Was God really loving when he asked Hosea to marry and live with a serial adulterer?
Richard Dawkins (well known atheist) accuses the Old Testament God of being cruel and unloving. Hosea would be astonished! Hosea 11 is all about God’s love. But what does real love look like?
Love remembers (vv.1-4)
Love remembers gently holding a little fragile baby. The father remembers taking him by the arms, teaching him to stand and put his little feet one after the other. Just like that, the Lord carefully, gently held Israel, teaching her to walk.
Sometimes, love just has to watch (vv.5-7)
But the more God called, the further Israel went away from him. Israel wanted to be all grown up, to be just like everyone around them. Peer pressure is powerful. Israel had FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). So they walked away from their Father, worshipped other gods, and made alliances with other nations instead of trusting God. Sometimes, distressingly, love simply has to watch. Sometimes parents have no option but to go on watching as they see a catastrophe unfolding.
Love agonises over the lost (vv.8-9)
Genuine love agonises over its wayward children. ‘I can’t let him go.’ God is struggling between what he must do – judge sin – and what he wants to do for his child. He has strong emotions. (See Gen 6:5-6; Luke 22:44.) In the OT and NT he abounds in love. And consider Jesus. ( Luke 19:41-42; 22:44; John 11:35-36.)
How can God be just, remaining true to himself, and yet forgiving? Just as Hosea gave himself up for his wife, bearing her sin and shame, the Lord redeemed his people. Justice and love mingled at the cross when Jesus died. The Son, like his Father, gave himself up for you and me. As if he was thinking, ‘I’d rather die than live without you.’ He became sin for us, to bring his wayward children home. (Rom 5:8.) Remember the cross, where the Son of God gave himself up for you, and made you a son of God.
Love welcomes home (vv.10-11)
Israel’s unfaithfulness led them into exile, slavery and destruction. But eventually, God would bring them home, trembling, like lion cubs and doves.
Richard Dawkins is tragically wrong. Wherever you cut the Bible, Old Testament or New, it bleeds the same message, the same salvation. The same loving heart of God.
Reading: Hosea 11:1-11