Drifting Away (1–2)
Hosea 11 is a monologue in which God speaks in the first person to His people Israel. Verse 1 refers to the amazing Exodus experience where God’s amazing power was manifested and the children of Israel were delivered from a life of slavery.
The motivation behind God’s mighty acts proven in the Exodus event is clearly stated in the first part of the verse, “When Israel was a youth I loved him.”
However, Israel responded irrationally to God’s love. The more God showed His love for His people, the more His people sinned against Him. The sin described here by Hosea is the sin of idolatry. The people were sacrificing to Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility, thus breaking the first commandment of God’s law.
The question we must ask ourselves is whether we also are guilty of the sin of idolatry. If one more readily goes to watch a sporting event rather than go to church to worship God and fellowship with his/her brothers and sisters, does not that person light a candle to the god of sport?
Are the temples of Tuscaloosa and Auburn not filled with worshipers while churches lose members? And people drift away because for them the Saturday afternoon game is more exciting than the Sunday morning service.
Persistent Love (3–4)
Even though His people have been disobedient, God recalls the time when like a loving Father He “taught Ephraim to walk.” Furthermore, God acted like a loving Father when He took Israel in His arms and healed them. And even though Israel was pulling away from God, God drew His people back to him with “bonds of love.”
Sin always puts a heavy yoke on the sinner. God in His love “became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws.” Not only that, but God bent down to feed His people when the yoke of sin was too heavy for them.
What stands in stark contrast here is the gentleness of God despite the people’s rebellion.
Determined Rebellion (5–7)
Even though God repeatedly called Israel to repent and turn back to Him, they refused. Even though some argue that people are basically good, verse 7 points to the fact that we were born in sin and that “we are bent” on turning from God.
Hosea, Amos, Isaiah and the other prophets called people to repentance and to a genuine relationship to the Most High. And even though God is the Most High, these people refused to exalt Him.
Before we point our fingers at Israel, we should also evaluate ourselves. The punishment for Israel was the invasion of Assyria who was the world power of that time. The Assyrians came, destroyed, killed and took people into exile.
Amazing Grace (8–11)
Despite our ongoing rebellion, God always loves us. Someone wise once said, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you less.”
Even though Admah and Zeboiim were destroyed with their sisters Sodom and Gomorrah, God will not allow for the absolute of Israel. What moves God’s heart is His love and compassion.
And after Israel will experience the Assyrian captivity, God in His mercy and love will bring His people back from captivity. And this points to God’s grace, His amazing grace.
Grace is not a New Testament development. God’s grace has been evident for all humanity from Creation until today.
The fact that God does not strike us dead is because He manifests His grace toward us. The apostle Peter says it very clearly in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
(Editor’s Note: Dr. Tiberius Rata is professor of Old Testament Studies and chair of the Department of Biblical Studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Ind. This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist and is used with permission.)