I hope by sharing my notes about the Sabbath School lesson, someone will be blessed. Perhaps someone who couldn’t make it to class this week, or who just wants to know beforehand what kind of questions might be asked, or that they might like to bring up. Teachers, you also are welcome to incorporate any of my musings, along with your own fine thoughts, into your lesson preparations.

This week is titled “Love and Judgment, God’s Dilemma (Hosea)”.

Most of the world sees God as one or the other—a totally, loving God, who won’t allow anyone to be lost—or a judgmental, fearful God, who makes it very difficult to be saved.

How can we come to see God as both?

Let’s see if Hosea’s story illustrates this principle to us—that God can be both.

Memory text: “But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always” (Hosea 12:6, NIV)

So, God expects love and justice from us too. How do we portray that in our own lives? Most of us can think of examples of showing love, but what about justice? What exactly does this mean? [How do parents specifically illustrate it to their children, for instance?]

The introduction of this week’s lesson explains what a metaphor is. What exactly is a metaphor? [It’s using something familiar to teach us something profound. Hosea used metaphors in the same way that Jesus taught in parables or stories.]

What metaphors are often used to teach us about our relationship with God? [marriage and parent/child]

Last week our attention was drawn to Hosea and the husband and wife relationship, but this week we’ll see in Hosea that the parent/child metaphor also explains our relationship with Him. After all, we do call Him Father.

Sunday: Easily Deceived and Senseless

Here the northern kingdom, called Ephraim, is referred to a silly dove, or a senseless bird.

Hosea 7:11, 12 (“Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria. When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.” KJV)

Jeremiah 5:21 describes them this way: “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes and see not; which have ears and hear not:” KJV In other words, they aren’t using their senses.

How did Israel’s reliance on alliances with other countries, like Assyria and Egypt, contribute to her downfall? What sense were they not using when they did this? [the sense that God was with them and could protect them—in other words, the sense of His presence (mercy),  and His power (justice)]

Was it just that they picked the wrong friends, or that they picked any friends at all, other than God?

Were they still a theocracy at this point in history? When did God cease to be the sole ruler of their land? (was it when they chose to have a king? How did this make it harder for God to be their only leader?)

Since we’re thinking of the parent/child metaphor, can parents relate to this by their concern for what friends their children have, especially when they’re teenagers?

Why are we afraid of some of the friends our children might have?

From The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 908: “The very position of Palestine exposed it to invasion by these two ancient empires. . . . The much-coveted prize for which these powerful empires fought was this highway that connected the rich watersheds of the Nile and the Euphrates. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah were caught in this international counterplay and squeezed between the two rivals. In desperation, without spiritual trust in her God, Israel fatuously appealed first to the one and then to the other for a support that could only turn into a snare to her own national well-being.”

Why do you suppose God chose this particular place to let His people dwell? Was there a purpose? [perhaps to be able to witness to their neighbors and spread God to the rest of the world]

Are we sometimes like ancient Israel in the fact that we turn to human aid in times of need, instead of turning to God? How can we prevent this from happening?

Are humans ever necessary for solving our problems though? How can we tell if we are leaning too much on human beings and not enough on God?

Monday: A Trained Heifer

Read Hosea 10:11-13. (“And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn; but I passed upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods. Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.” KJV)

God is comparing Ephraim (or Israel) to a young cow being trained for the plow. She is in love with the first part of the training, threshing corn with her feet, because she can eat while she works. But God has plans for her to actually work in the fields. And when she does the right kind of labor, righteousness and kindness will be reaped, instead of wickedness and sin.

Are we sometimes content to do the easy parts of God’s service, leaving the harder labor for others? Shouldn’t we all be sacrificing?

What makes Christ’s offer to find rest for our souls when we take up His yoke and follow Him sound easy? What makes it easy? What in particular do we learn about Christ that makes it easy?

Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you; and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart [“gentle and humble in heart” NIV] : and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” KJV

How does working for Christ, taking His yoke, bring us rest?

Tuesday: A Toddling Son

Hosea 11:1, 3: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt…I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.” KJV

We can picture a parent helping a child learn to walk, tenderly holding their arms so they won’t fall.

In both the Old and New Testaments we find images of God, treating His people as children, including loving discipline or chastening, as the Bible calls it.

We usually think of chastening as rather severe punishment, but the dictionary meaning also includes to purify or refine. This makes sense when you remember the word “chaste”, which we recognize as meaning modest, clean, or spotless.

Many of us trust God’s discipline, but we still struggle with interpreting the trials that are sent our way. Is it important for us to do this? Why or why not?

Wednesday: Compassion Stronger Than Anger

Read Hosea 11: 7-9. (“And my people are bent to backsliding [one of the places where we get the term “backslider”?] from me: though they called them to them to the most High, none at all would exalt him. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.” KJV)

Admah and Zeboim were two of the cities of the plain that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah during Abraham’s time. See Deuteronomy 29:23.

These verses in Hosea bring us a picture, not of a vengeful, angry God, but one who has compassion and suffers over the sins of all His loved ones everywhere. Remember II Peter 3:9–He’s “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” KJV According to Hosea, God was like that in the Old Testament as well.

Thursday: Healed, Loved, and Nurtured

The last chapter of Hosea is a call to repentance, culminating in the last verse which not only begs for our understanding of God’s mercies, but also for obedience to His words. “…the just shall walk in them…”

In Bible times, people were not to come to God empty-handed. (Exodus 23:15) We should likewise not come before God without words of praise, repentance, and thanksgiving to our merciful, loving God.

Next week we’ll explore the message of God’s prophet Joel. Try to read his book, just three chapters, by then.