“I have surely heard Ephraim grieving thus,
‘You have chastised me,
and I was chastised, as an untrained calf.
Turn me, and I will be turned,
for you are Yahweh my God.
Surely after that I was turned.
After that I was instructed.
I struck my thigh.
I was ashamed, yes, even confounded,
because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
Is Ephraim my dear son?
Is he a darling child?
For as often as I speak against him,
I still earnestly remember him.
therefore my heart yearns for him.
I will surely have mercy on him,” says Yahweh.
“Set up road signs.
Set your heart toward the highway,
even the way by which you went.
Turn again, virgin of Israel.
Turn again to these your cities.
How long will you go here and there,
you backsliding daughter?
For Yahweh has created a new thing in the earth:
a woman will encompass a man.”
I believe that the Bible is instructing us to hear these words by Ephraim as being the words of Israel when they decide to repent and turn back to God. You really have to study God’s words. This is true even when looking at prophesy that is in a poetic form like this. Earlier in the chapter we read that God called Ephraim His firstborn. That’s pretty significant. It’s interesting to note that Ephraim wasn’t a firstborn naturally. He was actually Jacob’s grandson from Joseph and Joseph was definitely not a firstborn either. To make it even more interesting, Ephraim wasn’t even Joseph’s firstborn. Even so, God decides to call him that. Notice that “firstborn” is a title, not necessarily a birth order. That’s something important to remember when studying the Bible. As a firstborn, it makes sense that when God refers to Ephraim, He’s referring to Israel as a nation. In this passage, we see Ephriam coming to his senses about his sin.
Then, we see God describe His feelings for Ephraim. God’s heart actually “yearns for him.” I have to confess that for some reason, I don’t often consider God as a person that yearns for things. I guess I always think of Him as a person who already has everything He wants, but that is definitely not an accurate picture. The Bible corrects my wrong assumptions about God here. God has purposefully placed Himself in a position in which He yearns for those He loves. He calls Ephraim, and by implication, Israel, “a darling child.” God does punish His children when they sin, but He doesn’t take His eyes off of them because He longs for them to be with Him.
As Christians, the Bible clearly calls us God’s children and this passage shows us how God thinks about His children. That implies to us that God also longs for us. The reason we should do what is right is because we are children of God. God isn’t disconnected. If you are a Christian, God longs for you too.
Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children.