By Joseph Ametepe
The 61st Annual National Day of Prayer will take place Thursday, May 3, 2012. As usual, millions of believers in the United States will unite in concerted prayer for the nation. On this day, thousands of prayer events will take place from coast to coast. The theme for this year's National Day of Prayer is "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD" taken from Psalm 33:12.
No doubt, this psalm was first given to Israel, God's chosen people. However, its context clearly shows that its message goes beyond the borders of Israel. Notice for example that it calls for all the earth to fear the Lord and for all the inhabitants of the world to stand in awe of Him (Psalm 33:8). Not only that, it speaks of God foiling the plans of the nations and frustrating the purposes of the peoples (Psalm 33:10). It also asserts that, from heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind, and watches all who live on the earth (Psalm 33:13-14). Clearly then, when God first gave this psalm to Israel, He was also thinking of other nations whom He had created to live on the face of this earth (Acts 17:26). Without taking anything away from Israel, God also desires that other nations will have the blessed privilege of making Him their God. How wonderful is our God! He is not only the God of the Jews, but also the God of the Gentiles (Romans 3:29).
The Hebrew word translated "blessed" in Psalm 33:12 is "'ashre." It comes from the verb 'ashar, which means to go straight or advance. 'Ashre also means happiness, blessedness, congratulation. It's like God is saying: "Congratulation to the nation that honors Me as their one and only true God. Happy is the nation that knows and worships Me as their only God. Blessed is the land serves Me alone as their God." Actually there are two verbs in Hebrew meaning "to bless." The other is "barak." Barak is used by God when He blesses "somebody." When one blesses God, the verb is barak, never 'ashar. God can bestow His blessing even when man doesn't deserve it. On the other hand, to be blessed ('ashre), man has to do something, that is, something positive. For example, trusting in God. Notice in Psalm 33:12, blessedness comes as a result of the positive action of honoring Yahweh as one's God.
An important question arises at this point. What are the benefits or blessings of being a nation whose God is Yahweh, that is, the sovereign, supreme, self-sufficient, and self-existing God of the universe? The benefits are many. From Israel's life, we learn that honoring Yahweh as their God results in the following blessings. God promised them His presence with them (Genesis 28:15). His protection (Genesis 31:24, 29, 42). His peace and security (2 Chronicles 14:6-7; 20:30). His pardon (Deuteronomy 34:6-7; Micah 7:18-19). His provision (Joel 2:24-26). His power (Joshua 23:9-10). Performance of His promises (Joshua 21:45; 23:14). To be His possession (Deuteronomy 7:6; Micah 7:18). His preservation (Genesis 28:15). Privilege to be His people (Exodus 6:7). His prosperity (Genesis 32:9; Deuteronomy 28:11; 30:5,9). His personal involvement and investment in their national lives (Deuteronomy 28:7-10). His personal guidance (Deuteronomy 32:12). His promotion of them above all nations (Deuteronomy 28:1-2). His punishment of their enemies (Genesis 15: 13-14; Joel 2:20). The productivity of their land (Deuteronomy 28:11; Joel 2:22-24). These blessings are not exhaustive. But you get the point. Innumerable, immeasurable, incredible are the benefits bestowed on a nation who submits to God's authority and serves His purposes.
Nowhere is the promise "blessed is the nation whose God is LORD" vividly illustrated than in the last chapter of the prophetic Old Testament book of Hosea. The name Hosea is a shortened form of "Joshua" and "Jesus." It means deliverance or salvation. Hosea lived and prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel, that is, the northern kingdom of Israel. He was a contemporary of Isaiah and Micah in Judah, that is, the southern kingdom. Also according to Hosea 1:1, Hosea carried out his ministry during the reigns of four successive kings of Judah, namely Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. This means his prophetic ministry covered a period of about forty years, from about 755 to 715 B. C. Hosea was the last prophet God raised up in Israel, the northern kingdom, to try to get His people to repent and return to Him. In fact, Hosea foresaw Israel's exile to Assyria in 722 B. C. and actually witnessed some of it happen. As a prophet of God, Hosea was deeply committed to God and His will. This is evidenced by his unquestioning and uncompromising obedience to God. Commanded to marry a prostitute, Hosea obeyed God (Hosea 1:2-3). This makes Hosea one of the most unusual prophets of the Old Testament. Gomer, Hosea's prostitute wife, later left him for other lovers. Hosea demonstrated he was a prophet who would follow God's will, no matter the cost. And so at God's direction, Hosea bought her from the slave market and restored her as his wife (Hosea 3:1-5). You see, all of this served as an object lesson for Israel, who had just been as faithless to God. This touching and tender picture in Hosea's life clearly showed that God had not given up on His people in Israel, although they had been unfaithful to Him, by forsaking Him and following hard after false and foreign gods. God's people were faithless but God remained faithful to them. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound! In other words, in spite of Israel's unfaithfulness, God resolved in His heart to redeem them and restore them to their favored position as His chosen and covenant people. The book of Hosea is therefore the story of God's faithful love for His unfaithful people. Even after God's people have "plowed wickedness" and "reaped evil" (Hosea 10:13), God doesn't stop loving them. Talk about a great benefit for the nation whose God is the Lord!
In the last chapter of Hosea, one of God's last call to Israel to come back to His loving arms, God promises them afresh His pardon, His personal care and healing, His prosperity, and productivity of their land. These blessings and more would be theirs to enjoy, if only they return to Him. God's message through Hosea to the people of Israel during his 40 years of ministry (755-715 B.C.) is sorely needed today as well. But you ask: How so? As a nation, America is becoming more and more unfaithful to God, just as Israel was in the days of Hosea. We have been faithless. We have turned our backs on God. We have gone after false gods. We have fallen away. We have failed. We have forsaken God. Rebellion against God is climbing to new heights. Resistance to God's purposes is on the increase. Rage against God Himself is on the rise. Righteousness in the public and private sectors of life is declining at a drastic pace. Reverence for God's ways continue to diminish in the land. Respect for the name of God is at an all time low. "O my God," (OMG), or "O my Gosh," is repeatedly used flippantly and casually. Politically, the atmosphere is toxic and rancorous. Socially, the nation's life is increasingly characterized by compromise and corruption. Family values are eroding fast. Corporately, greed continues to drive companies and their CEOs to make astronomical profits at the expense of consumers. In other words, America is rapidly moving toward to the point of no return. The encouraging news is that Hosea's message came to Israel just before they reached the point of no return. In spite of Israel's gross unfaithfulness, God extended extraordinary grace to them, by calling them to return to Him and promising them His personal care and healing. Believers in this land can take comfort in that. Why? Here is why! Just as God extended extraordinary kindness to Israel over 2700 years ago, so also He is extending His grace to America to return to Him and enjoy the promise of His personal care and healing. How gracious is our God in this age of grace! Born-again Christians in this country can confidently approach God's throne on behalf of this nation to cry out to Him, humbly and honestly, to put a desire in the hearts of His people in this land to return to Him and respond to His tender wooing voice. What is the basis of our confidence? Just as the God of grace offered faithless Israel forgiveness and fruitfulness, even so today He offers restoration, renewal, and revival for the truly repentant nation. Oh how blessed is the nation whose God's is the LORD!
