Hosea 11:1-11 A Divine Contradiction
1. I've been asked this question before, "Even though many people around me don't believe in God, they are very good people. Even though they don't believe in God, many people are sincere, trustworthy, and compassionate for others. Is faith really necessary for people like that?" And similar to that, when it comes to questions regarding faith, there is always the one from the perspective of whether faith or God is even needed by anyone.
2. The act of a person building an image of god and worshipping it is closely related to that kind of faith perspective. People build idols because they think they're necessary. In the ancient world of the Orient, images of gods were considered as places where the gods and various spirits resided. Thus, from one view, making idols was the outward working of the heart that considered the gods or God as necessary. And because the gods were needed they of course wanted them to be there with them. But, on the other hand, as you might have known there were also times when people didn't want the gods there because in the ancient world a fear for invisible things was by far worse than even in modern times. So then, it was better if you didn't put an idol in such a place. So, any way, this idol thing is related to the view point of whether a person needs God or not.
3. But, the second of the ten commandments prohibits the building of idols and their worship because the Bible does not speak on the relationship between God and a person from this one direction of "human need." The relationship between God and a person is not a relationship like that of a person and an idol. In Hosea the relationship between God and man is at times likened to that of a husband and a wife and at times to that of a parent and a child. This relationship is one that is alive from both directions. Please give it some thought with me. If a child only had the idea of "Do I really need my parents or not?," that would not be a normal parent-child relationship no matter which way you looked at it. In the same way, the Bible doesn't simply state concerning how much a person needs God. Rather than that, it tells how much God loves people and is seeking after them. People don't like to think very much about God's will in this area. What always fills their heads is just things about themselves and human-oriented things. For this reason, the Bible tells us the will of God, using words, even though making use of imperfect human words. Even in the passage we read today we heard words of such a nature.
The Ingratitude Of Israel
4. With that, please look from verses one to seven.
"I loved Israel when it was still so young.
I called him out of Egypt and made him my son.
Though I called them out
They left me
They offered up sacrifices to Baal
They burnt incense to idols.
It was me
Who supported Ephraim's arm and taught him to walk.
But, when I healed them
They didn't know it.
I led them in ties of humanity and bonds of love
I took the yoke off their chins
I bent down and made them eat.
They will not be able to go back to the land of Egypt
But Assyria will become their king
Because they have refused to turn.
The sword will rage from town to town and I will cut off those who speak nonsense
I will destroy them for their plotting.
My people turn their backs on me so stubbornly.
Even if they shouted to heaven
They will never be helped," (11:1-7).
6. God loved Israel when it was still infantile. He didn't love Israel because as it matured, it became so refined, powerful, and useful. God loved Israel when it was helpless like a baby and dependent upon the care of another. In the book of Deuteronomy it says this, "The reason the Lord was attracted to you and chose you was not because you were more in number than any of the people of the land. You were more meager than any other people of the land. But, because of the Lord's love for you, because he has kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, the Lord led you out with a mighty hand and delivered you out of the house of slavery which the pharaoh king of Egypt ruled," (7:7-8).
7. The relationship with God and his people began with the one way love of God and his choice for them. His making the people his children though unqualified to be his children was based on the unilateral love of God. Israel didn't have anything that God wanted for himself. At the beginning they didn't have anything that they could offer God. Because "Israel was still young." It was not for anything like that, but rather because what God really wanted for himself was the people themselves. What God wanted was that they would just remain in God's love. After they were made God's children, they were to live as his children in God's love. God was looking for them to remain in his love, respond to that love, and live back in loving him.
8. But, the more God spoke to them and called out to them through the prophets, they more distant they got from God. What was their real sin? It was that they lost their relationship with a loving God and left him. The root of their sin lied in their having forgotten their parent completely.
9. The Lord raised his voice in bemoaning that "It was me who supported Ephraim's arm and taught him to walk. But, when I healed them they didn't know it," (verse three). This may be a message God spoke through Hosea's individual experience and his experience as a parent. As we've already seen, Hosea's wife Gomer was an adulterous woman. Hosea accepted children that came from adultery, and he loved and raised them. The babies that were born couldn't live on their own. Children might talk big when they get bigger, but they didn't raise themselves on their own as everyone should know. Raising a child is hard work. In order to raise a child so much parental hard work and patience are required. In the same way, in the history of Israel, God was the one who loved and had raised them. When they were sick it was God himself and none but him who had healed them. When an infant takes sick, the parent will lose sleep in attending after it. In the same exact way, God has been concerned for his people. When we read the Old Testament, I would say we always see that.
