“What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away." Hosea 6:4
God the Father agonizes over the fleeting love of the children of Israel. They love him for a moment but their love is soon gone with the wind. Their devotion to the Lord appears in the morning but vanishes in the evening. God expresses his perplexity with the brevity of their love with an outburst of emotion: “What shall I do with you?” Fathers who have longed for the return of their wayward children and husbands who have grieved over the betrayals of their faithless wives will empathize with the agony of God’s unrequited love.
Although God seems to be at his wit’s end, he is sure of his unending love for his people. He later exclaims, “How 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” (Hosea 11:8). God has set his electing love on his people and shall never hand them over to utter ruin. His warm and tender compassion are the result of his unconditional love for his children.
The contrast between God’s love for Israel and Israel’s love for God couldn’t be clearer. Israel’s love is like a mist. God’s love is like a great mountain that shall never be moved. Israel’s love is fleeting. God’s love is eternal. The passions of Israel rise and fall and change from one moment to the next yet God’s compassions never fail as they are new every morning. The Husband’s steadfast love is unconditional, immutable, and faithful in spite of the Bride’s faithless whoredom.
Unregenerate members of the visible church may have a love for God that is present in the morning but gone in the evening. They may appear to have spiritual graces for a season. Time proves them wrong. Wait until the evening to see the authenticity of their fruit. True love for God is enduring love.
Even true believers must confess that our love for God is often fleeting. What should we do when we discover that our love for God is like the morning mist? We must look to God’s unconditional and enduring love for us. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Love for God grows as it basks in the sunlight of God’s love for us. We must keep ourselves in the love of God where we hear his agonizing compassion for his rebellious children. “What shall I do with you? How can I give you up?” Throughout Hosea’s prophecy we see the sparkling diamond of God’s faithfulness against the black velvet of Israel’s whoredom. Sin abounds; grace abounds all the more.
Let this also be a lesson for us who have people in our lives (spouses, children, friends, fellow Christians) who have gone astray. We must continue to love them and never give up on them. Our Eternal God has not given up on us even when we have hurt him most. And like the loving father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son we must always race to welcome home the wayward son who has come to his senses by the grace of God.
The cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reminds us again and again of the full extent of God’s love. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). When we are disappointed with ourselves on account of our fickle love for God, let us look to Calvary. God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32). God could not and would not give up on his electing love for his chosen people. So he gave his Son to make atonement for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. No deeper love can we find but the love of God revealed in his crucified Son. And it is only the ever-blowing wind of the Spirit of Christ that causes the glowing embers of our hearts to burst into flames that will never die even though they may flicker.