For this year's National Day of Prayer, I would like us to turn our attention to Hosea 14:1-9. It is a precious and powerful passage. It is a passage that reveals God's compassionate heart toward His people. It shows how God is always reaching out to His wayward people to turn back to Him from their waywardness. It is a passage loaded with promises of what God Himself will do and be for His truly repentant people. God promises to love them freely and to heal them of their waywardness. O how America needs the healing touch of the only true God of the universe, who is fully and finally revealed in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ! Only God can heal this nation, not only of her waywardness, but also all of her woes and wounds. In fact, Hosea 14:1-9 is also a powerful illustration of 2 Chronicles 7:14, which says, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (NIV).
If we are to pray to move the heart and hand of God to bring renewal and revival to this nation, that is, to become a nation who enjoys the benefits of honoring God as the Lord our God, then we must approach Him applying the principles preserved in Hosea 14:1-9. First of all, in this article, we will discuss the command to return to God (v. 1a). Secondly, we will look at the concise reason given to return to God (v. 1b). Thirdly, we will examine the confession of God's faithless people (vv. 2-3). Fourthly, we will focus on the compassionate response of God to His repentant people (vv. 4-7). Fifthly, the care of God for His repentant people will be discussed (v. 8). Sixthly, we will consider the call of God to the wise and discerning (v. 9). Let's now begin to look at each of these major points in detail!
I. Command to Return to God (v. 1a).
The situation in Israel in Hosea's days was spiritually depressing and dark. God's people had been faithless. They had fallen away. They had failed miserably. They had forgotten Yahweh. They had forsaken the true God and followed hard after false gods. God's judgment was fast approaching. However, before God's judgment fell upon the land, He gave His people one last chance to amend their ways. This is nothing but grace.
Charles Swindoll also describes the situation in the day of Hosea in these colorful and convicting words:
"Socially, it was a world of compromise and corruption...Justice was nowhere to be found. The courtroom was a joke in the day of Hosea, filled with judges who accepted excessive bribes from the people. Family life was equally corrupt and was rapidly disintegrating. The teaching and nurturing roles of parents were eroding at a drastic pace, leaving the children to figure out life on their own. Politically, it was a world of anarchy, bloodshed and revolt..., the rulers were evil through and through, thinking nothing of leading others into lascivious lifestyle: "Even when their drinks are gone, they continue their prostitution; their rulers dearly love shameful ways" (4:18). Loose living was the accepted standard. Religiously, Hosea's world was one of idolatry and immorality. The priests, if you read Hosea, accepted, even encouraged, the whole thing. It was a sick scene. To cast it in today's terms, Hosea's nation was a nation "in the pits." The prophet was chosen to stand for God in that kind of cesspool. Like a beautiful blooming flower growing over a garbage dump, he stood alone for purity and righteousness, yielding a rare fragrance of godliness."- Charles R. Swindoll, The Living Insight Study Bible, New International Version, p. 894.
In fact, God's grace shines through the last chapter of Hosea. Earlier in the book, words of strong condemnation and denunciation from God were spoken to the faithless people of Israel, especially the closing statement in Hosea 13:16, which actually forms Hosea 14:1 in the Hebrew Old Testament [Hosea 14:2 in the Hebrew Bible is actually Hosea 14:1 in our English Bible]. Now God speaks tenderly to His people in grace to return to Him. Through His prophet Hosea, God gives a moving appeal to the wayward northern kingdom to return to Him and find healing and covenant renewal. This is vividly captured in these simple and straightforward, yet significant words:
"Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God," Hosea 14:1a (NASB).
The message delivered by Hosea in this chapter was the last message in his 40 years of prophetic ministry. It is interesting to note that his last message to faithless Israel begins with a command to return to Yahweh. You see, Hosea knew that there is no blessing of salvation for faithless Israel without return to the Lord their God. It is therefore with a command to return to God, that the prophet opens the prophecy of the blessing of salvation with which God will bless His people. The command to return had been given earlier in Hosea's message to wayward Israel. We find that in Hosea 12:6: "Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually." Earlier in Hosea's prophetic message, the people made a commitment to return to the Lord after His rebuke of them. Hosea 6:1 records that for us: "Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us." It appears their commitment to return to the Lord at that time was shallow and short-lived. Unlike the repentance of chapter 6, the repentance being commanded in chapter 14:1 would have to be sincere in order for God's people to receive the gracious response from Him, which is later revealed in verses 4-8.
The Hebrew verb translated "return" is "shub." It is used three times in Hosea 14, namely Hosea 14:1,2,4. It also means "turn back," "come back," or "repent." Strictly speaking, shub means to turn towards God, to direct the heart and mind towards Him completely, not casually. The turning back to God or repenting means to seek God penitently. Throughout the Bible, repentance or returning to God, has the literal meaning of "making an about turn" or "turning around," of walking in the opposite direction from how we have previously walked. God desires a turning back to Him that is sincere.
Actually, the command to return to the Lord is often repeated in Scripture. The prophet Samuel called Israel to return to God after they had forsaken God and followed hard after false gods (1 Samuel 7:3-4). Isaiah (Isaiah 55:7), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 3:12, 14, 22), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 18:30, 32; 33:11), Joel (Joel 2:12-13), Amos (Amos 4:6, 8-11), have all exhorted God's faithless people to return to God. In fact, it is the main exhortation of most of God's prophets. In other words, it is a dominant message in the ministry of the messengers of God. The many repetitions of the command to return to God reveal three things. First, it reveals the longing in God's heart for communion with His people. It expresses a great yearning in God's heart for His wayward people to do so without delay or dragging of their feet. In other words, when God entreats His backslidden people to turn back to Him, He wants them to do it without dilly-dallying. Why? God wants His people to take full advantage of His desire to commune with them. Second, it reveals God's commitment to His purposes for His people. I tell you friends, if God were not steadfastly committed to His purposes for Israel, He would have stopped sending His prophets to them with a clear command to turn back to Him. Third, it demonstrates God's compassionate character to His people. He is so compassionate and gracious that He will not turn His face away from His people if they return to Him (see 2 Chronicles 30:9). How encouraging is that!
It is important at this point to emphasize that this is a command, not a casual comment. It is a specific instruction from Yahweh, not a suggestion. It is an order from the Lord, not an opinion of the prophet. We live in a culture in which the word "command" is not popular. Frankly, we don't like commands. Most in our modern culture don't particularly like anyone telling them what they can and can't do. We like suggestions, ideas, and opinions. In fact, many in our culture prefer something more flexible, bendable and easier to follow, or something to pick and choose from. Unfortunately, this attitude towards "commands" has seeped into the Church, that is, among true believers in Jesus Christ. But if God's people are to become all that God wants them to become, to serve His purpose in their generation, to make a difference that counts for eternity, then, we must, in reliance on the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, rid ourselves of this attitude. We must understand that God's commands to us are not intended to ruin our life. Rather, they are given to release us to live the life He ordained for us to its fullest. Let's choose to submit to God's word to us. Let's surrender to Him. Let's settle it in our hearts that God's commands to us are not intended to enslave us but to emancipate us to reach our fullest potential in Him.
