Hosea: The Final Appeal

OutstretchedHand 

Hosea 14

 

For 13 grueling chapters, Hosea has given us sermons and rants dealing with sin, judgment, and punishment.  Here, in the final chapter of his book we read of the Lord’s final appeal to errant Israel.  To say this chapter is memorable would be an understatement.  It’s like the rainbow after a storm.  In it, we see a side of God that gives the sinner and backslider hope.  The loving heart of God is revealed in Hosea 14.  Nobody can read this chapter without understanding what God said back in 11:9—

I am God and not man…

If God thought and acted like a man, the game would be over as far as the human race is concerned!  But God is not a man, nor does He think like one.  And He does not deal with us like a man would.  Chapter 14 of Hosea gives all men hope as we discover the glorious triumph of grace.

One time, a king named Zedekiah asked another prophet, Jeremiah, this desperate question:

Is there any word from the Lord?  (Jeremiah 31:17  NKJV)

Zedekiah got his answer, and it was bad news for him.  But God’s Word to Hosea’s people and to backsliders of all ages and dispensations is simple:  Come back.

Returning to the Lord is as simple as these five steps:

Step One

O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity…  (Hosea 14:1  NKJV)

Even in its backslidden condition, the Lord is still Israel’s God!  Imagine the patience of a loving heavenly Father who hasn’t given up on His children and let them go.  This is our God!  Like the prodigal’s father, God never ceased to be Israel’s Father no matter how badly they may have wanted that relationship to end.

God is seen calling lost Israel back to Himself, but that call is based on their sins.  It’s interesting that God does not base His call to return on His love for them, which was real enough.  It was on account of their sins that they needed to come back to Him.  Implicit in God’s call was that (1) the people would have to acknowledge their sinful condition, and (2) they would be forgiven.

It’s in the backslider’s best interest to return to God, confess his sins and accept God’s gracious offer of forgiveness.  Those living in a backslidden condition have a completely skewed perspective.  They have “stumbled” over their sins and they are far worse off than if they had continued serving the Lord.  Sin has blinded them to their spiritually crippled state and inexplicably, backsliders will stubbornly claim they are “so much happier” stuck in their sins.  To these, God calls out, “Come back!”, not “Get lost!”

Step Two

Bring your petition. Come to the Lord and say, “O Lord, take away our sins; be gracious to us and receive us, and we will offer you the sacrifice of praise.”  (Hosea 14:2  TLB)

Verse two serves to underscore the importance of confession of sin and a request for God’s grace in returning to Him.  Hosea’s people had been offering sacrifices mechanically for generations; there was no heart behind them.  Now, however, they are to come to God, not with formal, ritualistic, religious observances, but with honest words spoken from the heart that acknowledge their true condition before the Lord.    Religious observances were of absolutely no value to God.

…they will come with their flocks and herds to sacrifice to God, but it will be too late—they will not find him. He has withdrawn from them and they are left alone.  (Hosea 5:6  TLB)

Truth be told, religion and grace are in constant opposition to each other.  Religion actually has nothing to do with God but everything to do with man.  It is man’s attempt to reach up to God his way.  Grace, however, is God reaching down to man.  Religion and grace cannot coexist; we may come to God in a religious way—man’s way; or we may come to God His way—by His grace.  Only one way is acceptable to God, and that’s the way of grace.  Hosea’s people needed to understand that, and so do we today.

Step Three

“Assyria cannot save us, nor can our strength in battle; never again will we call the idols we have made ‘our gods’; for in you alone, O Lord, the fatherless find mercy.”  (Hosea 14:3  TLB)

Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.  (KJV)

Their words of repentance are to be backed up by actions.  It’s one thing to own up to the wrong you’ve done, but it’s another thing to stop it cold.  Israel had been turning to other nations for help for generations, but in coming to God in repentance, they were to stop that disobedient act.  In fact, there were three things that sins that Israel had to repent from:  reliance on Assyria for salvation; relying on Egypt for military help; and relying on man-made idols for spiritual blessing and guidance.

