“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? I have had a change of heart; my compassion is stirred!” (CSB – Read the chapter)
In the world of philosophy, the branch dealing with the making and analyzing of arguments is called logic. We make jokes about whether or not something is logical, but the study of logic is a detailed and complex one. Logicians have explored it at a depth and breadth that will leave your head spinning if you aren’t formally trained. It is a philosophical discipline with which I have admittedly struggled (I can already hear the jabs coming…). But, even I can recognize that what God says here represents a formal logical fallacy. Let’s talk about why.
Now, before we go much further, let me say this: I believe all logic flows out of the nature and character of God. He is a logical God. The irrefutable laws of logic (the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle, respectively) come out of His own nature. I am not, here, accusing God of being illogical. There are some today who consider it cool to remake Him in some postmodern image. I am not one of those.
That being said, what God says here just doesn’t flow from what comes before this. For 10 chapters He has been going on and on about how broken and incorrigibly sinful Israel is. He’s talked about the judgment coming their way. He’s talked of ruin and destruction and even actively destroying the next generation of Israelites. It’s been a pretty depressing several chapters.
But then, we turn to chapter 11, and suddenly things have changed. He’s had a change of heart. His compassion has been stirred. He’s not going to destroy them after all. He’s going to show them mercy and grace.
Really? He was set on utter destruction…and now He’s going to bless them. The conclusion doesn’t flow from the premises. This is a logical fallacy. Right? Actually, it’s better than that. This is a picture of the character of God. This is a gleaming beacon pointing to His simultaneously being perfect in justice and in love. Praise His name for it.
In His justice, He condemns sin in the strongest terms. He will punish the sinner and destroy sin wherever He finds it. The consequences of our choices will not remain at bay forever. Yet, in His love, He is constantly looking for a way to say, “But not yet.” The whole narrative of John’s Revelation is that the time has finally arrived. Before then? He looks for ways to kick the can down the road just a bit longer. Because He loves us.
This applied to Israel as we see right here in this very verse. Can you hear the passion in His voice? How can I give you up? This isn’t some angry God preparing to gleefully smite all those who haven’t genuflected to His arrogant pridefulness. This is a father struggling mightily with the notion of finally dropping the hammer on his wayward children. Any parent who has ever struggled with bringing meaningful consequences in the life of a child who seems set on making self-destructive choices should be able to understand His emotion here.
This emotion is not logical. Love is not logical. It lavishes grace and mercy where they are not deserved. It seeks the best in those who have routinely refused it. It holds out hope endlessly for a turning that never quite seems to come. It is messy and unfair and beautiful beyond description.
It is this same love that motivated our gracious God to send His only Son to a cross to die the death He didn’t deserve so we didn’t have to face what we had justly earned. It is this same love that motivates Him to offer us the chance at having the life we always wanted if we will only submit ourselves to Him and receive the grace He longs to give us.
The only question we have to answer is this one: Will we receive it? Israel didn’t and was eventually destroyed. Life is waiting for us. We need only receive it. Today is a great day for doing that. I hope you will.