Does God struggle? Does God have conflict within Himself? Is He ever torn between two options? We tend to say no. We want a God who is always calm, always level-headed. The rock we can fly to when our lives hit a crisis. In this passage, we see God experiencing a crisis of His own. We see God expressing incredible emotion towards His people. He is so overwhelmed by love for His wayward people, He chooses against His wrath. He is changed in Himself. There is a question for you: If God is perfect, how can He change? Doesn’t change mean moving from a less perfect action to a more perfect action? (or vice versa?) Wouldn’t that imply that God become perfect or left perfection in some way?
Some would say God is simply expressing Himself in these terms to communicate the incredible reality of His love. They would argue that God doesn’t really change, but simply that God communicates Himself in that way to make a point. But wouldn’t that be another form a lying? Presenting yourself as one thing yet truly being another? Besides, if this struggle really wasn’t a genuine struggle, doesn’t it negate the whole message being communicated? I don’t really have the answer, but I am moved by the emotion displayed.
Throughout the passage, God reminds the people of His continual love towards them all throughout their ancestral history. In spite of His overtures, they consistently reject Him in favor of powerless gods. Worse, they attribute to these idols the blessings that only God could give them. How would you feel if one you loved attributed to someone else a gift you gave? They have offended God. Because rejection of God is rejection of all life, love and peace, God must discipline them.The passage climaxes in verse eight with God crying out. You can almost hear the desperation of the judgment he is about to bring on them. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim?” Admah and Zeboyim were cities near Sodom and Gomorrah which God had utterly destroyed because of their wickedness. Get this: though Israel deserves to be obliterated in a similar manner, God cannot bring Himself to do it. He can’t. He won’t. (There’s another theological problem: Here is something God cannot do)
This clash of emotion breaks out into a glorious chorus recounting God’s plan B. He chooses against annihilation and chooses restoration. “I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man — the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities. They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come from Egypt, trembling like sparrows, from Assyria, fluttering like doves. I will settle them in their homes," declares the LORD.” (Hosea 11:9-11)What results from this “experience” is God’s proclamation of future hope for His people. Judgment is not the end for them. He is going to bring them back from exile. He is not a man who holds onto grudges forever. He is the Holy One. He will not be boxed in by any situation. He can and will forgive and restore. Like a triumphant lion, He will roar and they will come home. When they come, they will not be the brazen idolaters they were when they left, they will come trembling at the voice of the Most High.
Today, take some time to reflect upon the utter beauty of a God who cannot bring Himself to cast His people away. Because of His love, He will not let judgment be the final word. He will not allow Satan to triumph over His creation. His purposes of a new creation free from evil, pain and death will not be thwarted. He will have a people who call Him “daddy”. He will lift them to His cheek and bend down to feed them from His hand (Hosea 11:4). He loves that – it’s who He is.