HERE is no doubt about it, the words of Hosea 11:1 are Messianic. Yet could we have ever guessed as much without the benefit of Matthew's testimony and interpretation (specifically in Matthew 2:15)? LIKELY NOT. These words by Hosea are clearly a national reference. God did love the young nation of Israel. Despite their carnality and unbelief, He loved them. And, He called them out of Egypt through the ministry of the prophet Moses. He loved them (Hosea 11:1 & 4), healed them (Hosea 11:3), freed them and fed them (Hosea 11:4). Nevertheless, they ignored Him and worship idols instead of worshipping Him (Hosea 11:2). So, He determined to send them into exile under the heavy hand of the Assyrian king (Hosea 11:5). He didn't want to destroy them (Hosea 11:8-9), but He did feel obligated to punish them with the rod of Assyria. Evidently, it was the only way.
Back to verse 1. Is the prophecy primarily about Israel, or is in primarily about Jesus Christ? The answer is a resounding, "YES!" At one time God basically said through the prophet Hosea that He is not drawn by the same passions that men are drawn by, therefore it might be expected that He would act in an un-anticipatable way. If He were merely an infinitely powerful sinful human, He might have simply eradicated the Jews altogether (because of their resistance against Him). But, being divine, He has the power to extend mercy further than we could ever possibly imagine. The incarnation of the Son of God gave Him an infinite right to judge us harshly (John 5:22), but it also produced in Him deep empathy for us and our predicament. Instead of rushing forth to destroy us, He has held back destruction (John 3:17 & Hebrews 4:15). If anything, the patience of God has been intensified by his becoming the Son of man (Romans 3:23-26). Now then, we don't have a "God or Man" proposition at all here. Instead we find hypostasis. Jesus "became" Israel in Bethlehem and then died as Israel on the cross.