Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take with you words
and return to the LORD;
say to him,
“Take away all iniquity;
accept what is good,
and we will pay with bulls
the vows of our lips.
Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.”
I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the LORD are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.
(Hosea 14 ESV)
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139 ESV)
For the Love of God
THE FINAL CHAPTER OF THE PROPHECY, Hosea 14, has a gentler tone. It is almost as if the thunder of rebellion and judgment has exhausted itself, and grace triumphs. The chapter begins and ends with exhortation from Hosea. In between there are, first, the words of the people (or, more precisely, the words the prophet instructs the people to say), and then the words of God. I shall reflect briefly on each of these four sections.
(1) Hosea begins with repentance: “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God” (14:1). “Return” is perfectly answered by “your God”: the prophet is not calling for some new and hazardous spiritual journey, but for a turning away from the rebellion, a turning back to the Lord they have long known. They must come to terms with the heart of the problem: “Your sins have been your downfall!” (14:1). There is never any way back without coming to grips with this fundamental real- ity. Moreover, what the prophet wants is not a mere return to formal adherence to a code of law. He wants them to “take words” with them when they return (14:2). Words, of course, can be empty: sometimes actions speak louder than words. But often genuine repentance demands not only begrudging conduct, but words — not a sullen return to prescribed ritual and church attendance, but the kind of repentance that bubbles up in words that disclose what is in the heart.
(2) And what words should they say? Hosea tells them (14:2b-3). They must ask for the forgiveness of sins; they must ask that God would receive them; they must renounce their political allegiances, implicitly acknowledging that such ties distracted them from trust in God; they must put aside their idolatry and place their hope in the living God. Precisely how should such petitions find echoes in our own lives?
(3) The Lord’s words (14:4-8) are lovely. “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them” (14:4). Then in a series of images God describes the blessings he will be to Israel and provide for Israel. The closing lines of the section reinforce the theological point of the entire chapter: “I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me” (14:8). God has all the “greenness,” the constancy, of the evergreen, and all the nourishment and prosperity of a fruit-bearing tree (cf. Ps. 1:3).
(4) Hosea concludes the book: “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them” (14:9).