The DEEP

What Holds God Back?

He's God, and not a man.

Hosea 11:8-11 (NIV)

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities.
They will follow the LORD;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
They will come from Egypt,
trembling like sparrows,
from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
I will settle them in their homes,”
declares the LORD.”

There’s something profound about this passage. God is being emotional here. He’s pouring His heart out. He asks rhetorically.

How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?

And He won’t.

I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.

But then comes a curious explanation.

For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.

What’s the point of this? Why would a mere man be more likely to destroy Israel?

Because a man who was that angry couldn’t hold back. The point is to emphasize His description of His anger as fierce. His feelings are hurt and He’s angry—angry enough to utterly destroy them all.

We tend to think that because God isn’t sinful, He’s not emotional. That’s not how it works. God’s affection is strong, vibrant, and well attested.

He doesn’t destroy Israel because He doesn’t lose His temper the way a man would.


One of the brutal facts of life is that it takes years to build things up, but only seconds to tear them down. You can destroy a career in a minute, but you can’t make one in a month. This makes our battle with our sinful nature especially frustrating. A momentary lapse can erase years of hard work.

And it isn’t just rage that wrecks things. Any of the seven deadly sins will do.


All the weekly study guides, which include all five devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

The Job book is on Amazon and is eligible for Amazon Prime. The Kindle edition will be out soon.

https://www.amazon.com/Higher-Purposes-Lesson-God-Job/dp/1684719534

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.