We should be eternally grateful that God is merciful, compassionate, and loving. But we must never take Him or His blessings for granted. To ignore His Word and His appeals for repentance and excuse our sin is to guarantee spiritual disaster.
Breaking the Heart of God
As you read the book of Hosea, you discover, as one author wrote, that the nation of Israel “had not only broken the Law of God; they had broken the heart of God. [Even still] in the closing chapters of this book, Hosea reminded them of God’s compassion for His people.”
Chapter 11 touches on some familiar themes in this book—and in the prophetic writings as a whole. This chapter speaks of God’s compassion, Israel’s sin and punishment, the need for repentance, and the hope God gives for the future.
The Lord’s loving compassion is highlighted right from the start. We read in verse 1, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” God is reminding them that when the nation was still in its infancy, He delivered them from Egypt.
Then the Lord pictures His care of Israel as being like that of a father teaching his son how to walk: “I took them up by their arms” (verse 3). Then in verse 4 He says He was like a farmer, tending his animals: “I bent down to them and fed them,” God says.
The problem was that none of God’s love was appreciated; the nation turned a deaf ear toward God’s invitation. We read in verse 2: “The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept . . . burning offerings to idols.”
Because the nation rejected the Lord in favor of false gods, their punishment was inevitable. The Lord announces in verse 5, “Assyria shall be their king.” This rising powerhouse, the Assyrian Empire, will conquer Israel and take them away as captives to a foreign land. God says of Israel, “They are bent on turning away from me” (verse 7). Israel is like a prodigal child who responds to the loving pleas of his parents to come home with increasing stubbornness.
Yet in spite of that, listen to this response from the Lord in verse 8:
How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? … My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
People who say the God of the Old Testament is cruel and vindictive—well, they haven’t read the Old Testament. This is the heart of God speaking—the broken heart of God. Here He says He must punish Israel, and yet He recoils at the thought of having to do it. He is heartbroken that they are determined to turn away from Him.
God is holy, and sin must be judged. But God is also loving and compassionate. His desire is for people to repent and follow Him because He knows, just as countless believers know—and I sure do know it—that repentance and confession to the Lord brings fulfillment, joy, and satisfaction in this life and the life to come with the Lord.
God isn’t eager to pour out His wrath on people. He’s eager to forgive; so, here in this prophecy, we find warnings of coming judgment, but along with these, we also find the hope of forgiveness.
Listen, beloved, you can always tell who is whispering in your ear. If it is Satan, then you are given no hope at all as a sinner; but if it is the Spirit of God, you are reminded that you are a sinner but also that you can be forgiven and have eternal life through God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now chapter 11 has served as an overview and a preview of what we find now in chapters 12 through 14. In these last three chapters of Hosea, the themes of chapter 11 are going to be repeated and expanded.
Chapter 12 is given mostly as an indictment, not only of Israel, but also of Judah, who likewise will be punished according to their rebellion, verse 2 tells us. Jacob is the ancestor of the Israelites, both those living in the north (that is, Israel or Ephraim) and those in the south (that is, Judah). Well, Jacob was a deceiver early in his life, but verse 4 reminds us of what happened back in Genesis 32: “He strove with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor. He met God at Bethel.”
This historical illustration is a reminder that when Jacob turned to the Lord, the result was great blessing. So, this is the appeal now to both Judah and Israel, here in verse 6: “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” In other words, start acting like your forefather, Jacob—follow in his footsteps.
Sadly, this is not going to happen. Ephraim, or Israel, responds in verse 8: “I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.” This sounds exactly like people I have talked to over the years: “Look at all I’ve got in life. I’m no sinner.” Of course, they are just hiding their heads in the sand.
Hosea 13 describes the coming judgment of God upon the nation of Israel. Here, Ephraim, the most prominent tribe in the northern kingdom, is addressed; but we must understand that in this book Ephraim is the name Hosea uses for the entire nation.
Ephraim’s idolatry, which included even human sacrifice, is going to bring God’s judgment. We are told in verse 3 that Ephraim will be like “the dew that goes early away, like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor.” In other words, now you see them, and now you don’t. This generation will disappear from the earth.
The horror for Israel will be almost unimaginable, as the brutal Assyrian soldiers invade the land. Verse 16 says, “They shall fall by the sword; their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.”
The warnings and descriptions of coming judgment are then followed by another invitation to repent in chapter 14. This final chapter opens with this call from the Lord:
Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all [our] iniquity.”
This is what true repentance looks like, beloved: turning to the Lord, confessing sin, and asking for forgiveness.
This current generation is not going to repent, sadly enough, but the promise of God stands and will be realized by a future, repentant generation of Israelites. In verse 4 the Lord says of that future generation, “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely.” And in verse 7 He says, “They shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine.”
Let me tell you, no matter how far you have strayed from God, He still waits with open arms to forgive you and set you back on your feet as you walk with Him.
And with that we come to the end of this little prophecy of Hosea. He closes with a powerful invitation that sums up his message to the nation—but also to you and me to this very day. He says here in the last verse of chapter 14:
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
Do you want to escape the pain, suffering, and frustration of sin? Do you want to avoid breaking God’s heart and yours too? Well, here you go. Be wise and discerning. Accept Hosea’s invitation today. Choose to walk in wisdom and know that you are heading in the right direction.
As Hosea says, “The ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them.” That was true for Hosea, and it is true for me and for you.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Prophets (David C. Cook, 2002), 326.