GOD’s continuing suffering LOVE for His PEOPLE: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him. ‘How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?’” (Hosea 11:1, 7-8)
In the book of Hosea, there are two chapters that deal with the profound love of God. While the first chapter (#3) displays God’s love similar to that of a husband to a wife, the second chapter (#11) reveals God’s love similar to that of a father to a child. The above passage describes God’s intense love for His people, the Israelites, and how He called them out of slavery and oppression to freedom over seven hundred years earlier!
Now God reveals Himself as a Father who is tender, close to His children, and sensitive to their needs—teaching, encouraging, helping, and healing them. In language even more tender than the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32), God, the loving parent, proclaims His tender compassion for Israel. This language of love is used to describe both the father-son relationship and the covenantal relationship between two nations in ancient Near-Eastern treaties (see Deut. 6:5; 7:8, 13; 10:15; 23:5).
The calling of Israel out of Egypt foreshadows the experience of Jesus, as noted in Matt. 2:13–15. Even though some Bible scholars have tried to connect Hosea’s words as a veiled prophecy of Christ’s flight to Egypt as a young baby, Hosea was actually looking back to the first Exodus from Egypt (Exo. 4:22), not to Christ’s return from Egypt following the death of Herod. So, God’s call of His “son” Israel out of Egypt was clearly historical, not prophetic! It revealed God’s special care and concern due to His intense love for Israel!
Israel and Jesus were alike in that both were the objects of the love of the Father. Both were called “my son”, Israel, because of its generation by the Father and Jesus, because of His eternal generation by the Father. Both were in Egypt, Israel in slavery to Egypt and Jesus as a refugee from the king of Judea. Both had a peculiar relationship with the Father not experienced by anyone else nationally (in the case of Israel) or personally (in the case of Jesus). However, Israel and Jesus were different in that Israel was an earthly people of God while Jesus was the eternal Son of God!
God did not deal with Israel according to its faithlessness, but according to His love. He taught them how to walk; He healed them; He loved them with bonds of love; He lifted their burdens from them and He fed them (vss. 3–4). He dealt with them as a parent, and remained faithful in His love for them. He was a gracious Father, tenderly teaching His little child to walk (vv. 3, 4); a lamenting Husband, agonizing over the waywardness of His faithless wife (v. 8); and the loving Savior (vv. 9–11), not giving up on His people!
However, Israel took for granted their covenant relationship with God, forgetting that He chose them (Deut. 7:6–11). Israel’s lack of loyalty towards God is shocking in light of God’s great love and faithfulness. In Hosea’s indictment, Israel was the disobedient son who had departed from God to serve idols. Yet because of His continuing suffering love, God would not destroy Israel completely. As God contemplated the judgment of Israel, His loving sympathy moved Him to have compassion and stop short of totally annihilating His people, but rather, God allowed them to be exiled to Assyria!
Let us clearly understand that no other chapter in the Old Testament more graphically depicts the suffering love of God for His people more than this chapter in the book of Hosea. Today, let us contemplate God’s continuing suffering love for us as we remember His wonderful acts of love in our lives leading up to this moment. God’s love towards us is truly so wonderful so let us love others in the same manner as well.