“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me, offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him. I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him. (Hosea 11:1-4 NLT)
After reading the previous two chapters of Hosea it would be easy to think that God doesn’t care about the Israelites. This chapter seems to ramble and the message that I get as I read it is that God is frustrated and hurt. Estimates vary, but at least 600 years have passed since the Exodus from Egypt. Despite all the lessons of the time in the wilderness the people of the northern kingdom consistently reject God and choose the worship of idols.
Throughout Hosea God has used the relationship between a husband and wife to illustrate His love for Israel and Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him. When God wants to describe the depth of His feelings for Israel and the impact that their betrayal has had on Him he switches the image from marriage to the relationship between a father and a son.
I can’t imagine what I would feel if one of my children rejected me and consciously betrayed me. I know this happens all the time in parts of the worlds where Christians are being persecuted and children report their parents to the authorities. If this happened to me I know I would be deeply hurt and find it difficult to forgive my rebellious children. At the same time, I think I would try every means necessary to communicate my love for them. Many see the God of the Old Testament as angry and mean. I see in this chapter a God who deeply loves His children and desires most of all that they would change their hearts and minds and return to Him.
It is this deep love that God has always had for the human race that motivated Him to send Jesus to earth. I hope that I will never forget how much God loves me and how much my love for Him matters.
For my grandchildren:
Your parents love you more than you’ll ever know. God loves you more than that.