At different times throughout our study of Hosea, we have seen God adopting similar approaches with Israel. The late writer Derek Kidner described it like this:
In Hosea, God is by turns ‘cool’ (‘he has withdrawn from them;’ Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone;’ ‘They sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind’) and ‘tough’ (‘I will be like a lion to Ephraim;’ ‘he will remember their iniquity, he will punish their sins’); but above all, ‘tender’ (‘How can I give you up, O Ephraim!’ My heart recoils within me;’ ‘I will heal their faithlessness’). [Kidner, Love to the Loveless]
We have seen how God has left His straying people alone for a season. These people have looked for other practical answers to their problems while attempting to mingle in a bit of religion. “With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them.” Hosea 5:6 (ESV)
How can such a powerful king both hold back His hand and suffer indignity as silently as a lamb before his shearers? We should marvel at the humility of God on display, patiently enduring at times, so that we will see His greatness and turn to Him.
Today, we must tremble at the thought of our actions isolating us us from God because they can. Peter warns us to be self-controlled and sober-minded and to show honor in our families so that we maintain our relationship with God in prayer.
God doesn’t always leave Israel alone in silence. He never shuts His ears against them for long. In His justice and His love for righteousness, He also destroys evil like a lion. In Hosea 13, God laments how they were satisfied by His kindness, but then they forgot Him. God describes Himself as being dangerous to those against Him like an invisible lion or leopard.
Hosea 13:5-9 (ESV) It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me.
So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs; I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open. He destroys you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper.
How do we approach the God who warns of such terrifying destruction? Those who ignore God and fight against Him will suffer the consequences. Jesus teaches us that eternal life means trusting Him and knowing Him, but for those who reject God, it means everlasting punishment (Matthew 13:36-43, Luke 13:22-30). Yet, even though this is true, it is not the only way or even the main way that God relates to His people.
God’s gentle compassion is more powerful than His coolness or anger. He is distant only when we ignore Him; He punishes those who fight against Him. Hosea closes with God’s moving promise: “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel, he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon…They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow and they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine.” (Hosea 14:4-7 ESV)
While Hosea and the people of his time didn’t understand how God would accomplish this, we know that His mercy triumphs over judgment because God made Jesus who never sinned to be our sin, so that we can become the righteousness of God.
Cool, Tough, and Tender for You Too
Hosea 14:9 (ESV)
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the LORD are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.
Looking at the final verse of this book written 2,200 years ago, we are warned not to imagine this is all about the past. “The ‘whoever’ of this verse suddenly exposes us to the same searching encounter, for the word of God goes on speaking; it never slips safely into the past. As revealed in this book, the rightness of God’s ways is so far above us in both holiness and love as to leave self-sufficient man without excuse, self-condemned, while those who turn into the way of righteousness find themselves met more than halfway.” (Kidner)
What about you? Are you affected by God’s expressions of coolness, toughness, and tenderness?
- Are you comfortable letting the door swing closed on your relationship with God stifling your prayers by indifference and unconfessed sin?
- Do you take Jesus’s warnings of hell and eternal isolation seriously both for yourself and for your family and friends?
- Is your heart warmed by God’s offer of reconciliation and restoration? He truly loves you and wants you to draw closer to Him!