Hosea 11:1-4 (New Living Translation)
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me, offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him. I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him.
Earlier this month we greeted the newest member of our family: Chase Edward Coffin. All six pounds, nine ounces of him. We drove to Massachusetts to visit with his parents — but mostly just to coo over this precious new guy.
It was amazing to see Erin and Eddie transformed into loving parents. Chuck and I don’t have kids of our own, but we’re blessed with thirteen nieces and nephews… and Erin. When she was born (almost three decades ago now), I held her little four pound, four ounce body in my hand, and immediately fell in love. That moment, frankly, seems about five minutes ago. But now she and her husband of one year are “Mom and Dad,” and are loving it! Erin and Eddie will be great parents. They have so much love to give Chase, so many things to teach him. And I have no doubt that they will love him unconditionally and deeply every day of their lives.
The truth is that no matter what kind of love we have received (or, tragically, not received) from our earthly parents, God’s love is infinitely deeper and wider. God’s love is greater than anything we have ever experienced or could ever imagine. What an amazing picture of God we receive in today’s passage from the prophet Hosea. We see a God who created, nurtured, and cared for the people. A God who dreamed big dreams for his children, who hoped big hopes. And who then watched his children walk away from him, forgetting all that he had done for them.
But, like a truly loving parent, God never gives up!
The final line of our scripture may seem a little odd to us modern readers. According to Merriam-Webster, a yoke is “a frame fitted to a person’s shoulders to carry a load in two equal portions.” It’s designed to make a heavy burden easier to bear. The Contemporary English Version translates verse four this way: “I led them with kindness and with love, not with ropes. I held them close to me; I bent down to feed them.”
Even when we turn away, God still walks with us, encouraging us and gently nudging us in healthier directions. Even when we completely mess up, God still cares for us, watches over us, and longs for the day when we return to his side.
What hopes and dreams do you imagine that God has for you?