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Yahweh: The Compassionate Father

Yahweh: The Compassionate Father
Yahweh: The Compassionate Father
Yahweh: The Compassionate Father

March 6, 2018 | Hosea 11:1-12

In her masterful book The Guns of August, historian Barbara Tuchman examines the weeks before World War I commenced. She describes the public statements, private messages, bluster, and threats among the leaders of Russia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom that hurtled Europe toward a war that resulted in millions dead and a continent in tatters.

In the three chapters between yesterday’s reading and today’s, God seems to be talking only of war. But the Lord wasn’t warning another country about its imminent destruction. Rather, He declares that “days of punishment” and “days of reckoning” are coming for His own people, who have chosen to abandon Him for other gods (9:7). God alludes to the rising “roar of battle,” which will be the noise of His judgment when He brings foreign enemies into the land of promise (10:14). Exile from the land will be the sentence for His people’s seemingly incurable rebellion—their relentless determination to turn away from Him (v. 7). Because His people have sown to the wind, they will reap the whirlwind (8:7).

If chapters 8 through 10 sound like a divine declaration of war, Hosea 11 makes an abrupt turn toward mercy. God, portrayed now like a compassionate father, will not give His people over to judgment and destruction. Though He has every right to permanently overthrow them, just as He did the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, He will not wield that prerogative (v. 8). They will be exiled, but they can also hope for return.

As our key verse highlights, God is not like a human being, determined to settle the score. His holiness—or uniqueness—is demonstrated in part by His willingness to restrain His wrath.


God’s compassion prevents Him from exercising the full force of His anger and judgment. Are we like God in this way? When we have legitimate reasons to be angry with someone, how often does our compassion win out? Are we gentle with others in their mistakes, merciful with others in their faults?