Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Hosea
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. Hosea 11:3-4
Hosea preached to the northern kingdom of Israel between the years 785-725 BC, during the reigns of the last of the wicked kings of Israel (all 19 were wicked): Jeroboam II, Zachariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea. Hosea’s preaching (as was the case with all of Israel’s and Judah’s prophets) were words of admonishment and correction to bring God’s people to the point of repentance. His messages were preached before the northern kingdom’s dispersion by the Assyrians, and the southern kingdom’s captivity by the Babylonians. In a nutshell, Israel – with its idolatry and rebellion – was pictured as an adulterous or prostituting wife, and Hosea represented the Lord who faithfully went after her and patiently awaited her return to be forgiven and restored.
These beautiful verses from the eleventh chapter reveal the Lord’s great and never ending love that He has for His people. The metaphor moves from a faithful and loving husband and unfaithful wife, to that of a Father who cares for His child and who teaches that child to walk, even though the child won’t acknowledge the Father’s involvement.
This reminds me of the person who secretly supports another person with anonymous financial gifts – such as anonymously paying for someone’s education – or gives the support without the beneficiary knowing that they are being helped in this way. The recipient of the help may not even know that someone is helping them; they may think that they are accomplishing everything on their own, but all this time they are being assisted in order to bless them or enable them to finish the task.
Often children of different ages don’t like it when their parents insist on helping them, but with little children, especially the child that is learning to walk, they don’t even realize that they are learning to walk, so when the mom or dad holds them up as they slowly and awkwardly move one foot in front of the other, they just flow with it. And later, if they could verbalize it, they would probably say, “I learned to walk on my own”, when in reality, they probably couldn’t do it on their own.
Ephraim, which is another name for Israel, was rebellious and uncooperative with the Lord. They wanted to do life and religion “their way”, but instead of the Lord washing His hands of them, His common grace, as well as His preserving grace, continued to uphold them and keep them from annihilating themselves or being annihilated by their enemies. Although they ignored the Lord, and at times even actively spiritually fought against Him, the Lord continued to love them and help through their journey. “Led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love” reminds me of what we used to do for our son Zach when he was a little toddler. We were at Disney and he was really getting the hang of walking – all over the place – so we had a long curled cord – yes, it was like a dog leash – attached to my wrist and to him, so he could walk ahead and to the left and right, but never out of my sight. He thought he was all on his own, but I had my eyes, and my ‘cords of human kindness and ties of love’ holding him close to me.
This is how the Lord deals with His children, whether we are disobedient as Israel was at the time, or when we are walking obediently with Him. The Lord loves His children so much that He isn’t going to let us out of His sight, and even during those times when we are selfishly trying to do our ‘own thing’, His watchful and loving eye is on us – never allowing us to go too far away from His care.
We read in John 10:2-4, 7-10, 11, and 14-16,
2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
Those who have come to faith in Christ, by the Father’s grace and transformative power of His Holy Spirit, are the sheep of His pasture. He’s the one who called us into His family; who transformed us from dogs, pigs, and goats into His favored sheep, and He will faithfully keep His eye on us and guide us all the days of our life. So, instead of being rebellious, and suffering the consequences of walking in the flesh, let’s acknowledge the Lord’s loving presence and guidance in His life – recognizing that although the Lord does want us to be independent in certain familial and social settings in this life, He wants us to be completely dependent on Him, because as Acts 17:28 reminds us, ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring’.