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Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God

17 March • Friday of the Third Week in Lent


Hosea 14:1-9

1. Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,

for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.

2. Take with you words and return to the LORD;

say to him,

“Take away all iniquity;

accept what is good,

and we will pay with bulls

the vows of our lips.

3. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses;

and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands.

In you the orphan finds mercy.”

4. I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely,

for my anger has turned from them.

5. I will be like the dew to Israel;

he shall blossom like the lily;

he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;

6. his shoots shall spread out;

his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon.

7. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain;

they shall blossom like the vine;

their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

8. O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you.

I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.

9. 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 upright walk in them,

but transgressors stumble in them.

 

Meditation

The Book of Hosea is full of terrible words: scathing attacks on the Israelites for their unfaithfulness, idolatry and immorality; horrifying images of coming judgement. God will rip his people to pieces like a fierce predator (13:7-8); God will be like a scorching east wind, sucking the life out of his people (13:15); little children and pregnant women will die hideously (13:16).

But at the beginning of Hosea 14 we read of different kind of words: words of repentance with which the people can come before God. Here the people are urged to confess their sins and plead for forgiveness, to acknowledge their folly in seeking help from pagan nations like Assyria and in worshipping false gods. Here the people are encouraged to place their hope in their God, in whom ‘the orphan finds mercy’ (v.3)—what an appealing image!

God promises to heal his people; his anger is over (v.4). In place of the earlier images of death, there are images of life and fruitfulness (vv.5-7): refreshing dew, plants taking root and producing a fragrant and delightful harvest. Where does this new life come from? From the Lord of life himself.


At the end God depicts himself using a daring and powerful image (v.8): ‘I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.’ Israel previously sought guidance from pieces of dead wood (4:12)—lifeless and futile idols that could not do anything. Now God likens himself to a living tree, under which his people can find shade, live fruitful and productive lives.

If we have drifted from God, here is a text in which every word encourages us to return to God and find healing. What are we waiting for?

 

Prayer

God, we confess our sins before You and ask for forgiveness. Thank You that we can place our hope in God and find mercy. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

 

Action

Do encourage others who have drifted from God to return to God. They will receive healing and the abundant life of Jesus Christ.

Dr Philip Satterthwaite

Lecturer in OT and Biblical Interpretation

Biblical Graduate School of Theology

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