A Tale of Holy Love, Unfaithfulness, Justice, Mercy, and Grace
In the midst of His warnings of impending doom and judgment, God takes a moment to remind Israel of His love. He reminds them of His faithfulness and tender mercies of the past and brings to their attention how gently and lovingly He brought them out of Egypt and built them into a nation. He viewed Israel as a toddler-age son who needed help with everything from learning to walk to finding food. But what was Israel’s response to all that God did? Blatant ungratefulness.
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols. 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. 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.”
The image given here is one of tenderness, gentleness, and patience. God was tender, gentle, and patient with Israel. He helped them and guided them as a people and built them into a nation. He led them with cords of kindness and bands of love, and bent down to lift them up when they fell. He healed them and fed them.
But Israel was unaware of whose hands were guiding them. They were clueless to who was providing for them. So instead of being grateful for all that God had done for them, they turned their hearts away from Him. The more they heard God’s voice and calling, the further they walked away. They chose to remain ignorant and unaware of all that God had done in their lives so that they could keep sacrificing to and worshipping the god of their choosing. Even though God was revealing the mighty acts that He had done for them in the past, stubborn Israel refused to listen and instead, hardened their ungrateful hearts.
This grieved God’s heart. For the image given in Hosea 11 is that of a parent who pours his life into the raising of a child only to have that child walk away when it’s grown and want nothing to do with the parent. As any parent could attest, that would break one’s heart! And Israel’s blatant ungratefulness certainly grieved the heart of God.
God’s acts of kindness, love, and tenderness should turn our hearts to gratefulness. They should cause us to fall at His feet in adoration, thankfulness, and worship. They should soften our hearts so that we can receive His correction and discipline knowing that He loves us and has proven that love over and over again.
So will we remember the mighty acts of God in our lives and the ways in which He gently leads us and guides us? Will we turn our hearts to Him in utter gratefulness and never doubt His unending love for us? Will we have soft hearts so that when God’s discipline comes we are able to receive it as the loving correction it is? Or will we follow Israel’s example and choose to ignore the work of God in our lives and harden our hearts with blatant ungratefulness?
Israel’s choice was one of foolishness. They hardened their hearts against God, so God rejected them. The One who formerly lifted them up when they stumbled and healed their wounds will do so no longer. He will no longer lift up Israel when he stumbles and falls. He will no longer come when they call. His bands of love will no longer guide them and His kindness will no longer be available to them.
Because of their hard, ungrateful hearts Israel thought that they no longer needed God and chose their own way. But that path led straight into the enemy’s camp. Their desire to go their own way landed them in captivity and back into the dark world of slavery. However, unlike in Egypt, they did not have the Most High to call upon. For as they had turned their back on Him despite all that He had done, so God was turning His back on Israel. Such is the slippery slope of an ungrateful heart. Therefore, let us be warned!
“My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all.”