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How shall I (Hosea 11:8)

“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.”

In the verses prior to these, the Lord spoke through Hosea to Israel concerning their sin. The Lord had told them that their sin would bring His punishment. Nearly all of the prophets brought the same message. They could not say that they had not been warned.

Concerning God’s judgment of Israel for their idolatry, in Deuteronomy 29:23 we read, “…and that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath…” His warning included this outcome if they ignored Him. The verse above is clearly referring to this warning from Deuteronomy. And from it we also learn some geography.

Hosea referred to Admah and Zeboim. Deuteronomy 29 reveals that Admah and Zeboim were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah. There were five cities in that plain that were to be destroyed: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Zoar. Zoar was spared because of Lot. An aspect of the judgment that fell that day was Sodom and Gomorrah received “top billing” while the other cities were not mentioned. Theirs was a further judgment because they are not remembered like Sodom and Gomorrah.

The LORD’s lament for Ephraim and Israel in Hosea includes this aspect. Not only were Admah and Zeboim judged, but they were set aside. Though mentioned a few times in the Word, Admah and Zeboim are less known. Israel was under God’s wrath for their idolatry, as Deuteronomy 29:23 promised, and facing the further prospect of being forgotten.

But this was not God’s desire for Israel. Though He had promised that He would punish them for their idolatry, He ultimately did not want that end for them. And we see that in the verse above. He would surely punish them like that, if necessary, but what He wanted more was for them to restore themselves with Him.

Through Hosea the LORD said, “…my heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.” The Lord’s heart is turned within Him for His people. His bowels yearned towards them, and his soul was grieved for their sin and misery. Judges 10:16 says, “…they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” And Jeremiah 31:20 says, “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.”

The word repent is often used in the Old Testament, and it is almost exclusively speaks of the Lord repenting. For example, Genesis 6:5, 6 says, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” The Hebrew word translated repent could also mean to sigh, and one can imagine God sighing over the turn that His creatures had taken against Him and His ways. Like parents that suffer the behavior of their children, out of concern for their welfare, so the Lord has concern for His people.

With words reminiscent of Hosea 11:8, Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God’s heart, what He is like in His personality, is that people see Him for Who He is, and honor Him. While He promised judgment against sin, which His justice will require one day, His desire is that all come to repentance.

God is good, and His ways are always right. Here we see a glimpse of His heart for His people. But let it never be thought that this side of His nature will overrule any other part. His justice must be satisfied, for He has promised that there is punishment for the misdeeds of mankind, so those punishments will be come. Now is the time to be certain before Him of our standing. In Jesus Christ there is reconciliation with God. Without Him, as Hebrews 10:27 says, there is a certain, fearful looking forward to of judgment.

Great God of wonders! all Thy ways

Display Thine attributes divine;

But the bright glories of thy grace

Above Thine other wonders shine:


Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

Or who has grace so rich and free?

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

Or who has grace so rich and free?

Such deep transgressions to forgive!

Such guilty sinners thus to spare!

This is Thy grand prerogative,

And in this honor none shall share:


Pardon, from an offended God!

Pardon, for sins of deepest dye!

Pardon, bestowed through Jesus’ blood!

Pardon, that brings the rebel nigh!

CHORUS (Samuel Davies)