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The CEV’s “fat cows” may be in step with modern idiom, but it lacks the class of “The cows of Bashan” (4:1 NIV) The poetry of the putdown. The lush plains of Bashan yield the fatted calf. The imagery of waddling udders and cow bells satirizes the wives of the wealthy, indulgent, drunken, selfish, servant-beating women of Israel. Saturday Night Live meets Real House Wives of Bethel. He threatens, no promises: the cows will be lead away with fishhooks. Warnings had been given and ignored: a crop failure here, a drought there, locusts everywhere.
It is terrible thing to stray from God and no longer encounter crisis. Trouble can always bring us to our knees, to repentance, to seek him for help, for forgiveness, for guidance. The absence of difficulty is not cause for relief. Oh well, God does not really mind, does not care; indeed perhaps there is nothing wrong with what we are doing. His silence seems to be saying: “Sin all you want!” But it is really the eerie, deadly silence of judgment: the calm before the storm. When he abandons us to ourselves, we are not free, we are lost, and he has stopped looking; consequences are coming over the horizon.
How often have you been that “burning stick” that he “rescued from the fire”? How often have “you rejected” him anyway? These stories, these words, they are not just history, they are our story: the rise and fall of Israel, the triumphs and failures of her heroes and villains. They are the narrative of anyone who hears him, in the sharp tongue of his prophets or the piercing shard of conscience or the moments of truth that stalk us as we hide, behind the trees in the garden we forget to tend, as we squeeze the fruit of our disobedience in fists clasped across our shame.
“The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NKJV)
Pierce me, that I may see what you see and live.