The Compassion of God

Read Hosea 11.1-11

We can only begin to understand the compassion of God by looking at the ways we experience compassion in human relationships. The prophet Hosea recognizes this and attempts to provide us a glimpse of God in very human terms. God is like the parent who lifts their infant to their cheeks, who bends down to them, who feeds them.

Whether you are a parent or not, I hope you can appreciate how special this relationship is. God is moved by our stirrings. When we hurt, God hurts with us. When we turn away from God, God longs to call us home. When we do damage to ourselves and others, God’s anger is not the anger of one who seeks to do more harm, but the anger of a loving parent who wants to protect us and teach us to care for ourselves.

The compassion of God is even deeper than this. God’s compassion endures even when we continually turn away from God. God endures the pain of watching the children of Israel make bad choices in their lives, fail to seek God’s guidance, search for other gods for direction, and still, writes the prophet Hosea, God longs to call them home. There never comes a time where God’s compassion does not reach through their disobedience and unfaithfulness.

God’s compassion is alive and well today. In Christ Jesus, God calls everyone to accept the truth that forgiveness is available, that new life is possible. No matter who you are. God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

Just as the image of God as the loving and nurturing parent is strong in Hosea, so is the image of Israel as the rebellious child who causes God great frustration. “The more I called them,” says God through the prophet, “the more they went from me.” No matter how much God provided, the people seemed bent on going their own way, chasing after other gods, looking for answers beyond themselves and their special relationship with God.

It would be nice to distance ourselves from this image, but if we look closely, we can see our reflection. We discover times we have failed to look to God for guidance and direction. Times we have gone our own way rather than listen to the voice of God through God’s people telling us to turn around. Times we have ignored the inner voice of God’s Spirit within us teaching us to do the right thing.

The amazing thing is no matter how often we’ve done this, no matter how far we’ve taken our rebellion, God is always ready to welcome us home, to turn us around.

Anne Tyler’s novel Saint Maybe is the story of a young man who experiences the tragedy of losing his brother in a car accident. He begins to regret how he had treated his brother and even blame himself for what happened. Over time, he finds it difficult to function, trapped in the guilt that is in part his own making.

Over the course of the novel, however, this young man discovers people and events along the way to provide opportunities for a second chance. Nothing will bring his brother back, but he discovers ways to break out of the trap of guilt that keeps him from living. He finds within himself and among others the will to live, to start over, to turn away from choices that lead him to death and destruction, to choices that bring light and life.

I would say that what he discovers is the Spirit of God in Christ Jesus. This Spirit moves freely among us, it is not the sole possession of any one person or group of persons. God’s Spirit moves freely to bring new life, new hope.

My prayer today is that everyone discover this hope. God’s desire is that everyone be saved from the consequences of their rebellion and disobedience. God is like a loving parent who never leaves us and wants to welcome us home.

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