G OD IS THE LOVING HUSBAND. Israel the wayward wife. God loving. Israel rejecting God’s love. We looked at that symbolism last Sunday. That’s just one of a variety of metaphors for God and human beings in Hosea.
God’s people are compared to a cow (4:16; 10:11), dew (6:4; 13:3), an oven or a cake (7:4–8), a dove (7:11), and an assortment of plants or fruit. (9:13, 16; 10:1; 14:5–7) God is likened to maggots (5:12), a lion and other wild animals (5:14; 13:7–8), and dew (14:5).
† † †
TODAY’S READING DESCRIBES the divine-human relationship in another metaphor. God is the parent and Israel is the beloved child. The opening verse of chapter 11:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him.”
God speaks of teaching Ephraim (another name for Israel) to walk.
“I treated them like those who lift infants to their cheeks; I bent down to them and fed them.”
Expressions of love, expressions parents and children can identify with.
† † †
YET ISRAEL’S RESPONSE is rebellion. Rather than acknowledging God, they worship other deities, like the foreign god Baal. When a child spurns the parent’s love and affection and necessities time and again, frustration can build.
God reached out with love and compassion, and Israel chose to go astray, spurning God’s compassion. A similar metaphor is found in the parable we call the “prodigal son.”
Parents who struggle with raising a child who tests the limits may understand this passage better than those whose child rarely pushes boundaries. Most of us have been and have dealt with children who are less perfect.
† † †
YOU WATCH HELPLESSLY as your children make poor choices that will ultimately harm them. There is often a difficult choice between unconditional but perhaps enabling acceptance, or tough love and ultimatums that might push the child to seek help.
There is a wrestling as to what to do. Do I cast the child off or keep the child close? Some of you have been there.
† † †
GOD THREATENS abandonment and violent punishment to Israel. That’s the deep pain of a rejected parent. Since the people of God are determined to turn away from God, God isn’t going to lift them up in their time of trial.
“You made your bed, now lie in it.”
That will teach them! It’s an upsetting word, but it’s understandable.
There is a tension between divine anger and divine compassion. Parents understand this.
† † †
GOD ADMITS FEELING TURMOIL at the thought of disowning God’s children. This is not easy decision.
God is not aloof, distant, detached. God’s relationship with us involves emotional risk. (And Thank God.) We all know, the choice to love is the choice to open yourself to pain. It is no different with God.
The threat of judgment is repeated throughout Hosea, yet God’s compassion has the final word (Hosea 14:1–8). God cries out:
“My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.”
† † †
YES, THE NATION is destroyed. Yes, their lives are hard. Yes, there is pain. Yes, there is suffering. Yes, there are consequences of their actions. But ultimately, compassion wins. Mercy triumphs over justice.
Thanks be to God.