Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 16 2019 - Hosea 11:1-11 – God's love

In today's reading, God speaks of his great love for his people, love like that of a parent for a young child. He recalls how he has shown his love for them, bringing them out of slavery in Egypt (v.1). He had taught Ephraim to walk (v.3) – "Ephraim" is another name for the northern kingdom of Israel. Like a parent with a toddler, God speaks of himself as taking them by the arms to encourage them to walk along with him. He "led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love" (v.4), and was like a parent "who lifts a little child to the cheek, and … bent down to feed them." It is a touching and moving picture of the deep love and tender feeling of a parent for a child.

But many families have known the pain of children who have rebelled against their love – perhaps in their teenage years. They have been determined to go their own way despite the warnings and pleas of their parents. Such rebellion, often damaging the life of the rebellious child, brings untold pain to the heart of the parents who love them still and yearn for them to return to the love of their parents.

And this is how God feels about rebellious Israel. They had turned from the God who loved them and healed them – put plasters on their wounds and kissed them better – to worship Baals and burn incense to idols (v.2). It is as if those whom he redeemed from Egypt are determined to take themselves back into slavery (v.5); they are determined to break away from the one who loves them (v.7). Assyria will now rule over them as Egypt had oppressed them many years before.

In verses 8 and following, God speaks of his great love for his rebellious people, a love which will not allow him to let them go; "How can I let you go?" God asks. In Amos, God spoke of himself as roaring like a lion as he comes in judgment upon Israel. Here in Hosea, the Lord is again spoken of as a roaring lion, but this time he is a lion coming to seek out his lost children. He will rescue them again from those who threaten them and will settle them again in their homes. The roar of the lion is terrifying to those who are his prey but is the passionate love-call that summons his children to return to his care.

Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 with reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. When Herod sought to kill all of the baby boys in Bethlehem so that he might destroy the Christ-child, an angel told Joseph to take his wife, Mary, and the baby Jesus down into Egypt for their safety. After the death of Herod, Joseph is told that it is safe to return, so he and his family leave Egypt for Nazareth in Galilee. Matthew tells us that this was to fulfil "what was said through the prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'" (Matthew 2:15).

The Lord brought back his Son, Jesus, safely from Egypt as he had rescued Israel from Egypt many centuries before. He did this not only in love for his Son but out of love for us; he purposed to redeem us through his Son from a slavery greater than Israel suffered in Egypt. As we read of God's love for his people in Hosea 11 we read also of the great love of God for us, love that refused to give us up to our rebellion and judgment but sent his Son into the world to save us. Read this chapter over again from this perspective and let it move your heart in responsive love for your heavenly Father.

Father God, we thank you for the wonder of your great love for us – a love that would not let us go. Lord Jesus, we thank you for the love that took you to the cross to endure our sin and condemnation that we might be with you for all eternity. Holy Spirit, you have shed abroad in our hearts the love of God for us, filling us with joy and peace in believing. Triune God, yours is a love that will not let us go, help us to love you in return with a love that refuses to let you go and which keeps us in your love.

Peter Misselbrook