Matthew quotes the second half of the first verse (Mt 2:15) in reference to Jesus being called back from Egypt after the death of Herod. So there's a messianic view to be considered. Here, though, its as though God is remembering those first days when He called Israel. God chose Israel – not because they were deserving or special; not because they were holy or righteous. They were chosen out of God's sovereignty. God loved them even though there was nothing lovable about them.
Someone once said, "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called!" God loved these people and called them to himself and would bless them, protect, equip and guide them. Yet, as the prophets called, they went the other way. As God called, they sacrified to Baals and worshiped wood carvings.
What a response! Israel responded to God's love by turning away; by ignoring what He had done. They failed to acknowledge His unfailing love and affection for them as a Father for a Son. Later called His Son out of Egypt. This also is a great display of love, that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten. What is your response to this love? It's not based on your qualifications; you can't earn it and don't have to work to maintain it. God calls to you in the Love of Jesus. Won't you respond to this unfailing love and amazing grace extended to you?
Like a Father teaching a young child to walk, the Lord taught them Ephraim to walk. Ephraim was born in Egypt and brought out. Egypt was all he knew until the Lord led them away. He gently took them by the arms and guided them out of bondage and brought them to the wilderness where He spoke to them.
They were blind to what God had done; unaware of the healing He had done. Did they say, "Boy we were lucky!" or was it their own goodness, hard work or perserverance to which they attested the blessings? The word for gentle is actually 'adam'. These were the cords of man which which God drew them. They were ropes of love. We might view this as the parent running along behind their child as they learn to balance the bike; holding gently so as to encourage them because of their presence, to guide them so they don't crash, to catch them before they fall and to let go when they have confidence to ride. While the parent lets go physically, they never really let go. Their love and desire to guide and catch them before they crash never stops. Likewise, God's love is the similar but even greater in its perfection.
This yoke is one of gentle guidance and care. A cruel and oppressive yoke was heavy and fitted so the animal couldn't eat with it in place. The Lord's gentle love was like a yoke fitted gently and lifted on the neck so the animal could eat.
We can' help but think of Matthew 11:28-29 here:
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
How can we understand this love when it continues regardless of us, in spite of us? The ties of love are endless; the promises are solid and never ending. God takes great pride in keeping them.
We saw verses earlier in Hosea declaring they would return to Egypt; but as I noted these verses spoke of a reversal of their freedom provided by God. The 'return to Egypt' was an idiom of a return to bondage, in this case it would be bondage to Assyria. Verse five says they won't return to Egypt; that's true, they won't physically return to Egypt. Instead they will serve Assyria. Instead of being servants of the Lord they would be servants of the King of Assyria because of their refusal to repent.
The Lord loved these people, but they rejected Him. He was right there, ready to catch them, guide them and love them. They chose another way; their way brought destruction and devastation. They put their heads together and their best counsel led themselves to destruction and away from the Lord.
They were bent on backsliding. This is a rebellious and obstinate refusal to walk forward in the way they were called. It's rearing back and digging in your heels like a donkey refusing to move. God would not force them to offer a loving response. He would force them to move His way. He beckoned to them; guiding with the gentle cords and ropes of love.
In this state of apostasy, they still called on the name of the Lord. This was an official calling to Him in a religious sense, not a calling to Him for relationship. There was no right response to God's love by loving Him, seeking relationship with Him and praising Him.
Once again we see the loving Father desiring to this relationship, yet knowing they rejected him. God is heartbroken and torn. How could He let go? How could He watch as they made a mess of their lives, their nation, their eternity? Admah and Zeboiim are mentioned in Deuteronomy 29:23 as two other cities wiped out with Sodom and Gomorrah. They were obliterated by God's judgment because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt; 26 for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them (Deut 29:24).
The churning of God's heart is the back and forth of His emotions. Justice demands judgment for the gross sins and the apostasy; they had rejected God and His ways. The sympathy is the loving the Father not wanting to see harm come to His children. Every parent knows this churning; it's the desire to kick them in the butt and hug them at the same time!
God is just and righteous so we see His suffering when He corrects His wayward people. The response of man is to be driven by emotions, to unleash His wrath. But He is God, not a man. How often we forget that; we bring Him down to our level so we have some chance at understanding Him. We make Him smaller so we might know Him. In doing so we create an understanding that isn't God at all. We create a god of our understanding that isn't god at all. Our God is an awesome God; if He came in His fierce wrath and terror we are powerless, pitiful and small creatures at His mercy.
God would be just and righteous in wiping away Israel for their sins. But He is long-suffering and loves them. While He brings correction, He will also once again restore them. At that time, they will walk after the Lord. At His command, like the roar of a lion, they will hear and come and be gathered from every direction.
Even while God makes these promises like a loving Father Ephraim surrounds Him with lies and deceit. The walk Judah has is one of 'roaming around'. While they still walk with God, there is the presence of a vacillation. Judah will also fall away in days to come.
©2016 Doug Ford