There are three things we need to learn about the love of God. First, God’s love is an emotional love of a parent to a rebellious son. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols” (Hos. 11:1-2). Yahweh has loved Israel as a parent loves a child. When did Yahweh call Israel to him? It was during the time of the exodus (cf. Ex. 4:22). But the more Yahweh called them, the more they went away to follow other gods, the Baals.
Baal was a weather-god in Syria-Palestine. He controlled rainfall, agriculture, and productivity. He was also a fertility god, giving children to barren couples. This is how Israel went farther away from Yahweh. He worshiped idols.
But God loved Israel as a parent loved a wayward son.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. (Hos. 11:3).
Yahweh loved Ephraim by teaching him to walk. As a father to a small son, Yahweh took Israel up by his arms. When Ephraim got sick, Yahweh healed him. Like a farmer to oxen, God eased the yoke on their jaws. As a loving parent, Yahweh bent down to His children and fed them.
Yet Israel did not honor his God. So as covenant God, God imposes the judgment of God upon Israel. Hosea 11:5-7 reads,
5 They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.
6 The sword shall rage against their cities, consume the bars of their gates, and devour them because of their own counsels.
7 My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all.
Because they refused to return to Yahweh, they shall return to captivity—Assyrian captivity. The Assyrian sword shall destroy their cities. Because they keep turning away from Yahweh, Yahweh shall also turn away from their cries of deliverance from Assyria. That is the justice of their covenant God.
But then in vv. 8-11, God gets emotional.
8How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.
10 They shall go after the Lord; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west;
11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord.
God shall judge Israel through Assyrian exile. But God shall also return Israel from exile. This brings us to my second point.