Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hosea 14: 1-3

Hosea 14

Israel’s Future Blessing
 1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
2 Take words with you and return to the LORD.
Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity
And receive us graciously,
That we may present the fruit of our lips.
3 “Assyria will not save us,
We will not ride on horses;
Nor will we say again, ‘Our god,’
To the work of our hands;
For in You the orphan finds mercy.” 

My goodness! Here we are--the final chapter of Hosea and almost halfway through the pre-exilic prophets. [And, please drop me a comment or send me an E-mail about Isaiah; I really would like to hear from you.] It was Spring when we started the book, meeting Hosea and his then estranged wife, Gomer. Although her name is not mentioned in this chapter, what we will learn here is embodied in her name, which means "completion." [Strong's] Exile is not the end for Israel, as the completion of this relationship between God and His people is for a time yet to come.

With verse 1, we see a final call to repentance issued to Israel, beckoning them to acknowledge their sinful living and to confess. A number of times in Hosea, we have read similar statements: "Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us" (from 6:1); "...For it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you" (10:12b); "...Observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually." (12:6b) Come. Seek. Wait. All actions that Israel needed to heed. God was standing by.

"'...And rend your heart and not your garments.'
Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil."
--Joel 2:13

Hosea says to "take words with you" to "present the fruit of our lips." Words would be a start for Israel, though not just any words. We know from our reading that Israel still acknowledged God, but on such a surface level that their words didn't carry any weight. The phrase "fruit of our lips," used in the New Testament as words of thanksgiving (see Hebrews 13:15, a "sacrifice of praise")--can here be translated, "our lips as bulls." A translation of the King James Version reads, "...So will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips."

"The prophet calls on his contemporaries to return in penitence to Jehovah. Their worship should consist not of meaningless dumb ritual, but of 'words'—hymns and prayers, expressive of real gratitude and of actual needs—or perhaps pledges of repentance and reform. The people respond and undertake that their worship shall consist of 'calves or bullocks of lips,' i.e. not of animal offerings, but of promises of reform or vows of obedience."
--T. Lewis, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Bottom line: words were not enough nor were sacrifices. True repentance starts with confession, but confession is born of a changed heart and a desire to, as Jesus said to the woman at the well, "Go and sin no more." (John 8:11, KJV) Hosea says to come to the Lord bearing your heart. Alternate translations for "receive us graciously" use the words "accept that which is good." God cannot accept that which is not good, but, as sinners, we cannot offer anything that is. We're reading about a time before Jesus, but, nonetheless, God's Word makes it clear that a right state of the heart is paramount to repentance. To go forward on our "good" works with a "good" heart is how Israel ended up in the mess it was in. There was no good! They needed to hear, again, and follow the words of their king, David:

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."
--Psalm 51:17
Verse 3 begins part of what sounds like a verbal confession. "Assyria will not save us," acknowledges that there is no help from foreign nations equal to that of reliance on God. Not only will Assyria not save them, but Assyria will enslave them. The crafting and worshiping of idols ("the work of our hands") would need to come to an end, as this was not of God. Going to war would not solve the problems of the nation nor make it great. "A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength." (Psalm 33:17) Worth repeating: "For there is no savior besides Me." (Hosea 13:4)

Today's passage ends, "For in You the orphan finds mercy." In the Old Testament, 'orphan' is most often translated as "fatherless." God has a tender place in His heart for the orphan; He is "father of the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5). I know a number of friends who have adopted or tried to adopt orphans into their homes, as well as continue to raise awareness of their circumstances. The Bible has a big-picture view of what it means to be fatherless. At its Hebrew root, 'orphan' means to "be lonely." [Strong's]

Surely, Israel would learn what it meant to be an orphan, facing a long exile. But, beyond that, following the prophets, God's voice went "silent" for some 400 years. Then Jesus came, and Israel remained lonely in not seeing the sent One as its Messiah. Yet, the Father of the fatherless is at the ready to receive Israel graciously, at the appointed time, for the Lord will keep His promises and show His mercy to His orphans.

"But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him."
--Luke 15: 17-20 

"I will heal their backsliding...." The merciful Father to the fatherless paints a beautiful scene. More from Chapter 14 .... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Hosea 14: 4-7

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).