In the KJV’s  “we will not ride upon horses,” Israel finally admits to a sin they committed hundreds and hundreds of years earlier:  the importation of horses  from Egypt.  This act was an outright rebellion against the command of Moses not to return to Egypt in search of horses.

Solomon’s horses were brought to him from Egypt and southern Turkey, where his agents purchased them at wholesale prices.  (1 Kings 10:28  TLB)

Be sure that he doesn’t build up a large stable of horses for himself, nor send his men to Egypt to raise horses for him there, for the Lord has told you, ‘Never return to Egypt again.’  (Deuteronomy 17:16  TLB)

How does this apply to backsliders today?  Christians must always be on guard against the deceptive lure of trusting anything or any person other than God.  A false God may take many forms.  What is their in your life that you rely on for security and assurance other than God?  The way back to God for us is the same as the way for Israel:  honestly confess our sins and stop them.

Step Four

The fourth step in returning to God (and staying with Him) is to believe in His promises or blessings for the future.  Restoration always follows repentance.  When we come to Him in repentance, God restores us to complete fellowship with Him and when at last Israel comes to God in repentance, that nation will be restored.

The remainder of this chapter describes the blessings awaiting Israel in the future.  They still have not repented on a national scale in the way they need to and they won’t until the days of the Tribulation.  The blessings in verses 4—8 will not be fully given to national Israel until the Millennium.  These verses are, therefore, eschatological.

I will refresh Israel like the dew from heaven; she will blossom as the lily and root deeply in the soil like cedars in Lebanon.  Her branches will spread out as beautiful as olive trees, fragrant as the forests of Lebanon.  Her people will return from exile far away and rest beneath my shadow. They will be a watered garden and blossom like grapes; they will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.

“O Ephraim! Stay away from idols! I am living and strong! I look after you and care for you. I am like an evergreen tree, yielding my fruit to you throughout the year. My mercies never fail.”  (Hosea 14:5—8  TLB)

We cannot imagine how glorious restored Israel will be.  In love, God has promised to do all this and more for His people.  That same redeeming love was manifested in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ’s vicarious work on the Cross does for us what will happen to Israel during the Millennium.

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!  (1 Corinthians 5:17  TLB)

An integral part of this process is found in verse 4—

Then I will cure you of idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be forever gone!

Note that God will cure the sin sickness of Israel; Israel will not cure itself because it cannot cure itself.  Christians need to understand this, too.  It is Jesus Christ that makes us into a “new creation,” we don’t do that.  It’s a work of grace.

Step Five

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things. Whoever is intelligent, let him listen. For the paths of the Lord are true and right, and good men walk along them. But sinners trying them will fail.  (Hosea 14:9  TLB)

This verse is what some scholars have called “a noble epilogue.”  It is also a fitting climax to the book.  Hosea had dealt with some incredible themes in his book:

  • The sovereignty of God, chapters 1—5;
  • Holiness, chapters 4—7;
  • Justice, chapters 8—10;
  • Love, chapters 11—14.

Verse 9 really is an appeal to his readers—including us—to understand and discern what he written.  When it comes to the Word of God – Hosea and the other 65 books –  constant reading, studying, and application is necessary because in doing so, we will not go astray but will remain on a path that leads to the Lord.

Conclusion

Hosea was, in terms of his preaching, a failure.  His efforts changed nothing in Israel.  Shortly after he ministered, the nation he loved so much stumbled and fumbled their way into captivity.

However, God judges us using a different standard.  His standard is:  faithfulness.  In God’s eyes, Hosea was a stunning success because he remained absolutely faithful.  He was unequaled among the Old Testament prophets.  He endured the faithlessness and betrayal of both his wife and his country, but he saw aspects of God’s character never seen before.

 

 

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