How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. Hosea 11:8
I think these are some of the most beautiful words in Scripture. God’s people have continually turned away from the Lord (Hosea 11:7), and yet His heart moves toward them in compassion. Hosea tells us that Yahweh leads His people with cords of kindness:
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. Hosea 11:3-4
Puritan Walter Marshall said, “God does not drive you along with whips and terrors, or by the rod of the schoolmaster, the law. Rather, he leads you and draws you to walk in his ways by pleasant attractions (Hosea 11:3-4). The love of Christ…is the greatest and most pleasant attraction to encourage you to godly living (2 Cor. 5:15; Rom. 12:1).” (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 236)
And that is exactly what is happening here. Yahweh is revealing His heart for His rebellious children so as to allure them to love Him. His heart “recoils” within in Him when His people walk away from Him. This Hebrew word (hapak) is the same word that was used to describe Yahweh “overthrowing” Sodom and Gomorrah. Interestingly, Hosea mentions 2 suburbs of Sodom and Gomorrah here: Admah and Zeboiim. I assume he does this to startle God’s people. Perhaps they thought, “Admah and Zeboiim. Where’s that again? Oh, yeah. They were suburbs of Sodom and Gomorrah, which Yahweh overthrew.”
When we run away from Jesus, His heart is overthrown with compassion and He moves out in tenderness toward us. Yes, He disciplines us (Hebrews 12:5-11), but His knee-jerk reaction is one of kindness. After all, what leads us to repentance? The law? The whips, terrors, and threats of the law? No! His kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
And we see His kindness here in Hosea 11 because when we run away after other lovers, Yahweh’s compassion grows warm and tender. The Hebrew word for “warm” (kamar) is used of an oven heating up (Lamentation 5:10) and also when Joseph saw his brother Benjamin for the first time after all those years (Genesis 43:30). God’s anger does not flare up when we sin, rather His compassion does! His heart heats up like an oven, not with anger, but with compassion! This is why grace is amazing.
And that amazing grace should make you want to live for Him and His glory. That’s what His kindness is designed to do. As Charles Spurgeon said-
“While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a trifle; but when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”
May the warm and tender heart of Jesus warm your heart for Him today.