People have known, for a long time now, about optimal methods of raising and teaching children. Probably there are “primitive” peoples who’ve forgotten more than we’ve learned about that, but it’s clear enough what kind of conditions to provide, if you want a warm and loving relationship with your kids.
And God doesn’t do it that way!
There’s this people, the Jews– chosen to help establish a loving relationship between God and human beings. Some of this people, the prophets– were chosen to announce the meaning of historical events, to give God’s reasons and intentions in instigating such events.
Pronouncing doom on nations and rulers… has always been part of the role. But by the time of Hosea, the news is all bad. The people, their rulers, and their priests are all misbehaving. God intends to destroy both Jewish kingdoms: Israel first and Judah later. One prophet after another is saying the same, in chapter after chapter, book after book.
“You just wait til your Father gets home!” For years!
And then God does it. First Israel, then (about 100 years later) Judah falls.
So, to establish a loving relationship– God first orders His people to do things they can’t/won’t/aren’t-about-to do. Then He threatens them for their failure. Then He has them murdered, robbed, enslaved and carried away wholesale by more powerful nations. But after they’ve suffered enough, He plans to relent.
This isn’t even what you’d call “strict father morality”; it looks downright abusive!
And does it work? In some odd way, it does. It produces a nation with many sincere and intensely devoted worshipers.
But when Jesus is born, centuries after their return, the Jews still haven’t eliminated oppression and corruption from their rulers, their Temple hierarchy, their major landowners. Idolatrous foreigners are still taking their goods, lording it over them, treating their religion with contempt.
At this point, Jesus explains– that God is not an abusive tyrant, but a loving and nurturant parent. Toward everybody.
They should stop plotting rebellion. They’d tried that with the Maccabees, and even though it “worked” it still hadn’t produce the kind of results that they, or God, intended.
Instead, they should treat everyone with disinterested, loving benevolence; this is how God behaves. They should adopt a radically humane, egalitarian and nonjudgmental interpretation of Torah (similar to Hillel’s, which eventually did become the prevailing approach.)
If they could do that, God could make their lives blessed.
And if they could not– ~’Are you ever going to wish you had!’ Jerusalem would be besieged, the Temple destroyed as it had been before. Some decades later, on the exact same calender day the Babylonians had done so– the Romans took the city, plundered, murdered and enslaved, destroyed the Temple.
And by then, Jesus’ followers were becoming a sect of their own, on the way to forming “Christianity.” Many of these people, also, have formed intensely loving relationships with God.
And many of them, also, have continued to imagine God as if He were an abusively-strict father, more concerned with obedience than with mutual love.
The reasons for this have far more to do with human beings, than with God. But that’s a subject for later…