When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them. -Hosea 11:1-4
Biblical Scholar H.D. Beeby says of Hosea 11, “We penetrate deeper into the heart and mind of God than anywhere in the Old Testament.”1 This passage takes us into God’s very being, and what we find there is parent-love, God looking at God’s people with the wistfulness of a parent driving home from a college drop-off and still feeling the grasp of the tiny hands of an unsteady, new-walking infant. As God’s children make mistakes, follow fleeting temptations and turn away, God holds dear the memories of tired arms and an aching back from hours of lifting squirmy toddlers; God finds strength in the recollections of the soft, sweet baby-smell of infant cheeks; God delights in the long-ago days of bending over high chairs, patiently lifting a tiny spoon into a uncertain mouth, knowing most of the food will end up splattered on the floor, running down the sides of the chair, smeared into hair. God is often mistaken as a stern, distant parent, a father who quickly scolds and has little time to play. Yet here we know God as a daily, messy, on-the-floor parent, never afraid to cradle infants, change diapers, nuzzle cheeks, kiss fingers and toes. This is the heart of God–with us, loving us with the unending love of a love-lorn parent, extending boundless grace, wrapping us in bands of love.
1Hosea: Grace Abounding (International Theological Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 140.