A Loving God and A Loathsome People!
In his love for his people, God wants to spoil his children and do everything possible for them, but in his holy justice he knows he must discipline them for their refusal to obey him.
In the final four chapters Hosea shifts to the theme of God’s intense love for Israel. God had always loved Israel as a parent loves a stubborn child, and that is why he would not release Israel from the consequences of its behavior.
In his love God debates with himself about how he should deal with his lying people.
WHEN ISRAEL was a child, then I loved him and called My son out of Egypt.
Hosea 11:1 (AMP)
God takes center stage as he debates with himself about the proper course of action with his unruly children. “I offered my best,” he declares. Perhaps that is all a father can hope to say in retrospect. A father hopes to trace his relationship with his child and say, “I did everything I knew how to do.”
Looking at his adolescent son, Israel, God the Father could certainly say that he had given them his best. He loved Israel. The Egypt experience proved that God took a nobody and created a powerful nation. He showed the strongest nation in the world that it had no power like that of God.
The more [the prophets] called to them, the more they went from them; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to the graven images.
Hosea 11:2 (AMP)
But the child did not turn out so well. He found young love with other gods. Exactly how Israel did that depends on how a person reads the text. The Hebrew text reads literally, “They called to them; thus they walked before them.” The Greek Septuagint reads, “Just as I called them, just so they departed from my face.” The NIV follows the Septuagint. The meaning of “from before” is difficult, but it apparently means that Israel heard the call of the Baals, went to them, and then walked out of their presence to continue with their lives.
So not only did Israel center their attention on mere ritual and sacrifice (Hosea 4:13-14; 6:6; 8:13; 9:4); they even worshipped the wrong object. The carved images should have been burned up or chopped down (Deut. 12:3). They were the way the pagan nations worshipped – a way God refused to share (Isa. 42:8), a way that led God to punish Israel (Mic. 1:7). But Israel’s history was strewn with such carved images (Isa. 10:10), whose worship Israel mixed with that of the Lord (2 Kings 17:41). It enraged God (Ps. 78:58). He looked to the day when Israel would throw such images away (Isa. 30:22).
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them in My arms, but they never knew that I healed them.
Hosea 11:3 (HCSB)
Still God did not turn away. He took the toddler by his arms and taught the child to walk. He cared for the sick child, healing all the childhood diseases (Deut. 32:39). What a picture of God – the parent on hands and knees helping the baby walk and then bending over the baby’s sleeping place as a paediatrician with the right medicine to stop his cough. God had done everything possible for Israel. But Israel did not realize (literally “know”) it!
Who was guiding them on through human means with reins made of love. With them I was like someone removing the yoke from their jaws, and I bent down to feed them.
Hosea 11:4 (CJB)
God’s discipline requires times of leading and times of feeding. Sometimes the rope is taut; sometimes it is slack. God’s discipline always loves, and its object is always the well being of the beloved.
Israel fit his animal picture perfectly. They constantly welcomed foreign masters and allowed alien rulers to put yokes of tribute and slavery on their backs.
Was Israel more than a dumb animal?
It did not matter. God’s incomparable love remained the same.
He will not return to the land of Egypt, but Ashur will be his king, because they refused to repent. The sword will fall on his cities, destroying the bars of his gates, because they follow their own advice. My people are hanging in suspense about returning to me; and though they call them upwards, nobody makes a move.
Hosea 11:5-7 (CJB)
On more than one occasion, God could have destroyed the nation and started over again (Ex. 32:10), but He chose to be longsuffering. When the journey became difficult, the Jews wanted to go back to Egypt; they complained when they should have been praying and giving thanks for God’s mercies.
We have already seen that some of the references to Egypt in this book refer to the “new bondage” in Assyria (Hosea 11:5). Israel refused to repent, so the nation had to go into captivity. They made plans without consulting God, so their defenses would fall before the invaders. The only time they called on God was when they were in trouble, and God graciously helped them; but now the end had come.
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? I have had a change of heart; My compassion is stirred!
Hosea 11:8 (HCSB)
God faced a crisis point. He had to decide.
Would he set himself up as the final judge and execute his people, or would he execute his plan of salvation?
Would justice triumph in the divine nature, or would love?
Here we see the depth of divine love as God himself struggles to avoid bowing to the overwhelming evidence and sentencing his people to death. Hosea pictures God arguing with himself.
How could he possibly surrender his people to another nation that worshipped another god?
How could he reduce them to the fate of being mere footnotes in history like Sodom and Gomorrah’s satellite cities, Admah and Zeboiim (Deut. 29:23)?
Listen to the Father agonize over his beloved children:
- I raised you as a child.
- I taught you to walk.
