February 5 – Hosea 11:1-4
Main focus: God invites us to call him Father so that we can grasp the intimacy and weight of his love for us.
Our series on the Trinity is organized by some of the names and titles that describe and distinguish the members of the Trinity. Over the past four weeks we’ve been introduced to the Father, Son, and Spirit in Matthew 3, uncovered the role of all three in the act of creation, heard the revealed name of the Trinity from the burning bush, and witnessed the presence of the Trinity at Mt. Sinai. In all of these the first member of the Trinity has both been present and taken priority, but finally this week we turn to his name: Father.
Like other features of the Trinity, the name for God the Father emerges progressively throughout the Bible. The first hint doesn’t surface until Exodus 4:22-23, when God calls captive Israel his “firstborn son,” after which it is used somewhat sparingly throughout the Old Testament. Here and there, God’s role as Israel’s “father” is used to emphasize his sovereign choice of his people (Deut 32:6), his discipline of them (Prov 3:12), and his loving care, as in the wilderness wanderings when he bore them “as a father carries his son” (Deut 1:31). But God as “father” is most developed by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Malachi. All four chastised the people of Israel for their unfaithfulness to God’s covenant for these same reasons, because of their status as God’s chosen people, because they are under God’s discipline for their rebellion, but most tenderly, because God loves them.
For this reason we’re turning to Hosea 11:1-4 this week, to grasp some of what God communicates to us by calling himself our Father. For broader context, Hosea deploys nine metaphors to describe Israel’s wayward living: they are like a wife who has run off with another man (Hos 1-2), like an oven whose fires of desire won’t stop burning (Hos 7:4-7), like a fickle dove that has flown elsewhere (7:11-12), etc. The last of these is a picture of Israel as a runaway child, and like the initial depiction of a wayward wife, the compassion for his people and the ache in God’s heart over their absence is palpable.
In discussion, we’ll try to grasp what God feels about his people, something we don’t typically spend much time contemplating. Just listen to the language: “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim [i.e. Israel] to walk; I took them up by their arms…I bent down to them and fed them.” God is using these tender images of a father caring for his little toddler to help us feel how deep and intimate his love is for us, how it’s the kind of love that isn’t just a feeling but leads to action, to fostering, sheltering, leading and sustaining his people because of his love for them.
But there’s more. We see this in Hosea’s prophecy, which is meant to turn God’s people away from their sin and back to their loving Father, and we see it ultimately fulfilled in Jesus: if you want to understand God’s love for his people, look at his response to their sin.
Remember those categories I mentioned above, when God calls himself our Father to emphasize his sovereign choice of his people, his discipline of them, and his care for them. Though we have abandoned him, God moved heaven and earth in order to redeem his chosen people, laying our discipline on his only Son, and through this redemption we partake in the life of his Son so that we can truly and finally be called children of God, enjoying the riches of his love for all eternity (Rom 8:12-17; Gal 3:26; Eph 1:5, 2:7). Truly God will stop at nothing to rescue his children!
In discussion we’ll turn to Galatians 4 to capture some of this fulfillment, that for us to truly call God Father, God the Son had to die in order to save us, and God the Spirit takes up residence in our hearts to make us alive to him. And while we’re there we’ll pick up some language from Paul about the intimate relationship with God that Jesus opens up for us, so intimate that we can call the God of the Universe our Dad. For some this will be old news, but many languages have both formal and informal words for fathers, like in Spanish padre vs. papá or English father vs. dad/daddy, and the Aramaic word “Abba” is of the informal variety. To keep this in perspective, as we’ve tried to do in our series, we should never lose sight of how high, holy, and other God is—as sinful humans we have no business ever darkening his door, much less calling him Daddy! But God’s highness helps us grasp the weight of such a personal title being given to us through Jesus, and helps us see (as in our last two questions) how crying out to God our Abba Father can bring freedom, joy, and refreshment to our souls.
• Could someone read Hosea 11:1-4 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• How does this passage describe God’s feelings for his people?
• How does this description compare with what you typically assume about God?
• Could someone read Galatians 4:1-7 for us?
• How does this passage describe God’s actions for his people?
• What do you think it means for our hearts to cry, “Abba! Father!”?
• Where in your life right now do you most need that cry, “Abba! Father!”?