We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands;
for in you the orphan finds compassion.
Hosea 14: 4
What do orphans have to do with idolatry?
Yet Hosea has the people giving up idolatry in the light of the Lord’s compassion on orphans.
In Israel, the care of orphans and widows was an essential part of keeping the Covenant with God.
In a male-dominated society, a woman without a man to care for her and a child without a male protector were helpless, since they without connection to any support system. Thus the community had the obligation to see to their needs. Failure to care for them was a failure to live as the People of God.
Idolatry means placing our hopes in something which is not God, but is of our own making. Idolatry is often a response to insecurity or to the need to have something that gives us power or protection.
Pope Francis has talked of the fetishism of money, how we give money a magical power to control us, thinking it will save us.
Hosea also sees reliance on horses – that is war alliances with Egypt – as idolatry, thinking we can save ourselves by weapons, the work of our hands.
But our God is a God who cares for the orphans, who identifies with them. There is security when we follow our God in our love and care for the orphan.
I think that President Eisenhower’s remarks in a April 16, 1953 speech also reflects the problem of choosing between idols and orphans
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Lenten conversion means turning away from idols and turning to the care of those in need – not just in our personal lives but in our nations.