Posts Tagged 'restoration of Israel'

Hosea: The Final Appeal

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Hosea 14

 

For 13 grueling chapters, Hosea has given us sermons and rants dealing with sin, judgment, and punishment.  Here, in the final chapter of his book we read of the Lord’s final appeal to errant Israel.  To say this chapter is memorable would be an understatement.  It’s like the rainbow after a storm.  In it, we see a side of God that gives the sinner and backslider hope.  The loving heart of God is revealed in Hosea 14.  Nobody can read this chapter without understanding what God said back in 11:9—

I am God and not man…

If God thought and acted like a man, the game would be over as far as the human race is concerned!  But God is not a man, nor does He think like one.  And He does not deal with us like a man would.  Chapter 14 of Hosea gives all men hope as we discover the glorious triumph of grace.

One time, a king named Zedekiah asked another prophet, Jeremiah, this desperate question:

Is there any word from the Lord?  (Jeremiah 31:17  NKJV)

Zedekiah got his answer, and it was bad news for him.  But God’s Word to Hosea’s people and to backsliders of all ages and dispensations is simple:  Come back.

Returning to the Lord is as simple as these five steps:

Step One

O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity…  (Hosea 14:1  NKJV)

Even in its backslidden condition, the Lord is still Israel’s God!  Imagine the patience of a loving heavenly Father who hasn’t given up on His children and let them go.  This is our God!  Like the prodigal’s father, God never ceased to be Israel’s Father no matter how badly they may have wanted that relationship to end.

God is seen calling lost Israel back to Himself, but that call is based on their sins.  It’s interesting that God does not base His call to return on His love for them, which was real enough.  It was on account of their sins that they needed to come back to Him.  Implicit in God’s call was that (1) the people would have to acknowledge their sinful condition, and (2) they would be forgiven.

It’s in the backslider’s best interest to return to God, confess his sins and accept God’s gracious offer of forgiveness.  Those living in a backslidden condition have a completely skewed perspective.  They have “stumbled” over their sins and they are far worse off than if they had continued serving the Lord.  Sin has blinded them to their spiritually crippled state and inexplicably, backsliders will stubbornly claim they are “so much happier” stuck in their sins.  To these, God calls out, “Come back!”, not “Get lost!”

Step Two

Bring your petition. Come to the Lord and say, “O Lord, take away our sins; be gracious to us and receive us, and we will offer you the sacrifice of praise.”  (Hosea 14:2  TLB)

Verse two serves to underscore the importance of confession of sin and a request for God’s grace in returning to Him.  Hosea’s people had been offering sacrifices mechanically for generations; there was no heart behind them.  Now, however, they are to come to God, not with formal, ritualistic, religious observances, but with honest words spoken from the heart that acknowledge their true condition before the Lord.    Religious observances were of absolutely no value to God.

…they will come with their flocks and herds to sacrifice to God, but it will be too late—they will not find him. He has withdrawn from them and they are left alone.  (Hosea 5:6  TLB)

Truth be told, religion and grace are in constant opposition to each other.  Religion actually has nothing to do with God but everything to do with man.  It is man’s attempt to reach up to God his way.  Grace, however, is God reaching down to man.  Religion and grace cannot coexist; we may come to God in a religious way—man’s way; or we may come to God His way—by His grace.  Only one way is acceptable to God, and that’s the way of grace.  Hosea’s people needed to understand that, and so do we today.

Step Three

“Assyria cannot save us, nor can our strength in battle; never again will we call the idols we have made ‘our gods’; for in you alone, O Lord, the fatherless find mercy.”  (Hosea 14:3  TLB)

Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.  (KJV)

Their words of repentance are to be backed up by actions.  It’s one thing to own up to the wrong you’ve done, but it’s another thing to stop it cold.  Israel had been turning to other nations for help for generations, but in coming to God in repentance, they were to stop that disobedient act.  In fact, there were three things that sins that Israel had to repent from:  reliance on Assyria for salvation; relying on Egypt for military help; and relying on man-made idols for spiritual blessing and guidance.

In the KJV’s  “we will not ride upon horses,” Israel finally admits to a sin they committed hundreds and hundreds of years earlier:  the importation of horses  from Egypt.  This act was an outright rebellion against the command of Moses not to return to Egypt in search of horses.

Solomon’s horses were brought to him from Egypt and southern Turkey, where his agents purchased them at wholesale prices.  (1 Kings 10:28  TLB)

Be sure that he doesn’t build up a large stable of horses for himself, nor send his men to Egypt to raise horses for him there, for the Lord has told you, ‘Never return to Egypt again.’  (Deuteronomy 17:16  TLB)

How does this apply to backsliders today?  Christians must always be on guard against the deceptive lure of trusting anything or any person other than God.  A false God may take many forms.  What is their in your life that you rely on for security and assurance other than God?  The way back to God for us is the same as the way for Israel:  honestly confess our sins and stop them.

Step Four

The fourth step in returning to God (and staying with Him) is to believe in His promises or blessings for the future.  Restoration always follows repentance.  When we come to Him in repentance, God restores us to complete fellowship with Him and when at last Israel comes to God in repentance, that nation will be restored.

