When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love;
I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.
Hosea is a heartbroken love story. This is the part of history when God looks back at those first moments of molding a nation. He remembers the stumbling, the faltering, the fear and the fully human stubbornness. He remembers the spray of the sea holding back its walls. He remembers the wonder of being a people who are fought for. He remembers the complaining and the hoarding. He remembers that, as a young people, Israel just kept running. He called out and they went scrambling for the next thing.
He remembers that he taught his people to walk. He asked them to hold up Moses' arms the way he held up their arms. He kept showing up to nudge them along, growing and strengthening them. He gave them what they asked for - even when he knew that a King would make their lives harder. He loved them and sometimes his love was quiet like a breeze, rather than wild like a storm.
He didn't capture them, like their enemies would have. He didn't hold them in bondage, but he did wrap cords around them. Cords like the rigging of a ship. And, like a sailor, he worked hard to steer that ship. He ran and jumped and he sweat blood. He pulled the sails and called up wind to move the ship from stagnant water. They didn't see him of course, they just felt the wind. They called their direction 'chance'. They even thought they were the ones steering the ship. But he worked anyway.
And he knew his young people. He knew what they needed. So he carefully selected the rigging he would use. He wrapped human kindness around them, steadfast and secure. He breathed life into the importance of community. When they loved each other, when compassion came gushing from their hearts, he tugged that rigging and they soared. He tied them with love because only love can really heal them. God, knowing the truest true of the human condition, knew that shame would never lead them, hate would never strengthen them, fear would never deliver them. So he poured out his own truest true and he loved them. Even if they couldn't recognize it.
Even then, God lifted the yoke off of their necks, he rescued them from slavery. Because that was always the plan. He never intended to do anything other than come for them. Even when he was working the rigging, he knew exactly where he was headed. But then God, who was Jesus, knelt down in their dirt, in their tired excuses and wild wandering, to feed them. He was the King who had what they needed and he had never stopped working for the moment when he would put it in their hands. Nourishment.
You might not see him, friend, working the rigging. You may not know that the seasons of wind and movement are his intention. You may not know that he is deliberate and precise and good at his job, but he has not rested. He has held nothing back. He won't hold anything back. Maybe faith is simply surrendering to the direction of the ship. Maybe, in the dark storms, faith is remembering that God alone can calm the storms. Maybe faith is resting when you just can't see which way you are headed.
Because God is at the rigging.
Whose kindness has he used to tug you? Who has he used to love you to healing? He's calling you, you know. He's calling you to be a part of those cords. He's calling you to love and to be brave and kind. Who is he calling you to?