The highest virtue of mind is wisdom, and the highest moral virtue is prudence – which is itself a practical wisdom according to the ancient Greeks. Wisdom is joining mind and heart with the proper order. Wisdom understands that although the highest truth provides clarity and brings peace, simply knowing is insufficient. Loving – in, through, and with truth – is what brings meaning and purpose to any order I have discovered in life.
The order I discover always hinges on a real good. In other words, the good I judge to be most important – consciously or unconsciously – is the one that concretely influences all my thoughts, words, and actions. If the most important good for me is food, my life energy will be consumed by figuring out my next meal – and when I’m full I temporarily lose my sense of purpose. If the most important good for me is sex, my life energy will be directed at gratifying those urges – and when they are fulfilled I experience a moment of emptiness and confusion. If the most important good for me is being in control, I will seek to dominate any situation or relationship I find myself in – and when I can’t dominate I avoid or attempt to destroy.
As we go through our life in search of wisdom, we are looking for the highest good and how to order our life in accordance. Aristotle remarks that human happiness could only be achieved by a life choice for a personal good – that personal good must be a reality that is either equivalent to or superior to ourselves in terms of being. The commandment of loving God and neighbor above all else is not just a rule, it is wise counsel for happiness.
“Holy people have never testified that they attained by their effort the right path to travel on as they made their way to the increase and perfection of virtue. Rather they would plead to the Lord and say, “Direct me in your truth,” and, “Direct my way in your sight.” Another one declares that it is not by faith alone but also by experience and, as it were, in the very nature of things that he has seized upon this, [saying], “I have known, O Lord, that a person’s way is not in him, nor is it in a man to walk and to direct his own steps.””1
“The final verse is evidently a piece of advice to the reader. It seems to imply that the prophecy has already become an object of study and a guide to life. Although somewhat intellectual (it emphasizes wisdom, understanding, and knowledge), it is in keeping with the concerns of the prophecy. The author, whether Hosea or another, characterizes idolatry as ignorance and folly (4:6, 14). His concern is for knowledge of God (4:1, 6; 6:3). Most recently Israel has been called an unwise son (13:13).”2
“Take with you words—instead of sacrifices, namely, the words of penitence here put in your mouths by God. “Words,” in Hebrew, mean “realities,” there being the same term for “words” and “things”; so God implies, He will not accept empty professions (Ps 78:36; Is 29:13). He does not ask costly sacrifices, but words of heartfelt penitence.”3
Take words with you, and return to Yahweh. Say to him, “Take away all guilt; accept good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips.
The Hebrew reads “bulls” in place of “fruit,” with the resultant idea, “we will offer our lips as [sacrificial] bulls,” the reading supported by the DSS, LXX, and Syr.”4
“If sacred truth, when challenged by blasphemy, is met by silence, even that silence may be falsely construed as consent.”5
“Moreover, he who loves money and is aroused by the corruptible beauty of the body and esteems exceedingly this little glory here, since he has expended the power of loving on what is not proper, he is quite blind in regard to the contemplation of him who is truly beloved.”6
“When you decide to keep the command of this precept and reject all other gods and lords and have no god or lord except the one God and Lord, you have declared war on all others without treaty.”7
“This virtue consists in nothing else but in loving what is worthy of love; it is prudence to choose this, fortitude to be turned from it by no obstacles, temperance to be enticed by no allurements, justice to be diverted by no pride. Why do we choose what we exclusively love, except that we find nothing better? But this is God, and if we prefer or equate any creature with God, we know nothing about loving ourselves. We are made better by approaching closer to him than whom nothing is better. We go to him not by walking, but by loving. We will have him more present to us in proportion as we are able to purify the love by which we draw near to him, for he is not spread through or confined by corporeal space; he is everywhere present and everywhere wholly present,26 and we go to him not by the motion of our feet but by our conduct. Conduct is not usually discerned by what one knows but by what one loves; good or bad love makes good or bad conduct.”8
- John Cassian, Conferences 3.13.1
- Andersen, F. I., & Freedman, D. N. (2008). Hosea: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 24, p. 647). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
- Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, pp. 662–663). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Brannan, R., & Loken, I. (2014). The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible (Ho 14:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
- Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity 5.1-2. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 164). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Basil, EXEGETIC HOMILIES, HOMILY 17. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 164). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Origen, On Exodus, Homily 8.4. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 164). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Augustine, LETTER 155, TO MACEDONIUS. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (pp. 165–166). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.