“God Aches for His People”
Hosea 11:1-12

The Old Testament is composed of a variety of literary devices. Today’s Scripture is a poem. The theme of this poem is a theme that some of us may have personally experienced. Others have seen it happen to families and have tried to give advice and although may not have completely understood the pain of the parent, have grieved alongside. It’s the story of the wayward child. The loving father brings the child up from teaching the child to walk, to paying for the child’s bail to get them out of jail. No matter what the parent does, the child is bent on turning the opposite way. Take a moment and try to put yourself in the parent’s shoes. You are connected to the child from birth. You do your best to teach them right from wrong. You think you have done your best and as soon as the child can talk the defiance is evident. The first word the child has comprehension of is, “NO!”
You try everything you can to figure out how to discipline, how to show your love and concern. You read books, you talk to others, you even resort to therapy. Of course the teenager refuses to go to therapy with you. At some point, your anger gets the best of you and there is a fateful argument and the child leaves, slamming the door behind them. Gone. You feel like a failure. Why couldn’t your child recognize your love for them? 

There is the essence of God’s lament in this chapter. He was emotionally torn apart. Israel refuses to recognize His love, regardless of what He says or does. God aches for His people. 

The chapter begins with God remembering how He demonstrated His tender love for Israel, verse 1, 
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.”
Some Biblical scholars have noted this as an “unexpected prophecy” fulfilled in the life of Jesus. We read in Matthew 2:15, 

“..where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

The child Jesus returned from Egypt after escaping there on the eve of Herod’s massacre of male children under the age of two.

God remembers being the one to free Israel from slavery in Egypt, but Israel has forgotten. The idolatry of the Baals lure Israel into forsaking the Lord and following the deities of the land of Canaan. 

In verses 3 and 4 we read how God’s love was given to Israel. We are given a picture of a parent teaching a child to walk by holding their hands and steadying them as they take their first steps. God had done so much for His people yet they did not recognize the blessings as coming from God. They attributed them as coming from other sources. 

We are then told that God remained the loving and patient parent as He drew His people with gentle cords of love. He did not use manipulation or coercion and “make” His people do what He knew was right for them. 

He relaxed and loosened the yoke from their neck, giving them rest and freedom to allow them to think clearly. We read that God, “bent down to feed them.” There is the sense that the creator of all things humbled Himself to minister to His needy people. 
In the ancient world this would have been thought of as beneath the dignity and honor of a god to stoop to help His people, but that is not what God thinks. Philippians 2:5-8, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!”
God continued to endure the stubbornness of His people up until the point of their empty professions. 

In verses 5-7 we read that they refused to repent. So it wasn’t so much the sins they had committed that made God choose to bring them down, but more their stubborn refusal to repent. 

In verse 7 we read that the people were determined to turn from God. This means at one time they had a real walk with God but chosen to turn and go another way, away from Him. Their calls to the Most High had become more of a formality, as they were in no way exalting Him with their lives. 

Back to my original analogy, the wayward child. The child who has stopped doing anything the parents have wanted, unless it seemed beneficial to them. 
You have seen it, or heard of it. The parents get their hopes up that the child has finally come to their senses. But in reality the behavior of the child has not changed and within time becomes completely evident to all. 

In verses 8-9 we see God in the midst of frustration and  He begins to question His actions. 
“How can I give you up?”
“How can I hand you over?”
Can’t you just see the parent answer the door of their house to a police officer asking if their child is home? Does the parent lie to protect the child? Or show the officer to the child’s room? Angst!

The poem then addresses what was done to Admah and Zeboiim. These were two cities that were destroyed because they were near Sodom and Gomorrah. 
God knows too well how His wrath spreads out when it is exhibited. Yet notice how God’s character is revealed in verse 8, 

“My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.”

God’s character also demanded justice. Which meant judgement was required. Yet God took no pleasure in what was about to happen to Israel. His heart ached for a way of salvation. Verse 9 tells us that He would not carry out His fierce anger because 

“I am God, and not human – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.”
Because He was God, though their sins deserved it, God would not wipe out Israel. He would leave a remnant and would restore the nation. Because He is God, not human, forgiveness, longsuffering and compassion manifest differently. Think about it, 
Humans aren’t very good at holding back their anger when they are tired, stressed or annoyed
Humans are often only willing to reconcile if the offending person demonstrates forgiveness and makes the first move
Humans decide if the person who offended them is worth forgiving
Humans are often only willing to forgive if the offending person promises to never offend again
Humans, when they do reconcile, rarely lift the former offender to any place of high status or partnership
Humans do not bear all the penalty for the wrong done to them
Humans, will rarely attempt to reconcile once their reconciliation is rejected
Humans require a period of probation with their reconciliation
Needless to say, the process of forgiveness among humans is nothing like the amazing forgiveness provided by God and in verse 10 we read that they will follow the Lord, when He roars. This is God speaking of the ultimate restoration of Israel to come. In verse 11, even though God knew the sinfulness of Israel at that time, and Judah wasn’t much better, in His mercy God would one day restore them. 

Humans haven’t changed much. All of us are in sin and guilt before God. Some of us recognize it sooner than others and yet God still says, 
“How can I give you up?” 
God’s own process of justice demands that sin be paid for by the blood of a perfect sacrifice. 
He knew we needed a way of salvation. Thus, He sent Jesus Christ, His only son, to endure the cross and be “given up” in our place. 
It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance oh Lord. 
Let’s pray.