I remember encountering the short story genre in senior school with Jeffrey Archer’s, “A Twist in the Tale”. You needed to read to the end of each story to work out what the whole story was about.
Hosea is something like that. If you had stopped reading Hosea a few chapters back, you might have reached an inaccurate, premature conclusion about God.
You might have felt that the God portrayed in these pages of this prophetic book seems too far removed from the God on the pages of the New Testament.
But Hosea 14, however, is a clear demonstration of the fact that God has never changed and never will (Malachi 3:6). The God of Scripture has always been the God of grace.
Hosea 14 begins with the frequent OT refrain; “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God” (Hosea 14:1). God’s harsh words through the prophet have been justified at every point, and yet the heart of God is that His people would recognise their sin and repent, that they would repent and return to God.
God, through the prophet, invites Israel to ask God to forgive them, ‘to take away all iniquity’ (Hosea 14:2). God appeals to Israel to say to God;
- Assyria (humankind) will not save us (vs3)
- Abandon faith in false gods and human-made idols (vs3)
- Say that you will never bow down to these idols again (vs3)
- Say that in God alone will we find mercy (vs3)
And then God will respond saying;
- ‘I will heal you of your faithlessness my love will know no bounds for my anger will be gone forever’ (Hosea 14:4 in the NLT)
- I will refresh Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven causing flowers and fruitfulness (vs5)
- I will be like shade to Israel, and so Israel will flourish again like the vine I originally intended it to be (vs7)
- ‘O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.’ (Hosea 14:8 in NLT)
The question is, will we repent, will we stop our sinful ways and love and worship God only? Only we can respond to God’s invitation – I urge you to respond and to keep responding to God daily.
All through the collection of prophecies in this book, God has likened His anguish and pain felt because of Israel’s unfaithfulness as being like the human experience Hosea was having in his painful marriage to Gomer.
Now in the eleventh chapter, God uses another human experience to communicate the pain He feels over His people’s rejection of Him – parenting.
Israel is a beloved child who has walked away from the parent who raised it (vs3), turned its back on them despite the incredible love and parental care (vs4) that has been shown.
God’s anguish is evident; ‘My people are bent on turning away from me’ (vs7). The God of Scripture, our God is not aloof, untouched or cold. The language of the whole book of Hosea is of profound human experiences that help us to understand how God feels when we are in a state of sinful rebellion or rejection of Him, living and acting as though He were not our God who has loved us.
Because of Israel’s refusal to turn back to God (vs5), ‘the sword will rage against their cities’ (vs6) and God will not answer them anymore when they do call out to Him (vs6).
God’s heart is in pain and conflicted like a parent who has had to discipline their child; ‘My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender’ (vs8) and so God will not totally destroy Israel when He sends them into exile because of their sin.
God promises a future day when a remnant of Israel will be gathered back to God from the nations they are about to be scattered to in exile;
They shall go after the Lord; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord. (vs10-11)
God will remain faithful to His covenant promises; God is faithful even when we are unfaithful.
What does this mean for us today?
- All the language of human experiences throughout this book of prophecies reveals the profoundly personal nature of God and our relationship with Him.
- How we live really matters to God, God feels pain when we live as though He doesn’t exist, when we spurn His words to us, when we live in sin and compromise, when we give our hearts trust to other things or people.
- Ephesians 5:10 in the NIV translation instructs us to ‘find out what pleases the LORD’ and Ephesians 4:30 urges us; ‘do not grieve the Holy Spirit’. May we live to please God, live in such a way that we do not grieve God. May we bring joy to our Father, not tears!
Old Testament prophecies are a little like onions in that they often have layers of meaning. They meant something in that day to those people; they often prefigure Jesus the Messiah in some way, they often have direct application in our lives in the present and sometimes they have an as yet unfulfilled future relevance too.
Hosea 6:1-3 is one of those portions of OT prophecy that from our perspective in redemption history suddenly takes on a fuller meaning.
“Come let us return to the LORD” – vs1
God’s repeated call to His people is that they would reach this point, that they would come to their senses and would return to the ONE who had covenanted to love them. Here the prophet includes himself and appeals to Israel to join him in returning to the LORD.
The good news of the Gospel is this – is it not? God has openly displayed His love for us; God has made it possible for us to have our sins forgiven so that we could return to Him and be reconciled through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.
Have you sinned? Confess your sin and then return to God through Jesus Christ, your Saviour King.
‘For he has torn us, that he may heal us…’ (vs1)
God has punished Israel’s sin, purifying Israel so that healing could come to them. God justly struck them down, but God will bind them up…
Israel was punished for their sin; they were struck down; some were killed; they were exiled.
We too deserve the wrath of God against our sin, our compromise and rebellion against God. And yet God doesn’t strike us!
No. God allowed Jesus’ back to be torn by whips, ripped open by the rough wood of the cross. God allowed Jesus to be killed in our place for our sin. This all happened to Jesus so that it won’t happen to us, to those who put their trust in Jesus. Jesus was struck, we get bound up, healed by His finished work on Calvary.
“On the third day…” (vs2)
The prophet announced to Israel that although their sin was about to be punished, it would not last forever and they would be revived. Hosea and the people of his day could not have known what all was contained in these words of the prophet.
But we know the story. We know that Jesus died but ‘after two days’ (vs2), ‘on the third day’ (vs2) God raised Jesus up just like Hosea prophecied!
Jesus was struck for our iniquities, but He rose again victorious. Not even death could hold him down and because Jesus rose again from the dead we too who believe in Him have His resurrection life in us.
This all happened so that; ‘we may live before Him.’ (vs3). This is the Gospel, hidden in the pages of OT prophecy. Jesus took on Himself the punishment that was ours and rose again victorious on the third day SO THAT we might be forgiven of our sin, cleansed from all our unrighteousness and be reconciled back to right relationship with our Holy God.
We are a ‘third day people’. We have hope because Jesus died and rose again on the third day. It was foretold about 740yrs before Jesus Christ – this was God’s gracious plan all along.
‘Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD’ (vs3)
All that Jesus did for us is worth nothing unless we take hold of the opportunity God has given us and press on, press in to know the LORD.
Jesus has removed every obstacle, removed the sin that separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2); there is no reason why we ought to be far off from God. We can know Him.
But will we? Will we remain far off or will we press on to know God intimately, deeply?
About 28years ago, my Father in law was once asked by my friend who had recently given his life to Jesus on a youth camp; ‘Jeff, pray that I would know God better.’
To this, Jeff replied; ‘I can’t pray that!’
My friend (and I) were horrified at his seemingly unloving response. Then he said words that I have never forgotten; ‘I can’t pray that you would know God better, that’s up to you. But I can, and I will pray that you will WANT to know God better.’ And so he did, and now that friend leads one of the most significant churches in Cape Town South Africa.
Do you know Jesus? Let us press on to know the LORD! The more we know, the more we will love and worship Him.