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hos 11.9Continuing now in Hosea 11, in verse 5-7 then we see God’s Consuming Justice. Hosea writes, “He shall not return to the land of Egypt; but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to repent.

We have just fast forwarded from the home movies of Israel’s youth to the reality of the consequences of God’s love. They were at one time called from Egypt and set free. They will not be going back to Egypt to flee persecution or famine. They are going to Assyria “because they refused to repent.”

Verse 6-7 says, “And the sword shall slash in his cities, devour his districts, and consume them, because of their own counsels. 7 My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him.” Slash, devour, consume, because they followed their own counsels. They set their heart on backsliding. They are bent on backsliding – this is their course, they have set it, and they will not turn back.

He says that the people call to Him, but they do not exalt Him. They are not depending upon Him in humble obedience and love, they just want Him to get them out of a tight spot. A spot they put themselves in by their unfaithfulness. And He has told them how to get out, but they simply will not do what He says. They refuse. Romans 1:21 says, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Here is the nation of Israel – they would not exalt and glorify God, they would only use Him to get what they wanted. And God is not a genie in a bottle no matter what the prosperity gospel preachers tell you – they are preaching another gospel, and gospel that only damns those deceived by it.

Proverbs 14:14 tells us, “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways,

but a good man will be satisfied from above.” This is the second verse now in this message that references being satisfied. The first told us that we are to be satisfied with God’s goodness. This one says that the good man will be satisfied from above.  But the backslider will be filled with his own ways, even though filled here does not mean satisfied, it just means he will be full of himself. When you go your own way you are not moving forward or making progress; you are backsliding.

Because God is just, and because the people are bent on backsliding and refuse to repent, look now at verses 8 and 9. We see God’s Questions. So remember, this is God speaking. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. 9 I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror.”

God has loved His people with an electing, covenantal love. He has adopted them as His children. He has raised them as a nation. He has taught them, fed them, provided for them, proved Himself always faithful to them. And they run into sin after sin and refuse to repent. And what question does God ask? “How can I give you up? How can I hand you over?”   He says, “My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred.”

You see, God’s justice and His love do not oppose each other. There is no contradiction in God. How much does He love His children? Enough to chasten them when doing so is not pleasant. God says in Ezekiel 33:11, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” How much more in the discipline of His beloved?

When He asks, “How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim?” These were two other cities in the plain where Sodom and Gomorrah were located. We always here about Sodom and Gomorrah, well they were not the only cities destroyed that day. Doing this to Israel makes God’s heart churn, He says. Literally the phrase means that His heart is “turning over”, it is troubled.

Yes, God is perfectly holy, and He will chasten His people and is angry toward their sin, but He is also patient, merciful, longsuffering, at with one move back His direction in repentance, He like the prodigal’s father will run to meet us on the way back home. It is as if we hear His heart breaking. “How can I give you up? How can I hand you over?” How can He give them up like this? How?

Too often our vision of God and of heaven and hell, paradise and punishment, too often these things are tainted by Greek and Roman mythology. When we think about God’s anger toward sin, too often we see Zeus with his lightning bolt, who in his anger will derive pleasure from inflicting pain. But that is not the picture of God that comes from the Holy Scripture. Here we see a God who loves His people to the point that when His justice demands that He chasten them it troubles His heart to do it! Yet if you want to know how, there is the answer. He is holy. He is just. He is perfect. And He does what is right. He is God.

If you as a parent have disciplined a child in love, you can understand, even in our imperfection. We understand that sometimes it hurts to do what is right. True love does not let the child do whatever they want to their own harm. True love is willing to inflict a consequence to prevent something worse!
Oh the depths of the love of God for us. He is just. And He loves us. Imagine the pain then of the cross. Penalizing Christ His only Son for our sin.

This is what we learn about God, He is just but His justice and righteousness are not void of mercy and compassion. It is His love and His holiness that require justice! He loves so perfectly and completely in His holiness that He must by His nature uphold righteousness and justice.

God in being stirred and churned is not being wishy-washy. He is showing us so vividly that love requires discipline. In that discipline we see love and compassion. Because we use these terms as emotions and feelings instead of as terms that define the relationship we get confused and think these things cannot co-exist. But in God’s perfection they must co-exist!

Did you hear also what He said in verse 9? “I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror.”  He is not saying here that there will be no judgment or consequence. In the administration of justice Israel will not be destroyed. There will be mercy mixed with wrath here.

The wages of sin is death, but we see even in the Garden of Eden that when Adam and Eve sinned they did not immediately die, but they began to die. God did not execute the full sentence immediately, otherwise who could live? In fact, if we paid the full bill for our sin ourselves we could never satisfy God’s justice, that is why the doctrine of eternal punishment is critical to our understanding of the character and holiness of God and the heinousness of sin. If God collected the full balance due immediately, even then we could never pay what we owe. Are you beginning to see the depth of the payment Christ made for us?

Thankfully we see also here in verse 9, “For I am God, and not man”, meaning God is not limited by our understanding of these things! He says that He as God is perfectly capable of exercising wrath and mercy at the same time. As proof, when Jesus was bearing the full wrath of God for our sin, even then as He was being crucified, someone else carried His cross for Him. Mercy in the midst of judgment. In fact, there is the biggest dose of mercy ever in the midst of judgment – the fact that God poured out His wrath toward us on His Son – there is mercy in judgment! Why? Such is His love.

You see, our sin is not a cancelled debt. It is a debt fully paid for us by Someone else. Romans 3:21-26 sums it up by saying, “21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

When God extends forgiveness to us He does not do so at the expense of justice.

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