I love this verse: “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap according to loving-kindness, break up fallow ground, and it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and instructs you in righteousness.” Hosea 10:12.
Perhaps no verse in the Bible better illustrates the duties we bear to God and others and the love we want both to give and to get. Further, these words especially fit the flow and rhythm of living. Think of it as a cycle. The cycle of sowing, reaping, and being instructed never ends. Instruction indeed guides the next rounds of sowing. It’s true that the pattern doesn’t play out in easy or predictable ways. Nor is the way without pain. But the verse gives life purpose, and the whole of it grants peace.
The wonder of this week’s Bible portion in Genesis and its companion text in II Kings is that each of their many stories amazingly follows the cycle established in the Hosea verse. Take a look, and keep Hosea 10:12 in mind.
The rush begins in Genesis:
1. Abraham, the righteous one, though in pain and weak, shows great hospitality to three messengers who appear – feeding them, giving them water, bathing their feet, and providing them rest. In return, they give him the long-hoped-for news that Sarah, within a year, will bear a son.
2. God seeks righteousness in the matter of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham steps forward to make the plea to God that mercy and loving-kindness must accompany righteousness as a part of justice. Through Abraham’s advocacy, we understand why “all the nations of the world will be blessed in him.”
3. Lot shows courage and righteousness in very difficult circumstances in providing hospitality to the angels. They, in turn, rescue him and his family.
4. Abraham has an unfortunate encounter with Abimelech, the result of which is that God shuts the wombs of his wives. Abraham knows that Abimelech had been innocent and prays to God for mercy. In response, God opens up the women’s wombs to bear children, as He will later for Sarah.
5. Though it is right for Hagar and Ishmael to be sent away, Abraham hopes for, and God gives, saving mercy and relief to the mother and child.
6. Abraham contends with Abimelech over wells that had been wrongfully seized. Yet, to resolve the dispute, they give more than is due to reach a fair resolution. In the place they swear their covenant, peace in the name of God is established.
7. Abraham walks with his son out of duty to God, and God shows the enduring loving-kindness of assuring that human sacrifice is never to be required.
8. Abraham, nevertheless, leaves Moriah alone; Isaac leaves wounded; and it may be that Abraham never again sees Sarah. Yet, how does the Biblical portion end? It’s told to Abraham that one descendent after another will come from Milcah until a daughter will be born. And that daughter will be Rebecca. (If you know how this story ends, you should be crying now!)
Why is the text from II Kings paired with this portion from Genesis? I believe it’s because its stories also follow the cycle of the verse in Hosea, and they continue to flow right at us:
1. The widow of a righteous prophet who had helped many other prophets now finds herself destitute. Elisha, the man of righteousness in these stories, shows her loving-kindness. With God’s help and miracle, a bit of oil becomes enough oil to be sold to pay off all debts, saving the woman and her children from servitude.
2. A woman offers poor Elisha the hospitality of room and board. She is childless. Out of love and compassion, with God’s help (and as the angels rewarded Abraham for his hospitality), Elisha tells her that within a year she will have a son. She bears the son, who grows up and one day dies. Elisha, with God’s miraculous help, brings him back to life.
The cycle in Hosea 10:12 plays out in all these stories. We plow in righteousness. We reap loving-kindness. God continues to teach us of righteousness. And we’re blessed with life everlasting. Praised are You, O God, for the gift of this teaching.