October 2014

\"I will betroth you to me for ever ... I will show my love\" 
[Hosea 2. 19-20]

Hosea was a sensitive and perceptive person. One of the 8th century BC prophets, he lived in the Northern kingdom of Israel. Both Amos and Hosea prophesied judgment on Israel. The nation was i n decline, morally and spiritually. Amos addressed the moral questions, Hosea the spiritual. He saw that religion was being polluted by outside influences: specifically the heathen god Baal was taking the place of Israel\'s historic faith in the one true God, Yahweh, I AM . They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood (Hosea 4.10).

But Israel\'s relationship with God is like a marriage: indeed, there are repeated covenants between God and his people. For his part, God is always faithful, but Israel is often fickle and faithless. What God l ongs for is a renewal of the relationship that existed before the decline, an end to the worship of idols (which is in part relying on the occult), and the making of a new covenant, a new betrothal. So the dominant themes in Hosea are God\'s judgment and God\'s love. These are two sides of the same coin: judgment is not because God is bad-tempered or un-loving, but precisely because he is compassionate, tender and loving.

I will betroth you to me for ever . .. I will show you love. This finds expression beautifully and movingly in the Anglican Communion Service : that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us. When we are feeling fragile and spiritually empty, then we can come back to God as if to a warm marriage relationship: we can return to the closeness of a union that means everything to us.

One of the elements i n a very close friendship, particularly in a marriage, is the ability to communicate without words. There is that sense of rest and peace and silence in wh ich we seem to know exactly what the other is thinking. Here we are at the heart of our contemplative prayer. It may not be particularly easy, any more tha n marriage is easy or friendship is without its difficulties. It is as the words disappear and what is left is the close, intimate relationship with him th at we afterwards realise that we have been with him \"beyond words.\"