With this passage, we reach the end of the prophesy of Hosea. Hosea prophesied between 790 and 925 B.C. during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel and from Uzziah to Hezekiah of Judah. Amosí prophesy was given immediately prior to that of Hosea, with the two prophesying as contemporaries for about 5 to ten years. Their messages were the same, a trait to be expected if they are preaching the truth. Both have spoken clearly and harshly against the sin of Israel (and Judah).
God formed the nation of Israel in the incubator that was north eastern Egypt, and they grew as a cohesive, identifiable society. They reached the point that the size of the nation threatened the power of the Pharaoh, and his persecution of the nation led to the exodus, as God miraculously intervened in their lives, saved them from the Pharaoh, cared for them in the wilderness, led them successfully through deep and raging waters and impossible battles, and placed them in the land of His promise. The nation had seen great and might works at the hands of God, a God who revealed Himself to them constantly through the Pillar of Fire for about 1200 years.
God had a plan for this nation that he had nurtured. As promised to Abraham, this people would become great, would inherit the land, and the entire world would be blessed. The opportunity that God had provided for this nation was phenomenal. Godís desire was that the Hebrews would become a nation of priests, sharing the goodness of God with the world, and bringing the world to Him.
O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
However, there was a problem with the plan. What was that problem? Godís plan went much farther than the scope of this nation, as God was also dealing with manís need for salvation from the penalty of sin. The Hebrews were unable to fulfill Godís ultimate purpose, and that failing is referred to by Hosea as their downfall. What caused their downfall, and what are its consequences?
Israel had lost the unique identity it established in Egypt and had broken the covenant it made with God at Mount Sinai during the Exodus. The Hebrews had, as a nation, made the commitment to be obedient to God, and honor Him alone. At that time, Moses brought the tablets containing the 10 commandments down from the mountain, and the nation was dedicated to them. However, as sincere as they may have been at that time, the sin of this world was never far from them. As they forgot the covenant, they started to mix with the pagan culture, abandoning the God who saved them and provided for them for the powerless wooden and metal hand-made idols and the pantheon of pagan gods they found in the culture around them. They were so completely assimilated into the culture, there was no true spiritual life left in them. They still identified themselves with the nation of Abraham. They still sought to keep the letter of traditional law. However, they rejected God, and embraced the world.
What would be the impact of that sin on the nation? The penalty for sin is death, separation from God, and for its refusal to repent of its sin, the nation would die. God would empower the Babylonians to destroy Judah, the southern kingdom of the Hebrews, and empower Assyria to destroy Israel, the northern kingdom of the Hebrews. When the Hebrews were in exile, being further assimilated into the pagan culture, Godís glory left the temple. Even when Ezra and Nehemiah led some of the Hebrews back to Judah, the pillar of fire was gone. God never again worked in the nation of Israel as He had done before. Godís glory did not return until the birth of the Messiah, Jesus.
God would still complete His plan, but the salvation that God offered would be available to all people as His Holy Spirit, His Glory, would reside in the hearts of all believers, rather than in the temple of Jerusalem. The temple that was destroyed by Babylon would be rebuilt at the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
What could Israel do to be restored to God? What could Israel give to God to pay for the sins they had committed? There is nothing that they, or anyone can give to God to pay for their sin. However, we are not to go to God empty-handed. Godís plan for salvation from sin starts with our acknowledgement that we have sinned. We must first understand that there is nothing we can do on our own to become righteous. The nation of Israel was given the law, and by following it one could be righteous. However, to do so is impossible, and no man could keep every letter of the law. Sin would enter soon or later and would serve to separate man from God.
Hoseaís words direct Israel to bring God their ďwords,Ē the heart-felt, true words of repentance. God calls upon those who have sinned to acknowledge their sin and turn from them, back to Him. Only when we have done this, is God in a position to forgive our sins, to cleanse us from our unrighteousness, and accept us into His fellowship.
What is our response to this act of salvation that God performs? In this text, that response is praise. Our thankfulness for what God has done is sincere and spontaneous. Hosea describes that praise as a thank-offering. The KJV uses the word ďcalves.Ē Since an unblemished calf was the most appropriate sacrifice for the thank offering, the word ďcalfĒ was synonymous with thank offering. With this understood, the ďcalves of our lipsĒ makes more sense. A literal translation of the Hebrew would be the ďthank offering of our lips.Ē That is, we will give thanks.
Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.
