V. God’s Compassion and Judgment (Hosea 11:1–14:9)


V. God’s Compassion and Judgment (11:1–14:9)

11:1 Chapter 11 includes an emotional description of God’s love for Israel: When Israel was a child, I loved him. Israel’s “childhood” refers to its journey into Egypt in obedience to God when they were less than a hundred people (see Gen 46:3-27). Israel arrived in Egypt as a family with the promise from God of becoming a great nation. Out of Egypt I called my son was another point of history taught to all Jewish children; it’s a reference to the exodus when God brought his people out of slavery. When he wrote his Gospel, Matthew saw this as ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ—God’s true Son who also came out of Egypt (see Matt 2:15).

11:2-7 In spite of God’s loving care and deliverance, they departed from him. They kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols (11:2). Like a devoted father with a beloved child, God taught them to walk, healed them (11:3), led them . . . with ropes of love (11:4), and gave them food (11:4). But, Israel refused to repent (11:5). Punishment and captivity were unavoidable (11:6)—not because God has a bad temper—but because his people were bent on turning from him (11:7). Holy justice would have to be carried out.

11:8-9 Here again, God’s heart turns toward mercy and compassion: How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel? If you’re a parent, those questions ought to put a lump in your throat. What mom or dad doesn’t grieve over the thought of losing a child?

The average Bible reader probably cruises right past Admah and Zeboiim without recognizing the names; however, most readers recognize the names of their sister cities, Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet, the Lord actually destroyed all four places in his anger over their wickedness (see Deut 29:23). The thought of such destruction coming upon God’s beloved people makes his heart ache and stirs up his compassion. The Lord declares, I have had a change of heart (11:8). That is grace in action. Israel had been thoroughly wicked and deserved judgment, but God’s grace on sinners is a result of his own unmerited kindness and love. He vows, I will not vent the full fury of my anger—not because they didn’t deserve it, but because he is gracious. He promises not to thoroughly wipe out his people. Why? For I am God and not man (11:9). His ways are higher than our ways (Isa 55:8-9).

11:10-12 Elsewhere, Hosea compares God to a lion who would attack Israel for their sins (5:14; 13:7). Here the comparison is positive. He will roar like a lion calling his cubs, and they will come trembling in submission (11:10). Though he will punish his people because of their faithlessness (11:12), he will bring a remnant back from exile and settle them in their homes (11:11).

12:1-6 Israel repeatedly pursued alliances with foreign nations (12:1), leading to idolatry and further failure to rely on the Lord. Though Judah had generally been more faithful, God had a dispute with them, too, and would repay him based on his actions (12:2). He reminds Judah of how Jacob had wrestled with God and sought his favor (12:3-4). Judah must also look to God for his blessing and not to foreign nations or false gods.

Return to your God. Maintain love and justice, and always put your hope in God (12:6). That’s solid advice for the believer who has strayed from the path. God stands ready to receive those who make God’s agenda of love and justice their own.

12:7-14 Israel, on the other hand, lacked love and justice. Judah only needed to look at Israel’s practice of dishonest scales, that is, making things to be heavier than what they were in order to make a greater profit. Their scales lied, and they thought no one observed their deception: No one can find any iniquity in me that I can be punished for (12:8). This is the height of arrogance and ignorance. The God who brought Israel out of Egypt (12:9), spoke through the prophets, and gave them visions (12:10) knew Israel’s crimes and would punish them for them. Their pagan altars at Gilead and Gilgal would be turned into piles of rocks (12:11). The Lord would repay Ephraim for his contempt (12:14).

13:1-3 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling (13:1) is another way of saying there was great respect. Idolatry and rejection of the living God, however, had since ruined them (13:1-3). This is what sin does to a person. No matter a person’s strength, ability, social status, or economic capability, moral degeneration and foolishness are cancers that eat away at character. Such people become like the morning mist . . . chaff . . . smoke (13:3); they are blown away.

13:4-13 God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt and became their Savior (13:4). He provided for them and satisfied them when they had nothing. But, when you become satisfied, you are tempted to take the credit for yourself. Then your heart becomes proud, and you forget God (13:5-6). So, you must constantly nurture a humble heart that looks to God’s Word and power as your source of strength and sustenance. Otherwise, there’s no telling what God may have to do (13:8) to prove that you have no help but [him] (13:9). In Ephraim’s case, the king they’d demanded (see 1 Sam 8:1-22) did not deliver them, but rather led them into sin and foolishness (13:10-13).

13:14-16 Once again, the Lord, through Hosea, offers a ray of shining light: I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death (13:14). If salvation is to come, it has to come from God’s hand. Death does not have the final word, so the Lord taunts death and the grave: Where are your barbs? . . . Where is your sting? (13:14)

The apostle Paul quotes from this text to demonstrate God’s victory over death and the law through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor 15:54-57). Yet, this does not mean that God will not chasten Israel. In the near term, compassion is hidden (13:14), and God will deliver judgment (13:15-16).

14:1-8 What’s the only appropriate response to God’s anger against sin? Repentance—that is, return to the Lord (14:1-2). Do an “about face”; change your ways. Plead with him to forgive your sin and praise him (14:2), knowing that no one saves but the Lord (14:3). For the Israelites who will repent and trust in God, he promises to heal them, love them, and turn away his anger (14:4). His blessings will return (14:5-7).

14:9 Let whoever is wise understand these things, and whoever is insightful recognize them. Hosea is saying, “There’s only one real option here. There’s only one legitimate path to take if you want to experience life and blessing.” The ways of the Lord are right.

Because the Lord’s ways are right, you need to transform your thoughts to match his. In other words, you need a kingdom mind. A kingdom mind views life from the divine viewpoint (found in his Word) and lives accordingly. In fact, having a kingdom mindset is the difference between the righteous who walk in God’s ways and the rebellious who stumble in them.

Hosea loved promiscuous Gomer even though she didn’t deserve it. And God loves promiscuous you even though you don’t deserve it. Praise him for his grace, turn to him in repentance, and live for his glory.