[May 01]—Broken Law and Wounded Love

Hosea 11:1-11

            I know that we talk about disobeying God’s law, and that’s certainly appropriate. He doesn’t give us advice or suggestions; he gives us commands. He tells us not to lie, not to steal, not to commit adultery, and he expects to be obeyed.  And whenever we disobey, there are bad consequences that follow that, even for believers. As R. C. Sproul put it, all sin is cosmic treason.
            But there’s a much more intimate aspect to all this, which the prophets--and especially Hosea—paint for us. The first and third chapters of his book tell the heartbreaking story about how the Lord ordered his servant to marry an adulterous wife, to volunteer for a lifetime of heartbreak. The entire reason—spelled out for us in black and white—was so that God’s people could see in front of their own eyes how their Redeemer felt when he saw their sin, or at least a small portion of what he felt.
            Reading today’s passage continues that theme. We see a summarized history of God’s relations with Israel: How he called them out of Egypt, how he cared for them out in the desert and provided for their every need, how he protected them and led them. He “led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them [he] was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and [he] bent down to feed them.”
            The images the Lord gives his prophet swings back and forth between a man wooing his beloved (and sacrificing for her) and that of a parent caring for his little child. The key word here is intimacy. Unlike the gods of the other nations (and all other gods men have worshiped), this God is intimately related to his people. The reason he gives such images to his prophet to make us understand what type of relationship he wants with us. As we’ve discussed before, there’s an aspect of transcendence that’s appropriate—he’s not our “buddy”—and there’s also immanence, the fact that he’s “here.” One of my favorite names of our Savior is Immanuel, “God with us.”
            It also tells of their response, which could be summed up in another word: Ingratitude. They forgot about what he had done, and did much worse than merely forgetting. Just as in nature, spiritual reality abhors a vacuum. When they turned away from the One who'd redeemed them from slavery in Egypt, they quite naturally turned to worthless idols: “They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.”
            He was about ready to strike them down, and he'd be perfectly just in doing so. But something stayed his hand: His heart of compassion. Pure justice would dictate that he completely destroy the nation from top to bottom until there wasn't even a memory of them left. But just as his hand was raised, this thought came to his mind, which he revealed to his prophet: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?” He would not release upon them the full brunt of his anger.
            How are we to interpret this? He did punish Israel severely for her sins. He brought Assyria against the North (Israel), and about a hundred years later he brought Babylon against the South (Judah). Most of their populations were killed or deported to distant lands, and they really didn’t have a sovereign nation as such until the late 1940’s (of the 20th century).
            But he left them a remnant, even when he punished them. He gave hints about a restoration to come (alluded to in vss. 10-11), and he made it clear that he’s not done with Israel yet.
            So what can we learn from this? I think passages like this show once again 1) How much our sins deeply wound the loving heart of our Father, and 2) how egregious is our rebellion against him, especially considering what he’s done for us, and 3) how great is his mercy, kindness and grace, how slow he is to give us what we deserve and how quick he is to forgive and restore.
            Let’s ponder that for a moment, shall we?

Father God, you're so good to me and mine. How quick I am to forget, and how quick you are to forgive and restore! Please improve my memory. 

No comments:

Post a Comment