ISRAEL TO BE RESTORED Hosea 11–14
“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily” (Hosea 14:4–5).There are few passages of Scripture that approach Hosea 11–14’s emotional expressions of God’s love. As we hear His cry, “How can I give you up, Ephraim?” we sense the depths of God’s great love for you and me.
God’s love is seen against the background of Israel’s rebellion (11:1–7). In the last days God will restore Israel (vv. 8–11) despite her folly (v. 12, 12:14). Israel fell into sin (13:1–16), but will return to God and be blessed (14:1–9).
Understanding the Text
“When Israel was a child” Hosea 11:1–7.
Hosea now pictured God’s relationship with Israel as that of a parent with a toddler. The child runs off; is brought back; runs off again, only to stumble and hurt its knee; is ministered to gently by its parent; and runs off again, completely unaware of the love shown by the parent whose guidance it ignores. What an image: God, “bent down to feed them,” and His people “determined to turn from Me.” Hundreds of years had passed, and Israel still had not learned. Israel’s refusal to repent meant that “swords will flash in their cities.” How many people who have an image of the Lord as a loving God cannot grasp the fact that true love must seek the best for its object? A God of love will punish, even as a wise parent will punish a child who continually goes astray. “How can I give you up?” Hosea 11:8–11 Unlike human beings, who are dominated by strong emotions when these emotions are aroused, the Lord is “God, and not man.” Despite His justified anger against sinning Israel, He also felt compassion. God will be true to His love for Israel. One day He will roar like a lion calling back its cubs to the safety of the den. “According to his ways” Hosea 11:12–12:14. It was not God who had brought the coming punishment on Israel. It was the people themselves. What had Israel done to bring judgment down on her? God’s people had “surrounded Me with lies” and been “unruly against God.” God’s people had multiplied “lies and violence.” God’s people had failed to “maintain love and justice.” God’s people used “dishonest scales” and love “to defraud.” All this had bitterly provoked God to anger. “His Lord will leave upon him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt.” The passage, however, leaves Israel and us an example to follow. The man Israel, then known by the name of Jacob, “as a man he struggled with God” (v. 3). The allusion is to Jacob’s experience at Bethel, where he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord in a desperate struggle to obtain His blessing (cf. Gen. 32:25–29). Jacob did prevail, and won God’s blessing. The forefather is thus held up as an example for contemporary Israel, to illustrate the intensity with which they must struggle to be blessed. What does that struggle involve? In Hosea’s time or our own, to win the blessing of God we must “return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.” “I will come upon them like a lion” Hosea 13:1–16. Rather than struggle to obtain God’s blessing, the people of Israel had thrown themselves eagerly into the pursuit of sin. Their craftsmen developed “cleverly fashioned idols,” and they “offer[ed] human sacrifice.” And this despite all God had done for them. This people without gratitude, who had experienced God’s kindness (vv. 4–7) would now experience Him in a different way. “I will come upon them like a lion,” the Lord said (v. 7). “I will destroy you” (v. 9). “I will have no compassion” (v. 14). Yet even when pronouncing judgment the Lord cannot resist a word of comfort. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death” (v. 14). If you should happen to feel the lash of God’s discipline, remember this chapter of Hosea. The One who acts to destroy is also the One who ransoms. We can turn back to Him confidently, for He will welcome us home. “Say to him” Hosea 14:1–3. Again and again the Old Testament shows us how to approach God after we have sinned. Here the prescription is repeated: Come asking forgiveness. Come trusting in Him only. “I will heal their waywardness” Hosea 14:4. God tells us in advance how He will respond to such an appeal. He will deal with our waywardness and love us freely. He will do more than forgive. God will transform us, so that His anger may be permanently turned away. “He will blossom like a lily” Hosea 14:5–9. Using images from agriculture, the Lord foresaw a time when Israel will again flourish in her land. Her idols put forever away, Israel will again enjoy the blessing of God. The book closes with a question. “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”
Never Alone (Hosea 11)
The man was bitter. Life had been unfair to him. He had been abused as a child. Not particularly gifted, he did poorly in school, and had difficulty finding a good job. Though a Christian now, married and with children, he often felt frustrated and angry. A wise counselor opened the Bible to this chapter of Hosea. In verses 1–3 the hurting believer saw that though God’s people hadn’t been aware of it, all through their life as a nation God had been there. God had taken them by the arm, and they hadn’t felt His touch. God led them gently, the leash woven of love. God’s hand lifted burdens from their neck, and He Himself bent over to feed them. The counseler showed him in verses 8 and 9 that God had felt every hurt, and that His heart had surged with compassion at Israel’s suffering, even though it was deserved. And the counselor showed him in verse 11 that even the most vulnerable of beings will come, trembling, when God calls, only to be settled safely in his home. And then the counselor asked the embittered Christian to close his eyes, and to relive those experiences that caused him so much pain. But this time he was to imagine God in each situation. He was to sense God beside him, and that the Lord was bringing him safely through. He was to sense God touching, and healing, every pain. He was to feel God lifting his burdens, and bending down to sustain him when he was ready to collapse in his weakness. With eyes closed, the man did relive his experiences, and consciously invited the God of Hosea 11 to relive them with him. God had been there all the time! And as he became aware of that fact, and let himself feel God’s loving touch, his bitterness was healed and his pain gave way to peace and joy.
The God of Hosea 11 has been with you all your life. Invite Him to heal your own memories, and cleanse you of bitterness and pain.