Everyone, except for the biblical scholars among us (I am not one) or those truly committed to the faithfulness of reading the Word (I hope I am becoming this), has those books – the ones they never engage with and push off to the side in neglect. But, what a shame if we fail to read something that carries the same weight and the same truth as the Gospels themselves. For this reason, at this moment in time, I aim to read a less-covered Old Testament prophetical book in conjunction with my other Scripture reading.
I just completed Hosea, and, after recognizing that the Gospel arches supremely over the whole of the book and the book consistently demonstrates the character of God and the fullness of his wonderful attributes, I found myself with joy. In this article, I decided to write a concise commentary on Hosea 14, the book’s final chapter. I hope it encourages you and awakens you to the goodness of God and the wonder of his Gospel, as it did for me.
“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.”
Why should you return? Because you have seen and witnessed and experienced the severity of the consequences of sin. You have stumbled. Why have you stumbled? Because of your iniquity. Stumbling soon follows sin, as drunkenness soon follows drink.
“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.”
How are we to return? We plead with him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, namely, “Take away all iniquity,” and, in doing so, we offer our sacrifices, our bodies (Romans 12:1) and our lives, and ask him to “accept what is good.”
“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.””
“Assyria will not save us” because there is no pardon for iniquity, no comfort for the shame and destruction of sin, and only the emptying fill of pleasures and comforts that do not satisfy. So, “we will not ride on horses” and seek to flee the LORD, and no longer will we say, “‘Our God,’ to the works of our hands,” for we have seen our iniquity, we have seen the futility of idolatry. “In you the orphan finds mercy,” for we are all orphans, we belong to the dust alone, and have no family and no inheritance of our own accord. Truly, we are alone in a cold and dark world. But in Christ, we have “adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5), a wonderful inheritance (Ephesians 1:11). We are welcome in with warmth and rejoicing (Luke 15:20-24).
“I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.”
The response and the great gift of God’s acceptance and love, a gift we cannot lose, and one that should spring us to joy, to love, and to obedience. Such words should not pass us by in the brevity of interaction, but rather, landing on us only even in partiality, bring us to the ends of ourselves in thankfulness.
“I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;” (Hosea 14:5)
He will be “Like the dew” to Israel, the chosen of God, rich in provision and constancy every morning, in grace and mercy (Lamentations 3:23). Israel will “blossom like the lily” in beauty and splendor, and “take root like the trees of Lebanon” in the things of God, His glorification, his Word, his worship, and his sanctification. These will sustain and ground in the face of that which seeks to uproot.
“his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon.”
In the LORD, Israel grows in security as “his shoots shall spread out,” to anchor and strengthen. Security exudes a beauty that springs from a confidence and a hope in God, a waiting on him, that produces the fragrance of Christ, a fragrance more pleasing than “Lebanon.”
“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.”
Only “beneath my shadow” will Israel dwell secure, and “flourish” and “blossom.” The plant that faces constant uprooting and destruction, without cover and refuge or an established rooting deep into the earth, cannot grow. The plant that receives the Light, as well as the cover of shade, will reach towards the heavens and discover its fullness in due time,
“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.”
“What have I do to with idols?” Nothing, because the LORD acts, he loves, his disciplines, and he is God, while the creations and sculptures of man lay lifeless. He can “answer and look after you.” He is “an evergreen cypress,” strong and secure, always full of life and in season. Our fruit comes from him alone, and any goodness and our holiness (John 15), as well as our provision, for “apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5), and apart from him we do not “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
“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.” (Hosea 14:9)
“The ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them,” for the upright long for the precepts and commandments of the LORD. The upright, full of the Spirit and the righteousness of Christ, desire the things of God. How? And why? “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Hebrews 8:10). The LORD etches his laws no longer into stone tables, but into the once stone hearts of his people, that he might make us alive to him.
“The upright walk,” meaning, they build their life upon and around the ways of the LORD. However, here we see the two-fold purpose of the Law – both to show man the way in which he should live, and also to show him that he cannot live in this way on his own and according to his nature.
“Transgressors stumble in them,” for the purpose of the law manifests as a stumbling block and an awareness of sin. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
Through the law comes knowledge of sin, for transgressors stumble. But take heart, “such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
He frees us from the bonds of impurity and writes his commandments on our hearts, so that we might desire him and hate sin and the ways of the world.