“They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade was good. Therefore your daughters play the whore…” (Hosea 4:13).
The whoring that Hosea speaks of is spiritual in nature. Israel is married to the true God but is cheating on Him with local false gods (which are no gods). God has taken Israel as his wife, moved her into a new neighborhood and into a new home, and Israel now has eyes for some of the handsome, adventurous, and overly friendly neighbors. She finds them enticing and exotic. She is smitten. Instead of sneaking to run down motels on the bad side of town to meet her lovers, Israel climbs hills and mountains marked out by the indigenous people as the places to worship indigenous gods. As she makes her way up the mountains away from the temple, the devout ask, “Why are you worshipping there and not in the temple?” Israel responds, “The shade is good. And as you know, there’s no shade in the temple. It’s way too hot; too much direct sunlight. There’s no breeze and no scenery. But I have found a better place.” And so Hosea says, “They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade was good. Therefore your daughters play the whore…”
Let’s be honest. It’s way too easy for our comforts and preferences to conceal idols. The “shade” becomes a cover for an alternative worship, an easy worship. In reality, anything that we add to, omit from, or dilute in God’s word about our response to him is shady worship. How often have we rationalized not giving, not loving, and not serving because of the discomfort? Oh, how it might distract me from serving God in other areas! How often have we rationalized something less than a pure and undivided devotion because something less was more pleasurable, and we all know that God is most glorified when we have the most pleasure…right? I think I read that somewhere. So, we’ll take a little Son, but not too much Son. Too much Son will cause discomfort, and he just might bid me to pick up my cross, deny myself, and follow him. So, we put on Sonscreen, that is, we take into our lives a toned down version of what it means to follow Christ that both assuages our conscience (a little) and yet keeps us well within the borders of the faith.
Hosea’s message is to leave our shady religion (our refinements and abridgments of Christianity) and to bask, tan, and yes even burn if need be, in true devotion to Christ.