The remainder of this chapter describes the blessings awaiting Israel in the future.  They still have not repented on a national scale in the way they need to and they won’t until the days of the Tribulation.  The blessings in verses 4—8 will not be fully given to national Israel until the Millennium.  These verses are, therefore, eschatological.

I will refresh Israel like the dew from heaven; she will blossom as the lily and root deeply in the soil like cedars in Lebanon.  Her branches will spread out as beautiful as olive trees, fragrant as the forests of Lebanon.  Her people will return from exile far away and rest beneath my shadow. They will be a watered garden and blossom like grapes; they will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.

“O Ephraim! Stay away from idols! I am living and strong! I look after you and care for you. I am like an evergreen tree, yielding my fruit to you throughout the year. My mercies never fail.”  (Hosea 14:5—8  TLB)

We cannot imagine how glorious restored Israel will be.  In love, God has promised to do all this and more for His people.  That same redeeming love was manifested in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ’s vicarious work on the Cross does for us what will happen to Israel during the Millennium.

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!  (1 Corinthians 5:17  TLB)

An integral part of this process is found in verse 4—

Then I will cure you of idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be forever gone!

Note that God will cure the sin sickness of Israel; Israel will not cure itself because it cannot cure itself.  Christians need to understand this, too.  It is Jesus Christ that makes us into a “new creation,” we don’t do that.  It’s a work of grace.

Step Five

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things. Whoever is intelligent, let him listen. For the paths of the Lord are true and right, and good men walk along them. But sinners trying them will fail.  (Hosea 14:9  TLB)

This verse is what some scholars have called “a noble epilogue.”  It is also a fitting climax to the book.  Hosea had dealt with some incredible themes in his book:

  • The sovereignty of God, chapters 1—5;
  • Holiness, chapters 4—7;
  • Justice, chapters 8—10;
  • Love, chapters 11—14.

Verse 9 really is an appeal to his readers—including us—to understand and discern what he written.  When it comes to the Word of God – Hosea and the other 65 books –  constant reading, studying, and application is necessary because in doing so, we will not go astray but will remain on a path that leads to the Lord.

Conclusion

Hosea was, in terms of his preaching, a failure.  His efforts changed nothing in Israel.  Shortly after he ministered, the nation he loved so much stumbled and fumbled their way into captivity.

However, God judges us using a different standard.  His standard is:  faithfulness.  In God’s eyes, Hosea was a stunning success because he remained absolutely faithful.  He was unequaled among the Old Testament prophets.  He endured the faithlessness and betrayal of both his wife and his country, but he saw aspects of God’s character never seen before.

 

 

Hosea: A Divine Betrothal

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HOSEA 2

 

God’s love for Israel is hard to understand.  Almost from the very beginning she had rebelled against Him, complained, and been guilty of spiritual adultery.  Israel’s sin ran so deep; it was as though rebellion was in her DNA.

For their mother has committed adultery. She did a shameful thing when she said, ‘I’ll run after other men and sell myself to them for food and drinks and clothes.’  (Hosea 2:5  TLB)

But God’s love for Israel did not depend on her loveliness.  In fact, God’s love for sinful man has nothing to do with sinful man.

In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins.  (1 John 4:10  TLB)

Yes, God’s love is very difficult to understand.  It’s agape love; a special love that is unconditional.  God loves us as much as He can—He will never love us less, and He cannot love us more.

The allegory in Hosea illustrates this concept of God’s amazing love better than any sermon ever could.

I will bind you to me forever with chains of righteousness and justice and love and mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and love, and you will really know me then as you never have before.

“In that day,” says the Lord, “I will answer the pleading of the sky for clouds, to pour down water on the earth in answer to its cry for rain. Then the earth can answer the parched cry of the grain, the grapes, and the olive trees for moisture and for dew—and the whole grand chorus shall sing together that ‘God sows!’ He has given all!

“At that time I will sow a crop of Israelites and raise them for myself! I will pity those who are ‘not pitied, and I will say to those who are ‘not my people,’ ‘Now you are my people’; and they will reply, ‘You are our God!’ ”  (Hosea 2:19—23  TLB)

1.  The manner of God’s betrothal

What exactly is a betrothal?  Literally is means “to woo a virgin.”  Or, we may say betrothal is the act of courtship.  This is what God said He would do to Israel:  He would court her.  He would, in time, win Israel for Himself.  This is God’s solemn promise to Israel that in the future she would be betrothed to Him forever.  In that day, Israel will never again be estranged from God, as in Old Testament times.

How will God do this?   This chapter of Hosea describes God’s technique for “wooing” Israel.

In righteousness

God would bind Himself to Israel in complete righteousness.   His betrothal to Israel will be based on His perfect character and Israel’s real need.  What is the thing that Israel needs most?  She needs to be righteous.  So what God is saying to Israel is that “in that day,” He would impute, or cover, her with His righteousness.

