Experiencing Undeserved Love

KEY VERSE: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” —Hosea 14:4


HOSEA PROPHESIED DURING the period of the last kings of the ten-tribe kingdom, about the middle of the eighth century B.C. He was the only prophet who recorded the messages associated with the northern kingdom. Since he also had many references in his book to Judah’s kings during that interval of time, it has been assumed by some that he went to Judah after the fall of Samaria, and wrote while there. His message is directed more especially to the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel than to Judah.

Our lesson begins with the text: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” (Hos. 11:1) God considered Israel as a son (Exod. 4:22), having loved them he used Moses to lead them out from Egyptian bondage. Matthew quotes this text when speaking of the time that Herod died, and the child Jesus returned from Egypt where the family had fled. (Matt. 2:15) This portion of the prophecy, however, is aimed at the wayward son, not appreciating his father’s love. Israel’s waywardness and God’s love for them is the subject of the first four verses of the eleventh chapter.

Because Israel refused to repent, the Lord punished them. Some were carried off to Assyria and some fled to Egypt—ironically, the very place that they had escaped from bondage centuries before their punishment, however, was not to be forever. They were not to be destroyed as were Admah and Zeboim, cities of the plain located near Sodom and Gomorrah. (Gen. 14:8; Hos. 11:8) First, those in exile would have an opportunity to return to their homeland. “They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes, declares the Lord.” (Hos. 11:11, New International Version) God’s anger would be abated.

Although the nation returned to their land, and God’s favor was restored, they rejected the Messiah and were punished again. In Hosea’s prophecy he alludes again to their downfall, saying, Now they sin more and more; they make idols for themselves from their silver. “Therefore, they will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears, like chaff swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window.”—Hos. 13:3, NIV

God’s displeasure with his people is described later in another way: He said, “I will come upon them like a lion, like a leopard I will lurk by the path. Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open. Like a lion I will devour them; a wild animal will tear them apart. You are destroyed, O Israel, because you are against me, against your helper.” (Hos. 13:7-9, NIV) God had given them loving care, but they forgot him. With this second major punishment it would appear that there would be no recovery. Israel seemed as good as dead.

But not so. The Lord God pleaded with them, saying, “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall.” (Hos. 14:1, NIV) And then he spoke the words of our Key Verse: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.” (Hos. 14:4, NIV) All of this happens after God establishes his kingdom, and the nation of Israel—after being restored in their land a second time—sees God’s power used on their behalf. Along with the manifestation of God’s power on behalf of this people will come also the resurrection of the dead. This is prophesied by Hosea: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”—Hos. 13:14

As a fitting climax to his lesson on the resurrection, the Apostle Paul quoted part of this verse. (I Cor. 15:55) Paul tells of Israel’s being reinstated into God’s favor despite their failure to receive the principal reward, and ties in the resurrection: “If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead.”—Rom. 11:15

Dawn Bible Students Association
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