Have you ever taken the time to read the book of Hosea? You should. The bold and jarring words of the OT prophet are striking. It may just be the current state of my own heart that was impacted by the book this morning, or it may simply be the nature of the text itself.
God uses Hosea to vividly describe the wondering heart of His bride, and He also offers an incredible glimpse into His own loving heart. Warning: Hosea uses variants of the word “whore” quite a bit throughout the text. A bold word, for sure, but so incredibly accurate to describe Ephraim, Judah and Israel at that time. He paints an authentic and detailed picture of the the early church’s wandering heart and dishonorable actions of faithlessness. Once again, the bride has wondered away from her loving Groom. And the Groom is hurt. He is full of justified anger and wrath, and He is also full of relentless lovingkindness. God states His fair share of ‘fire-and-brimstone’ verbiage, but He also offers small snippets of sincere emotions that give the reader insight into the state of His heart. I couldn’t help but become teary-eyed when I read these sections of verse. Here is a Father who is left with holes in His own heart where the intimate relationships with His beloved sons and daughters should reside… a Groom that is overwhelmed by His wayward bride’s continual acts of disobedience… a Shepard who longs to be reunited with His defiant flock. His heart was torn and aching, and it breaks your heart to read of it.
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of kindness,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.
(Hosea 11:1-4 ESV)
My people are bent on turning away from me…
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
They shall go after the LORD;
he will roar like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west…
(Hosea 11:7-10 ESV)
But I am the LORD your God
from the land of Egypt;
you know no God but me,
and besides me there is no savior.
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.
(Hosea 13:4-9 ESV)
Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take with you words
and return to the LORD;
say to him,
“Take away all iniquity;
accept what is good,
and we will pay with bulls
the vows of our lips.
Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.”
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;
his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.
(Hosea 14:1-8 ESV)
Let us all run back to the open arms of the Groom. In case you need it, a little word of encouragement from Him:
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.
(Hosea 14:9 ESV)