Today: [Hosea 11] God Withdraws in Mercy: In Hosea 11 we find God expressing His deep love for the nation of Israel in the midst of their transgression. They gave lip service to their love of God, but they continued to worship Baal, and to go their own way. For this reason God out of mercy and not judgment withdraws Himself to allow the people to face the consequences of their choices. Many times we feel God is angry with us and has withdrawn His presence when in fact He is showing mercy upon us in hopes that we will come to a place of fresh repentance.
[Hos 11:1-12 KJV] 1 When Israel [was] a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. 2 [As] they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. 3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. 4 I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them. 5 He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return. 6 And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour [them], because of their own counsels. 7 And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt [him]. 8 How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? [how] shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? [how] shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. 9 I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I [am] God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. 10 They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west. 11 They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD. 12 Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.
This chapter accounts for the love of God for His people and their resulting ingratitude in choosing to worship Baal and sacrifice to pagan gods rather than maintain fidelity to Jehovah. V. 1 speaks of the entire nation of Israel being called out of Egypt’s bondage as a father would call his son. This emphasizes the fact that God even under the Old Covenant desired more than a servant / master relationship with His people. God is not a despot manipulating our lives while demanding worship from our hearts. He is a loving father seeking to bring us into His family by way of the cross. Even in the Old Covenant dispensation, His dealings with man were intended to show man that it was not possible to be like God independent of God. The root of original sin was the desire to be like God, but man was already created in God’s image. Therefore the deeper truth was that man wanted to be like God independent of God, thereby excluding God as father. In giving the law under Moses, the Father was showing us His perfect nature and inviting man to attempt to fulfill that unholy desire. The law’s purpose was to show man his moral bankruptcy, whereupon the intent was that men would then turn to God and seek His face as Paul stated in his letter to the Galatians:
[Gal 3:24 KJV] 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Even under the law, before the new birth was made available in Christ man was capable of seeing his own sin and desiring to repent. In this case, however the people turned to graven images instead, worshipping gods that affirmed them in their transgression rather than seeking the one true God and facing the fact that they needed a savior. Rather than accept their fallen condition the people rebelled and the observation is in verse 3 that they “knew not” that God healed them. V. 4 says that the Father drew them with cords of a man, and with bands of love to remove the heavy burden that was self-imposed by man’s rejection of the paternity of God and the rule of God in their lives. What was the heavy burden? It was the burden that fell immediately upon Adam and Eve when they transgressed. They immediately knew that something was lacking and that they were exposed, whereupon they promptly set about crafting for themselves what the Father had freely provided. Even today men spend themselves to exhaustion making fig leaf excuses and justifications for why they are the way they are. They say they are born “that way” or that the environment justifies their sin, or they allege that God doesn’t exist and therefore their perceived sin debt is (in their view) spurious religious conditioning, etc., etc.
The answer from heaven is to face man with his iniquity by sending of the law, and then to answer the need by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His subsequent resurrection. Because the people rejected the law, v. 5 says they will be given over to the king of Assyria, a type of the anti-Christ. This shows us that when men allow the spirit of anti-Christ to dominate them, that this is not the primary problem. The primary problem is that men did not choose to retain God in their knowledge. Many times, we condemn men for the condition God consigns them to because of rebellion. This is why it is not given to men to judge but to bring the gospel to light. We need not do the work of a man’s conscience, all we need to do is the be lights in the world showing the love of Christ. That light will both condemn sin and invite men to the savior. If that light of Christ is not enough to draw men it is because they have reprobated themselves and in that case only the hand of God can free them.
In verse 8 the heart of God shows His anguish as He laments “how shall I give the up, Ephraim?” and “how shall I deliver thee, Israel”. The Father’s heart is turned within Him. Even though the people utterly rebelled are a going to face the consequences the Father declares that He is withholding His wrath nonetheless and even though they despise Him, He is still the Holy One in the midst of them. For this reason, in v. 11 He declares that He will not enter into their cities. In other words, men ask “where is God” and feel that God must be angry because He has withdrawn Himself. This verse shows that God does not withdraw Himself from man in his sin because of anger but because of mercy. No man can look upon God and live. If God showed up in the life of a person in open and ongoing sin the consequences would be disastrous. Therefore, He withdraws Himself and allows man to experience the consequences of his own sinful choices, in hopes that like the prodigal, man will come to his senses and return to the living God.
In Ephraim’s (or the northern kingdom) case, rather than return to God, they have rather surrounded the Father with lies and deceit, telling God how much they loved and desired Him yet not making any effort to remove the pagan altars and the polluted altars from their land. We can only wonder what the response of the heart of God is when He sees “in God we trust” on the currency of our nation, contrasted by the character of the culture within our borders. Is this the error of Ephraim? Are we compassing God about with lies, saying we trust in Him when we as a nation do not? And what will be the outcome for us when if God withdraws Himself and allows our nation to have the exclusion of God from our culture as it has so clamored for over the last many decades?
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