I have never been much of a cat girl. They are a bit too bipolar and unpredictable for my liking. One moment, we’re best friends – the next, the little creature turns on me, and before I know it, I’m bleeding. I don’t appreciate walking on pins and needles in the comfort of my own home, so cats and I just agree to respect each other at a distance.
I used to feel a similar hesitation with the God of the Old Testament. One moment, He tells Israel that they are His chosen children. The next, He is destroying them. What is that about, anyway? So in my limited knowledge, I concluded that God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants to. His reaction at any given moment between justice and mercy was just a matter of rolling the dice. But He is God, so I shouldn’t question Him.
Though parts of that may be true, the way they relate is not. God has been patient to reveal His true character to me through months and years of reading His Word and listening to wiser brothers and sisters in the faith. Though I still have much to learn, He has begun to piece Scriptures together to show that He is not bipolar – He is balanced. In looking at the Father’s conversations with the people in the book of Hosea, we will see His perfect balance as God of both justice and love. And as we walk through this, I ask you to hold me accountable. Press my words against Scripture. Explore this for yourself, and let Him teach you.
The Father’s Predicament
Our Father stood in constant tension in balancing justice and grace throughout the Old Testament, and one of the most beautiful pictures of this relationship is found in Hosea. The Father instructed Hosea to marry a woman knowing that she would be unfaithful to him, and He likened the relationship between Hosea and Gomer (his wife) to that of God and Israel. God had a deep love for the people that he called to Himself, but Israel was faithfully unfaithful by running after man-made idols and bowing before man-appointed kings instead of the King of kings.
Turn With Your Heart
“Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.” Hosea 5:4
We pick up in Hosea 5 where God has had enough. There was nothing within their hearts that desired the God of heaven. In His holiness, He could not intermingle with sin. There is no darkness within Him (1 John 1:5); therefore He could not welcome something that would compromise His character and deity. He was forced to leave the situation and give them over to their sin until they returned to Him. “I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me” (5:15). Israel was so accustomed to giving sacrifices that they forgot how to repent with their hearts. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (6:6)
The Father’s Temporary Salvation
Before this account, God gave to Israel a perfect law, the Ten Commandments, which revealed who He was and how to be on perfect terms with Him. With the fall of man in Genesis 3, man stepped out from under the protection of the law and stood vulnerable to the wrath of God. But in love God provided protection. Knowing that no one could live by this law without breaking it, the book of Leviticus described which sacrifices were needed to cover each sin. Though God found joy in displaying His righteous deity, He did not take pleasure in the death of His creation, whether animal or man. He did not order sacrifices out of pleasure; He was trying to save His chosen people from…Himself. And what heightened the urgency of salvation was the fact that this was not just a righteous God to His creation; this was a Father to His children. And this is where we find Him in Hosea.
The Father Bends Down to Us
“I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.” (11:4)
In chapter 11, God breaks from a marriage parallel (Hosea/Gomer vs. God/Israel) for the Father to explain His love for Israel not as a bride, but as His children. The tension eases as the Father steps in to share His heart. The Father always loved Israel. He called them out of oppression, but they took their freedom and tried to run. However, the Father does not give up that easily. He continually forgave them, but they did not give Him the credit. He patiently guided them and bound them to Himself, not in oppression, but in the kindness and love of the Father. And in verse 4 we see a picture of this righteous Judge leaning down from heaven in compassion to nourish and strengthen them.
And then comes the passage that had me believing that my God was bipolar. In the midst of Israel’s rebellion and after God lists their punishment in great detail, He says, “My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (11:8-9). Did He change His mind? No, He was patient. All sin would indeed be paid for…in time. The Father was giving Israel borrowed time, but did they recognize the weight of His mercy? Hosea 11:7 says His people are “bent” on turning away from Him, showing that there is a deeper, long-standing issue.
The Father’s Eternal Salvation
Israel’s true sin was not in their actions; it was in their sinfully bent hearts. The Father’s salvation from physical consequences to their sin could only go on for so long. He had to get to their heart. But remember? God cannot intermingle with sin. He is untouchable. The book of Hosea was pointing to something greater. He had to somehow, touch the sin within His children to release them from it. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…” II Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV).
That was it! He moved heaven and earth to become the very thing He could not touch, all without compromising His deity. For one moment in history, the Father looked away from His Son, that the Son might conquer sin and its death filling the gaps in the law of Moses where the wrath of God shined through. He opened up a relationship to His children that would be too powerful for them to break. All wrath and punishment poured upon the Son, allowing the Father to love His children as He desired to from the beginning with the creation of the universe. The untouchable Father, made touchable by the Son, now touches through the Holy Spirit.
How Deep the Father’s Love
I would like to bring a reminder: the God of Hosea is the same God of your life. Don’t get caught up like Israel did in going through the motions of this Christian life. He has never changed, and He is still after your heart. We can only skim the surface of the depth of the Father’s love. It goes infinitely further than emotion. Even in His holiness and untainted glory, He found the perfect way to reach through our sin to love us and make us more like Him – all while keeping perfect balance and never compromising his deity. Though it may not all make sense, I pray that the extent of this love draws you to His feet and motivates you to know Him more.
Heavenly Father, You are too big, too holy, too glorious, and too complex for my mind to understand, but I thank You for loving me through the incredible sacrifice of Your Son. You never had to, but for reasons I will never understand, You did. Please, give me a grateful heart that feels the weight of Your love, and give me a gratitude that motivates me to live boldly for Your Name.
Hosea (entire book)
II Corinthians 3-5