INTRODUCTION: Have you ever “messed up”? The people of Hosea’s time had “messed up,” but God was calling them back. Notice how God uses the language and imagery of nature to compare to the forgiveness of sin. If they returned, He said, they would be His:
1. Lilies (v. 5).
2. Cedars of Lebanon (v. 5 NIV).
3. Olive Trees (vv. 5–6). Also see Psalm 52:8.
4. Wheat (v. 7). “They shall be revived like grain.”
5. Grapes (v. 7). “They shall . . . grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.”
6. Cyprus Trees (v. 8).1
The book addresses the way in which people have been unfaithful to God, but also how God has been faithful to us. The Book of Hosea can be divided into two parts: Hosea’s marriage and his message. The events in his marriage are a picture of what God is experiencing with His people. Just as Hosea experienced Gomar’s unfaithfulness, discipline, and restoration, God is also experiencing our unfaithfulness, discipline, and restoration. In Chapter 14, this ultimate restoration occurs and it is because of God’s forgiveness. Incidentally, the parallel the marriage relationship between a husband and wife are used to illustrate God’s relationship to us. So this passage has practical help for marriages which are messed up, as well as relationships with God which are messed up.
Chapters 1-3 – The Illustration of Marriage, Forgiveness, and Faithfulness
Chapters 4-13 – Unfaithfulness, Discipline, and Restoration
Chapter 14 – Ultimate Restoration
TS: God is like the husband waiting for his wife to return to him.
GOD WAITS FOR US TO RETURN TO HIM (14:1-3)
“Israel, return to Yahweh your God, for you have stumbled in your sin.” (Hosea 14:1, HCSB)
God is bringing charges against His people. They have committed unfaithfulness (adultery) with Him. They were called to be His wife and He was to be their husband. Instead, they decided to cheat on God. The people of God departed from God and chased after other gods. He brought three charges against Israel:2
There is no knowledge of God, no steadfast love, and no truth. (6:6)
Israel had no steadfast love for God (11:1-4)
the nation was full of deception and lies (13:1-4)
God wanted them to return to Him.
“Take words of repentance with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sin and accept what is good, so that we may repay You with praise from our lips.” (Hosea 14:2, HCSB)
God wants us to come back to Him. Even though He charges us with sin, He is also capable and willing to forgive our sin.
“Take words” (14:2). God does not ask us to bring gifts or sacrifices. Rather He asks us to bring words when we come to Him. Three kinds of words are identified: words of confession (“forgive all our sins”), words of praise (“the fruit of our lips”), and words of commitment (“we will”). When you and I come to God today, these three kinds of words are still the most important things we can bring to the Lord.3
“Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses, and we will no longer proclaim, ‘Our gods!’ to the work of our hands. For the fatherless receives compassion in You.”” (Hosea 14:3, HCSB)
In times of trouble, people trust in different things to get them through. Some trust in government (Assyria), some trust in tools (sometimes the tools are medicine, or physical objects – horses), and others trust in man-made idols.
TS: Because God is waiting, He is forgiving.
GOD IS A FORGIVING GOD (14:4-8)
“I will heal their apostasy; I will freely love them, for My anger will have turned from him.” (Hosea 14:4, HCSB)
Apostasy = unfaithfulness
Only God’s forgiveness, not other things we may trust in, can help us.
GOD’S GIVING FORGIVENESS
God heals our unfaithfulness
God freely loves us
God turns His anger away from us.
These three steps are are also essential for every marriage
A spouse has to heal the other’s unfaithfulness
The unfaithfulness has happened. You can’t change the past. However, you do have the power to heal someone else of their past.
A spouse has to freely love the other
Love is a free gift. I can’t buy it. I can’t bribe someone of it. Love requires that I share it with someone else. My wife has to give her love to me. I have to give my love to my wife. It is a free gift that we should continually give to one another. Love can be denied, but it shouldn’t.
A spouse has to turn anger away from the other
Anger is a natural reaction to another person’s unfaithfulness. God was really upset at His wife’s unfaithfulness. Instead of leaving the relationship, God healed it.
But please do not miss the personal message here: backsliders may return to the Lord, experience His forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and be restored to the place of blessing and usefulness. The closing verses present two ways: the way of the Lord, which is right, and the way of transgressors, which is wrong. Claim v. 4 for yourself and experience the healing of sins forgiven.4
“I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily and take root like the cedars of Lebanon. His new branches will spread, and his splendor will be like the olive tree, his fragrance, like the forest of Lebanon. The people will return and live beneath his shade. They will grow grain and blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:5-7, HCSB)
In these three verses, God shows how He heals forgiveness. He uses the imagery of a tree to illustrate this healing. God provides the water nourishment. Just as water nourishes the tree, God’s forgiveness nourishes our relationships. Just as person would water a parched plant, God waters a parched and hurting relationship. As God restores us, our relationships grow to be healthy.
“Ephraim, why should I have anything more to do with idols? It is I who answer and watch over him. I am like a flourishing pine tree; your fruit comes from Me.” (Hosea 14:8, HCSB)
God fulfilled His promise to restore Israel (and Judah) starting with the decree of Cyrus and under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah (cf. the books of Ezra and Nehemiah). As indicated in Hosea 14:8, Israel was once for all cured of her idolatry. Her faith in God may have weakened later on, but idolatry never had the appeal it once had.5
Yahweh is saying that he would have nothing more to do with idols. The implication is that Ephraim should have nothing more to do with idols either. He promised his people that he would care for them, i.e., respond to their needs. He promised to be “a leafy cypress” providing shelter for them. He indeed is the true tree of life on which Israel finds its fruits. “From me is your fruit found.” The fruit which God supplies nourishes the spiritual life of his people.6
TS: Because God was a forgiving husband to his people, we should be a forgiving people toward one another.
GOD WANTS US TO BE A FORGIVING PEOPLE (14:9)
“Let whoever is wise understand these things, and whoever is insightful recognize them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9, HCSB)
It doesn’t matter who needs forgiveness, we need to give forgiveness. This is a trait, a characteristic, and habit, a pattern which Christians are expected to give to one another. Jesus was asked how often one should give forgiveness, and His response was “every time”. The righteous walk in forgiveness. The rebellious stumble in forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not cheap or easy, but it is available today to those who turn to God through Christ. Jesus has authority to forgive our sins on earth (Luke 5:24). The sick among God’s people can also be prayed for and they can be healed; if sins are involved they will be forgiven (James 5:15). Believers forgiven by God are to imitate God by forgiving those who ask us (Luke 17:3, 4). He forgives our wickedness and purifies us before Himself, although it cost Him His Son (Hebrews 8:12; 1 John 1:9). Forgiveness for us costs very little—except perhaps our pride. For those who humbly turn to God, there is forgiveness.7
1 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2003 Edition. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002), 277.
2 Samuel J. Schultz and Gary V. Smith, Exploring the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 158.
3 Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion, electronic ed. (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1991), 530.
4 Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993), Ho 11–14.
5 Mark A. Copeland, The “Executable Outlines” Series, (Wheaton: CCEL, 1999) http://www.ccel.org
6 James E. Smith, The Minor Prophets, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1994), Ho 14:1–8.
7 Eugene E. Carpenter and Philip W. Comfort, Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Defined and Explained (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 64.