The Lord’s Tender Compassion
“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” (v. 8).- Hosea 11:8–12
Scripture depicts the interplay of covenant grace and covenant obedience in various ways. As we have seen, every covenant God makes with man is unconditional in one sense and conditional in another. For example, in the Abrahamic covenant, the Lord swore by Himself to make Abraham’s line a blessing for the world and heirs of an eternal inheritance (Gen. 12:1–3; 15; Heb. 11:8–12). This was an unconditional promise in that our Creator pledged to guarantee its fulfillment. Abraham would have at least some children who would inherit the promises because God would graciously raise up a seed for him, not because of any righteousness on the part of Abraham and his fallen progeny. Still, the people in the Abrahamic covenant had to meet certain conditions to participate in the blessing: they had to walk before the Lord in faith and obedience (Gen. 17:1–14). Not every child of the patriarch according to the flesh would bless the world, but only those who serve God (Gen. 25; Heb. 12:15–17). Of course, even this conditional aspect of the covenant is ultimately unconditional, for the only ones who trust and obey the Lord are those whom He has elected unconditionally (Eph. 1:3–6; 2:1–10).
The interplay of covenant grace and obedience is particularly clear in Hosea 11. On the one hand, Israel had to suffer exile because the nation failed to trust and obey God (vv. 1–7). Yet in the midst of promising judgment, God remembered His love for His people, an affection based not on their worthiness but His sovereign choice to love them (vv. 8–9; see Deut. 7:6–9; 9:1–5). The Creator would not give up on Israel and destroy the Israelites completely and finally like He did the cites of Admah and Zeboiim (Hos. 11:8; see Deut. 29:16–28). Assyria would conquer the land, causing much devastation, but once the exile ended, God would not do the same thing to the Israelites again (Hos. 11:9). This points to the Lord’s grace in preserving for Himself a remnant—a people in the north who would remain faithful to Him through the exile and who would answer when the Son of David finally came to initiate the true restoration of creation (2 Chron. 30:1–12; Matt. 4:12–22). This remnant would heed the Lord’s summons to come back to His holy place of blessing (Hos. 11:10–11). Moreover, although Judah’s wickedness was not yet full when Hosea preached the message in chapter 11 of his book (v. 12), the southern kingdom would experience exile and the preservation of a faithful remnant as well.
We must be profoundly grateful for the grace of God, for it means He does not give up on those whom He loves even though we do much every day that should prompt Him to abandon us. This is a great comfort indeed, and it should motivate us to love and obey Him all the more out of thankfulness for His great grace. As we meditate on the Lord’s grace and love, let us be inspired to show love in return, for He is a good God indeed.
Passages for Further Study