Summary: God’s great promise of forgiveness and salvation - you either walk his way or stumble in your sin
Hosea 14 – Walk or Stumble?
I don’t know if you saw the photograph of the lorry that got stuck for a few days down a country lane in England. The driver had used satnav to give him directions but the sad thing was stanav did not make any allowances for the width of the lorry in relation to the width of the road. Directions are important. Sometimes on a journey we quite literally do not know which way to go. When it comes to Hosea 14 the people of Israel have two choices laid before them. One path will lead to God, to life and peace and the other will lead away from God to death and destruction. They must make a choice, as we must also.
Let me read a few verses to you from Joshua 24.14-15. Joshua is near the end of his life and he lays before the people of God a choice. Listen to the answer the people give in verse 16. The sad thing is in a very short period of time they have gone back on those words and started to worship Baal and the pagan gods of the nations around them. That is exactly where they are in the days of Hosea. So as we come to this last chapter in Hosea we see God putting the same choice before the people as Joshua did many years before. God speaks to them about making a wise or a foolish choice. In fact verse 9 is akin to Psalm 1.
Genuine repentance – verses 1-3.
Israel is invited to return to God and she is reminded, once again, of her sins. God’s forgiveness is to be accompanied by awareness of sin. In verse 1 Israel is to admit that they were wrong. None of us like admitting that we are wrong and yet without that first step the people of Israel will never repent of their sins and be restored to fellowship with Almighty God, and neither will you. They were to ‘return to God’ which meant turning away from the idols, from the idolatry and immorality that had been their way of life for so long. Israel had consistently turned away from God, now they had to turn to God. In the past the call to turn to God had fallen on deaf ears (6.1 and 4) and yet God did not give up on them. There is encouragement there for us all – God does not give up on us and we should not either. Against all deserving, the marriage holds, he is still hers – 3.1 there is a costly commitment involved.
Verse 2 they had to confess their sins. Look at what they are to bring before God – ‘words’ and not sacrifices. Their sacrifices are no longer acceptable because they had bee corrupted by the worship of Baal. They were to speak genuine words of repentance and not empty words of religiosity, as they had done in the past. Note too, they were not to come seeking to justify their past behaviour or make excuses and plead extenuating circumstances. They were to confess their sins before God. They were to ask God to ‘forgive us all our sins…’ When they ask for forgiveness God graciously receives them. Prayer is to be their sacrificial offering to God – hence the phrase ‘that we may offer the fruit of our lips.’ Literally translated ‘that we may offer our lips as bullocks’ – the animal of sacrifice. Their prayers of repentance was the only offering that was now acceptable to God. In order to pray this they must first admit they were sinners before God, they had to turn to God and confess their sins before Him and plead that He graciously receive them. Is this not the prayer that the Prodigal son formed whilst sitting in the pigsty? Is this not the prayer of Isaiah when the glory of the Lord is revealed to him in Isaiah 6?
Verse 3 they had to turn back to God. Let us not underestimate this step. In turning back to God the Israelites had to admit they were wrong, that they were unable to save themselves, that their gods couldn’t save them and that God alone was able to bring salvation to them. Look at what they confess. They confess the utter powerlessness and futility of all that they had put their trust in. The Assyrians and the Egyptians, the powerful nations around them, were unable to save them from the judgment of God. In fact they were the means of God’s judgment on Israel. At one time they put their trust and faith in their war horses, their military might, but it proved impotent against other nations. They turned to the gods they had fashioned with their own hands only to realise that these were empty, dead and powerless pieces of wood and silver. They come to the realisation that in God alone is salvation and compassion found. They are the orphan child that God had promised to be the helper of (Psalm 10.14). No longer will Israel play politics or military intrigue with the nations around them. No more false beliefs and pagan worship. True repentance leads inevitably to a rejection and renunciation of all past behaviour that led them away from God. They not only have to confess such actions were wrong they have to break the bonds that bind them by turning away from such actions in the future. Can I say to you, as humbly as I can, you must do the same. You confess your sin and ask God to forgive you and part of that ‘repentance’ is removing from your life the things that once ensnared and led you into sin. It may mean getting rid of things in your life – material things. It may mean breaking off from certain relationships and social networks. It may be that you need to no longer go certain places or be in certain company – because it was those places and those people who led you away from Christ in the first place.