“I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, for I am God, and not man.” Hosea xi. 9.
How close to unbelievable is that? More than seven chapters (4—10) in which God scathes Israel for its life of crass betrayal in their running after other gods and then what do we get? We get Hosea 11:9! We would have expected the opposite! “Enough! Who do they think I am? I understand they’re sinners but this nation has gone too far and for too long! I’ll obliterate it! Instead of that, we have the dumbfounding conclusion. The wind has risen to a deafening roar and all of a sudden: silence. That’s Hosea 11:9 (I can’t source right now who offered that great image, jmcg.)
That God will not pour out His finally destructive wrath is confounding enough but look how God vindicates His decision not to destroy such a willful people: “I’m God! Not a man!” What has He said here? “If I were a man I would utterly obliterate them!” But I’m not a man—I’m God! This is not any old God. This is the Holy One of Israel. This is the God who said, “You be holy for I am holy!” Since that’s true how did Hosea 11.9 get to be in the Bible? Did God cease to be the Holy One at this point Did He become soft on Sin? Or have we missed the richness of Godlike “holiness”?
Had I been a man I would have ended Israel for their addiction to treachery, said God who knows all things. My own life has proven, at least to me, that there are those who are very like God and who forgave great wrongs and in that respect were not like “a man”. The prophet who spoke from God and about God knew better than I had ever reason to know, how to forgive a very great wrong (didn’t he marry Gomer who lost her way and became adulterous and didn’t he go looking for her, found her and brought her home (Hosea 1)? I also know that there are many who are very like a “man” while professing to be Godlike and to be a friend of God.
There was an older brother who wouldn’t forgive a wayward brother for this sinful behavior and attitude. Nor woulde he forgive his father for forgiving the selfish brother and rejoicing when the earlier selfish brat, ‘dead in his sin’ and ‘lost,’ away from a loving father who always wanted him back. All this father wanted from the older son was the right to be happy that the younger son was home—he wanted the right of a loving father to love his son.
And this is the point of the three parables in Luke 15. The parables entail a lot of related truths but the truth focused on is this: the worst kind of Pharisee had they been friends of God they would have been able to rejoice at what Jesus in the name of God was doing. The woman fully expected her friends to rejoice with her finding her lost treasure. The shepherd fully expected his friends to rejoice that he had found his unhappy lost sheep and the prodigal’s father fully expected his older son to rejoice with him. “He’s your brother, for pity’s sake! He’s my son; how can you not understand that? Rejoice with him and with me. God throws a party in heaven; it’s right that we should throw a party on earth.”
I do understand that there are complexities I’m not dealing with here. I know that the speech of Jesus to the worst kind of Pharisee seems to go against His teaching in Luke 15. But it doesn’t. We need to remember that the most scathingly sustained piece of Scripture perhaps in the entire Bible is spoken by Jesus in Matthew 23; it doesn’t end scathingly but profound sadness. “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” But it was ceaselessly the policy of Jesus to throw his weight in on the side of the vulnerable against hard-hearted people with power for God is a great lover of the oppressed and downtrodden and He has appointed a day when that will be made clear to the world! Acts 17.31
Wasn’t it Coffin who said something like, “Not to choose sides is in effect to take the side of the predatory powerful.”
(I don’t know how to frame the prayer Holy Father.I know I need Christ-likeness that combines wisdom and tenderness. I know I’m asking for that in the Savior’s name.)