I have been thinking a bit about the odd ending to the reading from Hosea earlier this week.
Sow for yourselves justice,
reap the fruit of piety;
break up for yourselves a new field,
for it is time to seek the LORD,
till he come and rain down justice upon you.
The first line, taken by itself, sounds semi-Pelagian: as if we can somehow make justice happen by ourselves. The last line, taken in similar isolation, sounds quietist, as if God will do all the work making justice take place. It is also, depending upon one’s spiritual temperament, a trifle terrifying; for the scrupulous, “justice” can be a frightening word.
The point, as with any quasi-paradoxical lines from Scripture, seems to be that there is an essential both-and going on. We ought to plant justice in the same way that we plant seeds: not as if we can make corn grow, but knowing that (weather providing) corn will come of our planting. What we do may not be just in any perfect sense—certainly we are not justified by our own efforts—but it is necessary for justice to come about, just as the kernel is not the ear of corn, but is (assuming a natural order of things into which God has not chosen to intervene with a miracle) a prerequisite.
And of course, the fact that justice rains down could be terrifying or splendid, depending upon what is there in the field to meet it. If our little “justice” is poking its head up, the Justice that comes will be refreshing and life- and abundance-giving. But if we haven’t planted any seeds at all, then we shall at best be like those ladies who forgot their oil. In any case, the story told here is, like so many of the ones in Scripture, one of cooperation: justice up and Justice down. One hopes to be congruent in the end.