The Prophet's Consolation
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

In our lesson today, we will be looking at chapter 11 of the book of Hosea. We would like to remind you of what we have offered as a analysis of the book of Hosea, because as we come to chapter 11, we are coming to the last portion of the book. We believe that if you will rightly relate the book to its proper scriptural divisions, the subject matter will be clearer to you and more easily ministered to your hearts by the Holy Spirit.

You will recall that in the first three chapters of the book, we considered the prophet's call . Hosea was called, not to preach, but to live—to live an example of God's love. This is particularly important for us to keep in mind, because in this lesson we are going to study one of the greatest descriptions of the love of God found anywhere in the Word of God.

In chapters 4-8, we had what we refer to as the prophet's complaint where the prophet, speaking for God, stated the complaint which God had against Israel, the reason He was displeased with them and the reason He was going to have to chasten them.

Then in chapters 9 and 10, we had presented to us a prophet's condemnation , as he announced what would have to happen to them because of the way in which they were going.

In the last portion of the book, chapters 11-14, we have described for us what we have been pleased to call, for the sake of alliteration as an aid to your memory, the prophet's consolation . God is going to minister through His prophet, Hosea, the consolation of love and of understanding. In view of the prophet's call, there would be no one any better equipped to convey the meaning of the consolation of God than the prophet Hosea.

God's Love for Israel

With those words of introduction, we will read chapter 11, verses 1-11:

Hosea 11

1When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
2As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
3I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.
4I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.
5He shall not return into the land of Egypt, and the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.
6And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels.
7And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.
8How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
9I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
10They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
11They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.

We will stop our reading there, for it is the natural end of chapter 11. Verse 12 in our English translation is the first verse of chapter 12 in the Hebrew Bibles. I personally believe that, as far as the subject matter is concerned, that is where it ought to be. So our chapter for meditation today represents the eleven verses of Hosea, chapter 11.

You recognize, I'm sure, from the reading of our chapter, the emphasis upon the love of God that is presented—God's love for Israel. You probably recognize, as well, the emphasis upon the love of God in the past, as far as Israel is concerned, the past love of God being sufficient proof for God's present interest and concern for the nation.

The Power of God's Love

As I meditated in this chapter, I saw several characteristics of the love of God which we want to boil down to simple phrases that you might use as mental pegs from which to hang some of the thoughts that I want to leave with you now. The first thing that I call to your attention about God's love, as it is revealed in this portion of God's Word, is that it is a powerful love.

The reason that I suggest to you God's love manifested to Israel is a powerful love is because of what I read in the first verse. Look at this verse again, please:

Hosea 11

1When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

God loved Israel while Israel was yet in bondage in the land of Egypt, utterly helpless, undone, utterly dependent upon God. You will notice that when God describes how He felt about Israel at that particular time, He describes His attitude and His passion for them in the terms of love. Of course, if you will recognize that Israel's experience in Egypt and Israel's release from Egypt represent the illustration of the redemptive power of God, you can see why I refer to this as an illustration of the power of God's love, love of God being the most powerful attribute that God has manifested. If you need further illustrations of that, you can keep in mind that familiar verse to all, John, chapter 3, verse 16:

John 3

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

God's redemption of the world is dependent upon His love. You may say, “I thought it was dependent upon the death of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and you are exactly right, but you cannot separate the death of Christ from the love of God. “While we were yet sinners, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly, thus commending His love toward us.” Whenever Israel was prone to forget that God loved her, God called her attention to the condition in which she was when He found her.

For example, Isaiah the prophet speaks of Israel's being found of God, not as a little boy as Hosea described him, but as a baby unwashed, recently born, unattractive and unlovely, with the umbilical cord not even properly severed. This unattractive creature was chosen by God as the recipient of His love. The emphasis that is made on all that is that no one can ever merit the love of God, nor can anyone ever fail of God's love. Individuals who may decide that they have drifted too far from God to be the recipients of His love need only to be reminded that they were nothing when God found them, so how could they be less than nothing?

Individuals who attempt to merit the love of God by good deeds and righteous acts need to be reminded that only God, in the Holy Spirit resident in the life of the believer, can produce a life to the glory of God. The individual who attempts to produce such a life in order for God to be pleased with him is wasting his time and becoming a reproach to the cause of Christ. The only explanation for God's continued interest in Israel is His love.