One of the sins that keeps us from obedience, and kept Israel from the same, is failure to rely on God. Israel had previously made a pact with Assyria that brought them this period of peace, so they placed their security and peace on that pact. Little did they know that Assyria was about to invade and destroy their country. Their security was in their ďwar horses,Ē at that time considered the most powerful weapon of combat. Finally, their security was also placed in things made with their own hands. They gave spiritual authority to objects made by man. Today, we deal with the same sin that separates us from God. We place our security in powerful friends, we place our security on our possessions, and we give obedience to objects made by man rather than to God. This latter point can be seen by looking into the average personís checkbook and credit card register. There we see what people are investing in, and upon observation, we will usually find that God has very little, if any, priority in peopleís lives. They spend their resources on worldly things that have no lasting reward.
When we repent of our sins, and turn fully to God, these issues fade away.
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
When we repent of our sin and turn to God, there is a significant response from God. No matter how far we have gone from God, He fully accepts us on our return. Once we have returned, God does not hold the sin of our past against us; our waywardness is healed, our backslidden state is forgiven. God is unchanging, so his anger does not peak or fade. God is who He is, and when we are lost, his righteous anger is demonstrated by our separation from Him. When we turn to Him in faith, his righteous anger is not kindled against us, but is continuing to work in the hearts of lives of others, separating them from the love that God has for them.
I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. 6His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. 7They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
When we turn to God in faith, His love is demonstrated by His placing the Holy Spirit into our hearts. The results of that gift is a life that can be fruitful in Godís kingdom. Every person has gifts, abilities and interests that can be applied to activities that further the Kingdom of God in this world. During the dry months, the primary moisture that plants received was a heavy morning dew. Like that dew, Godís spirit will nourish and provide for the needs of every believer so that they realize the potential that God knows is there. Like the blossoming of the lily, the life that was dead in sin, can blossom, and be fruitful in good works.
The weak foundation that the unrepentant stands on is also replaced by the Spirit of God, and like the roots of the Cedars of Lebanon that enable the tree to stand strong against wind and weather, we gain a similar stability and power to stand against adversity when we are standing in faith. Like the shade of the cedar, Godís protection is provided over all believers. In this protected and empowered state, the believer can flourish, and his/her good works will be known by many.
Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
The language of the first statement found here may be a bit confusing, and different translations render the statement in slightly different manners. However, the truth is consistent across these translations. When the sinner has turned to God, there is no longer any need for the idols. As a person turns their life over to God, there is no need to place such importance on the things of this world any more. What are those things in this world that we tend to give too much value? What are some of the things in this world that we value so highly that they have a hold on us? It is the release of that hold that we realize when we give them to God. It is the peace that comes from that freedom that is realized in this statement by Hosea. With such release, we are no longer subject to the dynamics of such insecurity. Like the evergreen tree, Godís faithfulness will remain constant both in season and out. God will be with us in the good times and in the bad. It will be from God that we receive a life that is abundant (John 10:10) in faith, love, peace, joy, and other countless blessings that have a permanent value that overshadows the things of this world that we once thought to be so important.
Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.
Approached from my position as a university professor in the field of engineering, I was recently asked to speak to a Christian high school assembly to address an issue of faith versus science. The predominant hypothesis in the school was that one cannot be a scientist and be a Christian. The students were being drawn away from the sciences by such a position. The scientific community might be teeming with knowledge, but it is also a wasteland of spiritual wisdom. Ph.D. degrees do not promote faith, they promote worldly knowledge. The error the students are making is equating wisdom with scientific knowledge, and in many instances these two positions are diametrically opposed. When great scientific knowledge and wisdom are combined, we find a scientist who truly understands his craft. That same wisdom is attainable by the simplest of Godís people, and when His wisdom is embraced by the faithful, they will be able to discern spiritual truths that the most learned Ph.D.s consider foolishness. The ways of the Lord are truth, and stand as a stumbling block to those who think themselves wise.
Prior to coming to God, all people are in the lost and destroyed state that is Israel at the time of Hoseaís prophesy. The distance they stood from God was a gulf that only Godís grace could cross. It is only through Godís grace that we are saved, through our faith in Him and His faithfulness to forgive us of our unrighteousness. What are some of the things that are still in our lives that keep us at armís length from God? What are some of the things in our lives that stand between where we are and where God wants us to be? Are we as faithful in our giving as God would require? Are we as faithful in our fellowship with Him and with other Christians as we should be? Are we as faithful in our study of Godís Word as He would desire?
We must ask the Lord for forgiveness from the sins that are revealed by such questions, as we, in His wisdom, repent of those actions and attitudes that compromise our faithfulness. God has promised that he is faithful.
The prophesy of Hosea is issued to Israel, but applies to every lost person. Godís offer of forgiveness still holds for every person, including those in modern Israel. Pray for one another, and pray for Israel, that the nation that turned away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the nation that turned to a worldly system of legalism, self-righteousness and idol worship, would even now turn to God through faith in the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.