Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hosea 14: 4-7

4 I will heal their apostasy,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
He will blossom like the lily,
And he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon.
6 His shoots will sprout,
And his beauty will be like the olive tree
And his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.
7 Those who live in his shadow
Will again raise grain,
And they will blossom like the vine.
His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.

Rich, descriptive text marks our passage of Hosea today, as the prophet shares the blessings to be bestowed upon Israel. It is important to remember that the call to repentance that we read about last week was not something that Israel would heed in the days of the Hosea. The time difference between the issuing of the call and of these blessings from the Lord is time still being measured as you read this. Still, what is to come for Israel is beautiful!

Verse 4, "I will heal their apostasy." 'Apostasy,' at its roots, means a "revolt, desertion or defection"; literally, "a standing off" or "standing apart." [] We have seen through our study of this time how Israel chose to stand apart from God, which is as if to see a bride standing away from her betrothed, in keeping with the early theme of Hosea. I love the translation of this part of the verse in the King James': "I will heal their backsliding...."

We can probably all point to a time and means of backsliding over something--sometimes, more seriously than others. In the Bible, this idea as often spoken of by the prophets, according to my study Bible, is backsliding in heart: "He [the backslider] belongs in the category of the fool, the wicked, and the disobedient and he is contrasted with the godly wise. It is a word that the prophets used of apostate unbelievers."

"The backslider in heart [from God and from fearing God] shall be filled with [the fruit of] his own ways, and a good man shall be satisfied with [the fruit of] his ways [with the holy thoughts and actions which his heart prompts and in which he delights]."
--Proverbs 14:14 (Amplified Bible)

Israel most assuredly is characterized in Hosea as having "his fill of his own ways." How amazing the grace and mercy of the Father in healing His people's backsliding. Have you thought that backsliding needs to be healed? That's a worthy question of its own.

Verse 5, "I [God] will be like the dew to Israel." I am not well internationally traveled, so I know nothing of the weather conditions in what was ancient Israel. Rain was a scarce commodity. Says an excerpt in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, it doesn't rain in Palestine from April to October. For an east coast westerner, that is our full growing season right there! No rain in that time period would mean no crops or harvest. Same would be true in Israel if it weren't for the abundant dew characteristic of the region. Dew may not last long, but its presence is enough to nourish and sustain the plants. For God to be like the dew again to His people would mean replenishment of weary, lonely souls.

"The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion,
But his favor is like dew on the grass."
--Proverbs 19:12

Over verses 5 and 6, the metaphoric picture of the future Israel takes shape.
  • "Blossoming like a lily"--The Hebrew definition from Strong's describes an actual lily flower, though the word may refer to other types of flowers. "A lily (from its whiteness), as a flower or architectural ornament; also a (straight) trumpet (from the tubular shape)." Expanding on that, I see the white symbolizing purity and the straightness symbolizing a path of righteousness.
  • "Take root like...fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon"--(See picture above) These are tremendously strong and beautifully scented trees. They were prized for their strength and thus desired in the building of important structures, such as palaces and temples. They are not prolific, however, and not many remain today. How lovely that God would bring Israel back to Him with such an illustration of strength and beauty!
  • " the olive tree"--Olive trees provided so much in the way of their products: fruit, oil, wood, among others. Nothing was wasted. And, another beautiful tree.

Our last verse today, verse 7, says that those who live in the shadow of the Lord will return to the land that Israel will leave behind. God will scatter His people like the sowing of seeds, but they will return to the land, to "raise grain" and "blossom like the vine"--and not the luxuriant vine that Israel had made of itself. No, Israel's "renown"--"literally, its remembrance," says my study Bible--will be like the wine of Lebanon.

Learning a lot on the side in my study. Turns out that Lebanon is renown for its wines! This is one link, of, undoubtedly many, to a Lebanese winery, tracing its days back to Biblical times. This link even speaks of the fact that most of the rain in the region falls during the Winter (not in the Summer, which agrees with what we learned earlier), but the melting snows and the protection of the mountains all aid in bringing about a beautiful crop of grapes for wine. Hosea is truly writing for his audience, here.

But, again, Israel's future renown will not be because of itself. It will be because God has ultimately restored the relationship with His people, fulfilling a lifetime promise upon which most of the Word of God speaks. His anger will have finally and completely turned, and He will love them freely. And they will remember Him!

"Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity
And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in unchanging love."
--Micah 7:18
"We stand and lift up our hands
For the joy of the Lord is our strength
We bow down and worship Him now
How great, how awesome is He....
It's rising up all around
It's the anthem of the Lord's renown...."
--from "Holy is the Lord," by Chris Tomlin

Hosea's epilogue, as we conclude with the last 2 verses.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Hosea 14: 8 & 9

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).