Hosea 14:4-9

Key Verse(s):

Hosea 14:4 (HCSB)

4 I will heal their apostasy; I will freely love them, for My anger will have turned from him.

Reflection/Application:

This is the final pericope in Hosea, and it’s a great one. After so much of the description of failures on the part of Israel, and the coming punishment, here we have a whole passage that concerning the restoration that God promises.

Note that there is no discounting of Israel’s sin, their “apostasy” is certain and real. But the beauty here is that God has taken it upon Himself to heal it. This is most certainly an act of genuine and true love. And this sets the stage for the rest of Hosea 14:5-7. After all the many similes used to describe the short-comings, the rebellion, the apostasy of Israel, here we have the opposite: word pictures of a blossoming, growing, and strong Israel. And this is all God’s work, not man’s. The difference should be striking: in their own power and sin, Israel falls and destroys themselves, with God they survive and thrive.

Hosea 14:8 seems to be a final charge for Israel to turn from their sin and return to God. And Hosea 14:9 seems to be a summary statement, and sounds like something out of Proverbs. Combined, these last two verses are an exhortation of sorts for Israel to repent and return to God.

One other thing that strikes me as I read through this passage is the references to “he”, “him”, and “his”. I suppose it is possible that these are references to Israel, or Ephraim, but the choice of the singular pronoun doesn’t seem to fit how the passage starts out talking about “their” and “them”. Also, in Hosea 14:7 we read, “The people will return and live beneath his shade.” Again, it seems this could be the to-be-exiled people and the land of Israel being referred to, but it seems odd wording to me.

Anyway, I at least like the idea of a sort of double entendre here, whether it truly is one or not. If we read these verses and assume the “he”, “his”, and “him” are referring to Jesus, the picture is quite powerful and prophetic as well. And ultimately is that not what God succeeds in doing: turning physical Israel, with national borders, into a spiritual Israel with no borders, and expanding His kingdom all over the world? This is a powerful passage, and a wonderful ending to a powerful book.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for the beautiful promise of restoration at the end of Hosea. What a joy it is to know that You do not abandon Your people! I pray that we take this as a great hope, but not an excuse, or license, to continue to sin. I pray we take it as just one more reason to turn from our sin and run to You! Thank You for the gift of eternal life with You! Amen.

Hosea 14:1-3

Key Verse(s):

Hosea 14:1 (HCSB)

1 Israel, return to Yahweh your God, for you have stumbled in your sin.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope reads to me as Hosea’s words of exhortation to Israel. The previous chapter was simply brutal in God laying out what was to come upon Israel, and it seems natural for the prophet of God to implore God’s people to return to God. This is not a simple, “Believe in God,” type plea. We shall examine just what Hosea is telling Israel they should do.

  1. Before we get to Hosea’s instructions, let us look at Hosea 14:1. Obviously Hosea does not think the book is closed on Israel! “Return to Yahweh,” and “you have stumbled,” are phrases that suggest all is not lost. What great hope it should bring us to know that our sin is not bigger than God’s grace!
  2. Repent: Hosea’s first piece of instruction is to repent. Repentance encompasses all the sin we are guilty of. If we are not repentant, meaning we truly are sorry for our sin and desire to be saved from it, then this step is pointless, as is much of the remainder of Hosea’s plea. Repentance puts our heart in the right place to be reconciled to God.
  3. Part of repenting is asking for, and receiving, forgiveness. Although Hosea does not explicitly say Israel should receive forgiveness, it seems implied by the following actions he suggests. Repentance without forgiveness is fruitless. Forgiveness without acceptance is as well. We must repent, God is faithful to forgive, and we must accept that forgiveness and be restored.
  4. Praise God: The natural response to being forgiven and restored by God should be to praise Him! What greater gift can we possibly receive than the exchange of death for life? And if that is not something to praise God about, then something within us is not right.
  5. Grow in righteousness: We should see tangible growth, we should become more like Jesus as we go through this process. If there is no impact, no change, in our life, then we might want to examine what our real relationship with God is. For Israel, Hosea suggests it is abandoning Assyria as the one who will save them, and no longer pursue idol worship. What is it in our own lives?

