Please read Hosea 14 in your Bible. Full disclosure: I used the NIV (1984) for this article.
God truly loves those who repent.
I saw a video recently of a lady who entered a kennel to attempt to win the trust of a pup who had been abused all his life and consequently growled at and cowered before any people who came near. This lady approached the dog cautiously, with a treat in one hand, reaching out with the other, open-palmed. Somehow with a combination of her voice and touch, she got the dog to respond to her positively, taking the treat. Very soon after that, the dog was able to be let out of the kennel. Its demeanor was completely transformed; it played with other dogs and acted like a pup should.
The video was offered as a metaphor on human behavior; sometimes people, like this pup, have known little other than abuse. They don’t know how to receive love because they have been shown so little love. However, once they take a chance and experience true love, a switch is flipped and they are somehow enabled to be loved and can even learn how to love others. True love is a redemptive force.
(You can see the video for yourself at https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:ugcPost:6450598322699927552.)
- TruLuv for God begins w/ repentance (1-3, 9)
In this passage, RETURN is the word for repentance. In Hebrew, the word is sub. It has a variety of meanings, all along the lines of turning back, returning, restoring. We can visualize it as a turning away from sin, turning back to God. Walking toward sin (giving into temptation) is walking away from God; there is a 180 degree difference.
We read two specific parts to repentance. The first is that repentance is a change of direction. As verse one states, RETURN TO THE LORD YOUR GOD.
Second, realizing words DO count, repentance is asking God to forgive you. Verses two and three make this truth plain; TAKE WORDS WITH YOU…SAY TO HIM. What are we to say to God? Hosea reveals five statements we must sincerely make to God:
One: “I admit I am guilty of sin. We are to plead, as Hosea did, FORGIVE ALL OUR SINS. Redemption comes to those who admit to having a problem called sin, one we can’t fix it on our own. Redemption is an act of God’s grace, not our merit.
Two: “Lord, please forgive me.” As the prophet did, pray God will RECEIVE US GRACIOUSLY. Through Jesus Christ, God has fixed the problem of sin; He can save you.
Three: “I reject worldly ways and self-reliance.” This is what is meant by the phrase ASSYRIA CANNOT SAVE US; WE WILL NOT MOUNT WAR-HORSES.
Four: “I reject false gods.” Idolatry takes on more subtle forms in our time; self-made religion is the more common form of our modern idolatry. It is no less deadly, however, than fashioning a false god image and worshiping it. We see the rejection of idols in verses three and eight; WE WILL NEVER AGAIN SAY ‘OUR GODS’ TO WHAT OUR OWN HANDS HAVE MADE and WHAT MORE HAS EPHRAIM TO DO WITH IDOLS?
Five: “God, I accept your forgiveness and offer praise to You.” Verse two uses language of sacrifice, though in the NIV it reads, WE…OFFER THE FRUIT OF OUR LIPS. This literally says, “we offer our lips (bulls) as sacrifice.” The author of Hebrews would use similar language in 13:15; OFFER A SACRIFICE OF PRAISE.
Why should we repent? To be forgiven, of course, but also because it is the right thing to do. As verse nine says, THE WAYS OF THE LORD ARE RIGHT.
Verse nine also tells us about the repentant person. These qualities are similar to what is written in Psalm 107:43; Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD.
He is wise. WHO IS WISE? HE WILL REALIZE THESE THINGS.
He has discernment (the ability to distinguish between good and evil). WHO IS DISCERNING? HE WILL UNDERSTAND THEM.
He is headed in the right direction THE RIGHTEOUS WALK IN THE WAYS OF THE LORD.
Verse nine also tells us something about the unrepentant person: THE REBELLIOUS STUMBLE. A refusal to obey God causes a person to STUMBLE; they reject the truth and refuse to repent.
- TruLuv from God restores His beloved (3-8).
God loves you too much to leave you an orphan. As verse three declares; IN YOU THE FATHERLESS FIND COMPASSION. This is a recurring promise in the Bible (for example, see Exodus 22:22 and Deuteronomy 10:18). God puts us in families and in church families so we can serve Him, serve each other, and serve our communities.
God’s love is expressed in three promises made in v. 4.
First, I WILL HEAL THEIR WAYWARDNESS. Ironically, the word WAYWARDNESS has the same root as the word RETURN, but describes turning away from God, not to Him.
Second, I WILL…LOVE THEM FREELY. This is the unconditional love of God.
Third, MY ANGER HAS TURNED AWAY FROM THEM. Forgiveness turns away wrath.
God’s love will cause you to thrive, not just survive: I WILL BE LIKE DEW TO ISRAEL (5). This blessed state is expressed in ten promises made in verses five to eight.
HE WILL BLOSSOM LIKE A LILY (5).
HE WILL SEND DOWN HIS ROOTS (5).
HIS YOUNG SHOOTS WILL GROW (6).
HIS SPLENDOR WILL BE LIKE AN OLIVE TREE (6).
HIS FRAGRANCE LIKE A CEDAR OF LEBANON (6).
MEN WILL DWELL AGAIN IN HIS SHADE (7).
HE WILL FLOURISH LIKE THE GRAIN (7).
HE WILL BLOSSOM LIKE A VINE (7).
HIS FAME WILL BE LIKE THE WINE FROM LEBANON (7).
I WILL ANSWER HIM AND CARE FOR HIM (8).
Verse eight shows all good things come from God: I AM LIKE A GREEN PINE TREE; YOUR FRUITFULNESS COMES FROM ME.
God truly loves those who repent.
Pastor Bledar Valca told this story: “Some years ago a murderer was sentenced to death. The murderer’s brother, to whom the State was deeply indebted for former services, besought the governor of the State for his brother’s pardon. The pardon was granted, and the man visited his brother with the pardon in his pocket. “What would you do,” he said to him, “if you received a pardon?” “The first thing I would do,” he answered, “is to track down the judge who sentenced me, and murder him; and the next thing I would do is to track down the chief witness, and murder him.” The brother rose, and left the prison with the pardon in his pocket.
This tale is intended to teach us that if there is no repentance, there can be no pardon. Sin cannot be forgiven without the offender asking for repentance.
The good news is God loves every sinner who repents. His forgiveness is total, cleansing the worst sinner from every last bit of guilt and shame. He fully restores those who He forgives, recreating their moral perfection with a perfectly clean slate.
God acted to save us from our sins, just as He acted in history to restore His people after their exile. Much of the news the prophet Hosea delivered was bad news, condemning sin and warning them of God’s coming wrath. However, the book ends with this stirring call to repentance in order to have God’s forgiveness, the blessing of His grace.
Make this your personal experience. Admit your sin; confess it to God. Ask His forgiveness and receive His love.
Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance (2nd Edition)
Zondervan Bible Commentary, F.F. Bruce, Ed.