Love & Justice
Reading through the book of Hosea this week, I was struck by the seemingly contrasting characteristics of God on display in this book. Hosea was prophesying to the people of Israel during a period in time in which they had long been rebelling against God. He prophesied that God would punish Israel for her unfaithfulness. At this point in time, Israel had been disobedient for a long time. They had rebelled against God and refused to cry out to Him in repentance. Hosea 7:14-16 says, “They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. They return, but not upward; they are like a treacherous bow; their princes shall fall by the sword because of the insolence of their tongue. This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.” The people of Israel were prideful and stubborn (Sound familiar, or is it just me?), so God intended to punish them. However, in verse 10 of the first chapter , God says, “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people’, it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.’” Even before He describes His coming punishment, God promises redemption.
So often, people talk about the God of the Old Testament being just and Jesus in the New Testament being loving. They talk like these are two different Gods. I think this is because we, as humans, have a hard time reconciling those two characteristics. We struggle to understand how love and justice work together sometimes. If you are a parent, or have ever been responsible for a small child, I’m sure you’ve seen this at work. When your child disobeys, you punish him because you love him too much to allow him to continue in his poor behavior. A loving parent doesn’t discipline out of some twisted desire to see their child in pain. They do it out of love, knowing that the discomfort of discipline will help their child to learn appropriate behavior. This is what we see of God in Hosea. Israel has rebelled and God promises punishment. However, He also promises that He will be faithful to His covenant with them, even though their faithfulness has waxed and waned dramatically in the time since the covenant was established. The book of Hosea ends with God telling the people of Israel that He will redeem them. He says, “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. (14:4), and “They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their frame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.” (14:7). Throughout Scripture, we can see this same truth: that God’s character is unchanging. From Genesis through Revelation, God is the same. He is, among other things, just and loving in every situation, so we can trust Him with everything we have done.