For the Love of God, Volume 2/November 5

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By D.A. Carson About Devotional Life
Chapter 309 of the book For the Love of God, Volume 2


2 Kings 18; Philemon; Hosea 11; Psalms 132—134

IN HOSEA 9, GOD SAYS OF HIS covenant people, “Because of all their wickedness . . . I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious” (9:15). Yet here in Hosea 11 God declares, “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused” (11:8). How shall we put these two passages together?

First, this emotional turmoil is the language of the jilted husband: in this book, Almighty God plays the role of the cuckolded husband. Make all the allowance you like for anthropomorphism, this is as truly the way God presents himself in Scripture as the passages where his utter sovereignty is affirmed. It is the juxtaposition of such themes that has driven orthodox confessionalism to insist that God is simultaneously, on the one hand, sovereign and transcendent, and, on the other, personal and interactive with his image-bearers.

Second, the juxtaposition of God’s wrath and God’s love makes it unnecessary to pull verses out of two chapters (9 and 11). Within chapter 11 the tension is already almost unbearable. The chapter opens with a brief historical review. God saved Israel out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus (11:1) and taught her to walk, leading her “with cords of human kindness, with ties of love” (11:4). But the more he lavished on Israel the more they turned away (11:2), and they utterly refused to repent (11:5). So God will come at them with great wrath: “Swords will flash in their cities. . . . Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them” (11:6-7). It sounds as if it is too late. And then suddenly, almost as if God is talking with himself, he asks how he can possibly give them up (11:8).

What is the answer? The answer lies in the very character of God. He is not exactly like a cuckolded husband. “For I am God, and not man—the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath” (11:9). Or, more precisely, as the next two verses demonstrate, he will not finally come to them in wrath. They will go into captivity, but he will roar again with the lion’s royal sway and call his children from the west, from Egypt, from Assyria, and they will be settled again. Indeed, within the larger canonical framework, the fact that God is God and not a mere mortal, the fact that both his wrath and his love must be satisfied, means that wrath and love will rush forward together—until they meet in the cross, the cross of the man who was also called out of Egypt by God to be the perfect son, the perfect antitype of Israel (11:1; Matt. 2:15).

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