Hosea 11:1. When Israel was a child,
When the nation was yet young, and had scarcely started on its march among the peoples of the earth: “When Israel was a child,” —
Hosea 11:1. Then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
God’s love does not depend upon the standard of our spiritual attainments. While we are yet children in grace, the Father’s love is set upon us, as it was upon Israel in its beginnings as a nation.
Hosea 11:2. As they called them, so they went from them;
Such was the perversity of this child-nation, whom nevertheless God loved that though galled by Jehovah, he went away, and refused to obey the divine call. The Israelites in Egypt “hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage;” and, even after their great deliverance, they were constantly turning aside from the path pointed out by Moses, who bade them be faithful to their God.
Hosea 11:2. They sacrificed unto Baalim, —
They offered sacrifice to many Baals, first to one and then to another, for men will readily change their idols when they know not the true God.
Hosea 11:2-3. And burned incense to graven images. I taught Ephraim also to go, —
This child-nation was taught by God how to walk; —
Hosea 11:3. Taking them by their arms;
As nurses hold up their little children when for the first time they try to stand or toddle along.
Hosea 11:3. But they knew not that I healed them.
This was a singular thing, and it shows the great blindness of man, that he does not know his own Physician. It was so with Israel: “They knew not that I healed them.” Surely, brethren, it seems impossible that we should not know our Divine Healer; yet our blindness is extreme by nature, and leads to many a folly.
Hosea 11:4. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.
As men do to their cattle when they have been ploughing, and they come to the end of the day’s work, then the bit is removed, or the yoke is lifted off the shoulder, and fit fodder is provided for the cattle that they may be refreshed. This is what God did to his people Israel; he brought them out of Egypt, where they had to perform hard tasks, caused them to rest from their labours, and gave them both material and spiritual meat to eat; yet nevertheless they were ungrateful to him. We say that ingratitude is the worst of sins; but, alas, it is one of the commonest of evils, and we ourselves are ingrates to our God.
Hosea 11:5. He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.
If we try to escape from our trouble without hearing the voice of God in it we shall run into another; if, by our own plotting and scheming, we escape from Egypt, then the Assyrian shall be our king, and there is small choice between Assyria and Egypt. It is always best to take with submission the sorrow that God appoints, lest, by fleeing from the bear the serpent bite us, and so we go from bad to worse.
Hosea 11:6. And the word shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels.
That is a very striking expression, “Because of their own counsels.” It should be a solemn warning to us not to follow the devices of our own heart when we see the consequences of Israel’s walking after his own way.
Hosea 11:7. And my people are bent to backsliding from me:
They seemed as if they must do it, as if their hearts were set upon it; they were “bent” upon it. Oh, that our bent and bias were towards holiness, and not towards backsliding!
Hosea 11:7. Though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.
See how Israel puts God away, and will not hear Jehovah’s voice. Now observe the change in the chapter, for God speaks of his faithfulness even to backsliding Israel. He does not give his people up, and he still yearns over them in tenderest pity and forbearance.
Hosea 11:8. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repenting are kindled together.
And this divine turning and repenting, remember, were toward a people who did not turn to the Lord. God turned towards a people that would not turn towards him, and his repenting were “kindled together” towards the nation that would not repent. Oh, the unspeakable, the unthinkable grace of God! He doeth for us “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
Hosea 11:9. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man;
Our hope lies in the fact that God is God. Sometimes, that truth is a terror to men; they are distressed at the thought of the great and holy God, yet in this truth is their only hope of salvation. The Lord says, “I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for I am God, and not man.”
Hosea 11:9. The Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
That is, the Lord says, “I will not come into it to see all its iniquities, lest in my wrath I smite and destroy it.” How tenderly doth God bear with wicked men! How great is his long-suffering! How graciously he seems to close his eyes, as if he would not see that which must bring upon us swift destruction if he looked upon it in his righteous anger!
Hosea 11:10. They shall walk after the LORD:
It is a great blessing when men begin to seek the Lord whom they formerly shunned. This proves that there has been wrought in them a complete change of heart.
Hosea 11:10. He shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
God’s terrible voice often makes men tremble, and that is one proof of the working of his grace in their hearts, for they tremble before him, and flee unto him.
Hosea 11:11-12. They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD. Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.
There are still some left to serve Jehovah; there is a remnant according to the election of grace even in the very worst of times. “Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.” May we be found among the faithful few! Amen.