How Can You Give Up?
O God, You are my father. I acknowledge that You are raising me in a perfect way, Your way.
Read Hosea 11:1–11
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.
5 “Will they not return to Egypt
and will not Assyria rule over them
because they refuse to repent?
6 A sword will flash in their cities;
it will devour their false prophets
and put an end to their plans.
7 My people are determined to turn from me.
Even though they call me God Most High,
I will by no means exalt them.
8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities.
10 They will follow the Lord;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
11 They will come from Egypt,
trembling like sparrows,
from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
I will settle them in their homes,”
declares the Lord.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“O love that will not let me go, I give my weary soul to thee, that in life’s ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be” (George Matheson, 1842–1906).
This passage reveals the pathos and anguish of a God who anguishes over the waywardness of his people and ponders his response. Parental imagery replaces the earlier marriage analogy. God is now the loving father who had called Israel out of Egypt to be his son.
Yet from the very beginning, Israel resisted and rebelled. As soon as the promised land was subdued, “they sacrificed to the Baals” (2), when it was God who was providing for them. This was an extreme affront to the Lord. Granted, Israel thought of God as chief (most high) among the gods—but this was not enough. The terms of the covenant were simple: the Lord was to be Israel’s only God, and Israel God’s only people. Their failure to acknowledge God breached the terms of the agreement. What would he do about it?
At first God threatens vengeance, but such is his love that he cannot go through with it. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?” (8). Hosea portrays the Lord as a God who changes his mind. While this is clearly anthropomorphism (i.e., attributing human properties to God), it is not used to reduce God to a human level. Quite the contrary, it reveals that he is “God, and not a man—the Holy One among you” (9). Hosea seems to say, “to be obdurate is human; to be responsive is divine!” Humans are stubbornly recalcitrant; God is compassionate and thus flexible in his dealings with all of humanity, but especially his own people.
None of this is to say that catastrophe would not come; it was solemnly promised. But whatever the outcome, God would not abandon his people. Even into exile, God would go with them. His people may have broken covenant with God, but God cannot break his covenant with them.
Have you strayed from God? Can you sense that God has not given up on you? Have you closed your mind against God or against other people?
Lord, help me to guard against our collective tendency to forget You when we begin to prosper in this world (Deut. 8:10–14). Help me to keep You first in all of my ways.
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