Now the question is: how do we apply the teaching regarding the command to return to the Lord? First of all, we must settle it in our hearts that "whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope"(Romans 15:4; cf.1 Corinthians 10:11). What instruction does God want us to receive from Hosea 14:1a? Just as God spoke tenderly to faithless Israel to return to Him, so also God's Spirit is calling out to wayward nations today to turn back to Him. The nation of America is no exception. His instruction is simply this: God demands that His wayward people return wholeheartedly to Him, not half-heartedly. Like Israel of old, America has fallen away. We have failed God. We have forgotten the God who led the pilgrims to discover this land and live in it and bequeath it to future generations. We have forsaken His Word. We have been faithless. We have followed hard after the "new gods" of this age-New Age! Science! Technology! Ourselves! To become a nation that is blessed of the Lord, we must return to Him. Why? There is no blessing for a wayward nation without return to the true God. Our turning toward Him must be complete, not casual. God longs for a turning back to Him that is sincere, not shallow and superficial.
May I say to us, it's high time God's believing people take His command to return to Him seriously. God says, " Enough of paying lip service to My command to come back to Me. The time has now come to actually show by your lives and deeds, not just by mere words, that you, My believing people in this nation mean business with Me. And that you are earnest about returning to Me in reliance upon the power of My Spirit who lives in you." On a personal level, what has God's said to you today from His word? Submit to it for your own good and growth in Him and for the praise of His glory! Shun and set aside the present day culture's attitude towards "commands" and soar in serving God's purpose in your generation!
Having commanded His people to return to Him, God now plainly tells them why they should return to Him. In other words, if anyone should ask: "God, why should we return to You?", God has a ready answer for that person. A concise reason to return to God is given to God's people.
II. Concise Reason to Return to God (v. 1b).
Although God doesn't have to give His people His reason for commanding them to do what He desires, yet often in His grace and goodness, He does. Oh how gracious and good is our God! He could have ordered us around like a slave master who barks commands at his slaves without giving them any reason whatsoever. But thank God, our God is not a slave master. He is the supreme Lord of the universe who leads His people in love. God gives the people of Israel a clear-cut and concise reason to return to Him. The Bible captures this in Hosea 14:1b.
"for you have stumbled because of your iniquity" Hosea 14:1b (NASB).
Please notice the reason God gives to His people to return is brief and straight to the point. God gives His reason in just a few words. Actually, in the original it is only three words :"ki kashalta ba'oneka." However, it is eight words in our English translation of the NASB. As far as God is concerned, this is a not a time for a long "ear-burning" talk. He tells His people His reason for them to return to Him in a few carefully chosen words. I want you to observe that the second part of verse 1 begins with "for." This indicates God is about to give His people His reason for commanding them to come back to Him. His reason is simply this. His people have stumbled because of their iniquity. God says to His people, "In My love for you, I command you to return to Me because your falling away from Me has been through your own sins. I could have left you in your sins, but I am extending My grace to you. Because there is a new day ahead of you."
The Hebrew word translated "stumbled" (Hebrew: kashal) also means "to totter," "to fail," "to fall," "to faint," "to seduce," to lead astray." It can be either a physical falling or a figurative falling (ruin). This verb represents sin as a false step. The Bible is therefore saying here that the reason why Israel is commanded to return to the Lord, or to direct their heart and mind towards Him completely is that they have fallen, failed or taken a false step. The NIV translates Hosea 14:1b as, "Your sins have been your downfall."
The Hebrew word translated "iniquity" is 'avon. It also means "a depraved action," "perversity," "perverseness," "sin," "guilt," "a crime," "a fault," "mischief." This is the abstract, crooked behavior or infraction of moral law. 'Avon denotes both the deed and its consequences, though the focus may be on one or the other. In this context, the focus is on the deed, that is, the sin or depraved action or perversity or crooked behavior or the mischief of Israel. 'Avon is often the sum of past misdeeds against God and man. 'Avon results in separation from God, alienation, and uncleanness. Hence the need to confess it and change one's way of life. You see, the wayward people of Israel had come to a point where they were no longer ashamed of their depravity. But God would not want them to remain in that state of stupor.
The point here is that God used a significant word to prepare wayward Israel for what is coming next in His message to them. Faithless Israel stood guilty before a holy God. They had acted crookedly, perversely, and mischievously before a righteous God. Instead of executing His righteous judgment on them for all their past misdeeds, He invites them to direct their heart and mind towards Him. He points them to their past mischievous deeds that alienated them from Him. In other words, God wants them to be aware of their depraved actions and confess them to Him and change their way of life. Truly, God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked or His wayward people. He is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. God in His mercy, chose to withhold His judgment on backslidden Israel. He restrained Himself from pouring out His righteous indignation on wayward Israel. God pointed them to their iniquity only to bring them to a fresh awareness of it so as to confess it to Him and change their way of life.
As a nation, America stands guilty before a holy God. Like Israel of ancient times, we are no longer ashamed of our depraved actions. In fact, we give hearty approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:32). Just as we did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave us over to a depraved mind, to do those things that are not proper (Romans 1:28). I believe with all my heart that God wants His believing people in this country to see with His eyes the darkness and depravity into which we are plunging ourselves. And as we see things as He does, a fresh awareness of our need to confess and change our way of life will grip our hearts to do business with God. Oh that God would do this gracious work in the hearts of His believing people in this nation in such a time as this! To be a nation whose God is the Lord, and therefore, blessed of the Lord, we must see sin as God sees it. We must call sin, sin. We must accept the fact that sin is a reproach to a nation and that our national sin will bring our downfall. But we must also grasp afresh that in this age of grace, God does not delight in the death of the wayward and wicked. Rather, He desires their repentance and return to Him.
Having given His wayward people a command to return to Him, and a concise reason to return to Him, God now tenderly makes it clear to faithless Israel that, if their return is to be the right kind, the kind He is pleased with, it must begin with a heartfelt prayer for the forgiveness of their sins in which they renounce all earthly help and simply trust in His mercy. Hence, confession of God's faithless people is now clearly spelt out.
III. Confession of God's Faithless People (vv. 2-3).
Returning to God involves confession. Genuine confession is the work of God in the hearts of His people. As such, God Himself invites wayward Israel to come to Him and confess their sins to Him. He initiates the process of confession. In fact, God gives every encouragement to His backslidden people to approach Him and acknowledge their iniquities and sins before Him. His encouragement to Israel to draw near to Him in confession is vividly presented in Hosea 14:2-3.
"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. 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" Hosea 14:2-3 (NASB).
Please notice what is happening here! Through the work of the Holy Spirit in Hosea, God Himself composes a prayer of confession for His faithless people to pray to Him upon their return. Folks, it can't get any better than that. Often times, God makes things so simple, but we turn around and make them so complicated. Actually, this is not the only time God specifically spells out to His returning people exactly what they are to say to Him in their confession to Him. God gives the words of repentance and confession that the people should use before Him. Isn't that wonderful? In the book of Joel, God gave words to the priest to bring to Him at their repentance service. "Let the priests, the LORD's ministers, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, "Spare Your people, O LORD, and do not make Your inheritance a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should the people say, 'Where is their God'"" (Joel 2:17).
Please notice that in these two passages, God didn't leave anything to chance. He clearly spells out how the confession is to be done to be acceptable to Him. In the Hosea passage above, God gives three specific instructions to wayward Israel through His prophet Hosea.
