December 7, 2017
‘Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us but He will heal us; He has injured us but will bind us up. 2 After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. 3 Let us know the LORD; let us pursue our knowledge of Him. He will appear as surely as the sun rises; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. 4 ‘What will I do with you, Ephraim? What will I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears!’ 5 So I have cut them up with my prophets, I killed them with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed on you like light. 6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
The Paradox of God’s Love and His Wrath
It is probably no accident that Hosea’s prophecy of God’s love comes almost immediately after his first mention of God’s wrath. In the Bible as a whole, the two tend to get together. The prophet Isaiah, speaking in Jerusalem only a few decades later, found that when prophesying, his words swung from one to the other with extraordinary consistency (see Isaiah chapters 1-5). Unfortunately, Christians tend to emphasize one or the other, when in truth, if we want to reflect the heart of God, we must represent both. We are used to speaking about God’s love today, because this is the best way for us to get the gospel message across in many parts of the world today. However, God’s wrath tells us about His ultimate judgement of the world and all things, a theme that is found consistently in the teachings of Jesus (see parables of the kingdom in Matthew 25) and throughout the Bible. There may be good social reasons why it may be right or wrong to preach about God’s wrath within society at large, but we cannot afford to ignore this aspect of God’s just nature; evil and wrong doing must have their consequences in God’s sight.
The Blessings of God’s Love
The wonderful message of this passage of Scripture has been a blessing to many people for many years, and it should remain a treasure of the church. Just because we need to look at it carefully does not mean we cannot use Hosea’s hymn as it was originally intended. Hosea spoke it out of frustration, not because it did not reveal the truth, but because Israel has abandoned everything it stood for. We should continue to value this passage as a prophecy revealing God’s promise to be faithful to all who turn to Him in healing power. It speaks of His continual concern to bless, of His desire to respond to those who turn to Him, and His faithful provision of what is needed for life to continue on this planet. At every level, this is a powerful and amazingly helpful passage of Scripture.
-Paul H. Ashby