22 September 2007

Hosea 11: 1-12

"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me... Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I lead them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them".


The book of Hosea is really a love story. The prophet was married to Gomer who was persistently unfaithful to him. Yet time and time again he forgave her and accepted her back into his home. Something that would be gracious in this generation, but in the 700s BC, was amazing. 

So Hosea knew well about costly love. He was well qualified to interpret his experience in the light of God's love to his people. He understood that the Almighty was greater than anything imaginable; was the force that drove the world; was love unimaginable. 

In this chapter, however, Hosea likens God's love to that of a parent's love to a child. He likens Israel's history to a love story, but not a happy story. For God's unending and enormous love was not returned by his people. Hence, like a deeply caring parent, God was hurt by this non-response. 

So, through his experience, Hosea tells God's message that God's story is not one of blind and blithe love, but is also a story of suffering. We cannot glibly say, "God is love" without understanding that "God is suffering" too. Suffering is a consequence of loving. God is not immune from this, yet in spite of such suffering through rejection and unfaithfulness, God does not give up on his people. 

The insight of Hosea, whether he knew it or not, extends beyond his own doorstep and touches all generations. Some have called his book the 'gospel' of the Old Testament, which shows God's costly love, just as it is shown in Jesus' sufferings on the cross.

To Ponder

Can the suffering of Jesus on the cross be a once only done deal? What sacrifices are being asked of you in your life, in which you could try to act in the power of God's costly love?

Bible notes author

Revd Wes Blakey

Revd Wes Blakey is a native of the north east of England. He served in circuits in Lancashire and Newcastle upon Tyne before being appointed to Chair of Nottingham & Derby District.