“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.
I will not execute the fierceness of My anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man,
The Holy One in your midst;
And I will not come with terror.
“They shall walk after the LORD.
He will roar like a lion.
When He roars,
Then His sons shall come trembling from the west;
They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt,
Like a dove from the land of Assyria.
And I will let them dwell in their houses,”
Says the LORD.
“Ephraim has encircled Me with lies,
And the house of Israel with deceit;
But Judah still walks with God,
Even with the Holy One who is faithful. (Hosea 11:8-12)
It is hard to punish those we love. God knew that he had to punish the Israelites for cheating on him with other gods, but it was something that caused internal conflict. God would rather have only blessed the Israelites. He wanted them to be happy and at ease. But he also wanted them to be the best that they could be. He knew what it was that they really needed and to his great sorrow, he knew they needed to be disciplined. Had he been merely human, then he might have given in to his preference to bless them. Human beings, often times, will allow their emotions to get the better of them. But God was not human and so he could rise above his emotions and do what so desperately needed to be done: to discipline his people on account of their sins.
In the end, God knew, his people would be okay. As unpleasant as discipline is for both the disciplined and the one doing the discipline, the outcome invariably leads to something very good. Children raised by parents who discipline them turn out far better than children who always get their way, who never face criticism, or who never get told no. In the end, we are happier and better off for the punishment than if we hadn’t gotten it.