The prophet Hosea was told to demonstrate God‘s love by marrying a prostitute and having children with her. This lived parable portrays Israel as a cheating wife. It reveals the depth of God’s pain and his love for his people. He wants intimacy with his people but they continue to reject and betray him. This message should prompt us to consider the ways we have cheated and been unfaithful to God, while he loves us at our worst, pursues us, and desires to see our relationship flourish. “Once we absorb this story and the words that flow from it, we will know God far more accurately” (Eugene Peterson).
In Chapter 11, Hosea boldly expresses his fatherly heart. Verse 1 portrays God’s love as that of a Father for his son. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” “He is our hurting Father who did everything he could for his children, only to be taken for granted, let down, and abandoned…” (Goldingay). Verses 3-4 portray a father’s love in helping his child take its first steps. “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms.” But the Father’s love is rejected, as “…they did not realize it was I who healed them.”
The heart of the Father is exposed when He laments his tender love being dismissed. It is as though our heavenly Father’s heart has been broken. “I led them with gentle encouragement, their harness was a harness of love. I treated them like the man who eases the yoke to free the jaws – Yes, I bent down to them and gave them food” (v. 4 – Phillips). Whether the rope (or harness) is taut or slack, it is always meant as loving discipline.
Still, the people dishonored God. “For my people are determined to desert me. They call me the Most High, but they don’t truly honor me” (v. 7 NLT). They used the acceptable religious jargon, but continued to trust the positive-sounding words of false prophets and slipped into idolatry and polytheism.
In verses 8-9 we have a picture of our Father God, agonizing over the lost state of his people. “How, oh how, can I give you up, Ephraim! How, oh how, can I hand you over, Israel! How can I turn you into a Sodom! How can I treat you like a Gomorrah! My heart recoils within me, all my compassion is kindled” (Phillips). The Message says, “I can’t bear to even think such thoughts. My insides churn in protest.”
God expresses his steadfast love to his people, promising them that he will not “carry out [his] fierce anger, nor will [He] devastate Ephraim again” (v. 9). What a wonderful and reassuring picture of the grace of God. We don’t get what we deserve. Rather, we can experience the grace of God anew.
God then reminds his people that he’s able to exhibit such amazing lovingkindness because he is God. “For I am God, and not a man – the Holy One among you” (v. 9). As the holy, transcendent God, he expresses unconditional love rather than anger and hurt. The depth of God’s love is demonstrated when love wins out over the attitudes of hostility, anger, and aggression.
Father, help me to:
- desire an ever-deepening relationship with you (Eph. 1:17 NIV)
- see my unfaithfulness in not taking time to listen for your voice, nor doing in faith what your Spirit prompts me to do (Luke 6:46)
- be freed from the baggage preventing me from experiencing the healing you offer (Ex. 15:26)