The first specific instruction is: "Take words with you." What does this mean? Please notice God doesn't ask them to bring gifts or sacrifices. Rather, He asks them to bring words when they come to Him in repentance. God is simply saying that faithless Israel should not appear before Him empty (Exodus 23:15; 34:20). But for their confession in this particular instance, they do not require mere outward sacrifices, but simply words of confession of their guilt before Him. As we will see later, God Himself will provide the words of confession they are to take with them. Faithless Israel will know ahead of time what they will say in their confession to God. Isn't that such a blessing? The only good thing Israel will be able to bring before God is the sacrifice of their lips, not sheep, goats, and bulls. Instead of bulls and goats on the altar, the praise of Israel's lips will be the choicest of all sacrifices to God. It's like God is saying to faithless Israel: "Israel, My people, get this! On this occasion, no other sacrifice of yours will be acceptable to Me. Your animal sacrifices will not do. Why? Your sacrificial system have been too corrupted by your worship of foreign and false gods. And so now, all you have left, are your words, the fruit of your lips. Only words of true repentance will be sufficient. Come to Me just as you are and speak these words from the bottom of your heart, not as lip-service worship. For I condemn such lip-service worship" (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8).
The second specific instruction given to backslidden Israel is the command to return to God: "and return to the LORD." In verse one of this chapter, the command to return opens Hosea's last message to wayward Israel. Now God repeats the command to return to Him. Why? Was it because He was short of words to say? No! Not at all! God repeated the command to return because confession's true main goal is for the believer to direct his heart and mind towards God. It's for the believer to be restored into fellowship with God. It's for the repentant believer to renew his commitment to walk personally, purposefully, and passionately with God. It's for him to appreciate God's desire to be in a relationship with him. Therefore, confession must lead to a deepening of our relationship and walk with God. So God repeated the command to return to Him to emphasize to wayward Israel that He is not interested in religiosity, but in a relationship with Him.
The third specific clear instruction given to Israel has to do with the words they are say to God in their confession. Three kinds of words are identified for Israel. First, is words of confession. Notice the Bible says, "Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously." These words of confession bring to mind Micah 7:18-19. In that precious passage, God promises not only to pardon His people's iniquities, but also have compassion on them and cast their sins into the depth of the sea."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. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." This is an incredible promise revealing the forgiving heart of God. You cannot read these words without pausing to pour out your heart in thanksgiving to the Lord. He forgives. Yes, He forgives all iniquity. He pardons all sins. He removes all our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Yea, He casts them all into the depths of the sea. God's nature is about forgiving all our sins, iniquities, transgressions, trespasses, (Leviticus 16:16, 21,22, 30, 34; Colossians 2:13). He is able to do so based on the once for all perfect sacrifice of His Son (Hebrews 10:10-12). Actually the Hebrew word translated "take away" is"nasa'" is a rich word. It also means "forgive," "pardon," "carry away," "cast," or "release." You see, God knew exactly what He meant when He chose such a rich word and put it in the mouths of His people. He would carry away all their iniquity. He would cast away all their transgressions. He would forgive all their sins. He would pardon all their trespasses. He would release them of their unfaithfulness and receive them graciously.
The second kind of word identified is words of constant praise. Notice the Bible says: "that we may present the fruit of our lips." God expects constant praise from the lips of His believing children. The verb translated "present" (Hebrew: shalem), also means "make whole or good," "make compensation," "make good," that is, "pay vows to God." God is calling upon His people to consistent, constant, and continual pouring out of their hearts in praise to Him. They are to offer up a sacrifice of praise to Him, that is, the fruit of lips that gives thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15). In other words, wayward Israel was to follow in the footsteps of the sweet psalmist of Israel, David, who asked God to open his lips to praise Him after he confessed his sins of murder and adultery. "O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:15-17). Also in Psalm 34:1, David, the king of Israel, speaks of praising God continually. "I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth."
The third kind of word identified for faithless Israel is words of commitment. Notice the Bible says: "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." Please pay attention to the words "we will," and "will we." Those are words of commitment. When wayward Israel comes to God to make confession and seek cleansing, He wants them to approach Him with commitment in their hearts. Why? God is not interested in cheap words that lack commitment and conviction of heart. God is a God of commitment. As such, His people are to demonstrate commitment in their dealings with Him. Notice in their words of commitment, faithless Israel is being asked to confess three major sins. Namely, their dependence on other nations, military might, and idols. Their confession of these three national sins can be paraphrased as follows:
"We renounce our dependence on foreign nations like Assyria. We confess to You today that we will no longer turn to Assyria for help as we've done in the past (2 Kings 16:7-9; 2 Chronicles 28:16). We will no longer place our reliance on Assyria (Hosea 5:13; 7:11; 8:9). We renounce dependence on our own military strength. We will no longer rely on Egyptian-war horses for help in fighting our battles as we've done in former times (1 Kings 10:8; Isaiah 31:1; Hosea 7:11). We will no longer trust in in the military force of Egypt or depend on our own might. We renounce our dependence on false gods. We will no longer look to idols for help as we've done in past times (1 Kings 12:28-30). We have done foolishly. Today, we renounce all our former idolatry. We now acknowledge to You, O Lord our God, that You are our only hope and help. We were once Your adopted sons and rejoiced in that (Hosea 11:1), but we have rejected You as our Father and have become orphans. Now, in true repentance and renunciation of our former way of life, may we find compassion in You. For in You the orphan finds mercy."
The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee shares this insight on the sin of idolatry. He writes:
"Imagine making something with your hands and then falling down and worshiping it! Many men today worship their own ability. They worship their brain, their intellect. They worship what they are doing and what they are able to do. You are nothing but a pagan and a heathen when you do that, my friend."-J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Proverbs through Malachi, Vol. III. p. 655.
Notice in their words of commitment, backslidden Israel is to say: "Assyria will not save us." Today, the word "save" is tossed around a lot both in the church and outside of the church. But what does God really mean by the word "save?" The Hebrew word for "save" is "yasha'." Originally this root is believed to mean "to be open, wide, or free." It is the opposite of the Hebrew verb "tsarar," meaning " to cramp," having the connotation of distress, being in trouble or affliction. In other words, when one has plenty of room in which to move, he feels safe and secure. Yasha' means, therefore, to be delivered, to give help, give victory, to help, to preserve. It is noteworthy that the personal name of our Savior, Jesus, derives from this root (seeMatt. 1:21). Also, in the New Testament, when the crowds cried out to Jesus at His triumphal entry, they used the word "Hosanna" (Matt, 21:9), which is directly traceable to this verb in the Old Testament. At first, the word pointed to a physical deliverance from very real enemies or catastrophes. Later, "save" developed a theological meaning. God is concerned about our physical well-being, our emotional status, and the salvation of our souls. God has the ability to save us from anything that would harm us. ~Adapted from the Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, p. 1733-4.
