As noted under Chapter 7, Benjamin’s tales of Israeli monarchs follow biblical history. The description of Hosea’s refuge mixes that history with this novelist’s imagination. Jeroboam 1 did build substitute places of worship in Bethel and Dan so that his people need not travel to Jerusalem. The Bethel building’s decay follows what could have happened as subsequent kings and queens adopted foreign worship practices while the Hebrew faithful continued to go to Jerusalem.
In Chapter 8, we watch Hosea seek Benjamin’s help in caring for sick and wounded visitors. Exhausted, aching, the young man struggles to understand what’s going on. In the end, he rises to the challenge not due to anything Hosea says, but because Benjamin recognizes the need. That knowledge shames the young man even as he finds the strength to aid these people.
Have you faced similar tests, your reluctance due perhaps not to weariness or poor health, but feelings of disinterest, uncertainty, inadequacy, or a simple lack of time or resources? What did you do?
This encounter, and those that follow, help jumpstart Benjamin’s spiritual growth – with Hosea as his guide. Have you ever been blessed with such a clear example to follow? Most initiates in the faith are not so fortunate, choosing or falling under the influence of people who may lead them astray. All people – even the most righteous – will make bad choices or mistakes from time to time. They may stumble into temptation or deliberately sin. Some may even turn against their faith, while a few may well intend to deceive, wrapping themselves in an illusion of faith to achieve their own purpose.
This is one reason why some new believers, not to mention skeptics and atheists, turn their backs over time on Christianity and God. Few things discourage or deaden faith like broken trust or apparent hypocrisy.
This makes Hosea’s advice all the more poignant. When Benjamin asks the prophet to explain what he does and how he knows what will happen, Hosea refuses.
“Later, maybe, I will tell you,” he says. “When you can believe.”
That’s good advice. Only people with an open mind – those ready to consider all options and make an honest evaluation of what faces them – may come to faith in God or Christ.
If you believe, consider how you came to this decision. Did you experience times when perceived duplicity or fakeness made you doubt yourself or others? If you do not accept God or His Son – if you reject even the concept of a creator – have you ever truly asked yourself why you feel this way? Have you ever weighed the evidence with an unbiased eye, or considered the possibility that you were wrong?