Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hosea 11: 8-12

8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart is turned over within Me,
All My compassions are kindled.
9 I will not execute My fierce anger;
I will not destroy Ephraim again.
For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst,
And I will not come in wrath.
10 They will walk after the LORD,
He will roar like a lion;
Indeed He will roar
And His sons will come trembling from the west.
11 They will come trembling like birds from Egypt
And like doves from the land of Assyria;
And I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD.   
12 Ephraim surrounds Me with lies
And the house of Israel with deceit;
Judah is also unruly against God,
Even against the Holy One who is faithful.

The end of Chapter 11 comes with verses opening like that of Shakespeare--"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." God says, "How can I give you up?" His love for His people shines through the prophet's words this week.

God refers to not treating Israel as He did Admah and Zeboiim. These two cities are not as widely recognized by name as their destroyed cousins, Sodom and Gomorrah. Now that's a point of reference!

"‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.’"
--Deuteronomy 29:23

We come to the end of verse 8 in which God expresses an ultimate statement of love: "My heart is turned over within me. All of my compassions are kindled." This is part of the character of God that I absolutely accept, but that I cannot with any merit sufficiently explain. We have visited this concept of God "changing His mind" before. To say that would imply that He is not omniscient. Nothing in Israel's behavior would suggest that He even had reason to change His mind, which is why His mercy on His people is so unbelievable. "For I am God and not man...." (vs. 9)

Clearly, even through the chapters of discipline and punishment that we have read, there was an understanding from the beginning of Hosea--through the prophet's very life story--that God's compassion for His people was immense. Restoration of His relationship with them was paramount. Of course He knew His people would fail, and He would bring destruction and exile upon them--but out of the deepest love and passion for them, not out of vengeance and hate.

"Compassion, literally a feeling with and for others, is a fundamental and distinctive quality of the Biblical conception of God, and to its prominence the world owes more than words can express."
--W. L. Walker, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

"'Great is Thy faithfulness,' O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be."

The reality of Israel's next steps, however, continue to be spoken. Note verse 12. Ephraim would be destroyed at this time. His people would be captured and, then, scattered.

"In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon and Abel-beth-maacah and Janoah and Kedesh and Hazor and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria."
--II Kings 15:29

God will "roar like a lion" in His judgment. (vs 10) But, as we learned from Joel, "the LORD is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel." (3:16) The end of verse 10 and verse 11 may be confusing as far as the timeframe and movement. It says people are moving "from the west." This geographical reference is so simple as to gloss over it, yet when we stop and pause, it seems to be in error. If Ephraim is held captive in Assyria and Judah in Babylon, then they would come back to Israel from east to west, not from west to east. My study Bible explains that "this undoubtedly has reference to His return at the Second Advent to set up the millennial kingdom, when He calls Israel from their worldwide dispersion and reverses the judgment of 9:17." [which says, "My God will cast them away because they have not listened to Him; And they will be wanderers among the nations."]

With all of His compassions kindled--His merciful love that no earthly being can emulate or imagine--God promises that He will, once and for all, restore His own unto Himself.

"Thus says the Lord GOD, 'When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and will manifest My holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they will live in their land which I gave to My servant Jacob.  They will live in it securely; and they will build houses, plant vineyards and live securely when I execute judgments upon all who scorn them round about them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God.'

"Also the tree of the field will yield its fruit and the earth will yield its increase, and they will be secure on their land. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bars of their yoke and have delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them."
--Ezekiel 28: 25 & 26, and 34:27

Chapter 12, "Ephraim reminded".... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Hosea 12: 1-5

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).