After exile in Babylon, Jews were allowed to return to their land during the Persian rule of Cyrus. The ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah brought appropriate worship and respectable structure back to the land of Israel, but the days of Israel’s power as a sovereign state were gone. For centuries, they were subject to the authority of other empires like Macedonia and Rome. Finally, when Jesus came as Messiah and King, sent from the Father to redeem His people and establish His kingdom . . . He was rejected. His own people didn’t recognize Him, His followers, or His Heavenly Father (cf. John 16:1–4).
Israel failed to know and understand God, both before and after Hosea’s message and the ensuing Exile. Today’s reading portrays Israel’s sinfulness as even more disappointing when contrasted with God’s tender love. Hosea has given us multiple perspectives of God’s love and our relationship to Him, including the image of God as husband, master, and provider. In Hosea 11, God is depicted as a loving father in an endearing image of teaching His child to walk. God not only gave life to Israel but He also reared them gently and personally. God didn’t force His children to survive and grow on their own; He came alongside them and helped them in love.
Hosea reiterated the image of Israel as a beast of burden, this time describing God as a compassionate master who eased the burden and kindly fed them. Despite all the myriad of ways God showed love to His people, they did not recognize Him as the One who loved them. Israel fled from His calls and showed their love to other gods, a reaction to which many parents can sadly relate. The verse describing God’s call to His rebellious children was also prophetic of Jesus’ return from Egypt after fleeing with Joseph and Mary from Herod’s wrath (cf. Matt. 2:15). Israel left Egypt only to fall into idolatry immediately, but Jesus returned to save His people from their sin. Both times, Israel failed to recognize the merciful love of the Father.
Apply the Word
If you ever feel like God is distant, remember that He is your spiritual Father who longs to help you and draw you close to Himself. You can find encouragement by remembering how God has shown His love to you. Make a list of the ways in which God has provided, cared for you, and showered you with grace and mercy. Thank Him for each instance and rejoice in the knowledge that He has demonstrated His love in so many ways, including the greatest gift of all: His Son!