted to be like the other nations. They wanted a king and begged God to allow them to have a king. And then look what happened.
They chose to make idols out of silver and gold.
That’s another way you reap what you sow. But more. Much more.
This phrase was used by Arthur “Bomber” Harris about the Blitz in 1940 –
The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put that rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now, they are going to reap the whirlwind.
And again in 1985 by Conservative MP Norman Tebbit condemning permissive society –
Grammar and spelling were no longer important. To be clean was no better than to be filthy. Good manners were no better than bad. Family life was derided as an outdated bourgeois concept. Criminals deserved as much sympathy as their victims. Many homes and classrooms became disorderly – if there was neither right nor wrong there could be no basis for punishment or reward. Violence and soft pornography became accepted in the media. Thus was sown the wind; and we are now reaping the whirlwind.
It’s all about consequences, isn’t it? The consequences of our actions. The consequences of our choices.
It’s interesting, we were all brought up in a system governed by consequences and yet so often, we act with no thought for the consequences. Think of all you heard as you were growing up –
If you’re naughty, Santa won’t bring you any presents.
If you’re good, you can have an ice cream.
If you eat all your dinner, you can have pudding.
If you get into bed nicely, I’ll read you a story.
If you don’t come here now, there will be consequences.
If you’re a kind girl, people will like you.
If you look nice, people will find you attractive.
If you work hard at school, I’ll buy you a treat.
If you do well in your exams, I’ll give you money.
If you don’t work hard, you won’t ever get a job.
Etc etc etc.
We were brought up on consequences and now we are probably doing the same with our children. Because there is an important lesson there (although I’m not saying I agree entirely with the whole of the above reward and punishment thing) – everything we do has consequences. And yet you wouldn’t think that people actually believe that if you take a look around the world today –
If we keep exploiting the planet, we will destroy the planet.
If we keep destroying habitats, species will become extinct.
If we keep eating badly, it will affect our health.
If we smoke, it will kill us.
If we drink too much, we will say something stupid.
If we are unfaithful, then we risk our marriage.
If we spend no time with our family, then our family will fall apart.
If we lie, we will eventually be found out.
If we don’t do our job properly, we will get fired.
Etc etc etc.
And yet people still carry on, don’t they? People keep doing the wrong things and expect to get away with it. People keep making bad choices and don’t think of the consequences. People don’t look after their bodies and then wonder why they get ill.
And so it is with God. His people took no notice of Him and then wondered why He wasn’t there when they needed Him.
Nothing much has changed, has it?
Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings,
these have become altars for sinning. Hosea 8:11
I love the way Hosea puts that. The people built a structure for their faith. A temple and altars and priests and festivals and rituals – all to support their faith, to bring them closer to God. And then that structure became a means for sinning – it was misused, desecrated, corrupted. I think of that when I hear of what is being said in the name of the established Church even today. When what is done in the name of God has nothing at all to do with God. What started out for good reasons of bringing people to faith has become a religious structure that brings division, hatred, judgement, abuse, superiority, misuse of power.
One of my friends on Facebook shared a news article about something from the Catholic Church yesterday and commented ‘And this is why I want nothing to do with religion’. And I wanted to agree with her. That is why I want nothing to do with religion either. Not that kind of religion (I’m not singling out Catholicism here – it could just as easily have been something to do with another established religious institution). That has nothing to do with my faith. It makes me embarrassed and ashamed to call myself a Christian, because I don’t want to be aligned in people’s minds with that kind of opinion. That has nothing to do with God. And it breaks my heart that people like my friend are basing their judgement of our truly amazing, loving, life-giving God on those opinions too. God is so much more than all of that and therefore my faith is so much more than all that.
What will you do on the day of your appointed festivals,
on the feast days of the Lord? Hosea 9:5
God is planning to remove all the traditional supports and religious framework from His people. We’ve seen this actually happen in the Book of Daniel, which falls chronologically after this prophecy from Hosea. The temple has been destroyed. The priests have been captured and scattered. The sacred items have been carried away. And the people have been taken into exile where their festivals are not recognised and practised. God wants them to see how it feels to live without all that. To base their faith on what is going on in their hearts rather than relying on the externals. Because it’s so easy to become reliant on the externals, isn’t it? To go through the motions. To go to church every week out of habit. To sing the songs and say the prayers without even thinking about the words. To go up for Communion thinking about something completely different. To come away satisfied that you’ve ticked that box for another week.
That is not faith. That is not trusting and obeying the one true God. That is not relationship. That is not connection.
That is religion.
And we all know what I think of that.