The punishments and rewards depicted in Hosea are horrifyingly “over the top” to our modern senses. But to those ancient civilizations, living among barbaric rulers, those horrors rang with familiarity. Here were God’s warnings in language they would heed.
If set in a 2019 Bible, God’s admonitions might center around our concepts of psychological torture and bliss. Our post-despotic Christian societies, with newer-age spirituality, may induce our God to challenge us in alternative, more loving, less violent language.
In Mark, speaking to the Pharisees and Herodians who were trying to trip him up and to a scribe whom had just been won over by his answers, Jesus responded that both the first and second commandments are the greatest. Love the Lord with whole heart, soul, mind and strength and love thy neighbor as thyself.
In response to these commands to love, I believe we need to up the ante, consciously loving our cantankerous neighbors in the apartment next door, shopkeepers, repairmen, etc. …perhaps pressing a protein bar into the hand of a homeless person We need to bless them and receive surprising blessings in return.
Some of us will find our way back to God, finding Him in nourishing relationships, in the arts, in music, or in nature. But many feel God’s presence in the Bible to be more direct, a recognizable promise which resonates with trust and faith.