Key passage

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
Israel called to the Egyptians
even as Israel was leaving them.
They kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the hand,
but they never knew that I healed them.
I led them with human cords,
with ropes of love.
To them I was like one
who eases the yoke from their jaws;
I bent down to give them food.
Israel will not return to the land of Egypt
and Assyria will be his king,
because they refused to repent.
A sword will whirl through his cities;
it will destroy and devour the bars of his gates,
because of his schemes.
My people are bent on turning from me.
Though they call to him on high,
he will not exalt them at all.
How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
I have had a change of heart;
my compassion is stirred!
I will not vent the fully fury of my anger;
I will not turn back to destroy Ephraim.
For I am God and not man,
the Holy One among you;
I will not come in rage.
They will follow the Lord;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
They will be roused like birds from Egypt
and like doves from the land of Assyria.
Then I will settle them in their homes. This is the Lord’s declaration.
Ephraim surrounds me with lies,
the house of Israel, with deceit.
Judah still wanders with God
and is faithful to the holy ones.

Hosea 11:1–12

Quotes from Chapter 7

My heart recoils within me.

Hosea 11:8

It is probably impossible to conceive of the horror of hell and of the ferocity of retributive justice and righteous wrath that will sweep over those found on the last day to be out of Christ.

There is nothing uncontrolled or disproportionate in God.

The reason we feel as if divine wrath can easily be overstated is that we do not feel the true weight of sin.

You will never make yourself feel that you are a sinner, because there is a mechanism in you as a result of sin that will always be defending you against every accusation. We are all on very good terms with ourselves, and we can always put up a good case for ourselves. Even if we try to make ourselves feel that we are sinners, we will never do it. There is only one way to know that we are sinners, and that is to have some dim, glimmering conception of God.1

Martyn Lloyed-Jones

We don’t feel the weight of our sin because of our sin. If we saw with deeper clarity just how insidious and pervasive and revolting sin is—we can see this only as we see the beauty and holiness of God—we would know that human evil calls for an intensity of judgment of divine proportion.

Just as we can hardly fathom the divine ferocity awaiting those out of Christ, it is equally true that we can hardly fathom the divine tenderness resting now on those in Christ.

Where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more.

Romans 5:20

The grace of God comes to us no more and no less than Jesus Christ comes to us. In the biblical gospel we are not given a thing; we are given a person.

When we sin, the very heart of Christ is drawn out to us.

For those who do not belong to Christ, sins evoke holy wrath. But to those who do belong to him, sins evoke holy longing, holy love, holy tenderness.

Read Isaiah 6:1–8 and look for the connection between divine holiness and forgiveness and mercy.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above him; they each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Armies;
his glory fills the whole earth.
The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.
Then I said:
Woe is me for I am ruined
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of Armies.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said:
Now that this has touched your lips,
your iniquity is removed
and your sin is atoned for.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking:
Who should I send?
Who will go for us?

I said:
Here I am. Send me.

Isaiah 6:1–8

In the key text on divine holiness (Isa. 6:1–8), that holiness (6:3) flows naturally and immediately into forgiveness and mercy (6:7).

And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Armies;
his glory fills the whole earth.

Isaiah 6:3

He touched my mouth with it and said:
Now that this has touched your lips,
your iniquity is removed
and your sin is atoned for.

Isaiah 6:7

If you are part of Christ’s own body, your sins evoke his deepest heart, his compassion and pity. He sides with you against your sin, not against you because of your sin. He hates sin. But he loves you.

This is not to ignore the disciplinary side of Christ’s care for his people. The Bible clearly teaches that our sins draw forth the discipline of Christ.

Ephraim chases the wind
and pursues the east wind.
He continually multiplies lies and violence.
He makes a covenant with Assyria,
and olive oil is carried to Egypt.

The Lord also has a dispute with Judah.
He is about to punish Jacob according to his conduct;
he will repay him based on his actions.
In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel,
and as an adult he wrestled with God.
Jacob struggled with the angel and prevailed;
he wept and sought his favour.
He found him at Bethel,
and there he spoke with him.
The Lord is the God of Armies;
the Lord is his name.
But you must return to your God.
Maintain love and justice,
and always put your hope in God.
A merchant loves to extort with dishonest scales in his hands.
But Ephraim thinks,
“How rich I have become;
I made it all myself.
In all my earnings,
no one can find any iniquity in me
that I can be punished for!”

I have been the Lord your God
ever since the land of Egypt.
I will make you live in tents again,
as in the festival days.
I will speak through the prophets
and grant many visions;
I will give parables through the prophets.
Since Gilead is full of evil,
they will certainly come to nothing.
They sacrifice bulls in Gilgal;
even their altars will be like piles of rocks
on the furrows of a field.

Hosea 12:1–11

Christ would not truly love us if our sins did not draw forth the discipline of Christ. But even this is a reflection of his great heart for us.

God is God, and is not at the mercy of passing emotions in the way that we embodied creatures are. We are given a rare glimpse into the very centre of who God is, and we see and feel the deeply affectional convulsing within the very being of God. His heart is inflamed with pity and compassion for his people. He simply cannot give them up. Nothing could cause him to abandon them. They are his.

God is not like us in our emotional fickleness; rather, he is completely perfect and transcendent and not affectable by circumstance in the way we finite humans are. He is “impassible.” At the same time, we should not so write off the way the Bible speaks of God’s inner life that we make God a basically platonic power divorced from the welfare of his people. The key here is to understand that while nothing catches God off guard, and nothing can affect God from outside of God in a way that threatens his perfection and simplicity, he freely engages his people through a covenant relationship and he is genuinely engaged with them for their welfare. If you find the notion of divine “emotion” unhelpful, think instead of divine “affections”—God’s heart-disposition to embrace his sinning and suffering people.

Just as we so easily live with a diminished view of the punitive judgment of God that will sweep over those out of Christ, so we easily live with a diminished view of the compassionate heart of God sweeping over those in Christ. It is not our loveliness that wins his love. It is our unloveliness.


  1. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 34.

Questions

  • What does it mean to feel the weight of our sin?
  • What is the connection between divine holiness and forgiveness and mercy that we find in Isaiah 6:1-8?
  • What do sins evoke from Christ for those out of Christ?
  • What do sins evoke from Christ for those who are part of his own body?
  • What is God’s response to sin? Answer completely with Scripture.
  • What are we given when we are given Christ?
  • What level of trust do you have in Christ’s willingness to forgive sin? Do you have any sin to confess?

This article is adapted from: Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Gentle and Lowly Study Guide by Robert Zink.