A. God’s tender love for Israel.
1. (1-2) Israel: Called by God and called by the Baals.
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. As they called them, so they went from them; they sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to carved images.”
a. I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son: God remembers His tender love for Israel, when more than 500 years before the time of Hosea He brought them out of Egypt.
i. This is an “unexpected prophecy” fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Matthew 2:15 shows how the words out of Egypt I called My son were fulfilled when the child Jesus return from Egypt after escaping there on the eve of Herod’s massacre of the innocents.
b. As they called them, so they went from them: God called Israel out of Egypt, but the idolatry of the Baals called to Israel, and they forsook the Lord and followed the Baals (the local deities of Canaan).
2. (3-4) God’s tender love for an unseeing Israel.
“I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.”
a. I taught Ephraim to walk . . . but they did not know that I healed them: God does so much for His people that they are unaware of. Often we attribute some blessing directly from the hand of God to some other source.
i. Taking them by their arms: The picture is of a parent teaching a child how to walk by holding the child’s arms and supporting the child as they make their awkward steps.
b. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love: Even when God draws His people, it is with gentle cords of love, not with harsh manipulation or coercion. God wants to win us over, but not will brute force.
i. Clarke on gentle cords: “This is a reference to leading strings, one end of which is held by the child, the other by the nurse, by which the little one, feeling some support, and gaining confidence, endeavours to walk. God, their heavenly Father, made use of every means and method to teach them to walk in the right and only safe path.”
ii. In the ancient world, the empires of Persia and Greece fought bitter wars. There was said to be a great difference between their soldiers. In the Persian army, soldiers were like slaves and driven into battle with whips and threats. In the Greek army, soldiers were free men and patriots, and fought for Sparta and Greece out of love for country and a sense of duty. The smaller armies of Greece usually beat the larger armies of Persia. God calls us as an army of free men, grateful patriots of the kingdom of God.
iii. “Understand, then, it is true that no man comes to God except he is drawn; but it is equally true that God draweth no man contrary to the constitution of man, but his methods of drawing are in strict accordance with ordinary mental operations. He finds the human mind what it is, and he acts upon it, not as upon matter, but as upon mind. The compulsions, the constraints, the cords that he uses, are ‘cords of a man.’ The bands he employs are ‘bands of love.’” (Spurgeon)
c. As those who take the yoke from their neck refers to relaxing and loosening the yoke-collar of a plowing animal, giving the animal rest and the freedom to breathe.
d. I stooped and fed them: God humbled Himself to minister to His needy people. One might almost think it is beneath the dignity and honor of God to stoop so for His people, but He never thinks so. This is the heart reflected in the servant nature of Jesus (Philippians 2).
B. God’s strict hand towards Israel.
1. (5-7) Empty profession brings the chastening of God.
“He shall not return to the land of Egypt; but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to repent. And the sword shall slash in his cities, devour his districts, and consume them, because of their own counsels. My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him.”
a. Because they refused to repent: In this sense, it wasn’t so much the sin of Israel that got them into trouble. It was their stubborn refusal to repent after their sin. For that, God would make sure that destruction and exile waited for them.
b. My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him: Backsliding means that at one time, Israel had a closer and more real walk with God. Now that is in the past, and their profession is simply empty. They call to the Most High in a formal sort of way, but they do not exalt Him with their lives.
2. (8-9) God’s sympathy in the midst of chastening.
“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror.”
a. How can I give you up, Ephraim? Though the dark clouds of judgment are on the horizon, God takes no pleasure in the chastening about to come upon Israel. Instead He says, “My sympathy is stirred.”
i. We are in sin, and guilty before God. Yet He says, How can I give you up? Justice demands that He do this, yet in His heart He must find a way of salvation. In this, God sends Jesus Christ, and on the cross Jesus was “given up” in our place.
b. Admah and Zeboiim were two cities near Sodom and Gomorrah that were also destroyed (Deuteronomy 29:23). God says, “I can’t bear to allow My people to be caught up in the destruction that will come upon all the nations, as Admah and Zeboiim were caught up on the destruction that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah.”
c. I will not again destroy Ephraim: Though their sin deserves it, God will not wipe out Israel. He will leave a remnant, and will restore the nation.
d. For I am God, and not man: The longsuffering, forgiveness, and compassion of the Lord toward His people seems unbelievable until we recognize that He is not man, but God. His love and forgiveness are of a different order. There are many differences between God and man in the matter of forgiveness.
· Man cannot hold back his anger very long
· Man cannot bear with others when he is tired, stressed, or annoyed
· Man will not reconcile if the person who offended him is a person of bad character
· Man is often only willing to be reconciled if the offending party craves forgiveness and makes the first move
· Man is often only willing to be reconciled if the offending party will never again do the wrong
· Man, when he does reconcile, does not lift the former offender to place of high status and partnership
· Man, when he is wronged, does not bear all the penalty for the wrong done
· Man, when he attempts reconciliation, will not continue if he is rejected
· Man will not restore an offender without a period of probation
· Man will not love, adopt, honor, and associate with one who has wronged him
· Man will not trust someone who has formerly wronged them
i. What passes for forgiveness among men is nothing like the amazing forgiveness of God. “Suppose that someone had grievously offended any one of you, and that he asked your forgiveness, do you not think that you would probably say to him, ‘Well, yes, I forgive you; but I - I - I - cannot forget it’? Ah! dear friends, that is a sort of forgiveness with one leg chopped off, it is a lame forgiveness, and is not worth much.” (Spurgeon)
3. (10-12) The roar of God calls Israel back.
“They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west; they shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt, like a dove from the land of Assyria. And I will let them dwell in their houses,” Says the Lord. “Ephraim has encircled Me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah still walks with God, even with the Holy One who is faithful.”
a. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west: God speaks of the ultimate restoration of Israel, an expression of His mercy to Ephraim.
b. Ephraim has encircled Me with lies: God makes these promises knowing the present state of Israel. Though Judah is in a better place than Israel, God still makes the promises with full knowledge of their present state.
© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission