“This is a wonderful chapter to be at the end of such a book. I had never expected from such a prickly shrub to gather so fair a flower, so sweet a fruit; but so it is: where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound. No chapter in the Bible can be more rich in mercy than this last of Hosea; and yet no chapter in the Bible might, in the natural order of things, have been more terrible in judgment. Where we looked for the blackness of darkness, behold a noontide of light!” (Charles Spurgeon)
A. Israel’s repentance and God’s response.
1. (1-3) What Israel should say in their repentance.
O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; take words with you, and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. Assyria shall not save us, we will not ride on horses, nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’ for in You the fatherless finds mercy.”
a. Take words with you, and return to the Lord: In returning to the Lord, Israel must come on God’s terms, not their own. God says, “When you return to Me, take words with you. I want you to return to Me not with a silent feeling in your heart, but with proper words of repentance and trust in Me.”
i. When we come before the Lord, it is essential to take words with you. There is a place for sharing the inarticulate feelings of the heart with God, but that is not the essence of fellowship and prayer with Him. The worship of God is intelligent, and God made us able to communicate ideas and feelings with words. It isn’t enough to sit before the Lord and feel love towards Him. Instead, take words with you - tell God that you love Him. It isn’t enough to feel repentance before the Lord. Instead, take words with you and tell God you repent before Him.
ii. This is the same idea that Paul expressed in Romans 10:8-10: But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. God commands us to communicate with Him in words, not only ideas or feelings.
iii. What words do we take with us? Take the words God gives you in His Word! When we communicate to God in the words and ideas of Scripture, we find an articulate and effective voice before God.
b. Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously: When we return to the Lord, taking words with us, we must first come humbly. We recognize our sin and our total dependence on the grace of God.
c. Literally, Hosea 14:2 says for we will offer the calves of our lips. Since bull calves were often brought for sacrifice, the translators felt justified in putting it for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. However, the more literal rendering shows just how plainly our words of praise, worship, confession, petition, or intercession can be a sacrifice before God.
d. Assyria shall not save us, we will not ride on horses, nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, “You are our gods”: When we return to the Lord, taking words with us, we come renouncing our dependence on all other things. We recognize that the Lord and the Lord alone can make the difference in our life.
e. For in You the fatherless finds mercy: When we return to the Lord, taking words with us, we come declaring His greatness. We tell of what a great and merciful God we have.
2. (4-7) God promises to restore a repentant Israel.
“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon. Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall be revived like grain, and grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.”
a. I will heal their backsliding: God saw that Israel was bent on backsliding from Him (Hosea 11:7), but He promises to heal the backsliding of a repentant Israel. He does it not because Israel now deserves it, but because it is in His nature to love them freely.
i. The word is compassionate: I will heal their backsliding. This shows God looks on our backsliding more like a disease than a crime. He does not say, “I will pardon their backsliding.” It is “as though he said, ‘My poor people, I do remember that they are but dust; they are liable to a thousand temptations through the fall, and they soon go astray; but I will not treat them as though they were rebels, I will look upon them as patients, and they shall look upon me as a physician.’” (Spurgeon)
ii. The word is certain: I will heal their backsliding. Not “I might heal” or “I could heal” or “I can try to heal,” but I will heal their backsliding. Come to God for healing of your backsliding, and He will do it! God is too great a physician to allow any patient to leave His office without being healed.
iii. The word is personal: I will heal their backsliding. He speaks to His people, and addresses them personally. We have to come to the Great Physician and say, “Heal my backsliding. I want to be the ‘their.’” To get the healing, you have to count yourself among the backsliders.
iv. Are you backsliding? The signs may not be so obvious to others. When you see a tree broken over in a windstorm, it’s easy to think that it was the wind. If you look closer, you will often see that insects have been at work a long time on the tree, making it weaker and weaker. It really wasn’t the wind that did it - other trees around it withstood the wind. It was the slow decline of strength, as insects nibbled away month after month.
b. This passage shows us what is restored when we return to the Lord.
· Growth is restored (He shall grow)
· Beauty is restored (He shall grow like the lily)
· Strength is restored (lengthen his roots like Lebanon)
· Value is restored (His beauty shall be like an olive tree)
· Delight is restored (His fragrance like Lebanon)
· Abundance is restored (revived like grain . . . grow like the vine . . . scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon)
c. His branches will spread: When God restores Israel, he will be a blessing to others, not blessed only unto himself.
B. A new Israel.
1. (8) Renewed Israel is free from idols.
“Ephraim shall say, ‘What have I to do anymore with idols?’ I have heard and observed him. I am like a green cypress tree; your fruit is found in Me.”
a. What have I to do anymore with idols? When God’s people are healed from backsliding, they focus on the Lord Himself and not on any kind of idol.
b. Your fruit is found in Me: At one time, Israel thought they might find fruit in themselves or in the idols of the nations. Now, healed of their backsliding, they find their fruit only in God.
i. Your fruit is found in Me can have two ideas, equally true. First, we find the fruit to nourish our soul in God, and God alone. Second, we find the fruit that we are to bear unto the world in God, and God alone.
2. (9) Renewed Israel walks in wisdom.
Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
a. Who is wise? The wise man will see the message throughout the Book of Hosea. He will understand that in His mercy, God offers a wonderful opportunity for repentance and restoration, and it is dangerous and foolish to neglect that invitation.
b. The ways of the Lord are right: Even in the midst of promised judgment, the wise and understanding man sees that the ways of the Lord are right, and that ever announcement of judgment is an invitation to repentance.
i. “In beauty of expression these final words of Hosea rank with the memorable chapters of the OT. Like the rainbow after a storm, they promise Israel’s final restoration. Here is the full flowering of God’s unfailing love for his faithless people, the triumph of his grace, the assurance of his healing - all described in imagery that reveals the loving heart of God.” (Wood)
© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission