Most people know me as a New Testament scholar. To keep my reading of Scripture balanced, however, I do most of my devotions from the Old Testament. Indeed, I have encountered God especially deeply in prophetic books such as Hosea and Jeremiah, where God laments over his people who have wandered far from him. God intended for his people to have an intimate relationship with him, a covenant relationship that the Bible compares with marriage.
In Hosea, we hear God’s broken heart, his longing for his covenant people, who were so often unfaithful to him. And they actually turned against him, the very one who helped them (Hos. 13:9). God later lamented through the prophet Jeremiah, “My people have committed two wrongs: They abandoned me, the spring of flowing waters, and have dug out for themselves water pits—broken water pits that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13).
Yet God, even in his anger, remained faithful to Israel. In his jealous love, God declared that he would strip them of what they valued, the gifts they wrongly attributed to false gods, so they could learn to depend solely on him (Hos. 2:8–13).
Gripped by God’s love, I preached one of my first sermons—as a college student—on Hosea 11:8. Here, in the midst of pronouncing judgment on his people, God’s voice breaks with his love for them: “How can I do to you like I did to Admah and Zeboiim?” Admah and Zeboyim were, like Sodom and Gomorrah, cities that God had overturned in his anger and burned (Deut. 29:23). Not wanting to treat Israel like he had treated these cities, God cries, “My heart is overturned within me; all my compassion grows warm!” God chooses to endure the overturning and ...1