Removing the Sting
Remember the last time you got stung by a bee? It’s worse if your skin is tough and the honeybee leaves its barbed stinger behind. To help relieve the pain we need to get that stinger out as quickly as possible. Now it’s one thing to remove the sting of a bee. It’s another to try to remove the final pain of death.
In yesterday’s devo Hosea confronted Ephraim’s hardened guilt by declaring that they would face the sting of death. The warriors of Assyria would slaughter them and their nation would die. Hosea has made it clear that this cannot be chalked up to the heartless random wheel of fortune. No, God had made a covenant with them at Mt. Sinai and they had agreed. The argument Hosea sets forth is that again and again they have broken this covenant, and their disobedience will be punished by death. But we have also seen that Hosea doesn’t end his court case with this sentence of death. Suddenly, he will shift and picture a new day—a day when they will be alive, in love with God, and prospering.
Here’s the tension. How can a people who have experienced the finality of death still have a happy ending? Hosea never answers this question. Like the unresolved tension in our favorite TV series that makes us tune in again next week, Hosea forces us to keep moving forward in God’s Story of Redemption. In this case, we have to go to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian believers. Near the end of his classic discussion on the resurrection, he quotes first Isaiah 25:8 and then Hosea 13:14.
“When the perishable has put on the clothes of imperishability, and this mortal has put on the clothes of immortality, then will be fulfilled the words that stand written, ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory!
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus’ death is the climax of the Story. The cross is where Jesus fully experienced the sting of death. He took the divine punishment demanded by the Law that not only Ephraim deserved, but also all of us. But that didn’t end his story and it doesn’t need to end ours. Jesus rose again; therefore, those who died in the Assyrian invasion in Hosea’s time could still shout victory. If they trusted in the Promised Seed that God said would conquer the Serpent and death way back in Genesis 3:15, then the murderous violence of the Assyrian warriors wouldn’t end their story. With us who believe today in Jesus’ death and resurrection, they are going to be clothed in a new body that will be imperishable and incorruptible forever.
LORD, thanks that Hosea forces us to push forward to the climax where your Son removes the stinger of death by the power of his resurrection.
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