God Calls His Son
“They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me” (v. 5).- Hosea 11
Israel’s exodus from Egyptian slavery should have convinced the people of their need to gratefully follow the Lord, the one who rescued them from Pharaoh and his army (Ex. 14:30–31). Yet as the remainder of the history of Israel tells us, the people as a whole never learned this important lesson. It was not long after the rescue at the Red Sea that the Israelites abandoned Yahweh at the foot of Mt. Sinai and worshiped him wrongly through the golden calf (chap. 32). This episode was only a foretaste of the apostasy to come, for the remainder of the history of old covenant Israel is largely a record of faithlessness to the Lord God Almighty (1 Kings 14:21–31; 2 Kings 17:7–23).
Throughout this history, God sent prophets again and again to His people to call them to repentance and to turn them from idolatry back to the one, true Lord of all. One of these men was Hosea, a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel in the eighth century BC. In today’s passage he addresses idolatry in Ephraim, a shorthand reference to the entire northern kingdom. Reminding the people that God rescued them from Egypt and adopted Israel as His son, Hosea laments the faithlessness of the people who turned away from their Redeemer and went after other gods just like a faithless spouse goes after another lover (vv. 2–4; see 1:2).
Because of their unrepentant sin, the people will go to Assyria, not Egypt (vv. 5–7). Actually, this is a fulfillment of the prophecy that faithless Israel will go back to Egypt, Egypt being a shorthand reference for slavery in Deuteronomy 28:68. Hosea says that the northern kingdom is not going to Egypt because they will actually not be returning to the Egyptian empire as slaves. Instead, they will be exiled to the Assyrian empire and serve in slavery there. In that sense they will return to Egypt, for they will be returning to slavery.
This first exodus from Egypt is therefore shown to be a type of things to come. God’s people must have a new exodus from the master of sin that entices them to run away from the Lord. This new exodus is also foreshadowed in Hosea 11:8–12 wherein God pledged not to finally forsake Ephraim and Judah, a new exodus that would finally be accomplished by God’s Son Himself (Matt. 2:13–15).
Our culture’s leaders tell us that we need salvation from poverty, corruption, terrorism, and a host of other societal ills. However, while we do not want to downplay the severity of these ills and the desirability of rescue from them, the real things we need salvation from are the powers of sin and death. Let us be clear about the gravity of sin and our need for rescue from eternal death as we preach the gospel to ourselves and others.
Passages for Further Study
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