Today, we hear people say, "the Republican Party is the party to save America." Others, put their trust in the Tea Party Movement to save this nation. Still others are confident that a Third Party can save this land. May I humbly and honestly say to us: Just as Assyria could not save faithless Israel, so also the Republican Party will not save us. The Democratic Party will not save us. The Tea Party will not save us. The Third Party will not save us. Only Jesus can save us. You already know that. So I am not telling you anything. But please allow me to tell you why Jesus alone can save this nation. For starters, His name, "Jesus," means "Yahweh saves." Jesus has a perfect record of saving people. Jesus specializes in the saving business. Jesus is truly concerned about our physical well-being, our emotional well-being, our economic well-being. More importantly, He is concerned about the soul of this nation and all other nations. Jesus alone died to purchase true freedom, forgiveness, and a brighter and better future for the nations. Jesus alone has a salvation package that is complete, sound, safe, and secure. Presidents, prime ministers, parties, and politicians don't have the complete package of salvation. Yet, we foolishly cheer them up with all our hearts on their campaign trails and put our trust in them to save us. Save us from what? Economic collapse? Emotional mess? Joblessness? Homelessness? American dream? Are you kidding me? The truth is they can't. I tell you my friend, only Jesus can save us from these and many more. He alone has the ability to save us from anything that would harm us. His alone specializes in saving spirit, soul, and body.
When you and I come to God today to intercede for our nations, the most important kinds of words we can bring to Him are first of all, words of confession:"Take away or forgive all our iniquity." Secondly, we must come with words of continual praise: "That we may present the fruit of our lips." That is to say, "Open our lips to praise You." Thirdly, we must approach Him with words of commitment: "Party politics will not save us. We will not rely on our own military might. Nor will we say to science and technology, you are our gods." Please take note of this! What God promised to do for His faithless people in Israel, He is willing, yea, more than willing to do for His wayward people in this land, who turn to Him in confession and seek His cleansing. He will forgive all our sins. He will carry away all our iniquities. He will cast away all our transgressions. He will pardon all our trespasses. He will release us from all our unfaithfulness and receive us graciously in this age of grace. To God be the glory!
As so often happens with calls to repentance, there follow astounding promises to encourage God's people to respond to Him. In other words, if wayward Israel were to ask, "God, what can we expect upon our return to You? What can we look forward to if we walk in covenant faithfulness with You? Lord, what will You do and be for us when we turn back to You?" God has a ready and refreshing answer for them. God says: "A compassionate response full of astounding promises is what you can expect from Me."
IV. Compassionate Response of God (vv. 4-7).
The Bible now tells us what God promises to do and be for Israel when they turn back to Him in true repentance. In His compassion and grace, God gives His people, Israel, a "truck-load" of astounding promises upon their return to Him. The Bible's record of God's "truck-load" of astounding promises is vividly presented in Hosea 14:4-7:
"I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. His shoots will sprout, and his beauty will be like the olive tree and his fragrance will be like the cedars of Lebanon. Those who live in his shadows will again raise grain, and they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon." Hosea 14:4-7 (NASB).
Please notice that the language of certainty is employed by God in expressing His compassionate response to His repentant people. We see that in the use of the expression: "I will." Please notice God gives His Israel three "I will" promises. "I will heal their apostasy...I will love them freely...I will be like dew to Israel." The outworking of these three "I will" promises will result in an octave of blessings, that is eight specific blessings for Israel. I would like us first to examine the three"I will" promises and after that, consider the octave of blessings God bestows on Israel. When you think of the corruption and compromise of faithless Israel, their idolatry and immorality, their self-reliance and stubbornness, their falling away and faithlessness, their rebellion and rejection of God, their disobedience and disregard for God's word, God should never have given them such a "truck-load" of incredible promises. One writer calls these promises "mountain-like accumulation of promises from the Lord." Yet, God did. He gave Israel these "mountain-like accumulation of promises" and meant to fulfill each one of them. Why? He is compassionate. He is gracious. In fact, He is watching over each of these promises to fulfill them for Israel.
John MacArthur presents this brief insight on Hosea 14:4-7:
"The ultimate fulfillment of these blessings must be millennial, since Israel has not, nor will not, repented in the manner of verses 2 and 3 until the end of the Great Tribulation (cf. Zech. 12:10-13:1).-John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 981.
Now, let's examine the three "I will" promises to Israel. First, God promises repentant Israel: "I will heal their apostasy." The same Hebrew word for "heal" has been used three times in Hosea, namely in 6:1; 7:1; and 14:4. God is the subject of each usage. The Hebrew word, rapha' also means "cure," "mend," "repair," "stitch together". It is used here figuratively to speak of God's healing of hurts of a nation, involving restored favor, and often forgiveness, including the consequences of backsliding. God promises His people that He will be their Great Spiritual Healer, or their Great Physician. He will be the true Yahweh Rapha to faithless Israel. In other words, no one is qualified to perform this healing, only Yahweh Rapha. The Bible is teaching here that in response to the genuine repentant prayer and confession of His people, the first thing God promises to do for Israel is that He will heal them of all their wounds, and bestow upon them once more the fullness of the blessings of His grace. Out of His own good and gracious heart, God promises to heal their apostasy, their waywardness, their backsliding, their turning away, or their faithlessness (Hebrew: meshubah). You see, God knew that wayward Israel has no power in herself to return to Him, let alone heal themselves of their turning away from Him. They have no ability in themselves to heal all the injuries which have been inflicted by their waywardness. Actually, this promise of healing is consistent with the promise given in 2 Chronicles 7:14: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land"(NIV). How precious! How wonderful! Please notice again that in this promise God Himself is doing the healing. Oh America, let's look to God alone to heal us of our waywardness!
Second, God promises His people: "I will love them freely." Please understand that it is not that God had stopped loving Israel, but that now He will love them without the prospect of imminent judgment. He will love Israel with perfect spontaneity. When God heals and receives repentant sinners, He chooses to love them "freely." The thought is unconditionally. In other words, God is telling Israel: "I will not hold your past against you. I simply choose from My own heart to pour out My undying and unconditional love on you." The Hebrew word for "freely" is "nedabah." It also means "willingness," "a free-will gift," "a freewill offering," "plenty," "spontaneously," or "voluntarily." It denotes what was offered of one's own free will. Even though Israel had broken His covenant, God now promises them that He will love them freely, spontaneously, voluntarily. How good is our God! How gracious is our Lord! How generous is our Savior! In Exodus 36:3-6 "nedabah" is used for the freewill offerings of the people of Israel. The people made so many voluntary contributions that Moses had to ask them to stop giving. God now uses the same word picture to assure His repentant people of His non-stop and overflowing love.
Commentator Elizabeth Achtemeier makes this remark on God's promise to love freely. She writes:
"God here promises to remake Israel, to heal it, to love it freely, apart from any condition or repentance and turning on Israel's part. What Israel cannot do for itself, God will do. That is the primary good news of the message of Hosea."-Elizabeth Achtemeier, New International Biblical Commentary, Old Testament Series, Minor Prophets I, pp.110.
Charles L. Feinberg also shares this refreshing insight on the same promise:
"He will love them freely, without a cause in themselves, apart from and regardless of any merit or demerit of theirs, namely, from a very necessity of His being. The floodgate of His love will be opened, and, thank God, it will overwhelm them. His anger will no longer need to be spent upon them...How this refrain sings itself into the very heart of the child of God! God has loved Israel; He does love them now; He will love them freely. In grace all His promises will be fulfilled to them. But future promises for the nation Israel do not avail for the individual Israelite now. He is no more saved because of them than the Gentile. He must now accept the Lord Jesus" -Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets, p. 66-68.