If you are thinking people, you probably recall that in chapter 2, verse 15, of the Gospel of Matthew, this very first verse of Hosea, chapter 11, is quoted as being a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. This passage of Scripture is quoted, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son,” to be the prophecy that was fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ returned from Egypt after He had been carried there as a child to escape the slaughter of the innocent carried on by Herod. Individuals who recognize that passage of Scripture and look at this passage of Scripture wonder if somewhere somebody has made a mistake. Of course, we who believe in the inspiration of the Word of God know that no mistakes had been made or can be made, and we see it not as a possibility of error, not a possibility of mistake, but rather a wonderful illustration of the identification that the Messiah has with His chosen people Israel. This is not an unusual thing at all, for Christ to be identified with Israel as Messiah.

More pertinent to the needs today of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is that Christ our Savior is identified with us. That is the reason that we can believe the Bible when it says, “But He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet apart from sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

The love that God manifested toward Israel is the same love that God manifests toward believers today. As we meditate upon what God did for Israel, may I suggest that you see your own selves in this ancient people and recognize that God feels the same.

God's Love is Patient

Even as I make that suggestion, I utter a warning. Do not see your own selves in this ancient people, Israel, to such an extent that you relegate her to a place of forgetfulness and feel that God has no plan nor purpose for her, because you will see before we are through with our discussion that He does. But at the moment we are looking at the illustration of God's love, and we suggest to you that God's love was not only a powerful love, but God's love was a patient love. That is brought to my mind by what I read in verse 3 of chapter 11:

Hosea 11

3I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.

You will recognize that I am reading from the King James version, which I always read, but I point out to you from time to time that the translations are not always as happy translations as they might be that you are unable to get the full sense of the verse in question. Though you may have a general idea as you read this third verse that God was the teacher of Israel, you may not know exactly what He means when He says, “I take them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.”

It is important for you to keep in mind the context of the verse and remember that, according to verse 1, God loved Israel when she was yet a little child in the land of Egypt. If you are familiar with the history of the Israelites, you know that following Egypt was the wilderness, and the wilderness was a place of training for Israel. Just as a little child is born and cared for lovingly by its parents, those same parents have the responsibility of training and of teaching that child to do all of the things that are necessary to prepare him for early childhood, among which is the important exercise of walking. You recognize, I suppose, that it is very difficult for individuals to teach children, little ones, babies, to walk without a great deal of patience.

I think another translation will help you catch the vision of what is actually in this verse. I suggest that you notice that it may be translated this way: “I trained him from infancy. I taught him to walk. I held him in my arms, but he doesn't know, or even care that it was I who raised him.” Notice the first portion of the verse; “trained him from infancy. I taught him to walk.” Many of you who have had the experience of teaching little ones to walk will remember that little ones get very tired of this venture before many steps have been taken. Oftentimes, because they are so weary, they begin to cry; and if you are a loving, understanding parent or grandparent, you are going to pick them up in your arms and rest their little limbs, because they find it difficult to carry on. This is a beautiful illustration of what God has done for Israel back there in the wilderness when Israel was just learning how to walk. As the people of God, many were the errors that she made, and weary she became. It was then that God would pick her up in His arms and hold her restfully until weariness left and strength renewed and she was able to walk again.

The Wilderness Experience

Turn with me in your Bibles to Deuteronomy 1, verse 31, where we find a reference to the way that God undertook, indicating that what I am saying to you concerning the wilderness experience is an accurate evaluation of the text.

Deuteronomy 1

31And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.
32Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,

Moses is reminding Israel that after Egypt came the wilderness experience, a time of testing and training, and Moses reminded Israel of how very often God bore them up when they had not strength to walk any further. Even then, they did not believe Him to the extent of trusting Him or relying upon Him.

Turn, please to chapter 32, of the book of Deuteronomy, and notice in verse 10:

Deuteronomy 32

10He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
11As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
12So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.

We will pause there and let you think back over these verses, emphasizing God's patient love for Israel. As you glance again at verse 10, notice, “He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” Just as an eagle, recognizing that the eaglets eventually will have to be on their own and can't always stay in the nest, flutters about, stirs up the nest, eventually breaks it up and lets the little eaglets begin their maiden flights. When it would seem that their strength would fail, their wings not being able to bear them up, she zooms down beneath them, and they light upon her wings. She soars to that highest crag of the mountain and rests. Then she soars back out into space out from under them, and they are on their own, but never permanently so. She is always there until they can fly alone.

