The book of Hosea is a hard book to swallow. Hosea was an 8th century prophet of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He lived in an unrighteous time, when people had forgotten their God, cheated their neighbors, and placed their trust in idols. They ignored the cries of the poor, they forgot the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And God, through Hosea, has a harsh word for them.
Hosea uses intense and sometimes difficult imagery, and in particular the image of Israel as an unfaithful wife, who will experience the wrath of her husband, God. This invites comparisons to patterns of abuse common then and today, and it is worth remembering that this was a metaphor written in the language and culture of people at the time. Domestic abuse is never right or righteous. Nobody deserves it, and it is not God’s will for you to be abused.
The other image that comes out in the book of Hosea is the image of God as a parent, It’s also pretty harsh. In the first chapter of Hosea, God tells Hosea, “Go take a wife of whoredom for Israel has been whoring itself out to other gods.” And when they have children, God gives Hosea the names—Lo-Ruhamah or “Not pitied” because God will no longer have pity on Israel, and Lo-ammi, or “Not my people” for you are not my people and I am not your God. Whether this is a metaphor or the actual names of Hosea’s children is anybody’s guess, but the message is clear. God is saying, “You have forsaken me, so I will forsake you. If you will not be my people, by trusting me and obeying me, staying faithful to me in times of trouble, then I will not be your God. You have forgotten me, so I will forget you.”
And by this point in the book, Hosea has been hammering away at Israel’s unrighteousness for ten chapters. Ten chapters of harsh, prophetic words on the unfaithfulness of Israel. They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. They have plowed wickedness and they have reaped injustice. They have trusted in their own power of arms, and so they will be destroyed by war. They go to Assyria and to Egypt, to idols of their own making, but never to the God who delivered them.
But now in chapter 11, something is different is brewing. Something is changing. God is starting to remember. God is remembering how it was when they were just a babe. When the nation of Israel was just Abraham and Sarah and their family. God is remembering those sleepless, intimate nights, feeding them a bottle and having them fall asleep on God’s shoulder:
“I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks,
I bent down to them and fed them.” (v. 4)
God is starting to remember those first hesitant steps, those toddles that turn into runs, the first words they spoke:
“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms
but they did not know that I healed them”
God is remembering that little fledgling nation of slaves that God called out of Egypt, and all that time they spend together in the desert:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.”
You can decide if these actions seem fatherly or motherly to you, and the historians can decide if this was fatherly or motherly to ancient Israel, but it is a good parent’s love, steadfast and faithful. There is a reason that in the Psalms and prayers of lament, we hear this cry, “Remember your servants, O Lord.” “Do not forget us.”
God remembers, and God says to Israel, “I can’t give this up. I can’t give you up. Even now, when you have betrayed me and hurt me and thrown me away, I will never give up on you.
Even though they worship the Assyrian and Egyptian gods, the gods of the conqueror, the god of national might and power, God will never give up on them.
Even though they filled themselves with the wine of the world and rejected righteousness in favor of corruption. God will not give up on them.
Even though they hoard their money while other people starve around them. God will never give up on them.
Even though they stay silent while the innocent are punished and thrown in prison. God will never give up on them.
Y’all know the reason we read this Bible is that it’s not just about that old Israel way back then, it’s about God’s Israel now, right. And that this God who remembered Israel will remember us too, right?
Even if somebody was driving slow in the left lane on 295 and you said words that you shouldn’t have said.
Even if you take credit for work that we did not do. God will never give up on you.
Even if you cross to the other side of the street so that we don’t have to answer the pleading eyes of someone in need. God will never give up on you.
Even if you have given up on God, because your pain feels near and your God feels far, God will never give up on you.
Even if you wished you had never been born, or wished your child had never been born, or wished that someone else would hurt like you do. God will never give up on you.
Even if you say say awful things about other people behind their backs and then act like it’s because we’re just being honest. God will never give up on you.
Even if you’ve worshipped at the altars of Wall St. or internet porn, or white supremacy. God will never give up on you.
Even if you see the war, poverty, racism, and injustice of this world, and you’ve never done anything beyond a facebook status. God will never give up on you.
Even if you have lied, cheated, stolen, gossiped, betrayed, murdered, disrespected, disregarded, failed, hoarded, or in any other way rejected God with our lives and with our lifestyles, God will never give up on you.
Here is what God says:
How can I give you up, O Ephraim? (that’s Israel)
How can I hand you over?
My heart recoils within me,
My compassion grows warm and tender,
For I am God, and no mortal.
The Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
God is no mortal. God is not bound by the cycle of revenge and mutual hurt. God is holy. And God’s holiness is defined by God’s mercy. God’s willingness to break this cycle with overwhelming love. This is what it means, when it says, “God’s steadfast faithfulness endures forever.” This is our God, a God of compassion who is slow to anger and quick to forgive, abounding in steadfast love. This is grace.
There is no limit on the love of God. Because God will never give up on you.
This is a love that we’ll never deserve. What we can do will never be enough to earn that kind of love.
They shall go after the Lord who roars like a lion;
When he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west
They shall come trembling like the birds of Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria;
and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.
What can we do in the face of this love? What can we do when someone loves us like this?
We can only come trembling…
 Hosea 4:6 “And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”