In these last four chapters of the Book of Hosea – starting here with chapter 11 – the emphasis is upon one note: the love of God. Prophesying in the dark days of the decline and backsliding of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Hosea had been brought into fellowship with God through tragedy in his own home; through this tragedy of wounded love, there had come to him a true understanding of the Divine heart. This theme of Divine love has not been absent throughout the whole Book; but in this last portion, it comes into special prominence. So far, we have mainly been considering the prophet’s ministry of stern denunciation; and we have heard his constant call to his countrymen to return to Jehovah. And now, in these last four chapters, the dominant note is that of the love of the Lord! This love is the great and wonderful emphasis of this part of Hosea’s message.
When the nation of Israel was as weak and helpless as a child, and as foolish and wayward as a child – it was then that God loved them! He carried them, nourished them, and endured their bad manners. He took care of them and took pains with them – not only as a teaching father, but also as a nursing mother. When He called them out of brutal slavery in Egypt and led them through the wilderness, He showed them the way in which they should go; and He held them up, taking them by the arms. He taught them the way of His commandments by the ceremonial law which was delivered to Moses. He took them by the arms to guide them, so that they might not stray; and also to hold them up, so that they might not stumble and fall. And it is in the same way that all of God’s spiritual Israel are supported. Those whom the Lord loves, He calls out of the spiritual slavery of sin and Satan, into the glorious liberty of His own sons and daughters!
We cannot pass over the words of verse 1 without recalling how these words are said to have been fulfilled in Christ, when – upon the death of Herod – He and His parents were called out of Egypt (Matt. 2:15). And so the words have a double meaning – speaking historically of the calling of Israel out of Egypt, and also speaking prophetically of the bringing of the Christ-Child out of that same place. The former was a picture or foreshadowing of the latter. The deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt was a pledge and foretaste of the many great favors which God had in store His people – particularly the sending of His Son into the world; and the bringing of Him back into the land of Israel, when He had been unkindly driven out, and might justly have never returned.
The calling of Christ out of Egypt was a picture of the calling of all who are His, by Him, out of spiritual slavery. It is God’s work to draw poor souls to Himself, and none can come to Him unless He first draws them. And how does He draw them? “With bands of love!” He eased the Israelites from the burdens which they had groaned under for a long time in Egypt. And yet they were very ungrateful to Him. God’s counsels would have saved them, if only they would have listened to them and lived according to them. But alas! Their own counsels ruined them. They began to backslide from Him Who is the Source of all that is good. They were bent on backsliding; they were always ready to sin; they were eager to take advantage of the opportunities presented by every temptation; their hearts were fully set in them to do evil. Those alone are truly happy whom the Lord teaches by His Spirit, upholds by His power, and causes to walk in His ways. By His grace, He takes away the love and dominion of sin; and then He creates a desire for the blessed feast of the Gospel, so that His sons and daughters may feed thereon and live forever.
In verses 8-12, we see how slow to anger the Lord is. He has no desire to abandon a people to utter ruin who have been called by His name. Therefore, in order to redeem those who were living in willful backslidings and rebellion against Him, He provided a Sacrifice for sin and a Savior for sinners. He spared not His own Son, so that He might spare us! Man’s compassions are nothing in comparison with the tender mercies of our God, Whose thoughts and ways in receiving returning sinners are as much above ours as heaven is above the earth. The Lord knows how to pardon poor sinners! He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and therein He declares His righteousness; for Jesus has purchased the pardon, and He has promised it. Holy trembling (verse 11) at the Word of Christ will draw us to Him as dear children, and not drive us away from Him. And all who come to Him after hearing the Gospel-call shall have a place and a name in the Gospel-Church. The religious services of some are mere hypocrisy (verse 12); but let us pray for grace to be among those of Judah, who faithfully regard God’s laws – for those who thus honor Him, He will honor; but those who despise Him shall be lightly esteemed.
Lord Jesus, we confess that we are poor lovers indeed; for although You have often drawn us with the bands of Your love, we have been prone to backslide and wander. We are not fit to be Your servants, much less to be Your Bride; but we give You thanks that You have exalted us to be bone of Your bone and flesh of Your flesh – married to You by a glorious marriage-covenant! Amen.
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