10. Because God considered them his own children, he didn't treat them like no good horses and cattle which you couldn't make do anything. He treated them like people every time. The text puts it like this, "I led them in ties of humanity and bonds of love; I took off the yoke from their chins; I bent down and made them eat." There are some who say, "Why did God ever give humans the potential to sin and then still punish them for it?" A person asking this is only seeing himself or herself as a horse or cow. We are not horses or cows. We're humans. God is looking for a response from us humans based on love and not based on a forced obedience. This is really the way God treats humans as humans. It shows that God sees us as the target of his love. This relationship of love was the very purpose of the covenant God had given to Israel.
11. But then the people all on their own had broken the covenant from their side of it and turned their backs on God in rebellion. Then they reaped what they had sown. If you sow rebellion against God's love you will come to reap destruction. They say that when this prophecy was given, the Assyrian attack on Israel had already begun and the northern tribes were occupied. Hosea prophesied that they would soon be completely destroyed by Assyria. "Assyria will become their king," he said, which would not come about by some failure in political policy. The Lord says, "It is because they have refused to turn." As for this imminent national crisis, says the Lord, they were reaping the fruit that the seeds of their infidelity was yielding, which seeds they themselves had planted.
A Heart Changes From Compassion
12. But, we hear some surprising words here. Please look at verses eight and on.
"Ooh, o Ephraim
Could I really abandon you?
Am I able to deliver you?
Did I cast you off like Adamah
And could I do you like Zeboim?
I am moved in my heart strongly
And am burning in my bosom with compassion.
I no longer am burning with anger
Nor will I destroy Ephraim again.
I am God, I am not a human.
[I am] the holy one among you.
I will not visit you with anger," (11:8-9).
14. The Lord says, "I am moved in my heart strongly and am burning in my bosom with compassion." It is translated as "I am moved in my heart strongly," but if you translated it simply, it would be "[my] heart changes." Here is the famous passage called "Divine Repentance**." What will change the mind of God? Compassion will. A righteous God will direct his anger on an Israel that has turned its back on the covenant and God's love and will judge its sin. But, his heart is changed by compassion. Through his change of heart, the mind of God divides within itself. So far God had spoken severe words of judgment, and in verse seven also God announced their ultimate destruction with "Even if they cry out to heaven I will never help them," but now he makes this exclamation, "Ooh, o Ephraim, could I really abandon you?" It's in this way that contradicting thoughts have come to co-exist within God. It could also be called the divine self contradiction. Here we see an image of God embracing such self contradiction.
15. This kind of image might not be considered "very godly." Is it? Won't it be seen vividly as a picture of much too much humanness for a god? But, this is what the Lord has to say about it, "I am God, I am not a human. [I am] the holy one among you. I will not visit you with anger," (verse nine). God asserts that he himself is God and that he is not a human. He says that he is the holy one. In saying that he is the holy one, it means that he is a being that is different from human beings, he is sui generis and can't be classed with humans. This image of a God who has this contradiction in himself makes use of a human type picture, but after that, he isn't depicted like that. He wasn't meant to be seen like that, but this, that God is God. In sticking to the fact that God is God it means he is a God who hates sin so much he couldn't hate it anymore and judges it completely, but at the same time he is a God who loves humans so much he couldn't love them anymore and forgives them completely.
16. We know that the figure of God like this is completely revealed in the crucified Christ later. The gruesome way of his death in which the sinless One died by crucifixion reveals our sin and brings to light the wrath and the hatred of God for that sin. God holds fast to the fact that he is a God who judges sin. But the love of God has been made clear in this that God unsparingly has even given us his son. God holds fast to the fact that he is a God of love and forgiveness. Perfect righteousness and love is one in God.
"They will follow the Lord who will roar like a lion.
When the Lord raises his voice
His children will come with fear from the other side of the sea.
They will come flying with fear.
From Egypt like a little bird
From the land of Assyria like a dove.
I will let them each live in their own houses
Says the Lord," (11:10-11).
18. The voice of God which cried out, "Ooh, o Ephraim, could I really abandon you?," soon came to take visible form in his sending his own son into the world. His son cried out on the cross, "It is accomplished." No, it was the very existence and being of Christ himself that was but this cry of God's love and righteousness which he cried out in the world. It was the war cry of a lion resounding in the middle of this world. "They will follow the Lord who will roar like a lion." God will lift his voice so that the scattered children of God will truly repent and turn to Him. By the Lord's voice, the children of God will come with fear from the other side of the sea. "With fear." - This doesn't mean "cowardice, timidity" but that they come back with true reverence seeing God as God. By the voice of God we too are called to assemble with Him and to live with the Lord with reverence for Him.
*Literally, "self contradiction."
**Literally, "change of mind," but also having the meaning of "apostasy, inconstancy." In The King James Version and The New International Version, the word "repent" is used of God when he changes his mind. He judged the world with a flood in Genesis, but then he "repents" and says that he will never punish the world that way again.