Hosea – Week Four
Not everyone will agree with me on this, but there is something magical that occurs the Saturday after Halloween. Daylight Savings Time ends. I’ve always thought of it as my very favorite night of the year. There’s something very empowering about literally changing time. We get that extra hour to spend how we choose – sleeping, reading, watching a movie, or staying out later.
We all know that we don’t really get an extra hour – not really. We collectively manipulate our timepieces to make it happen.
But just like most anything, that extra hour comes at a price. Some people will feel a little “off” for about a week or so, or at least until their body adjusts. Not everyone will experience any sort of physical repercussions; however, there is one thing everyone who turns back their clocks will have to do and that is that months later, the clocks must be turned forward in order to pay back that hour.
Ephesians 5:15 WEB “Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; 21 subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Paul is speaking to the church in Ephesus and he’s giving them guidelines in which they are expected to live. He speaks of “redeeming the time” which is a quirky term. If “redeemed” means to “buy back”, “reclaim” or “rescue”, how could we buy back or reclaim time? The truth is, we really can’t. What’s done is done and we are unable to change our actions or behaviors, decisions or choices that were made in our history. Likewise, we can’t undo the consequences that occur because of our choices. But for each and every living soul, there’s a redemption clause. “We cannot go back in time and change the past, but we can repent.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf Repenting of our past mistakes is as about as close as redeeming time that I can think of.
This is our last week in Hosea and next week we’ll move into the book of Micah, the last of the minor prophets that we’ll study. So far, each prophet has had an underlying theme to their message.
Amos – justice & judgment
Jonah – compassion & mercy
Hosea – unconditional love & redemption
All three of them had an underlying message rooted in repentance. The Israelites were so completely unaware of their need to repent, and they certainly didn’t feel as if they needed redemption.
Hosea was a prophet for about 50 years in total. We know that Hosea was called upon by God to not only deliver His message of unconditional love and redemption but to actually live it out as a tangible example in his marriage with Gomer.
In this last chapter of Hosea, he pleads with the Israelites to return to God. Hosea has spent his years relaying to the Israelites how they had hurt God, disappointed Him, and angered Him with their unfaithfulness and disloyalty. Hosea had passed along the warnings of devastation and consequences because of their unwillingness to be obedient to God. But in his last written words, Hosea delivers words of hope.
Hosea 14:1-3 NKJV “O Israel, return to the Lord your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity;
2 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.
3 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.”
In these verses, Hosea tells them how to return to God. He relays to them God’s terms for reconciliation. He tells them to take words with them. The original Hebrew word used for “words” was də·ḇā·rîm (pronounced daw-baw’) and it literally means “speech” or “word”. We can go to God in prayer and communicate either in silent meditation, listening for His voice, or speaking out loud. Hosea is telling the Israelites to actually speak out loud when returning to God. Why is that significant? It isn’t for God’s benefit. He knows your thoughts (Psalm 139); nothing you say is going to take God by surprise. Speaking out loud is for our benefit. We struggle to maintain our train of thought or focus when we aren’t using our voice. We usually are more impassioned when we speak rather than just thinking about our prayer. And, let us not forget, that we are entangled in spiritual warfare at all times! The last place that Satan wants you is on your knees in prayer. But when you are silently praying to God, Satan can only guess what you’re saying. He cannot read your mind. He doesn’t know your thoughts. So for any of us to go to God in prayer and verbalize out loud our belief in and thankfulness for His authority, His power, His greatness, and His mercy, is to solidify our allegiance and obedience to God and God alone. And by saying it aloud, Satan is privy to hearing our words of adoration.
I know we’re all sick to death of these political ads and flyers and we’re all just counting the minutes until this week when it should all cease. Twenty years ago, in 2002, the “Stand by Your Ad” provision was enacted so that politicians would have to validate their television and radio ads by commenting at the end, “I’m so and so and I approve this message.” Interestingly, that act doesn’t apply to written ads; only those in which spoken words are used.[i]
That’s why it’s crucial for us to talk out loud to God in our prayers – not always, certainly, but it’s for our benefit to routinely proclaim our loyalty and commitment to God. It’s a way for us to declare to the enemy, “I am a child of God and I approve of this prayer!”
Matthew 12:34b NIV “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Hosea delivered the message that God wanted the Israelites to fall in love with Him again. He still loved them even though they had turned their backs on Him, they had taken advantage of Him, and they had lost their passion for Him. That message is the same for us. How often are we turning our backs on Him? How many times are we taking advantage of Him and His blessings? Have we lost our passion for Him? Have you fallen out of love with God? If you answer “yes” or “maybe” to any of these questions, Hosea chapter 14 is your roadmap back to Him. Ask Him for forgiveness, ask for His help in keeping you in line, renounce your dependence on anything else but Him, and get rid of anything that stands between you and Him.
Return to Him with sincere words of repentance, humbleness, and obedience. And this is what God says will take place.
Hosea 14:4 NKJV “I will heal their backsliding,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from him.”
