God's Love And Healing
1. It reads as follows in chapter thirteen and verse sixteen.*
"Samaria will be punished.
For they have turned their backs on God.
Its citizens will fall by the sword
Its babies will be bashed to death
Its pregnant women will be torn apart," (13:16).
3. As we look based on contents, this is a continuation from the previous chapter. There the people were satisfied and had become overly proud, and a harsh judgment was pronounced against Israel for having turned its back on God. Ultimately, the capital Samaria was toppled by Assyria and the nation came to be destroyed.
4. The Bible plainly shows the sin of humanity and states the harsh judgment of God for this sin. This actually means that we and the world do very much matter to God. The prophet Hosea experienced a serious situation in the unfaithfulness of his wife Gomer. Hosea became very angry and hurt so much; for, Gomer was a soul that God expected Hosea to earnestly take in. God cared for Israel very much. In the same way, he cares for this world and for us so much. Therefore, we must take seriously the depth of our sinfulness and the severity of God's judgment.
Return To The Lord, Your God
5. But, there is more we ought to heed. Because the message of God's judgment is not the final word.
6. Let's read from verses one to three.**
"O Israel, return
To the Lord, your God.
You stumble on your faults and are in evil.
With the words of your vow in your hands,
Return to the Lord and say,
'Please take away all our evil
And grant us grace.
We will pay what we've vowed with our lips.
Assyria is not our salvation.
We will no longer ride war horses.
What we've made with our hands
We will not call our God ever again.
He who has lost his parents
Will find mercy right there with you,'" (14:1-3).
8. Hosea said, "O Israel, return." No matter how miserable a state they were in, there was One to whom they should turn. The reason they can return is that the Lord is still "your God." They had kept rebelling against God. They did not answer God's calls to them. They didn't give heed to God's warnings. They were now reaping the seeds that they had sowed. They were in a bad way as it says, "You stumble on your faults and are in evil." But, then it was still true that "The Lord is your God."
9. It was none less than the Lord God who had commanded Hosea, who was suffering due to his wife's infidelity, that he should "Go on and love the woman who committed adultery even though she was loved by her husband." Just as God commanded, Hosea paid the sacrifice personally and accepted his wife. The Lord required of Hosea that he continue to be Gomer's husband through it all. Thus, Hosea knew that it meant that the Lord God would also continue being the husband of Israel who was equivalent to his unfaithful wife. Therefore, Hosea cried out, "Return to your God."
10. But, how were they to turn to the Lord? The prophet once put it like this, "They are seeking the Lord bringing their sheep and cows, but they will not find him," (5:6). They were fervent in offering up many sheep and cows. There has always been plenty of people regardless of the time period seeking for happiness, seeking the realization of their wishes who would fervently hold ceremonies or offer up many sacrifices. But, it was not the sacrifices of sheep and cows which God was looking for. It was the truthfulness of the person. It was the words that would come from the truth [of his or her heart]. What kind of words is that? Such words are recorded in verse three.
11. The first words given are the prayer to "Please take away all our evil and grant us grace." As in the prayer to "Please take away all our evil," we must be able to admit that there is evil within us. Most of the time the very last thing we would ever do is to admit the evil within us. As far as the bad times we've experienced in disasters or in a crisis, we make somebody else the bad guy as much as we possibly can. Ultimately, we make even God the scapegoat. But, the Lord requires of whomever would return to him that they would first of all admit their own evil. He requires that they approach His presence in humility as a sinner seeking God's grace.
12. And they must state before God that they will live trusting in God alone. Previously they had relied on Assyria. They thought that Assyria was their very salvation. But, Assyria was far from being their salvation, but instead had become the thing that destroyed them. They also relied on Egypt. They wanted to procure many war horses from Egypt. They thought there was salvation in the might of this world. But, those war horses as well as Egypt too were ultimately nothing to rely on. In addition, they had built many idols. In setting up an image of god, they felt relaxed. They felt that if surrounded by a lot of idols, it was as if God were nearer and would hear their requests. But, idols only made them lose their true relationship with God. When they lost their true relationship with God, no matter how much they said "O our God" it wouldn't mean a thing.
