Hosea 14:1-9

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.”

I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon. His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon. They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; your faithfulness comes from me. Those who are wise understand these things; those who are discerning know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them. Hosea 14:1-9

Hosea, writing in the same years as the early portions of Isaiah, lived through the fall of the northern kingdom to Assyria. The poetry of the book reaches toward the suffering that was just around the corner at the hand of the Babylonians. He wrote out of a time of suffering and he suffered along the way. The prophet’s home life mirrored the betrayal of Israel.

Israel’s fundamental sin was idolatry. Chasing after gods who are not gods. Trusting in powers and forces that led people away from God and God’s will for their lives. Just as Israel was unfaithful to God, Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to him. Their children were living reminders of the unfaithfulness that marred their lives.

But Hosea comes out of that with strong words of promise and hope.

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. There IS a way back. There IS a way home. But as if often the case, the cure will feel as bad as the disease. At least at first. And like an addict who isn’t going to suffer the pain of recovery until the pain of their addiction is even worse, Israel isn’t easily or quickly going to let go and let God. They are going to go their own way as long, and as far, as they can. Until they hit the brick wall that signals their repentance and their return.

When that time comes – and just saying that such a time is possible is an incredible sign of hope – God will be waiting with open arms and a loving welcome. So God always waits for us.

The richest irony of this tragic period in the history of Israel is how it all started. In 2 Kings 16:1-20, the story is told of how King Ahaz reached out to the king of Assyria for support. Seeking to preserve his kingdom, Ahaz asked for help and then sweetened the deal by sending gold that he looted out of the temple. Later, after the Assyrian king rescued Ahaz from his enemies, Ahaz visited him. He saw the altar before which the Assyrians worshipped and then made a copy of it for the temple back home. The irony is that the Assyrians, viewed by the king as their saviors, ultimately turned against them with devastating consequences.

And that is how idolatry always works. It looks good on the outside. It looks good to those who embrace it. But it always wants our hearts and more…until it turns around and bites us. We look up and wonder what hit us. We look up and wonder what happened. How did we get here? And then we realize that God is never the one who moves. God never leaves us.

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we do love shiny things. We love power, money, fame. We think armies protect our freedom. We think putting the right people in the right offices will save us. We think that you care about us more than others. We find our security in our stuff. Hosea could write today and only the names would be changed. Help us find our way home to you. Help us come back to you, to trust only in you, and then to act out of that trust alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Hosea 14:1-9”

  1. Dave Aemstrong Says:

    Kerry, I think you are on to something here! Say it again and shout it from the house top.

  2. Char White Says:

    Kerry, thank you for this very timely reminder!

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