Hosea 11: The Persistence of Hosea
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The book of Hosea is known for its confronting portrayal of Israel’s idolatry as spiritual adultery. The prophet Hosea’s words—and his own marriage—show that the relationship of God and Israel was in dire straits. The people of God had become ‘worldly’ as they conformed to the nations around them. They sought success and prosperity through the idolatrous worship of their neighbours’ gods. The prophet Hosea declared that such conduct was no trivial matter and was grounds for “divorce” (or exile).
Another metaphor—equally full of emotion—explains why this would not be the end of God’s plans for his people. In Hosea 11 we read the story of God and his wayward son Israel:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.” – Hosea 11:1-4
In these verses, the Lord speaks affectionately of the son whom he had reared and raised. This is the nation of Israel that was born of the Exodus and came of age under the reigns of King David and King Solomon. But all that God had graciously and tenderly provided was taken for granted and even spurned. Instead, the nation sought prosperity in idolatry and refuge in the strength of its neighbours. Nevertheless, as a father, the Lord is not deterred by this ‘teenage rebellion’. The unconditional love he has for his son, hinted by the affection of verses 1-4, is expressed clearly in verse 8:
“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?" – Hosea 11:8
Naturally, these questions are rhetorical. God’s love has not been extinguished by the sin of the people and his plans for them have not been quashed. Nevertheless, there is an unbearable tension between the sinfulness of the nation and the persistent love of God. This tension finds its resolution in the atoning death of the perfect obedient Son. At a surface level, Christ’s life mirrors that of Israel—"out of Egypt I called my son” (compare Matthew 2:15), testing in the wilderness and law-giving on a mountaintop. At a deeper level, Christ succeeds where Israel had failed.
The compassion and forbearance of God, first towards his old covenant people and second towards us in Christ, has implications for our own response to the waywardness of young people today. The growing secularism and individualism among today's youth is a cause for concern for many parents and ministers, but God's patience with us teaches us not to abandon hope or fall prey to inaction. With the persistence of Hosea we must continue to share the gospel with the young. Like Hosea we will likely face much rejection along the way. But we must not abandon them, even if it costs us dearly. We know that God continues to love children and young people. So how can we give them up? We must remain confident that he will call many to repentance and faith in his Son.
The Lift Up Your Hearts devotional series for the month of March 2021 are provided by Canon Craig Roberts, CEO, and his colleagues from Anglican Youthworks in Australia. Today’s devotion was written by Andrew Spalding. You can find more of Youthworks excellent resources here.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
The Church of Uganda.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the Church of Uganda's vision for holistic ministry for the benefit of the whole nation. Through prayer and proclamation in churches, schools, universities, health centres, and in public life, may the Church of Uganda share the knowledge and experience of 'life in abundance' with the nation. In Jesus' name. Amen.
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