We would remind you, Dear One, God's patient love is activated in just the same sense. You and I are impatient creatures. Even though we love, we are impatient creatures. How often in the process of training have we said to those whom we may love very dearly, “But, I have told you and told you that. Why can't you learn it?” God never says that. He helps us to walk, and when our own strength fails, He is always there to pick us up and carry us in His arms until we can be on our own again.

Could I be speaking to someone who may be a bit discouraged because life is a bit hard? Don't feel that you are alone. You are not. God is there and all of His patient love is at your call. All you need to do is recognize that He is ready and waiting for you. That leads me to suggest something else. Not only is He waiting and ready for your call, He even initiates the relationship.

The Pleading Love of God

I would like to say to you that the love of God is illustrated in this chapter, not only as powerful love and patient love, but I would like to suggest to you that it is presented as a pleading love, as well. Look at verse 4, of Hosea, chapter 11, again. Notice how the Spirit of God speaks of God's love. In verse 4:

Hosea 11

4I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.

We are interested, for the present discussion of the pleading love of God, in the first part of the verse: “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.” Perhaps you have read that verse any number of times and wondered exactly what the Spirit of God meant when He said that. Perhaps you have heard the song, “He drew me with the cords of love, and thus He bound me to Him.” You may have wondered exactly what God meant by that.

Let me suggest to you that God, ordinarily speaking, would not have acted this way. Had He acted as a man, He wouldn't have acted this way. He would have done something more strenuous than drawing with cords of love, because men do not treat rebellious people with love, and these people were rebellious people. Little inklings of it are scattered throughout this chapter, even though this section is dealing with the consolation of God for His people. Look at verse 2, and notice:

Hosea 11

2As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.

Relate that verse to the first verse and you realize that as soon as God called Israel out of Egypt, He sent His messengers to them, and they called Israel to God, unto the path of righteousness. But the more they called Israel to follow God, the more Israel sacrificed unto Baalim, which is the plural of the word Baal . The heathen idols attracted their attention. They burned incense to graven images as much and more than they had before. It seemed that the more that God called, the more they went away from God. We are reminded in this portion of the Word of God of something that is very modern, up-to-date, as far as colloquialisms are concerned. Will you glance at verse 7, and notice:

Hosea 11

7And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.

Notice the word bent ; , very literally translated from the Hebrew word, it means “to be hung up on.” We use that term, don't we? At least we hear it used. “What's your hang-up? What are you hung up on?” Certain individuals are hung up on certain things. What do we mean by that? We mean that they have something in their system; they have to follow it. They can't get away from it. It is something they pursue with all the energy of their being. Israel was hung up on backsliding. She would rather backslide than follow on to know the LORD. Sometimes our backsliding is such that we slip into sin before we realize what has happened to us, but not Israel. She delighted in backsliding. If you will look there in verse 7, the more that the prophets of God called them to the most High, the more they went away from Him. None of them exalted Him.

A Harness of Love

I ask you: If you were God, how would you treat these people? How would you treat these people who have deliberately gone away from you? Thinking in human terms, you would be inclined to say, “Well, forget them. They don't care anything about me. I don't care anything about them.” Or you would say, “Why don't we call fire down from Heaven upon them and devour them? That's all they deserve.” But that wasn't the way God acted. Notice the first part verse 4:

Hosea 11

4I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love…

Perhaps it will be easier for you to understand if you look at the words of the verse as they are translated by another, when we read, “I led them with gentle encouragement. Their harness was a harness of love.”

You see, ordinarily, if you had a stubborn ox, to which Israel is oftentimes likened, you would put a rough, leather strap upon her and you would pull her by sheer force and make her go the way that you wanted her to go. But God said, “I don't do that. I led Israel with gentle encouragement, and the only harness they had on them was the harness of love.” I wonder if we might not profit a bit from that in some of our dealings with our own families, perhaps. So easy to be so zealous to see members of our family do what we would like to see them do that we tend to put the leather strap on and pull more definitely against the direction they are pulling. It might help if there was a little gentle encouragement and if the harness was the harness of love.

