Forming Faith Blog

Love and Consequences (Hosea 11)

God’s anger at Israel’s disobedience comes from a place of love. God allowed them to experience the consequences of their actions, but not without warning them first.

An adult holding a toddler's hand. A loving parent allows their child to experience (limited) consequences for their misbehavior.
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Our Sin, God’s Faithfulness

This fall in the Narrative Lectionary, we have been hopping through the history of God’s chosen people, seeing important people and events like creation, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Moses and the exodus, the commandments, Ruth, David, the division of the kingdom, and Elijah. We have witnessed the beginning of the people of Israel, the foundational story of their exodus from slavery, the united kingdom, and the breaking of that kingdom. Now, the words of the prophet Hosea point to the next major (traumatic) event in Israel’s history: the conquering and exile of the northern kingdom.

Over the past three weeks, we have looked at positive and negative examples of leadership. For the next three weeks, our focus will be on God’s faithfulness, specifically as a response to Israel’s—and our—disobedience and sin.

Healthy Parenting

In various places in the Book of Hosea, God uses metaphors of family to describe God’s relationship with the people of Israel. The book starts out with God commanding the prophet to act out a metaphor by marrying a sex worker and naming their three children horrible things. These actions are intended to represent God as the faithful spouse and Israel as the unfaithful one.

Here in Hosea 11, the metaphor has shifted to that of parent (God) and child (Israel). I reflected more on the metaphor of parenting four years ago, but it is important to remember that this metaphor assumes healthy parenting. Not everyone has been blessed with healthy parents, so it is important to be aware that—for some of your faith formation participants—this metaphor might not communicate well. It might also be helpful to note that parenting is a series of actions, not a point of biology (or even law).

A Parent’s Love, a Child’s Disobedience

Not everyone has been a parent (or even wants to be), but everyone has been a child. It is developmentally appropriate that children test boundaries. That, combined with the selfishness that comes with our species and a lack of wisdom in decision-making, means that children will disobey their parent at one time or another.

And any semi-functional parent loves their child (healthy or unhealthy parenting choices notwithstanding). A parent who stops loving their child when the child disobeys is not actually loving their child in the first place. While we might not succeed at unconditional love, an enduring love is closer to what we can do. But what happens when a loving parent and a disobedient child clash?

Love Encountering Disobedience

The rules parents set for their children are—or should be—coming from a place of love and concern. While some are meant to keep the household (and parent—looking at you, bedtime) functional, many are intended to keep their child safe and train them up to be responsible adults.

So, what is the natural reaction from a parent toward a child’s disobedience, especially if it’s chronic and repeated? Frustration and eventually anger. Now that anger could be coming from a parent-focused place (you disobeyed me) or a child-focused place (your disobedience harms you and potential others).

Scripture clearly shows that God also expresses frustration and eventually anger when faced with our disobedience. While we can make a case that some of this anger comes from a God-focused place, it is important to see that it comes from an us-focused place. God expresses anger at our disobedience because that disobedience harms us and others. God’s anger at our sin—wrath—is not despite God’s love, it is because of it.

Why Consequences?

One philosophy of parenting is that of natural consequences, when a parent allows their child to experience the unpleasant consequences of the child’s disobedience. Or, if the consequences are harmful or long-term, immediate consequences logically related to the broken rule. This is one way to interpret God’s punishments: God allowing the people to experience the full consequences of their disobedience. God removes their protection and allows foreign powers to conquer them, like the Assyrians did to the Israelites in 722 BCE. But still, God does not abandon them but—like a loving parent—promises to be with them while they suffer the consequences.

Faith Formation Connections

How might you approach this reading with your faith formation participants? I would say that it’s important to explain (or review) what a metaphor is. A bit of historical context would be helpful, even if it’s just reminding them of King Ahab and the prophets of Baal from last week. God gave the Israelites in the northern kingdom many warnings through prophets like Elijah, but they continued worshipping other gods and mistreating their own people over two centuries.

It is very important to explain God’s actions through the lens of God’s love (see Hosea 11:1, where the past tense is in reference to this past time, not that the love ended). We do not worship and serve an angry, wrathful god, we worship and serve a God who gets angry at injustice. Because the opposite of love is not anger, it is apathy. If God did not set rules and expectations for us, and did not express anger when we disobey, then God does not love us. But God’s love ensures us that anger is not the end. God will never give us up!

In God’s incomparable love,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 10 to May 19), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download the worship elements “Love Means… Poetry” from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education (NL) resource. If you are interested in trying out intergenerational ministry but not ready to jump in for a quarter or year, you can purchase single lessons!

Order Faith Formation Resources

It’s not too late to order 2023-2024 resources, and the Winter quarter begins on December 3, 2023! Are you still looking? Order easy-to-use, theologically sound, and effective resources now for the Narrative Lectionary, as well as for the Revised Common Lectionary, and even classic Sunday school Classroom curriculum for PK-2nd and 3rd-6th (check our blog post for a special discount)!

Looking for a resource for intergenerational events, whole-church series, or even something new for Sunday school? Check out our Learning Together series! These five-lesson units are available on six different topics, one of which is FREE! The other five are quite affordable with variable pricing starting at $25 for a program with 1-10 participants. Perfect for children’s and intergenerational ministries, family or churchwide events, and even a whole-church Advent series!

At Spirit & Truth Publishing, we might just have exactly what you are looking for:

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