The Lord, in Hosea 11, says:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him…
I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms…
I healed them.
I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love…
I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.
I stooped and fed them…
My people are bent on backsliding from Me…
How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel? …
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.
I will not execute the fierceness of My anger…
God’s Faithfulness and Man’s Unfaithfulness
This is a glorious picture of the working of divine love. The prophet refers to God’s relationship with His people, beginning at the time Moses gave the Lord’s message to Pharaoh to let His people go (Exodus 4:22, 23) and continuing on. And he records the benefits the Israelites had received from the Lord and their ungratefulness for His love.
The Lord had every reason to reject Israel because of their negative response to His mercy (Ezekiel 16:1–8). But instead, He affirmed, “I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms” illustrating His loving care to His people. Just as an affectionate parent trains his child to walk, holding it up by the arms when it falls, so the Lord dealt with Israel (Deuteronomy 1:31; 33:27; Jeremiah 31:32). He was most patient with His unloving people (Deuteronomy 32:10).
And the Lord healed Israel from their diseases as seen in Exodus 15:26, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.” And He gave them hope, “I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, and restore comforts to him and to his mourners” (Isaiah 57:18).
Also, the Almighty, drew His people with gentle cords of love. “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3). He used neither harsh cords nor iron bands, but drew them by rational means, entreating their minds and appealing to their affections. He said, “come let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). God drew them in a way suitable to their dignity, as made in His image (Genesis 1:26, 27).
But Israel rejected God and turned to idolatry, especially to Baalim (Hosea 2:17). Yet, in spite of their faithlessness, the Lord granted Israel His saving mercy and tender compassion, along with abundant sustenance (Psalms 23:5). This made all the more inexcusable their resorting to other gods to satisfy their lusts. Although they deserved utter destruction because of their iniquities, the Lord, because of His enduring love and mercy, continued to invite them to repent (Jeremiah 31:20) .
God is a holy God (1 Peter 1:16) and He does not leave His children without correction when they sin. “For whom the Lord loves he chastens” (Hebrews 12:6). While man may punish to destroy, God punishes to correct and amend (Jeremiah 29:11). The holiness that cannot tolerate the guilty is also the holiness of truth and faithfulness (Romans 8:37–39; 1 John 4:16).
In working for the salvation of sinners, we should always follow God’s model of love and gently reach out for others (1 Corinthians 9:19–23; 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8; 3:12; Hebrews 5:2). Christ drew us with the cords of a man when He became man, and lived and offered Himself for our redemption (John 12:32; Acts 10:38). The Son of God became a man to draw people with the cords of love, by partaking of a common nature with them. There is no greater love than that (John 3:16; 15:13).
In His service,