- I put everything I have into you.
- I delivered you out of Egypt.
- I gave you the land.
- I gave you political power.
- I trusted you to be instruments of my salvation for the world.
Oh Israel, what will I do with you?
I ought to punish you. You deserve the death sentence. You have refused to answer my call to love and repentance. Instead you have answered Assyria’s call to captivity.
But how can I let you go?
Compassionate feelings arise within me. My heart is changed!
I will not vent the full fury of My anger; I will not turn back to destroy Ephraim. For I am God and not man, the Holy One among you; I will not come in rage.
Hosea 11:9 (HCSB)
What a revelation we have in 11:8 of the compassionate heart of God!
According to Jewish law, a rebellious son was supposed to be turned over to the elders of the city and stoned to death (Deut. 21:18-21), but how could God do this to His beloved son, Israel?
(Centuries later, His innocent, only-begotten Son would suffer for the sins of the whole world.) God destroyed the cities of the plain because of their sins (Gen. 18:16-19:29), and those people didn’t have the same privileges of learning about God that Israel had.
What right did Israel have to expect God to spare them, especially since they were sinning against a flood of light?
What motivated God to spare Israel from total destruction?
Not only His deep compassion, but also His faithfulness to His covenant. “For I am God, and not man” (Hosea 11:9).
“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will he not make it good?” (Num. 23:19)
God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) is unconditional and will not change; therefore, the nation of Israel is preserved. But His covenant with Israel at Sinai had conditions attached, and if the people failed to meet those conditions, God was obligated to withdraw His blessings. Israel’s possession of the land and its blessings is based on the Abrahamic Covenant, but their enjoyment of the land and its blessings is based on the Mosaic Covenant. God was faithful to both covenants: He preserved the nation, but He disciplined them for their sins.
They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come from Egypt, trembling like sparrows, from Assyria, fluttering like doves. I will settle them in their homes,” declares the Lord.
Hosea 11:10-11 (NIV)
Often in Scripture you will find a declaration of judgment immediately followed by a promise of hope, and that’s the case here. Hosea looks ahead to the end times when Israel will be gathered together from all the nations, brought to their own land, cleansed of their sins, and established in their kingdom. In the past, God roared like a lion when He judged the nation (5:14; 13:7, but in the future, His “roar” will call His people to come back to their land. Like birds turned loose from their cages, the people of Israel will swiftly fly to their own land, and God will “settle them in their homes” (11:11).
Meanwhile, God is longsuffering with His people, as He is with all sinners (2 Peter 3:9), even though they lie to Him and rebel against Him (Hosea 11:12). What Jesus said to Jerusalem in His day, God was saying through Hosea to the people of that day: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matt 23:37)
God’s mercies in the past certainly proved His love, but Hosea offered second evidence that God loved His people. Ephraim surrounds me with lies, the house of Israel, with deceit. Judah still wanders with God and is faithful to the holy ones.
Hosea 11:12 (HCSB)
The God who promises new salvation is not blind. He knows the people who receive his promise. They have not changed. They are deceptive. They tell lies.
Unlike Israel, Judah had some fairly good kings. Under some of these kings, God’s law was dusted off and taught to the people. The priests continued to serve in God’s appointed Temple in Jerusalem, and the festivals were celebrated at least some of the time.
Unfortunately, the political or religious leaders were unable to completely wipe out idol worship and pagan rites (although Hezekiah and Josiah came close), which continued to fester until they eventually erupted and infected the whole country. Still, the influence of the good kings enabled Judah to survive more than 150 years longer than Israel, and that memory of their positive influence fortified a small group – a remnant – of faithful people who would one day return and restore their land and Temple.
We are to be assured that God will never disown us if we have truly become His children through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
The Lord takes me in His gentle arms and heals me of every sickness. He leads me with a familiar kindness and with ties of love. He gives me the ability to stand rock solid so that I can do His will in every situation. He lifts the heavy burden from my shoulders and nourishes me until my vitality returns and I am once again able to enjoy the gift of His salvation.
My Father’s compassion is aroused when He thinks of me. The fierceness of His anger will never come against me and His devastation will never be know in my life. His protection of me is absolute. It is an impenetrable hedge that I can always count on.
I respond in awe and trembling at the sound of my Father’s voice. His roar is like that of a lion, spreading fear to all of my enemies, but comforting me in the knowledge that the fierceness of His anger and mighty power will never be used for my destruction.
In tender compassion, my heavenly Father established my home.
I declare this declaration of faith in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.
Bible Exposition Commentary – Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Amazed (Hosea, Joel).
Holman Old Testament Commentary
NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible
The Complete Personalized Promise Bible