The prophet Hosea was sent by HaShem to give a word of both hope and warning to the Northern Kingdom of Israel that had been steeping itself for decades in idolatry and walking a path of disobedience to G-d’s Torah. The path of hope was repentance on the part of those living in that region of Eretz Yisrael, which at the time was divided into two separate kingdoms - Israel to the North and Judah to the South. Hosea in Chapters 11 thru 14 was concentrating his prophetic message from HaShem to those primarily in the North, but is fitting for all generations everywhere.
His biggest question to them seems to be something along these lines: Why do we humans find it so difficult to stay with HaShem and to follow His commandments found in the Torah? Especially since G-d’s mercies and tenderness toward His people is so great and from everlasting.
Many then, as they do today, come up with the complaint that the commandments of G-d in Torah are just too demanding and impossible to do or keep faithfully. In fact, a later leader and likely founder of the religion of Christianity would use just that kind of reasoning to explain why people needed a sacrificial Messiah since the Law was impossible to keep because of the depraved sinfulness of all mankind. Of course, he in the First Century C.E. just as those in Hosea’s day using that excuse for their behavior totally contradicted the very words of G-d Himself in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:11-14:
“For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say: ‘Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth, and in your heart (mind), that you may do it.”
I think ultimately it goes back as far as Adam and Chavah in Gan Eden who always had the Tree of Life in their midst and both had ample opportunity to partake of its fruit, but chose instead the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This doesn’t mean that because of their choice all mankind has some kind of original sin, that would be ludicrous and totally out of character for a G-d who created all human beings to be free agents from the beginning until now. The exact same choice offered to our first parents is also offered to us every single day. Do we wish to eat from the Tree of Life or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The choice is still ours to make even to our time now:
“See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil, in that I command you this day to love the L-RD your G-d, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances…” Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:15-16
Later Y’hoshua reiterated a similar exhortation to the Children of Israel as they have begun to settle in the Land promised to them through their fathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov calling on them to choose life. He ended with this declaration:
“‘Now therefore fear the L-RD, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve the L-RD. And if it seems evil to you to serve the L-RD, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the L-RD.’” Yehoshua (Joshua) 24:14-15
The Tree of Life is G-d’s Word, His Torah and the ways of life are His Commandments, which He has clearly stated are not burdensome or impossible to keep. So let’s put that lie about their difficulty to rest once and for all. It does require a sincere desire to follow them and love HaShem and a respect for Him and His Glory. On a smaller scale it is the same as following the dictates of a parent. What they ask of us isn’t hard or difficult if we respect and honor them and the Torah doesn’t even say we have to love them, but we must honor them above all other human beings. Even more should we obey and follow the commandments of HaShem because His love for us is perfect in all its ways, unlike those of our parents whose love may falter at times, His love toward us is perfect and never ending. We honor, respect and love Him therefore following after His will as expressed in His Torah is not a difficult thing if we are committed to Him.
However, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the way of doing life our own way; by trial and error, without regard to the words, ways and commandments of HaShem which were given to impart real life, joy and a sense of real fulfillment in our short stay in these mortal frames.
“He who is wise will consider these words, he who is prudent will take note of them. For the paths of the L-RD are smooth. The righteous can walk on them, while sinners stumble in them.” Hosea 14:10