Of course, as I think about that, and I remember that we are studying in this particular portion of the word concerning the nation of Israel, I wonder if more of Israel might not come to know Christ if we would recognize the need of using, very gently, a harness of love, and with gentle encouragement bring them to a realization of their need of knowing their Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ.

The Providing Love of God

We suggest to you another characteristic of love that we see in this portion of the Word. It is what I have been pleased to term providing love . Remember now we have considered the thought that there is the powerful love of God manifested, the patient love of God, the pleading love of God, and the providing love of God. The greatest proof of love that there is, according to the Bible, is provision. John says in his epistle that if a man comes to you hungry and in need of food and you declare loudly about how much you love God and how much God loves humanity, but you say to this man, “Go and be fed; enjoy yourself,” but don't make any provision for food, anybody has a right to say, “How dwelleth the love of God in you?” You can't prove your love without provision. God's love is a providing love.

Look at the last part of verse 4, please, where we read beginning with the word and :

Hosea 11

4…and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.

The figure of speech is still the same; the ox is here. As we noticed in the first part of verse 4, an ox which might have been pulled with strong leather cords was pulled instead by the cords of a man, the strong cords of love.

In the last part of verse 4, we have an ox that is brought in from the field, so unloved and about whom the owner is so careless that oftentimes the muzzle was left on the ox's snout and it was unable to eat food. If it were taken away, no food was provided for it to eat. But our God is not like cruel men. He knows more about love than that, and so the suggestion in this part of verse 4 is that God does exactly the opposite. This translation may help you realize it a bit better when we read, “I treated them like the man who eases the yoke to free the jaws. Yes, I bent down to them and gave them food.” Our God loves us enough to provide for us. He loved Israel enough to provide for Israel, and in the days of wilderness wanderings, when there was no real provision for them, God in His divine love made that provision.

I have never been able quite to understand how people can believe that God loves them and then be afraid to trust Him for whatever they need. I have never been able quite to understand how it is that people can believe that God cares about them and then are afraid to leave the major decisions of life up to Him. I can say, to God's glory and to His praise, that I have learned to rest in His love. I have learned to rest in His love so that I have discovered that not one good word of all of His promises have failed, and I have found Him to be the man we have been looking at in this study. Like that man, I have found him to be the one who is able to take the yoke from off the jaws so that you might eat the food. He doesn't ever half-finish the job. He completes it. He puts the food before you so that you will be able to eat it. This is God's provision in love for Israel and God's provision in love for all believers.

The Permanent Love of God

Another thing I would suggest to you concerning God's love as it is revealed in this chapter, and that is what I have been pleased to call the permanent love of God. Man's love is fluctuating. I don't know how many times I have talked to individuals and they say, “Oh, I loved him once, but I don't love him anymore.” I have talked with individuals, and they have said, “Oh, he killed whatever love I had for him. My love died the moment they did thus and so.” It is hard for me to even understand that kind of human love, for by God's grace I don't love that way. I have never had the experience of dying love. Once I have loved, I love. But some individuals may have dying love. Human beings are capable of change, but it is good to know that God's love is a permanent love.

I would like for you to notice with me verses 8 and 9 of this chapter and ask the Spirit of God to minister the pathos that is in these words to your own heart. God is speaking. He said:

Hosea 11

8How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.

You see, God knew that according to all of the evidence, He had every right in the world to withdraw His love from Israel. He had every right in the world to disown Israel and say, “Be gone from my sight. Never come into my presence again.” But when He began to think about doing that, He said, “How can I? How can I give thee up? How can I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel?”

Then God brought to mind two cities: Admah and Zeboim. Perhaps you recognize them as two of the five cities destroyed in the flame when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with the fire that was rained down from Heaven. He said, “Israel, I can't treat you like I did Sodom and Gomorrah. I can't treat you like I did Zeboim and Admah. I can't do it. You ought to be treated that way. That's what you deserve, but I cannot give you up.”

True parental love is like this. Some parents have had the unhappy experience of being disappointed in their children. Some parents have had the unhappy experience of being so disappointed in their children that, according to all rules of society, their children forfeited every right to their love. People might have encouraged them to give them up. They say, “It's no more than right. You're not doing them justice unless you do.” Then love, true love prevails, and the cry comes, “How can I give them up? How can I forsake them?” And of course, the answer is evident. True love cannot forsake.