Hosea closes this passage with another message of hope: “For the fatherless receives compassion in You.” Israel had become fatherless, they had rejected and abandoned God, thus were alone. But God is merciful and loving, and His compassion and grace continually extend out to us. Are we choosing to employ the steps Hosea suggests and be restored to God, or are we continuing on our own path?

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for Your mercy! We must individually, and corporately, repent of our sin, and return to You. What a wonderful hope to know that You are bigger than our sin, both in conquering it and forgiving it. I pray that we would have truly repentant hearts, and grow in You. Amen.

Hosea 13:15-16

Key Verse(s):

Hosea 13:15 (HCSB)

15 Although he flourishes among his brothers, an east wind will come, a wind from the Lord rising up from the desert. His water source will fail, and his spring will run dry. The wind will plunder the treasury of every precious item.

Reflection/Application:

This brief passage again outlines the coming judgment upon Israel. This is a stark and brutal picture of the future of Israel. It is a stark and brutal picture of war, and a reminder of what can happen when we separate ourselves from God.

The passage starts with a reminder of the prosperity of Ephraim. But this quickly fades as a wind from God will rise and end Ephraim’s prosperity. What is interesting is the word translated “wind” in Hosea 13:15 is the Hebrew word “ruah”. This happens to be the same word used in Genesis 1:2 that is translated as “Spirit”, referring to the Holy Spirit. I would not claim that the wind here is literally the Spirit of God, but we should not overlook the fact that, as Hosea 13:15 states, this is a “wind from the Lord”. The fate of Israel here should not be chalked up to bad luck, or unlucky events, or even circumstance. This is judgment by God, not random blind events.

The second, and final, verse of the passage is tough, it’s brutal, it’s not what we want to see, but it is what we must recognize lest we follow the same path. This is a prophecy of Assyria’s war on Israel, and what we read here are the brutalities of war. And again, this is not a capricious act on the part of God, it’s not the reaction of a bully who did not get his way. This was all avoidable had Israel sought after God. But instead they “rebelled against God”, and judgment comes.

The message here should not be, “Follow me or else.” God is not interested in obedience for the sake of escaping punishment. Instead the message is, “God is long-suffering, and He is always chasing and calling us, but we cannot rebel against Him forever and escape judgment. God is loving, merciful, and gracious, but He is also just, and will not permit evil forever.”

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for being perfect, and for defeating death, and for the promise that evil will be crushed and done away with. This is what we should hang on to! I pray that You would guide me so that I do not seek evil, so that I do not rebel, but that I turn from my sin, saved and renewed by You, and glorify and honor You forever. Amen.

Hosea 13:4-14

Key Verse(s):

Hosea 13:6 (HCSB)

6 When they had pasture, they became satisfied; they were satisfied, and their hearts became proud. Therefore they forgot Me.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope is interesting in that it continues on the motif of Israel’s rebellion against God, but at the same time it contains what appears to be a beautiful promise. There is a more graphic image of the coming punishment, and this sense of heightened tension. And the passage, despite a brief suggestion that things will be “ok”, seems to end very grimly for Israel’s prospects.

The passage starts out again with a reminder of Israel’s past, and how there was a relationship between them and God. Take note how Hosea 13:4 is in the present tense: “you (Israel) know no God but Me.” We might expect this to be in the past tense, that Israel used to know God. But even though Israel has sinned against God, and turned to the false god Baal, God discounts that as idol worship, because after all, He is the only real and true God!

Hosea 13:6 is sort of the “pivot” verse, everything sort of turns here. We go from Israel knowing God, and God knowing Israel, this apparently positive relationship, which leads to satisfaction, to this ugly, vain attitude on the part of Israel. And once Israel was proud, they forget about God. One has to wonder how close to home this attitude is in our nation.