Now the question is: Why will God heal the waywardness of His people? Why will He love them freely? Well, it's because His righteous indignation has turned away from them. He says: "for My anger [Hebrew: 'aphi] has turned away from them." The Hebrew word translated "anger" is "'aph."
"It refers to the breathing part of the body, specifically the nose, nostril, or face (II Sam. 25:23). It is considered a vital part of the body. God made man a living being by breathing into his nostrils (Gen. 2:7). By the act of breathing, emotions can be expressed. In anger the nose dilates and breathing becomes more intense. This word, therefore, is normally used to refer to the anger of men and of God. This anger is expressed in the appearance of the nostrils. The word gives specific emphasis to the emotional aspect of anger and wrath."-The Hebrew-Greek Key Bible Study, 1712.
God will heal Israel of their apostasy and love them freely because figuratively speaking, His nose will no longer dilate. His breathing will no longer become heavy and more intense. When His people look at His face, the appearance of His nose will not give any impression that He is fuming with anger toward them. In other words, genuine repentance on their part will not only bring spiritual healing in their lives, but it will also lead to the removal of the threat of judgment.
Third, God promises Israel: "I will be like the dew to Israel." Dew was one of the key sources of water for Israel. In other words, dew is important for the productivity of the soil of Israel. Keil and Delitzsch write:
"Jehovah will be to Israel a refreshing, enlivening dew, through which it will blossom splendidly, strike deep roots, and spread its shoots far and wide."-Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Testament, Volume 10, p.107.
Elizabeth Achtemeier also writes on God being like the dew to Israel:
"God will be like the dew to Israel. The abundance of dew was absolutely necessary to life and growth in Palestine's arid climate (Deut. 33:13). In fact, dew was later used as a symbol of God's power to raise the dead (Isa. 26:19). As the dew grants life, God will give new life to his people, verse 5."-Elizabeth Achtemeier, New International Biblical Commentary, Old Testament Series, Minor Prophets I, p.110.
Charles L. Feinberg also shares this poignant insight on God being as dew to Israel:
"God will be as dew unto Israel, reminding us of the copious dews which mean so much to the productivity of the soil. This is the third mention of dew in the book of Hosea. In 6:4 it had reference to the goodness of Israel which barely came into existence before it vanished away; in 13:3 it spoke of the transitory character of the whole Northern Kingdom, soon to be swept away in the Assyrian invasion; here it is a figure for God's invigorating and fructifying power in the life of Israel, whereby the people of God will bring forth fruitage unto Him. They will yet take root downward and bear fruit upward, filling the face of the whole earth with fruit."-Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets, p. 66.
Actually, the dew will be vital for the kind of plants that follow.
Now let's remind ourselves of God's three "I will" promises to Israel. They are: "I will heal their apostasy! I will love them freely! I will be like a dew to Israel!Please take note of this! When Yahweh, the Almighty God, the Sovereign Lord says, "I will" don't doubt Him! Nor dare say "He will not." In the wilderness, the children of Israel craved for meat: "Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt" (Numbers 11:18a). God's response to their craving and complaint was: "Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat"(Numbers 11:18b). God said to Moses "I will," but Moses doubted God. Please listen to what Moses said to God: "But Moses said, 'The people, among who I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet You have said, 'I will give them meat in order that they may eat for a whole month.' Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?" (Numbers 11:21-22). Moses doubted God big time. He dared say to God: "You will not" after He had said, "I will." But please listen to how God responded to His doubting prophet! "And the LORD said to Moses, 'Is the LORD's power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not'" (Numbers 11:23). Simply put, God's message to the great prophet who doubted Him is: "When I say 'I will,' it will be. My word will come true. I will move heaven and earth to make sure My word does not fall to the ground. Believe it or not, it will happen exactly as I have spoken." In fact, the rest of the chapter shows that. God's "I will" did not fail. It was fulfilled exactly as He had foretold (Numbers 11:31-32). Notice God didn't have to slaughter flocks and herds. He didn't have to gather all the fish of the sea as Moses thought would have to be done. What's the point? When God says, "I will" we better believe His unlimited power will bring to pass whatever He wills. Do you possess such unshakable faith in God? Do you demonstrate such confidence in God's "I wills" to you?
The outworking of the three "I will" promises of God results in an octave of blessings for Israel. That is, eight specific blessings flow out of the three promises given to Israel. The Old Testament often uses figures of speech that involves trees and flowers when indicating divine blessing. That is exactly what we have here. Much of Palestine is semiarid, and verdant growth suggests abundant rains and prosperity. Thus spiritual as well as material prosperity are represented by the blossoming of a lily, the young shoots of a cedar, and the fragrance of a cedar. In other words, in communicating these blessings to His people, God chose to use vivid imagery well-known to them.
John MacArthur sums up this thought:
"The Lord's love is beautifully presented in metaphors taken from the morning dew, the lily, the cedars of Lebanon, the olive tree, grain, the grapevine, and the cypress tree." -John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Study, p. 981.
Now let's state each blessing and share its significance for the people of Israel. First, using the language of certainty, God says of repentant Israel: "He will blossom like the lily." The Hebrew verb translated "blossom" (parach) also means "flourish," "thrive," "sprout," "spread," "send out shoots," or "bud." God says, Israel will flourish. Israel will thrive. Israel will spread. Israel will send out shoots. What a graphic picture of blessing. Truly, "blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." This blessing is conveyed in the words of Charles L. Feinberg:
"Israel shall then blossom as the lily, known for its purity and productivity. A lily is one of the most productive plants, for it is said that one that one root can produce as many as fifty bulbs." -Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets, p. 67.
The second blessing flowing out of the threefold "I will" promise of God to Israel is this: "and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon." Although the lily is able to multiply at a prolific rate (one root producing as many as fifty bulbs), it has no depth of root. As such, it soon fades. Moving from the imagery lily, God now uses the imagery of a cedar. Israel will take root, literally, strike deep roots, or send down his roots as the cedars of Lebanon. The rooting indicates stability. The cedars of Lebanon send their roots deep into the soil. The deeper the roots, the more the branches spread and cover themselves with splendid green foliage. "The cedars of Lebanon are proverbial for firmness and durability. They spoke of the cedars of Lebanon much as we do today of the Rock of Gibraltar."-Charles L. Feinberg.
The third blessing Israel will experience as a result of God's three "I will"promises to them is simply stated as: "His shoots will sprout." The Hebrew verb translated "sprout," comes from one of the most popular verbs in Hebrew, "halak." It is the verb usually translated as "go," or "walk." Here the verb has the idea of increasing more and more, or growing stronger and stronger. So the imagery here depicts an expanding kingdom like the growth of a great tree: Israel's original calling was to spread its influence through the whole world. In other words, the meaning of the sprouting of his shoots is that of propagation and the multitude of inhabitants. Truly, blessed is the nation whose God's is the Lord! As Israel surrenders to Yahweh, He purposes to make her grow stronger and stronger. This applies to any nation today who honors the true God, revealed fully and finally in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, as their only object of worship. The question is: "Will America surrender to God? Are we honoring God as our only true object of worship?"
