Hosea 11: The God who Loves


What does Love look like?


Maybe you’d say that love doesn’t look like anything.  Love is a feeling – an emotion.  How can love look like something?


Surely love is more about feelings and thoughts and desires and emotions – love doesn’t look like anything – it’s just love.


But love, real love is practical.  It isn’t just an emotion, a feeling – but real love is active.  When we love someone, we act.


So what does love look like?


Two people holding hands perhaps.  A parent with a small child on their shoulders.  A wife beside the bedside of a sick husband – day after day, and night after night.


Long phonecalls from half way across the world – and long letters – and, of course, long emails. 


Love, real love, is a practical thing, you can see it in action.


Tonight as we think about Hosea 11, we’re looking at God’s love.  God’s practical love for his people.  And we’re asking ourselves – What does God’s Love look like?  And of course – what does that mean for us, now?


Turn with me if you would to Hosea 11 – it’s on page 907 of the bibles in the chairs.  And as a special bonus tonight there’s some space for notemaking on the back of the service sheet, and you should find a pencil in the back of the chair in front of you.


So Hosea 11 – page 907.  God’s love for Israel.


What does God’s Love look like?


1. God is patient with a rebellious people v1-4


There are many beautiful verses in the bible.  But verse 1 here is surely one of the most beautiful.  Lets look at it together.


Hosea 11:1 "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.


God takes us back to the early days of his relationship with Israel, as we see a. God’s Great Love for Israel


Hundreds of years before Hosea was born, God had shown his love for Israel by rescuing them from Egypt, by protecting them through the wilderness, and by giving them a land of their own – the land of Israel.


Israel is pictured as a child here – a child being protected by a father.  Now the thing about children, particularly small children, is that they need protection.  The picture here is of God protecting a defenceless Israel – from the might of Egypt, and carefully nursing and nurturing his child, his son.


What a picture of the relationship of God with his people!  A father tenderly caring for a child, and nurturing him.  We do not call God our Father fro nothing.  God gives us the model of fatherhood that we should seek to emulate – a loving father.


But Israel did not respond well.  Look at verse 2, and God’s great patience:


Hosea 11:2 But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.


Verse 1 is a beautiful verse – but here we have a verse which deals with an almost unexpressible sadness.  God has loved Israel like a father, but Israel has responded by loving other gods – the Baals, and the images or idols.


The picture here is of God calling to Israel again and again - through the prophets – and each time God calls, Israel as a whole moves away from God.  Yes there were brief times of revival, but Israel preferred to follow Baal than the true God.


But God is patient.  Over hundreds of years he has called again and again.  He gave Israel the law so that they would know how to live, once he had rescued them.  And he gave them kings to lead them, and prophets to teach them – but Israel as a whole would not listen.  However, God has been patient with his people.


And then look on to verses 3 and 4, and God’s great care for his people:


Hosea 11:3 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; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.


God remembers all that he has done for Israel.  He patiently taught Israel to walk – showed Israel how to live – he led Israel in the right paths, again with tenderness.  He lifted the yoke from their neck – he dealt with threats and problems.  And through all of this, Israel was not grateful.  Israel did not even realize that God was at work – they probably thought they taught themselves to walk.


We see a glimpse here of God’s great care for his people.  How he constantly watches over them and nurtures them, dealing with threats to them.


God is patient with a rebellious people.  He loves them, and he cares for them – even though they reject him.


God has been a Father to Israel.


And what about us?  What does this mean for us?

Well, we come to God as our Father.  Through Jesus Christ, we know God as our Father – we are his children.  And so we can know this awesome fatherly love of God for ourselves.


As we live as followers of Jesus, we live as sons of God.  We live with a God who is patient with us – patient with our mistakes and who will again and again seek gently correct us.  A God who cares for us – who not only sent his son to save us, but who through his word teaches us and shows us the way – who teaches us to walk in the right path, like a patient father.  And above all a God who loves us with a great love, our Father God.


Hosea’s first message for us tonight is that we should live in the Love of God, trusting in him and his great love for us.  We need to keep this picture of God’s fatherhood before us, not so that we can presume upon it, but so that we will always know that in Christ Jesus God loves us, and like the perfect Father that He is, that love never goes away.


2. God deals justly with a rebellious people v5-7


Verse 5 seems to be an abrupt change from verse 4:


Hosea 11:5 "Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent?


Israel will go into exile.  Assyria will rule over them – and this will be like returning to Egypt.  Verse 6 describes what is coming upon Israel:


Hosea 11:6 Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans.


This is not going to be a pretty sight.


But given God’s great love for Israel, why is this going to happen?


Look at verse 7:


Hosea 11:7 My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them.