The next part of the pericope outlines, in a graphic way, the punishment that is inevitable for Israel. I found Hosea 13:9 very interesting. We generally do not think of God in a destructive way, yet He clearly says here that He, Himself, will destroy Israel. And although it goes against the popular, lovey-dovey God that gets peddled, it only makes sense that the all-powerful Creator, the One who abhors sin and evil, the One that reserves judgement for Himself, also wields the power to destroy. And this fact, these attributes, along with His grace, mercy, and love, are the exact reasons why He tells Israel that He is, at the same time, their only help!

But as the pericope closes we are seemingly rejuvenated. It would seem that God is not going to allow the story to end with the death of His people. In Hosea 13:14 we seem to see a change on God’s ultimate plan here as He suggests He will ransom His people and rescue them from death. And although we certainly know that Christ has done exactly that, the final line, “Compassion is hidden from My eyes,” suggests otherwise. A more appropriate translation, one that seems to be more comprehensible with the final line, can be found in the NET translation:

Hosea 13:14 (NET)
14 Will I deliver them from the power of Sheol? No, I will not! Will I redeem them from death? No, I will not! O Death, bring on your plagues! O Sheol, bring on your destruction! My eyes will not show any compassion!

But, we do know from Paul, in 1 Corinthians, that death in fact has been defeated: “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” So, although we have been redeemed, we do have the promise of eternal life with Jesus, Israel’s punishment here seems to be sealed. A stark reminder that although God has redeemed His people, we are not free from consequences in this imperfect, sin-laden world and life.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for redemption and eternal life through Your death and resurrection! We stand in a similar place that Israel did, help us to turn back to You. Help Your people be like Hosea, conveying your truth among a people that are self-assured, and have forgotten about You. I pray for the courage, will, and words for us to do so. Amen.

Hosea 12:12-13:3

Key Verse(s):

Hosea 13:1 (HCSB)

1 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel. But he incurred guilt through Baal and died.

Reflection/Application:

This is an interesting passage, as it shows a contrast with what Israel was, or at least could have been, and what it had become. But, overall, as has been the general theme, Israel is condemned for its rebellion against God.

The first two verses, Hosea 12:12-13, give a very brief reminder of the history of Israel, where it had come from. From Jacob’s less than stellar choices which resulted in him fleeing to Aram, where he was tricked by Laban into tending sheep in order to earn Rachel, his wife, to Moses, who “tended” Israel as God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. I think the message here isn’t so much what sort of losers Israel were, with these two seemingly lackluster misfits in their history, it is more about the fact that God was guiding and involved. It was about how God worked through these men to achieve His purposes and rescue Israel. Yet, despite this reminder of God’s providential involvement and care for them, Ephraim, Israel, continues sins against God. And God will repay Israel for their sin.

Hosea 13:1 is a single paradoxical verse in the sense that Ephraim was “exalted”, yet died. It is the picture of one who is on top of the world, yet has nothing. Israel had everything, yet they turned their back on God and died. Baal was not the true God, nor was he able to provide life. Instead, Israel followed Baal and died. That spiritual death was not because of God, it was because of Israel and his rebellion! We ought to be very careful not to follow the same path. We ought to continually seek God, worship God, and honor God.

And it is interesting, even with Hosea’s proclamation of this news, of the death of Ephraim, Israel continues to sin! Their fate is sad: temporary and forgotten like morning dew. Rather than a change of heart, a return to God at the news, they continue their sinful ways. Again, we would do well to take heed: there can be points that our sin becomes so great that we are no longer able or willing to turn back to God. Certainly nothing is beyond the power of God, but we should be wise enough not to test Him in way that we are doomed to the same fate as Israel.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for all You have done, are doing, and promise to do for us. I pray that we would avoid the same traps that Israel fell prey to, that we would always worship You alone. Help us to stay true to You. Amen.