The fourth blessing coming out of the "I will" promises to Israel is: "And his beauty will be like the olive tree." The olive tree was regarded as a symbol of strength and prosperity (cf. Psalm 52:8). The Hebrew word translated "beauty" is "hod." It also means splendor, majesty, glory, honor, renown, or ornament. This masculine Hebrew noun is used twenty-four times in the Hebrew Old Testament. It appears eight times in Psalms. It is unique to Hebrew and not found in other Semitic languages. It describes men (Num. 27:20; Prov. 5:9; Jer. 22:18; Dan. 10:8; Hos. 8:6), animals (Job 39:20; Zech. 10:10), and the olive tree (Hos. 14:6). However, most of the time the term is associated with God (1 Chr. 29:25; Ps. 8:1; 21:5; 104:1; 145:5; 148:13;Isa. 30:30; Hab. 3:3) and the Messiah (Zech. 6:13).~Adapted from The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, p. 1721. God is here promising Israel glory, splendor, majesty, honor, that is constant and lasting. Nations who rely on themselves don't have lasting glory and splendor. In fact, their glory and splendor fade over time. But the Bible is saying here that the nation's whose God is the Lord will have lasting glory and beauty, not just in the sight of men, but in the sight of the Lord of the universe. You can't beat that!
The fifth blessing is stated briefly as follows: "And his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon." In the Hebrew, this simply reads: "And his fragrance like Lebanon."The Hebrew word for "fragrance" (reyach), also means "aroma," "scent," or "smell." It is used figuratively of influence, or reputation. It speaks also of the loveliness of Israel. God is saying, He will take care of building Israel's influence and reputation among the nations. Oh how blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord! If America wants a reputation that is like a fragrant aroma among the nations, it is God who can build it and sustain it. When Israel trusted in God in the days of King David, God took it upon Himself to extend and enhance their influence. Do we want that? If so, we must trust in God. Yes, we have on our currency, "In God We Trust." But do we live it? Do we live as a country who truly and faithfully trust in God? Talk is cheap! God has never been impressed with cheap talk. Let's live as a nation who honestly trusts in God. He will Himself extend and enhance our influence and reputation among the nations.
Concerning the last three blessings, recorded in verse 7, Keil and Delitzsch made this insightful remark:
"In v. 7 a somewhat different turn is given to the figure. The comparison of the growth and flourishing of Israel to the lily and to a tree, that strikes deep roots and spreads its green branches far and wide, passes imperceptibly into the idea that Israel is itself the tree beneath whose shade the members of the nations flourish with freshness and vigour." -Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Minor Prophets, Volume 10, p. 108.
With that insight, let's now look at the sixth blessing. The Bible says, "Those who live in his shadow will again raise grain." The Hebrew verb translated "will again raise" (chayah), also means "to live," "to exist," "to enjoy life," "to live anew," "to recover," "to be well," "to make alive," "to enliven," "to animate," "to quicken," "to refresh," "to restore to life." The idea being expressed here is that of renewal, revival, or restoration to life. "Those who sit beneath the shade of Israel, the tree that is bursting into leaf, will revive corn, i.e., cause it to return to life, or produce it for nourishment, satiety, and strengthening." Keil & Delitzsch,Commentary on the Old Testament, Minor Prophets, Volume 10, p. 108.
The seventh blessing is that, "they will blossom like the vine." Feinberg shares this insight on this blessing and the ones preceding it.
"Pure as the lily and durable as the cedar, Israel will also be as fruitful and beautiful as the ever-green olive tree. Her scent will be that of a well-wooded and well-planted stretch of land. Lebanon with its aromatic plants and fragrant flowers can alone describe the fragrance that will be the portion of the Lord's own day in that day. Those who dwell under the shadow of the Lord, those who have taken refuge in Him (cp. Is 4:6), will return to their land, be fruitful as the grain and the vine. They will no more bring forth wild grapes (Is 5:20, but their fragrance will be as the wine of Lebanon. The grapes of Lebanon have been likened in size to plums."- Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets, p.67.
The eighth blessing is stated as follows: "His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon." The Hebrew word for "renown" (zeker) also means "a remembrance," "memory," "memorial," "commemoration," "fame," "name," or "praise." The Bible's teaching here is that Israel will blossom like the vine, whose remembrance, fame, or praise is, as the wine of Lebanon, which has been celebrated from time immemorial.
Commentator Elizabeth Achtemeier shares this insight on the promises and the blessings given in Hosea 14:5-7:
"As the dew grants life, God will give new life to his people, verse 5. Consequently, they will blossom like the large-flowered lilies that flourished and spread through the desert valleys. And they will send out young shoots, verse 6. The images are intended to portray the fertility and multiplication of Israel's populace, in contrast to the earlier picture in 9:11-14. In its new life, given by God, Israel will send down roots like those strong and towering trees of Lebanon that were seen as symbols of durability and permanence (cf. Ps. 92:12; Isa. 2:13; Jer. 22:23; Amos 2:9; Zech. 11:1), verse 5. Their splendor will be like that of the olive tree, noted for its fruitfulness (Ps. 128:3; Jer. 11:16). And they will be pleasing, like the fragrance of Lebanon, verse 6...Israel, given new life by its God, will blossom forth like a spreading vine, becoming renowned for its fruitfulness and vitality and pleasantness, verse 7." -Elizabeth Achtemeier, New International Biblical Commentary, Old Testament Series, Minor Prophets I, pp.110-111.
Have you ever paused to ask yourself: What will happen to this nation when God becomes like the dew to us? In other words, how do we apply this teaching about God's compassionate response to His repentant people? First of all, we must not make the mistake of thinking that we can heal ourselves. We have no power to heal ourselves of all the wounds and woes we have brought upon ourselves because of our turning away from God. When are we going to get that? When are we going to grasp that? When are we going to stop looking in the wrong places for the healing this country needs? Please listen! Only God, the Great Healer, Yahweh Rapha, can heal this land. Only God can "stitch America together." Only God can cure this nation of her waywardness. No one, but God alone can do that for this land. In God we must put our trust to heal us of spiritual apathy, moral decay, racial injustices. Secondly, to experience the compassionate response of God as promised to Israel, believers in this land must set their hearts on honoring God. We must surrender to Him and His ways. We must choose to focus on Him. We must, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, give Him first place in everything. Thirdly, we must sincerely trust in Him and Him alone. A nation whose God is the Lord, trusts in Him. Take God at His word. Turn to Him wholeheartedly.
In His compassionate response, God gives His people astounding promises, a "truck-load" of promises. He will heal them of their waywardness. He will love them freely. He will be like the dew to Israel. Flowing out of these promises is an octave of blessings. As if these were not enough, God now promises His care for His people. Indeed, blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD!
V. Care of God (v. 8).
God is not only compassionate, He is also caring. He always looks with favor upon His people who genuinely repent of their waywardness and wickedness. Ephraim, the representative of the northern kingdom of Israel, was looked upon with favor after their repentance and renunciation of idolatry. In His favor upon their lives, God promises to care for them. The Bible's record of God's promise to care for His people is stated below.
"O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you, I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit" Hosea 14:8 (NASB).
This is one of the most wonderful and refreshing verses in the Bible. "Ephraim" is used here as the representative of Israel, the northern kingdom. The name "Ephraim" means "fruitful." Its first reference in the Bible is in Genesis 41:52, where Joseph named his second son "Ephraim," saying "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."