In justice

The betrothed, Israel, has been shown to be completely unworthy to be the Lord’s bride.  She had been shown to be guilty of heinous and awful sins, completely covered in a sin-debt she could never hope to repay.  How can she be made clean enough to be wed to God?  God will deal with Israel is complete justice.  Sin must be judged.  Sinners must be paid their wages:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23  NIV)

But, through the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, God is able to deal with Israel (and, in fact, all sinners) in a perfectly just way:

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.  (1 John 2:2  NIV)

He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s.  (1 John 2:2  TLB)

Sin and guilt must be judged and they have been judged in Jesus Christ.  God’s eternal Son, in seeking to bind lost humanity to God the Father, took on its nature, bore its sin, and shed His Blood to cleanse us; to make it fit to be the betrothed.

In lovingkindness

This word has reference to the aspect of God’s covenant-keeping nature.  His love for Israel will be manifested in His faithfulness to His Word or promise concerning her.  This idea is expressed over 20 times throughout the Psalms.  God promised some very specific things to Israel—things that have not come to pass yet—and His nature guarantees that those promises will be fulfilled.

In mercy

The word used here is ruhamah, or “compassion.”  And God’s compassion for Israel is manifold!   It is multifaceted.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one pall things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  (Ephesians 1:7—10  NKJV)

The mercy or the compassion of God is a strong motivational force that beckons us to completely yield ourselves to Christ.  When you understand all that God did for you in Christ, don’t you want to love Him back?  Isn’t that enough to compel you to live for Him?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:1, 2  NKJV)

In faithfulness

Finally, this proposed marriage will be made by God in total faithfulness.  God’s faithfulness to Israel is what is in view here, but faithfulness is a two-way street.  In the Old Testament, God had always been faithful to Israel but that faithfulness was not returned.  Therefore, there was a necessary separation between Israel and God.  However, in that great future day of the reconciliation of all things, a brand new relationship will be established by God; that separation will come to an end and Israel will be faithful to God for the first time.

When the people of Israel have finally received all that God has for them, they will finally know God and will finally be faithful to Him.  This new relationship was on Jesus’ mind in the Garden as He prayed to His Father:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  (John 17:3  NKJV)

The simple fact is, the ability to “know God” is a gift from God.  This gift is given to us as much as it will be given to Israel in that future day.

2.  The purpose of the betrothal

The purpose of this betrothal is obvious:  eternal union with God

That Israel may really know God

Israel certainly doesn’t know God today.  As a nation, she is so secular she can’t get too much farther away from Him!  But when their sin problem is finally taken care of, they will gain eternal perspective; they will finally see God for Who He really is and of course they will see Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

This kind of knowledge of God is not head knowledge, but rather heart knowledge.  It is this heart knowledge that results in salvation.

The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new contract with the people of Israel and Judah. It won’t be like the one I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a contract they broke, forcing me to reject them, says the Lord.  But this is the new contract I will make with them: I will inscribe my laws upon their hearts, so that they shall want to honor me; then they shall truly be my people and I will be their God.  At that time it will no longer be necessary to admonish one another to know the Lord. For everyone, both great and small, shall really know me then, says the Lord, and I will forgive and forget their sins.  (Jeremiah 31:31—34  TLB)

But this “change of heart” is not something Israel will be able to do for herself.  God will do it; He will give her a new heart.

I will give them hearts that respond to me. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with great joy.  (Jeremiah 24:7  TLB)

This is something every sinner can attest to:  God has given them a new heart, one that beats after Him.  It was a desire of David’s too, as he expressed it in Psalm 51:

Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires.  (Psalm 51:10  TLB)

Israel will confess God

Verse 23 makes it clear:

You are our God!

Verses 22 and 23 constitute a play on words that doesn’t come across in the English translations of our Bible.  The play on words has to do with Gomer’s children, a son called Jezreel, a daughter Lo-Ruhamah and another son Lo-Ammi.  God will not only bring the family back together again (regather Israel), but they cease to be “Lo-Ruhamah,” the pitiless daughter of a harlot.  God will show them mercy.  In our day today, Israel is really “Lo-ammi,” they are “not God’s people.”  But in that future day, God will finally declare that “they are my people” and they will say in all earnestness, “You are our God.”  This isn’t happening yet.  It will happen in the future.  This is an exciting prophecy for the Millennium.

Israel will be partners with God

This is something to stop and ponder for a moment.  According to Genesis, a wife is to be a husband’s helper; she is to bring into a marriage something her husband lacks.  She becomes his partner in life.  So it will be with Israel.  When she is finally united to her Lord, she will become His partner in the Kingdom.  Again, this finds its fulfillment during the Millennium when the Jews become the great evangelists, taking the Gospel of the Kingdom all over the world.

But consider how this applies to believers today.  Today we are co-workers with Christ.

We are only God’s coworkers.  (1 Corinthians 3:9a  TLB)

We, who have become part of God’s family, have a responsibility today to work with Christ in building His Church; it is our responsibility to work to extend the Kingdom in the here and now through witnessing and sharing the Gospel with the lost.  If you are in God’s family, then “the family business” ought to be yours.


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