By Josiah Spencer
a member of Covenant Reformed Chapel, Greentown, OH
In the first eight chapters of this book, Hosea is sharply reprimanding Israel for their national rebellion and apostasy. He repeatedly informs them of the punishment that lies ahead if they would not repent. In this final chapter, he pleads with them to return to God and receive the forgiveness that God is so eager and willing to grant. From these verses we can begin to understand what constitutes legitimate repentance and how wonderful the forgiveness of God is.
To begin with, we must acknowledge that it is our sin that is the problem. Verse 1 says, "O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." Now, our sin is not always the reason that we are dealing with troubles. God uses trials and tribulation to sanctify us and to mature us spiritually.
Many times, however, God has brought dark times into our lives in order to chasten us. He uses hardships as a divine rod with which He seeks to spank the sin from us.
Hebrews 12:7-8 says, "It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?" If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
We must react to God's discipline by owning up and confessing our sin. It is not other people who are the problem. It is not the economy. It is not the way we were raised. It is our sin that has brought God's chastening hand down on our heads. We must confess our weaknesses. We must confess not only that we are sinners, but we must confess our specific sins. As Matthew Henry put it in his commentary on this passage, "[We must] be particular in our covenants and resolutions against sins, as in our confession, because deceit lies in generals."
Verse 3 lists for us two of Israel's specific sins. 1) They had begun to worship idols made by their own hands instead of the Living God who created all things, and 2) They had trusted in men and horses for their safety instead of depending on Yahweh, the truly faithful and covenant-keeping God. We also must be specific as we confess our sins to God. When we generalize our sins, we begin to extenuate and justify them. We begin to undervalue the death of Christ and we become lazy in the war against our sins.
A famous adage says that admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming that problem. The problem is, too many Christians believe that is also the final step. Confessing our sin is merely the beginning of repentance. We must also forsake our sin. As we confess our sin to God, we must ask Him to remove it from us. With David we must cry out, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow!"1 We must not harbor in our hearts a love for the sin that put Jesus on the cross! We must hate our sin and long to experience the righteousness that Christ won for us!
In verse 4, God begins to speak. In verses 4 and 5, He gives three precious promises to anyone who truly repents of his sin. Firstly, He promises to heal our backsliding. He says that He will sanctify us and purify us from our former ways. In Ephesians 5:25-27 we read this command and promise: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."
Secondly, God promises to love us freely. The word translated freely is the same word used in the Law to describe the freewill offering. There were many offerings that God required men to bring, but the freewill offering was to be brought out of the generosity of the giver's heart. God promises to love us, not because we are so loveable, but because He is a loving and compassionate God. As 1 John 4:10 tells us, "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
Finally, God promises to be like the dew to us. I think this meaning of this promise is two-fold. Firstly, while we live in a state where we rarely, if ever, suffer from a shortage of moisture, the Middle East commonly deals with drought. The morning dew would be a source of refreshment and enrichment. Psalm 133 describes with vivid imagery what a blessing the unity of the brethren is. Verse 3 says, "It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore." Secondly, the dew had special significance for Israel because dew was directly linked to the coming of the manna. ""Each night the dew would fall, and when it dried up, manna would be left in its place." The dew was Israel's source of provision for forty years as the plodded through the wilderness. Even so, God promises to provide for our physical and spiritual needs if we will forsake our sin and return to Him.
In verses 5-7, God describes what will happen to those who forsake their sin and rely on Him. "He shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like 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." Living beneath the shadow is the secret to truly contented and joyful living. Our sin has never done anything but cause hurt and pain for us and those we love. Why do we continue to choose our sin over God? We must forsake our sin and run to Christ.
Psalm 51:2 and 7. ↩︎