Please notice before God speaks of His care for Israel, He speaks of idols. It is as if God is reminding Israel that they are not living up to their name. Their idolatry is robbing them of producing fruit for Him. In effect, God is saying to Israel: "I want your idols to be a thing of the past. Have nothing more to do with them. You were once so joined and bound up to idols. But now cast them from you once for all. Renounce your idols altogether! Rely on Me alone as the source of your life! Respond to Me alone! Revere Me alone! Regard Me alone as your God! Remember Me alone as your God! Be consumed with Me alone! Contemplate on Me alone! Why? Because of what I have done and will do for you. I will be your Protector and Provider. I will answer you. I will care for you. I will look after you. I will be responsible for your life. I will protect you. I will provide for you." How truly blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord!
Speaking emphatically, using the emphatic Hebrew pronoun "'ani," God says, "I the Lord, not idols, will care for you. I, not you, is the tree providing shelter, security, sustenance, support, and prosperity. It is from Me your fruitfulness will come. Trust Me to care for you. Trust Me to look after you." Actually, the Hebrew verb translated "Look after" (shur) also means "care for," "regard with watchful care." It also means "to look about for a person," "to be anxious about him," or "care for him." This is so refreshing and reinvigorating! Why? Yahweh Himself is promising to care for a people who honor Him as their God! That is truly the greatest blessing any nation on earth can have.
Now please notice that God in this prophetic message, God compares Himself to a tree: "I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit" Actually, this is the only place in the Old Testament where God is compared to a tree. The word "luxuriant" (Hebrew: ra'anan) also means, "green," "flourishing," "thriving," "verdant," "fresh," or "evergreen." An evergreen tree is ever full of life and strength. This image is given to portray the vitality given to Israel.
Keil and Delitzsch share this insight on God comparing Himself to a tree:
"God compares Himself to a cypress becoming green, not only to denote the shelter which He will afford to the people, but as the true tree of life, on which the nation finds its fruit-a fruit which nourishes and invigorates the spiritual life of the nation. The salvation which this promise sets before the people when they shall return to the Lord, is indeed depicted, according to the circumstances and peculiar views prevailing under the Old Testament, as earthly growth and prosperity; but its real nature is such, that it will receive a spiritual fulfillment in those Israelites alone who are brought to belief in Jesus Christ.'-Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Minor Prophets, Volume 10, p. 108.
Please notice the source of Ephraim's fruitfulness! It is God Himself. Ephraim received his fruitfulness from the Lord. God is Israel's one source of life and good. From Yahweh alone comes Israel's fruit. It is from Him alone can Israel have life and have it abundantly. These words echo the upper room message given by our Lord Jesus before going to the cross: "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Blessed indeed is the nation whose God is the Lord! Their fruit comes from Him.
Elizabeth Achtemeier presents this comment on God's care for His people and its future implications:
"Thus, beyond the destruction of its nation, beyond the punishment of its apostasy, beyond the reckoning for sin, Israel is promised a new life by this God of Hosea, who cannot let his people go. In the future, God will begin a new saving history, leading Israel once again out into the wilderness, where he will woo her tenderly, and making her his own, betrothed to him in righteousness and justice, in covenant love and mercy and faithfulness. There Israel will once more "know the LORD" and will once more cleave to God in the intimate and heartfelt love of a faithful wife for her husband, or in the obedient and trusting love of a son for his father (2:19-20, 23)."-Elizabeth Achtemeier, New International Biblical Commentary, Old Testament Series, Minor Prophets I, pp.111.
There is no denying of the fact that this nation is desperately in need of the care of God. We are also in desperately in need of bearing fruit for God-a fruit which refreshes and reinvigorates the spiritual life of this land. But the question is: Are we looking to God to produce this fruit in our country? Do we believe that our fruit comes from Him alone? Are we convinced that it is from God alone we can have life and have it abundantly? God is willing! God is waiting! God is watching for the nation who will humble herself before Him, and honor Him with all their hearts and with all their soul. That nation will experience His answer! His care! His security! His support! His protection! His provision! Say, America! Do we want that? Say, Israel! Do you want that? Or do we want to continue on the path of self-reliance and worship of our idols? The choice is ours to make!
Having promised His care for His people, Hosea's prophetic message to Israel now closes with an appeal to Israel to take the message to heart and walk in the ways of God. Thus, the call of God to the wise and discerning.
VI. Call of God to the Wise and Discerning (v. 9).
Hosea's prophetic message to God's people in his day ends by pointing to the two ways they can respond to it. Namely, to be wise and take his message to heart and walk in the ways of the Lord, or to be a fool by rebelling against his message and fall. Actually, this is similar to the way the Lord Jesus Himself ended His great Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24-27). Here is Hosea' final appeal to Israel:
"Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them" Hosea 14:9 (NASB).
God's message through His prophet Hosea to His wayward people concludes by offering each of them the alternatives of walking or stumbling (cf. Hosea 4:5; 5:5)-of obedience or rebellion. God says, "I'm presenting you with two ways of living, obediently or disobediently (cf. Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Psalm 1). My ways lead some to life and others to death, according to the different attitudes they assume towards Me. My appeal to all who hear this message is to be wise, to choose My ways, because My ways are right (cf. Psalm 107:43; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)." In other words, God is saying true wisdom and prudence lie in obedience to His ways-the ways of the Lord.
The footnotes in the ESV Study Bible throws further light on this verse:
"The Lord has made his case, and is justified in punishing Israel for ingratitude and covenant breaking. Yet there is a final appeal for the wise, who understand (the same verb used in 4:14: "people without understanding shall come to ruin"). This verse is full of terms otherwise met in the Psalms and Proverbs, such as "wise," "understand," discerning, the ways of the LORD, and the contrast between the upright and transgressors. Most of the book has addressed Ephraim as a corporate body, but these terms in Hosea 14:9 focus on the moral response of individual Israelites. The positive terms in such a setting refer to those who really grasp the grace of the covenant. They also guide them in their own course of life, even when terrible disaster overtakes the people as a whole."- ESV Study Bible, Hosea, p. 1642.
Charles Feinberg excellently sums up God's call to be wise and discerning:
"The last verse is the epilogue of the whole prophecy. The one wise as unto the Lord and prudent before God will understand these things. All the ways of the Lord will be seen as right. The just will delight to walk in them, but transgressors will fall because of them to their own ruin. All prophecy is given to induce a godly walk in conformity with the will of God. This does not always result because the same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay. How blessed it is to have the heart submissive to learn the ways of the Lord, then to follow them diligently to our blessing and that of countless others. The transgressor, who finds delight in the revealed ways of the Lord, will find the purpose of God will condemn him in the hour of judgment."-Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets, p. 67.
Which way have we been walking as a nation? Which path are we treading? As a nation, are we delighting in the ways of God? Are we diligently following them in order to enjoy His blessings?
You can also follow this link to read the 2006 Prayer for the Nation. Also, use this link for the 2007 National Day of Prayer article: Prayer that Moves the Heart and Hand of God. Follow this link for the 2008 National Day of Prayer article:Becoming God's Agent of Revival. Use this link for the 2009 National Day of Prayer article: Staging a Come-Back to God! Follow this link to read the National Day of Prayer article for 2010: Are You a Watchman on the Wall?Click on this link to read the National Day of Prayer for 2011: God Specializes in the Impossible!
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own." Psalm 33:12 (NASB).