11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.
5 “Will they not return to Egypt
and will not Assyria rule over them
because they refuse to repent?
6 A sword will flash in their cities;
it will devour their false prophets
and put an end to their plans.
7 My people are determined to turn from me.
Even though they call me God Most High,
I will by no means exalt them.
8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities.
10 They will follow the Lord;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
11 They will come from Egypt,
trembling like sparrows,
from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
I will settle them in their homes,”
declares the Lord.
(Hosea 11:1-11 NIV)
In our last time together, we saw how God intended life to be for the Israelites using an agricultural example, how Israel choose the opposite path, and the consequences they were to endure because of their wayward choices.
In today’s text, we see the covenant bond between God and the Israelites described as a parent-child relationship.
To set the stage here, this passage is set as a quasi-court case, with the town fathers sitting at the city gates and acting as wise judges in civil matters. The Lord is bringing the case against His delinquent son, the nation of Israel. According to God’s Law, adult children who were irreparably and totally delinquent were to be brought by their parents before the town fathers and held accountable for their sins (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
The Lord, as the parent of the kingdom of Israel, did not bring this delinquent child in an attitude of justice and anger, but out of a broken heart and love for the child. The Lord presents His case of how He had loved and cared for this child (vv. 1,3,4), and how the child had gone his own way (v. 2) despite repeated pleas to repent and turn back. But Israel’s continual refusal of God’s love will be its ultimate downfall (vv. 5-7). Israel will experience the consequences of its choices.
In verse 8, we see that the Lord’s heart is broken and in great conflict over this delinquent child. The Lord does not want to give up on this child and see them be destroyed like the evil cities of Admah and Zeboyim (Genesis 14:8, Deuteronomy 29:23).
Thankfully, God’s love is greater than His anger, His love is greater than His Law (v. 9). There will still be consequences, and the Law must be fulfilled, but God will also redeem His own. God’s love is central to His very nature and character. If God were to stop loving, He would cease to be God.
Ultimately, God promises to restore Israel, to put them back in their homes, to bring them out of exile from distant lands (vv. 10-11).
If God can love wayward and perverse Israel in ancient days, how much hope does that give us in our day?
As we look into the New Testament, we see Matthew quote the first verse of today’s passage, Hosea 11:1, in Matthew 2:15. The Lord had called His chosen children, the Jewish people, out of Egypt; now the Lord was calling His true son, His only son, out of Egypt.
And if we are followers of Jesus Christ, God’s love and adoption as His children is extended to us, His invitation, His call, is to us.
Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words of hope, promise, and blessing:
4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
(Galatians 4:4-7 NIV)
May we step into the hope that is present in Christ, and the calling that awaits us.