Psalm 116: December 30—The compassionate loving father
Dec 23, 2012
By MARK A. RATHEL

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
The prophecy of Hosea is the clearest Old Testament revelation of the love of God. Hosea described the love of God through four powerful pictures. God is like a husband and His people like an unfaithful bride (Hosea 1-3). 

Hosea 11 contains three pictures of God’s care. The prophet compared God to a loving Father and His people to ungrateful children (Hosea 11:1-3). God is like a caring farmer tenderly caring for animals (Hosea 11:4). Finally, the prophet compares God to a mighty lion defending His cubs (Hosea 11:10). 

All four pictures of God’s love proclaim the truth that God is faithful to His covenant people. He did not and will not abandon His people despite their follies and sin. 

As we approach a New Year, how appropriate it is that we reflect on the unchanging love of God.

What does Hosea 11 reveal to believers about God’s love?

First, God loves like a father loving an ungrateful son (Hosea 11:1-3). Hosea’s description of God’s love has as its backdrop the exodus. For OT believers, the exodus functioned as the commemorative demonstration of God’s love, as the cross functions as the commemorative love of God for New Testament believers. 

God proclaimed to Pharaoh, “Israel is my firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22). 

As a loving parent, God acted fatherly in four ways. First, He liberated His son from Egypt. Second, taught His people to walk, even providing the covenant law to instruct the people in the correct path to walk. Third, He carried them in His arms throughout the wilderness journeys (Deut. 1:21). Fourth, He healed them, likely a reference to God’s healing described in Exodus 15:22-26. 

The response of Israel, God’s son, to God’s love was not favorable. The more God pursued His people, the more they departed from Him (v. 2). Hosea depicts God’s people as immature (like a young child), ungrateful, and rebellious. The historic pattern of God’s people was continually worshiping other masters (Baals), or we might paraphrase “other daddies.”

Matthew 2:15 cites Jesus coming out of Egypt as the fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. Hosea 11 then looks backward as well as forward. Jesus retraced the history of Israel. 

One biblical scholar described Matthew’s teaching in this way, “For example, paralleling the movement from bondage to Sinai, Jesus comes out of Egypt (Mt 2), goes through the waters (of baptism; Mt 3), is tempted in the desert (forty days and nights; Mt 4), and then goes to a mountain to speak of the law (Mt 5–7).” 

Jesus is the true Israel.

As a loving parent, God disciplines His child (Hosea 11:5-9). Hosea described the painful love of God. No parent enjoys disciplining a child, even God. Because God is “the Holy One,” He must discipline sin. 

God disciplined His son Israel through the Assyrian exile, but God chose compassion over full wrath. He did not destroy Israel like He did Adman and Zeboiim, two cities He destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut. 29:23).

Second, God loves like a farmer carrying for animals (Hosea 11:4). Hosea described Israel as an animal and God as the provider. God removed the yoke and led Israel with ropes of love through the wilderness even hand-feeding Israel during the journey.

Third, God loves like a protective lion (Hosea 11:10-11). Often the Bible used the imagery of a lion as a description of God’s swift, destructive judgment. 

Here the comparison of God to lion is positive. God roars like a lion to protect His people and to summons the cubs to come home. God’s love provided a new exodus as His people came home from exile as swiftly as doves. 

Even when we sin, God always calls us home! 

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