Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

"A Swallow at Christmas" (Rara avis in terris), by George Cruikshank, c.1850

For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the Lord. Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.
Hosea 4:10-11

The first three chapters of Hosea essentially tell the whole story: Israel has committed adultery and God seeks a divorce. Chapters 4-14 then describe in more detail the grounds for this divorce, with God describing the inevitable outcome of the nation's unfaithfulness. Israel's sin is essentially the sin of self-love. The people may not have consciously chosen to turn away from God, indeed each may argue that they did not, but by turning towards the worship of Bal, the building of idols, the seeking of short-term pleasures and the accumulation of wealth and possessions they cannot help but be turning away from God's laws, which speak against each one of these behaviours. To turn away from God's laws is to turn away from God. It might be said that God dwells within the commandments, and the commandments are the societal manifestation of God. Either way, they are inseparable.

The phrase not have enough is the one that rings out here. The Israelites seek to have their pleasures to excess, and they are left wanting. The needs for love, intimacy, sexual unity, relaxation, and occasional idleness are universal. Taken in moderation they are healthy, restorative behaviours. It is only the excess that is the problem. There is a saying in the group Narcotics Anonymous, "one is too many a thousand never enough" to describe a relapse from a clean and sober life.1 In other words, once we start to indulge there will never be enough to satisfy, and our entire focus will be on getting what we want, indulging, and finding ways and means to get more. It is a spiritual graveyard, and that is the place to which the people of Israel had descended. God describes the near-impossibility of climbing out of such a pit.

1 Who, What, How and Why?, Narcotics Anonymous World Services, circa 1950