13. The process in which the nation [of Israel] was heading for ruin was one in which they were made to realize that those ungodly things they held as gods could never be God. I think it's safe to say that the many hardships which people experience often times consists of such a process. So then, returning to God for them meant that they should express towards God that "Assyria is not our salvation. We will no longer ride war horses. We will not call what we've made with our hands our God ever again." And it meant that they should admit that they are like orphans and that they should just seek for the mercy of God.
I Will Heal Those Who Turn Their Backs On Me
14. When a person returns to God like that, the Lord will graciously respond. Let's read from verses four to eight.
"I will heal those who turn their backs on me
I am happy to love them.
My anger has truly gone away from them.
Like the dew I will visit Israel
He will blossom forth like the lilies
He will spread his roots like the cedars of Lebanon.
His shoots will spread out
He will be beautiful like the olive tree
He will smell sweet like the cedars of Lebanon.
Once more people will abide in the shade
They will grow forth like the wheat
They will blossom like a vineyard.
He will be praised like the wine of Lebanon.
Will you still compare me to idols?
Isn't it me who answers his requests
And watches over him?
I am the cypress that is full of life.
You yield forth fruit through me," (14:4-8).
16. The Lord says, "I am happy to love them." To those who return, he speaks of himself as their healer. The way to live filled with life again and as restored people and not to be destroyed by being in sin is only [to be found] in God's forgiveness and healing.
17. It tells us in verse five how the Lord will restore the returning person. The Lord says, "Like the dew I will visit Israel." Anyone who has lived in an arid land would know how the dew brings vitality to plants. In this same way, like the dew that is life giving, God will visit Israel which is like the dried out grass that has lost its life. When that happens, buds will come again and flowers bloom on stalks that were once so dead that no flowers could have ever possibly bloomed on them. Roots will begin to stretch out into the solid earth again out of trees that were as if dead. On trees whose leaves have all turned red and fallen down, new shoots will be produced again and they will stretch out and spread.
18. God likens them to a cypress that is always green and lush, to a cypress that stands filled and full of life. Fruit is a sign of life. Whenever there is real fruit it is because something is connected to a source that is filled with life. In order for people who have been dead in their sins to be alive again and bring forth fruit, they must be connected to Life. The Lord God says, "You yield forth fruit through me." In this way, real hope is found in God alone. The one and only hope there is is found there whenever a person turns to God. Therefore, Hosea says, "Return to the Lord, your God." These words are a cry from God that come straight out of his love for us.
"Discern these things, O wise ones.
Those who discern are enlightened to this.
The way of the Lord is righteous.
Those who follow God walk on that path.
Those who turn against God stumble on that path," (14:9).
20. The book of Hosea ends with those words. It seems like they were added on when the message of Hosea's prophecy came to be read later. The words of the prophet who lived in one period of time at the fulfillment of the destruction of northern Israel were repeatedly read and heard as the word of God for other time periods later. Through out history then, God exposed the sins of the rebelling people, but still he kept inviting them to come to Him.
21. The words of Jesus of Nazareth spoken about seven hundred years from Hosea's time [go like this], "The one who needs a physician is not the healthy person, but the sick person. The reason I came was not to call the righteous but to invite sinners to repent," (Luke 5:31-32). In this way, Jesus personally became redemption for sin so that sinners would turn to God and be restored to fellowship with God. In this very person the word of God as spoken through the prophet became flesh and came into this world as a real man.
22. "So, as (Christ) was crucified he bore our sins in his own body, that we might die to sin and live in righteousness. By the wounds that he received, you were healed. You were like roaming sheep wandering about, but now, you have returned to him who is the bishop of your souls, to him who is your overseer," (First Peter 2:24-25). Amen.
*The New Interconfessional Version has it in chapter fourteen and verse one.
**All verses are adjusted for in this translation.