14 Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
2 Take words with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
“Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
3 Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
4 “I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;
6 his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
7 People will dwell again in his shade;
they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine—
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
8 Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
your fruitfulness comes from me.”
9 Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.
(Hosea 14:1-9 NIV)
Previously in chapter 13, we saw the time of judgment had come upon Israel because of their sin and unrepentant heart toward the Lord.
In today’s text, the final chapter of Hosea, we see Hosea’s last call to repentance and God’s promises if Israel will return to Him.
In verses 1-3, Hosea issues a call to repentance and offers a sample prayer of contrition. This prayer of repentance has three simple points:
- No seeking after foreign allies for aid and protection (Assyria)
- No trying to save themselves via military might (horses)
- No more creation and worship of idols (“our gods”)
In verses 4-7, we see God’s promises to receive them back, to love them, and bless them if they will repent and turn from their wicked ways.
The Lord ends His promise in verse 8 with a tender word to Israel, reminding them that He alone is their source of provision and blessing. The Lord does not heap all the sins of the people on them in these final thoughts. Instead, these are words of grace, mercy, and most of all, love.
Finally, Hosea says that the wise and discerning will take God up on His offer, while the rebellious will stumble and fall over it (v. 9). The choice is up to them (and us).
This was not a prayer to avoid the impending catastrophe and destruction of Israel; rather, it was a prayer to restore a relationship that transcends any circumstance.
The book of Hosea begins and ends with the message of God’s love and mercy, illustrated through Hosea’s marriage and God’s covenant relationship with Israel. If people will say “in God the fatherless find compassion” (v. 3e), then the Lord will say “I will love them freely” (v. 4b).
God’s love will not and cannot die. Despite our worst offenses and best efforts as humans to ignore God’s love (or minimize it), God’s love remains unconditional and everlasting.
Why is it so hard to accept what God has already given us, thinking we must find love or earn love on our own?
As we recognize and admit we are spiritual orphans (fatherless) in this world, the Lord, our Father, says to us, “I will love you freely.”
May we live in this reality and accept God’s unconditional love today.