Hosea 12:9-11

Key Verse(s):

Hosea 12:10 (HCSB)

10 I spoke through the prophets and granted many visions; I gave parables through the prophets.

Reflection/Application:

Three verses is all that comprise this short pericope in the HCSB. In a few of the other translations I looked at, these verses are grouped with others, some much longer passages. But, despite the continued similarity of God pointing out and revealing Israel’s failure to worship and follow Him, I think this short little passage highlights something that I may have been failing to focus on previously.

Until now it has been clear that Israel has drifted from God, not by anything God has done, but solely due to Israel’s sin. But at the same time, this focus has sort of over-shadowed what steps God had been taking to counter Israel’s sin. And this short passage, I think, hints at just that.

God reminds Israel in Hosea 12:9 that He has been their God “ever since the land of Egypt.” And the truth is, He was their God even before that, but things were brought to another level when God brought His people out of slavery.

But Hosea 12:10 is the verse that jumped out at me. God is basically telling Israel that He has always been there, speaking to them, wooing them, calling them, instructing them. And it wasn’t just occasional things, so infrequent that nobody would notice. There were multiple prophets. There were “many visions”. And God gave parables, stories that relayed important points and messages, to the people through his prophets. God is basically saying, “I’ve been trying all along, I’ve been giving you every opportunity.” Yet Israel fails, they sin against God.

Finally, in Hosea 12:11, we see how they are still making sacrifices. But those sacrifices are fruitless, they are not recognized by God. The sacrifices are tainted, because Israel is “full of evil”. But those altars, even if they were originally built to worship and honor God, are nothing more than “heaps of rocks” because their significance is lost when God is not the focus.

So again, we today should stop and look at Israel. Are we turning our backs on the messages from God? Could it be that He has not gone anywhere, but that we are drowning Him out? Just as Israel drifted away, we risk the same consequences if we drift away, replacing true worship of God with false worship, as we fill ourselves with evil.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for being intolerant of evil! Although that means I might be subject to correction and punishment for my sin, it also means that I have a perfect and righteous Father who loves me enough to pay the price I cannot. I pray that we would turn to You always, and keep our worship pure, and our eyes on You at all times. Amen.

Hosea 12:1-8

Key Verse(s):

Hosea 12:6 (HCSB)

6 But you must return to your God. Maintain love and justice, and always put your hope in God.

Reflection/Application:

Much of the past pericopes have focused primarily on the northern kingdom of Israel, called Ephraim throughout. Not that Judah has not been mentioned, it certainly has, but this pericope splits time between the two rather than Ephraim having the lion’s share of negative attention.

Overall, this passage describes God’s people as those who simply continue to go their own way, chasing their own desires, and apparently leaving God out of the mix. I think the whole passage centers on the one instructive verse in it: “But you must return to your God. Maintain love and justice, and always put your hope in God.” (Hosea 12:6) Everything surrounding this verse illuminates the failure of God’s people to do exactly what it instructs! Ephraim “multiplying lies and violence”. Judah “wrestling with God”. The lives of God’s people are not lives seeking after God, following His instructions. Instead they are fleeing from God, revolting against Him, cutting Him out of their lives. Whatever “weeping” and “seeking His favor” is occurring is most assuredly feigned.

The quote attributed to Ephraim in Hosea 12:8 sums up the attitude of God’s people at this time. They are insolent, and have denied God any of the praise and glorification that is due to Him. And though they think themselves “rich”, they have immense “earnings”, and are guiltless, we can see clearly that they are fully guilty due to their rebellious and sinful lives. They are destitute, without God and His mercy. They lean on their own feeble power, and that is about to fail them as God allows punishment to sweep over them.

We, in our present time, should be aware of how we walk with, or without, God. How much are we depending on our own imperfect power, rather than placing our hope and trust in God? Are we blessed by Him, yet claim our riches as our own earnings? We should constantly evaluate our stance, and avoid the same sin that Israel fell into.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for sustaining us, for making us rich. We might not be rich monetarily, but we are rich in Your love. I pray that You are the treasure we seek, and that we lean on You and Your power, not our own. Amen.