Summary: The hard way home to God
The hard way home
Part 3 of a series of 3
The story is told of a man who was travelling in the wilder parts of Ireland. Eventually decided to return home to Dublin, but on the way, seemed to get lost. In due course he came across a likely looking local, and asked for directions. After much scratching over their head, the helpful local said (and I won’t attempt the Irish accent) ’what if I wanted to go to Dublin, I wouldn’t start from here!’.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at the message of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet who was sent by God to speak to the nation of Israel about three thousand years ago. Hosea was instructed by God to marry a prostitute, as a particularly shocking visual aid. The purpose of the visual aid was to get through to the people the corruption of their relationship with God, their nation and their living. We thought a bit about how desperately broken hearted God must have been to have resort to such a shocking visual aid to get his message across. Last week, we thought about the unbroken love of God, which continued to love his people despite their promiscuity, despite their unfaithfulness to him.
Of course, God’s visual aid had a purpose. His love had a purpose. And the purpose of God in sending Hosea, and in instructing Hosea to live out of this dramatic visual aid, was to bring his people back to him. God’s purpose was the return of his people to the covenant relationship with him. This is where we come to our reading from Hosea Ch14. It begins with the words ’Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God’. God’s desire is for his people to return to their relationship with him.
Now you will remember that the nation of Israel, God’s people, were in a particularly bad moral and spiritual situation. The covenant relationship with God had become corrupted. The worship of the nation had become corrupted. The clergy were corrupted. And national life in every sense had become corrupted. And so, returning home to God from the situation of corruption in which this nation of Israel stood at that time was going to be hard work. In a slight paraphrase of our Irishman, if I wanted to get home to God, I wouldn’t have started from there. Returning to God from the situation of corruption in which the nation of Israel found itself was going to be a hard way home.
Nevertheless, although the way home was going to be hard, it was not going to be impossible.
Recognise the facts
The first step on the hard way home requires that the people recognise the facts. It requires that the people of God acknowledge their sinfulness, their unfaithfulness, and their promiscuity. It requires that the people of God recognise that their covenant relationship with God has become corrupted, and their national and personal lives have become corrupted. In ch14.1, God’s people are called to return to the Lord, because ’your sin has made you stumble and fall’. There is no point hiding the facts, concealing the truth. Their unfaithfulness has caused them to fall from their relationship with God. Having acknowledged their unfaithfulness, the next step in recognising the facts is for the people to acknowledge their own inadequacy. In ch14.3, the people are required to acknowledge that the schemes that they had tried to put together could never protect them. The people are required to acknowledge that the alliances that that they had tried to make with Assyria could not save them. The people are required to acknowledge that military might is inadequate. The people needed to acknowledge that the corrupted and pagan gods that they had been following could not truly be their God. The people are required to acknowledge that the efforts of their own hands could not restore their relationship with God.
Return to God
The second step on the hard way home requires that the people of God return to God. This is a repeated cry of Hosea. We see it time and again through the book. Ch6: 1 he says’ come let us return to the Lord’. Ch10: 12 he says ‘ it is the time to seek the Lord’. And this is the keynote of our reading from chapter 14 today. ‘ Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God’. If you return to something, you are turning back to it. You are going back. And going back requires two things. It requires a returning back to, and a going back from. It requires a going back to God, but it also requires a going back from all that had separated the people from God. It required that all that has separated the people from God, all their iniquity, all their unfaithfulness, needed to be taken away from them. In order to do this, having recognise the facts of their unfaithfulness, they needed they needed to return to God to confess the facts to him. And we see this clearly in14: 2, where Hosea exhorts the people to return to the Lord and confess their sins and asked his forgiveness. You see it is not enough for the people to acknowledge and recognise the facts. But it is necessary to confess them to God. For only then can he deal with them. As a sense of this in ch5: 15, where God says that ‘ he will return to his place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face’. The confession of sins is part of the return to God.