Backsliding. The official definitions include “relapse into bad ways or error”, “revert to bad habits”, “go back to a worse condition”
What are ways in which we can backslide? Anything that separates us from God, turns us away from Him, or causes us to be disobedient is a backsliding weapon. Also, anything that keeps us from growing spiritually and producing fruit is a backsliding tool. We don’t always see our backsliding as a big deal, right? We go through our periods of being close to God, staying in His Word, praying constantly, and seeking His purpose for our lives, but then things get in the way. Life happens. Gradually, we may feel as if we don’t have the time to spare to study His Word. Our prayers become short and one-sided. Our church attendance isn’t that important to us. We all know Chreaster Christians – those who only come to church at Christmas and Easter because they just don’t want to take the time to be in God’s House, around God’s people, hearing God’s Word any more than they have to. We are all vulnerable to give in to our own desires, and our own comforts and ignore the urgings of the Holy Spirit and we don’t necessarily see that as a big deal. We see that as affecting only us.
That’s what Jonah thought as well. But he was wrong. Jonah 1:3 GNT “Jonah, however, set out in the opposite direction in order to get away from the Lord.” Jonah was taking his first step in backsliding. He not only ignored God’s command, but he also disobeyed and went in the opposite direction of where God was sending him. So what did God do? Jonah 1:4 GNT “But the Lord sent a strong wind on the sea, and the storm was so violent that the ship was in danger of breaking up. 5 The sailors were terrified and cried out for help,”
Jonah’s backsliding caused a great storm, not just for him, but also for the others on the same boat plus anyone else who was in the same area. God sent that storm to get Jonah re-directed back to His purpose. But that same storm didn’t just affect Jonah, it also affected those around him. We belong to God and He has a specific purpose for each of us. If we are backsliding, turning the clock back to our sinful pasts, God is likely to send a massive storm to get our attention. And others around us just might be caught up in the midst of that massive storm alongside us.
This was the situation of the Israelites during the years of Hosea’s messages. Certainly, not all of the Israelites had abandoned God. Hosea, himself was obedient to God’s purpose for his life even as uncomfortable and painful as it was. But enough of the Israelites had backslidden so much so that God was going to get their attention if they didn’t correct their ways.
Hosea is telling them to return to the Lord humbly, using words of adoration and praise, ask for God’s mercy, and pledge their loyalty to Him and, as a result, God would HEAL their backsliding.
“ 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]
Hosea 14:4 ICB “The Lord says,
“I will forgive them for leaving me.
I will love them freely.
I am not angry with them anymore.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel.
It will blossom like a lily.
Like the cedar trees in Lebanon,
its roots will be firm.”
Such hope in these verses! God forgives them. He will love them freely and not be angry with them anymore. He likens Himself to dew which “was a symbol of God’s blessing and provision for life”.[iii] He promises that Israel will blossom, and its roots will be firm.
The Israelites had brought sin whereas God brought grace. And that grace continues to overflow.
Hosea 14:6 GNT “They will be alive with new growth,
and beautiful like olive trees.
They will be fragrant
like the cedars of Lebanon.
7 Once again they will live under my protection.
They will grow crops of grain
and be fruitful like a vineyard.”
Not only is their growth restored, blessings and provisions reinstated, but also new growth is also promised. The olive tree is symbolic of new life and vitality, peace, and love.[iv] These two verses speak of the abundance that will come forth if they will repent. Other translations will use the phrase “branches will spread” which means providing shelter, shade, and more abundant fruit. In other words, a return to God brings forth God’s grace which provides blessings that then overflows into blessings for others.
Whether we consistently backslide or live in repentance, our choice affects others. If we choose to backslide, God will use storms to bring us back to Him and those in our lives are liable to get caught in the storm as well. But if we choose to live our lives in repentance (because repenting isn’t a one-time thing!) then God responds by blessing us so much so that the blessings spill over to those around us.
Before Jesus choose His first disciple, in His first public statement, He gave the command to repent. Mark 1:15 NLT “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Once Jesus chose His disciples, they too preached the importance of repentance.
Acts 2:38 NIV “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Both of those talk about the initial repentance that is done in order for us to be saved and anointed with the Holy Spirit. But repentance doesn’t stop there.
Paul wrote to the people in Ephesus and notice how he addressed them. Ephesians 1:1b NIV “To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:”
But later, a message was posted to those same people.
Revelation 2:5 CSB “Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
Repentance is a process that includes steps such as acknowledging the sin, feeling regret, confession, and changing behavior. Repentance is not considered complete until we are in the same situation again and choose to behave differently. (Rebecca Russo)[v]
Repentance involves both our spoken words and our actions. One without the other is insufficient. But God will help us! He will heal us if we are sincere about changing!
1 John 1:9 NKJV “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Hosea’s last written words leave it all up to the Israelites as to what they do with the warnings and the promises of God. Hosea 14:9 GNT “May those who are wise understand what is written here, and may they take it to heart. The Lord’s ways are right, and righteous people live by following them, but sinners stumble and fall because they ignore them.”
As we all settle into the difference in our days because of that extra hour we got last night, remember that we’ll have to pay it back come next Spring. That debt is our responsibility. But our sins, our wickedness, our disloyalty, and our unfaithfulness to God have all been paid in full. God is just waiting on us to repent.
A.W. Pink – “Forsaken sin is forgiven sin.” That means that Unforsaken sin is Unforgiven sin.
[iii] Explore the Bible by T.J. Betts and Liz Sherrer