Israel Chastened but Not Forsaken

It is an interesting thing to notice that God feels deeply about things, but He does. Did you notice the last part of verse 8, when He said, “Mine heart is turned within me. My repentings are kindled together.” He said, “My heart is doing flip-flops. I don't know what to do. My desire to repent and forgo judgment is melting together in one great lump that recognizes a heaviness within Me. It is almost breaking My heart.”

What will God's decision be? When His heart is torn asunder with love for His people, when He is looking at all the evidence, what will His decision be? Well, you will notice it there in verse 9. It can be no other than what I have suggested as representing the permanent love—a love that will not change, because He says in verse 9:

Hosea 11

9I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim…

“I have made my decision,” God said. “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger. I will not blot this people out. I will not return to the city to destroy Ephraim” [the name of the ten tribes, the leader in all the evil that plagued this people]. “I will not do it.” But wait just a moment. He did not say that He would not chasten them. He did. He chastened them sore, and they are suffering the chastening hand of God, scattered to the four corners of the world even today. Chastened them? Yes. True love has to chasten; but forsake? No, He will not.

God knew that men would wonder, because men can not understand the ways of God. They would say, “But, how can God not forsake them?” Perhaps you know somebody who has made light of God. Perhaps you know someone who has spoken ill of Him and done Him so many injustices, and you are saying, “I don't know why God doesn't strike that person dead.” Maybe you have been foolish enough, as I have been, to say, “It's a good thing that God doesn't let me be God. I'd straighten up a few things around here.” Well, that is exactly why He can't afford to let me be God, but God's love is His love, and His sovereign right to exercise it precludes any need of explanation. Please notice in verse 9, He said:

Hosea 11

9…I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.

“You want a reason I'm not going to destroy Israel. I'm not going to put it on men's terms. I'm simply going to say, ‘I am God'.” And we would remind you that God's sovereign love does not need any defense. Will you keep that in mind?

A lot of us go about trying to defend the sovereign love of God, and we would remind you that God's sovereign love needs no defense. God can do as He will, because He is sovereign, and He need give no explanation to anybody at all, for God can do as it pleases Him.

The Regathering of Israel

There is an interesting thing. The chapter ends as it begins. It began with an illustration of the powerful love of God, when we read the words, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and called My Son out of Egypt.” We would remind you that it closes with a reference to the powerful love of God, when you read verses 10 and 11. There you read:

Hosea 11

10They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
11They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.

Two clauses in these verses are reasonably intelligible and need no explanation and very little comment. The first is, in verse 10, the simple statement, “They shall walk after the LORD.” The last statement is in verse 11, “I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.” God is saying, “Just as certainly as I brought Israel out of Egypt so long ago, I am going to bring Israel back home. I'm going to bring Israel to a place where she will follow me, and I am going to bring Israel a place where she shall dwell in her own houses in her own land.”

We deal now with God's powerful love, not related to the past, but related to the future. The powerful love related to the past dealt with the exodus from Egypt. God's powerful love related to the future deals with His regathering of the nation of Israel from the four corners of the world. He describes how He is going to do that in the phrase between the two that I emphasized. Will you look at them again:

Hosea 11

10They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
11They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.

This is another of the verses that does not present as happy a translation as it might, so I would suggest this translation of God's powerful love that you might be able to understand what we have read. You can read the verses, “The LORD will roar like a lion.” Yes, He will roar, and when He roars, “His sons will come in haste from the west, eagerly, like birds of Egypt or doves from the land of Assyria, and He will bring them back to their homes, says the Lord.”

In Hosea's day, for God to say He would bring Israel back from the west was thoroughly unintelligible, because the west had no significance to them. But in 70 A.D., approximately thirty years after our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Titus marched into the city of Jerusalem, laid it waste, and the nation of Israel was scattered to the four corners of the world. Scattered to the west, literally, and she remains scattered for the most part in that area save for the few who have already returned back to the land of Palestine. But God gives promise that His love, the love that redeemed them from Egypt, will redeem them from the far corners of the world. The love that brought them back from Egypt will bring them back from the west.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that it will be His love that will deal with them. No greater picture, I repeat, is found in God's Word than in this chapter, delineating the characteristics of God's love. If you are prone to forget that anyone loves you, prone to think that you are alone, remember God loves you, and nothing can change that love.


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