God’s people continue to turn from God.  He has been patient with them as we have seen, but they are determined to turn from God.  They have ignored all the encouragements and warnings, and now it really is too late.  They might call on the Most High – on God  - but it is too late.


It is too late, because as verse 5 says, they refuse to repent (v5 on screen)


They might call on God to help them out – but they are not coming before God recognizing their own sinfulness, and turning to God, and so God will act justly.  He will allow them to trust in Assyria – and to fall to Assyria as a result.  They want to live without him – and for a time, he will let that happen, and Israel will be destroyed.


Repentance is an essential part of coming before God.  Look at how Jesus starts his ministry in Mark’s gospel:


Mark 1:15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"


Repent and Believe.  We believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour because he died on the cross. 


Why did Jesus die on the cross? Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  He saves us from our sins.  It is difficult to be saved when we don’t recognize that we need saving – we need to repent – to recognize that we have done wrong, and to come to Christ as Saviour and Lord. 


God is patient – and God is Just.   We are thankful for God’s patience with us, but we must not presume upon it.  If we do not know Christ as saviour and Lord, then there will come a time when we will be judged by God, and receive what we deserve.  We will go into exile from God.  And if we do know Jesus and yet are living lives that deny him, we must recognize that God will deal with us as he dealt with Israel, with justice – he will discipline us so that we will come back to him.


For as we saw last week, it is not just to leave wrongdoing unpunished – to let people get away with wrongdoing – to get away with murder.  It would not be just, and it would not be loving for God to ignore wrongdoing.


The message for us here is straightforward.  We should learn the lesson from Israel, we should repent and believe in Jesus as Saviour and Lord.


3. God restores Israel because of his love v8-11.


And then in verses 8 and 9, the tone changes again:


Hosea 11:8 "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 Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.  


Israel is God’s father.  He will act with justice, and Israel will be exiled.  But Israel won’t be totally destroyed like Admah and Zeboiim – towns which were destroyed when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed way back in Genesis.


God is still Israel’s father.  Look at verse 9:


Hosea 11:9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man-- the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.


Israel – Ephraim – deserves to be cast aside by God.  They have consistently sinned against God, and any human father faced with such disobedience would disown their son.


But God is not a human being.  God is God.  God is Holy.  We’ve seen that God is patient, and we’ve seen that God is Just.  But God is also Holy, which means that he keeps his promises – he is free from all imperfections.


God has made promises to Israel, and he will keep them.   God made this promise to Abraham, way back in Genesis 12:


Genesis 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."


God made Abraham’s name great in the nation of Israel, a great nation.  And Israel was at times a blessing to other nations – for example in Solomon’s day.


But part of the promise remained unfulfilled.  For all the nations had not been blessed by Israel.  God fulfilled his promise though Abraham’s descendants, through Israel.


Israel would go into exile, but Israel would not be destroyed.  In fact, Israel could look forward to a time of restoration by God:


Hosea 11:10 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 trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes," declares the LORD.


God looks forward to a future time when he will restore his people, and when they will be restored to their homes.


Now we know that this did happen in history – that a remnant from Judah did return to the promised land after Judah was exiled, and the temple was rebuilt.  But Israel never regained her former glories.


The real restoration had to wait a little longer.  Look at our passage from John 3:


John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.


True restoration came when God sent his son Jesus Christ, who was a true Israelite and son of Abraham, to save the world – to be a blessing to all nations of the world.


God restored people to the land of Israel.  But God also provided a greater restoration.


A restoration true to his Holy nature – a restoration which is a blessing to the whole world, just as he promised.


And a restoration which is just – for we are made right with God, we are able to follow God, only because Jesus Christ died on the cross in our place and took the penalty that we deserve.  So now we can approach God as father, because we approach him in Christ.


God’s great love for Christ should encourage us to come before Christ as saviour and Lord.  Perhaps this will be for the first time, as we recognise our need to repent and to trust in God for salvation.  But perhaps we are coming back to Christ.


Perhaps we’ve been trying to hide – thinking that we are not worthy of God, and that he can’t want to know us – Hosea 11 encourages us to trust in God’s patience and love.


Whatever our situation, we come to Christ, and to the God who loves his children as the perfect father – patiently, with appropriate discipline, and who has plans to prosper and restore his children beyond their wildest dreams.


Hosea 11 teaches us about God’s great love, in action.  A great love which is seen in God’s amazing fatherly care for his people.  A great love which is seen in God’s patience and his justice, and a great love which is seen supremely on the cross, where God in his fatherly care sends his own son to rescue us, and to make us into his children.


So let us thank God for his love.  Let us repent, and turn to Christ, and live in relationship with our amazing Heavenly father.



James Hughes

1st August 2004