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Hosea 11

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God's Love For Israel (ch. 11:1 11)


In this chapter we will see the heart of God.  He is just and He must punish Israel, yet at the same time He is a God of love and He loves those He must punish.  We've often heard the fatherly words as he spanks his child, "this will hurt me more than it hurts you".  There's a real truth in that statement, and this is made clear in this chapter. 


Verse 1 says that "when Israel was a child I loved him".  We now see God, not as a husband as we saw Him earlier in the book of Hosea, but a father.  He is a father to Israel.  As New Testament Christians we understand God being a father, but that was not clearly understood in Israel of old.  To a small degree, Israel understood the fatherly nature of God to their nation, but God being a father of an individual wasn't understood.  That is a New Testament concept with the arrival of Jesus, the one and only begotten Son, which makes God a father to Jesus, and would eventually make God a father to those who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ.


The second part of verse 1says, "out of Egypt I have called my son".  In context, this obviously means that God called Israel out of Egypt by rescuing them from slavery in Egypt.  Back in those days, Israel was younger.  Israel was a child, was a son.  


Now it is very interesting that Matthew 2:15 quotes this very verse, but puts an altogether different meaning to it.  In the Matthew quote, the son who is being called out of Egypt is Jesus, not Israel.  You will remember that King Hared proclaimed that all two year old boys in Judea were to be killed.  In a vision an angel told Joseph and Mary to go to Egypt until sufficient time had past when these killings would be complete.  At that time, Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus, could return from Egypt to Judea.  Thus, God called Jesus out of Egypt. 


The question obviously arises, "how does the Matthew verse interpret Hosea 11:1 as Jesus coming out of Egypt when the historical context of Hosea 1:1 does not refer to Jesus coming out of Egypt, but  Israel coming out of Egypt.  This is one of a number of examples how the New Testament interprets some Old Testament prophecies in such a way.  The simple fact is that Old Testament prophecies often have double meanings.  That being said, we need to be careful in us giving the double meanings to the Old Testament prophecies.  That's not our place.  Let the New Testament do that alone. 


Verse 2 speaks of God calling Israel, but the more He called them the farther they strayed from Him.  This is like an ungrateful child.  The more you demonstrate your love to a rebellious teenager, the response is the more they walk away from you.  This bothers parents, and it bothered the Lord.


Verse 2 says that Israel "sacrificed to the Baals".  Note the plural form of the word Baal.  Each community had their own Baal god that they worshiped.


In verse 3 we note the father son relationship between Israel and her God.  God speaks in terms of helping His son learn how to walk.  Such things are very meaningful to parents.  The first step, the first word, and all of the other firsts, are deeply implanted into the memory of the parent, but the child remembers none of that.  That's why when a child strays from the parents in the teenage years, it's so hurtful.  The parent has more of a history with the child to remember than the child has with the parent.  So in part, this is one reason why the child can stray from the parent so easily.  The parent goes through great sorrow.  The child knows nothing of that sorrow.


We must remember, by this time in Israeli history, they are like teenagers.  They know little about the days when their ancestors escaped from Egypt.  The truth of their God was not passed down to them.  They are ignorant, and without understanding, of the godly heritage, but still, God must hold them accountable.


Verse 4 continues with the imagery of a loving father caring for his son, his only son. Again, we see the heart of God in this verse.  He surely cares for Israel.


I believe the return to  Egypt as seen in verse 5 speaks of the return to slavery that they once experienced in Egypt.  It's not a literal return to Egypt , because as the rest of this verse states, it's Assyria that they will be exiled to, and when they get there, they will be slaves, and worse off than when they were slaves in Egypt.


Assyria is noted to be one of the worst places when it come to slavery and torture.  For example, they would actually skin their captors alive.


Verse 6 is a direct reference to the attack on the northern kingdom of  Israel from Assyria.  Israel becomes defenseless.


In verse 7 we see the determination of Israel to rebel against her God.  God is just as determined to not exalt Israel. He will do just the opposite.  He will destroy her.


In verse 8 we see the apparent predicament God finds Himself in.  On one hand He must punish Israel.  He must destroy them for at least two reasons.  One reason is that He is just and sin needs to be punished.  The other reason is a matter of commitment to His own law.  In the Law of Moses God said that judgment would come upon Israel if Israel failed to keep the Law.  Israel agreed.  So, to be honest to Himself, God must fulfill that which was written in the Law of Moses.  The curses of the Law must come on the northern kingdom of Israel.


Note the two cities of Admah and Zeboiim mentioned in verse 8.  These two cities were in close proximity to Sodom and Gomorrah and participated in the same sin and were judged accordingly. See Genesis 10:19.   What God is saying here is that He really doesn't want to treat His own people in the same way that He treated these two cities, but He has no choice.  Again, we see the heart of God here, the battle between what He must do and what He wants to do.  He still loves Israel, even though He is about to wipe the northern kingdom off the face of this earth.


The part of verse 8 and into verse 9 seems to be confusing on the surface.  God says that He has a change of heart.  He says in verse 9 that He "will not carry out His fierce anger" or destroy Ephraim, meaning the northern kingdom.  The difficulty with this passage is that He did destroy Ephraim.  So how should we understand this? The best way to understand this passage is to know that God did destroy Ephraim, but there will be a day when Ephraim, through the southern kingdom of Israel, will be restored.  That day is yet to come.  This is speaking of the restoration of Israel in the last days.  God loves Israel so much, that even though He had no choice but to destroy the northern kingdom, and then later, take the southern kingdom into captivity, He would bring them back together at some future date to be what He wanted them to be all along.


Also in verse 9 we see the reasoning behind God's decision to restore Israel.  It was because He is not a man.  He is God.  Man gets angry and destroys, and many times for no righteous reason.  God may destroy, but His reasons are righteous and just.  When man destroys out of anger, there is no love.  When God destroys from His holy wrath, there is still love.


Verse 10 clearly states that some day, Israel will follow the Lord.  Again, that day has not yet come.


When verse 10 says that "He will roar like a lion", the general consensus seems to be  the that the roar of the lion is the roar of a mother lion calling her babies back to her for nourishment.  The next phrase seems to suggests this when it says "when He roars, His children will tremble "  I believe this roar takes place at the end of this age, at the last great battle that the world rages against Israel.  The roar will scare the nations, but it will be the cry of love and safety for Israel.  One roar can be seen in two different ways by two different people.  If you or I were by a lion and we heard the roar, we might fear, but the lion cubs wouldn't fear.  They'd see the roar and as a call from their mother for dinner.


Note the phrase, "they will come trembling from the west".  When these words were uttered, coming from the west for Israel would not have been logical sense they had not been too far west.  They been south and east, and a bit north, but not from the far west.  This must be a reference to the end of this age, when Jews from the west will return to their homeland.  After the dispersion of 70 A. D., Jews migrated to the west.


Verse 11 ends this section with the promise that God would settle, or in this case, resettle Israelis in their own homes.  History shows that this is happening right now.  In the midst of all the trouble in the middle east today, Israelis are being resettled.  They will finally find complete settlement at the return of Jesus.   Israelis have been returning to their land since the late 1800's.  In 1948, when Israel became a nation again, this resettlement took on a more significant prophetic meaning.  If you read Ezekiel 33 to 37 you'll note that Israel will resettle their land, then after that, they will return to their God.  There is a definite sequence of events here.      


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