“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.” — Hosea 11:1
While the modern State of Israel may still be in its childhood, the nation of Israel is one of the oldest nations in the world. When the prophet Hosea referred to Israel’s childhood, he wasn’t referring to the last 70 years. He was referring to the nation’s true beginning, thousands of years ago, when the children of Israel where taken out of Egypt.
About this stage in Hosea 11:1, the prophet says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him.” But the Jewish sages teach us another way to understand the verse: “Israel is a child, therefore I love him.” Even today, say the sages, Israel is like a child. And that is something that God loves. The spirit of youth.
One of the profound differences between children and the elderly is the ability to recover. If a child falls down and hurts his knee, he gets up pretty quickly. Even if he sheds a few tears, he is off and running again just a few minutes later. But for someone in their older years, a simple fall can result in broken bones and irreversible damage. Older people have weaker bones and need more time to heal. Children are simply more resilient.
No nation on the face of the Earth has experienced the traumas that the nation of Israel has had to deal with, repeatedly, over thousands of years. Expelled from its homeland twice, and subjected to inquisitions, pogroms, holocausts, and all kinds of hostility, the nation of Israel reacts with the resilience of a child.
Though deeply bruised and beaten, Israel cannot be broken. Injuries heal quickly, and she is back on her feet. Israel continues to build and rebuild though her enemies seek to destroy her every single day. As the spirit of youth, this is what the prophet means when he calls Israel a child. The nation may be old, but her spirit is young.
The lessons we can glean from Hosea’s words and from the nation of Israel’s experience are timeless — no matter what life throws our way, we can respond with the wisdom that comes with age, but also with the resiliency of a child as we trust and depend upon the One who loves us like a Father.