Two nights ago I was awakened and could not get back to sleep. I found my way to Hosea, because, while I have studied certain “positive” portions of the book, I had not read the book in full. What I found there was astonishing. Discouraging even–at first reading. The word pictures were graphic. I knew the story of Hosea, how God had told him to marry a prostitute in order to be an example to the nation of Israel. But I was not prepared for the harshness of God’s anger toward Israel; toward Ephraim. (I still haven’t been able to find the answer to why the tribe of Ephraim was singled out). His anger was fierce. His words were shocking. Maybe not the best book to read after being awakened in the middle of the night.
But then again, maybe it was. I questioned God’s anger, and felt deep despair about my own ugly sin and sense of hopelessness. My God has every right to be ferociously angered by my sin; He has every right to call me “Not my People.” He has every right to withhold His mercy from me.
And yet, He has not. He has not withheld His mercy from me. A pastor pointed out something I had failed to see: the harshness of the verbiage, imagery and God’s anger in Hosea make the blessings in Hosea that much more meaningful, that much more applicable.
Take a look at these verses:11:3
11:3 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. 4 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.
I had studied that passage before, but not in the context of the entire book. Now that I look at the book of Hosea as a whole, how much sweeter are these words? I went back to my study notes on this passage and read them with a different understanding.
I close this with part of the last chapter of Hosea, words I hadn’t read before the other night. That night they meant little to me, tonight after more contemplation I see more clearly the sacrificing love of my God toward my sinful self, and am in awe.
14:3 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.”
4 I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
6 his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
7 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.
8 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.