Hosea 14:1–9comment (0)
February 24, 2011
By Scott McGinnis
Related Scripture: Hosea 14:1–9
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University
God Loves to Welcome Us Home
In our study of Hosea, we have seen how the prophet’s message alternates between God’s angry condemnation of Israel for its sins and God’s deep and loving desire to rebuild a shattered relationship. Both themes continue to sound right to the end of the book. Thus it is not surprising that this week’s passage, wherein God invites Israel to return and rebuild a fruitful covenant, is preceded by the much harsher images of Chapter 13, wherein God is the lion or bear that will rip Israel apart (vv. 7–8). Chapter 13 ends with a haunting picture of pregnant women and infants, society’s most vulnerable members, as victims of the coming apocalypse (v. 16). The horror of these images creates a grave and urgent context in which to explore the call to repentance.
A Call for Repentance (1–3)
Hosea’s call for Israel to return to the Lord has been seen earlier (Hos. 6:1), but in this case, he offered specific words of repentance. The confession addressed two main sins that had been addressed through Hosea’s ministry: Israel’s turning to other nations for security and worship of other gods to secure agricultural fortunes. During the middle of the eighth century B.C., Israel was sandwiched between the two superpowers of the day: Assyria in the north and Egypt in the south. The temptation of Israel’s kings was to play one power off of the other, to make compromising political alliances rather than trust in God to sustain their national fortunes. The recognition that “Assyria will not save us; we will not ride upon horses” (the Egyptians were known for their horsemanship) was a necessary step as Israel came to terms with what total dependence upon God meant. Similarly not worshiping idols that were “the work of our hands” was a rejection of the fertility gods to whom Israel had previously attributed its agricultural bounty (Hos. 2:5–9). Israel, which began as a nation of slaves, would now recognize itself as an orphan who once more needed to be adopted and cared for by God, who consistently defends the powerless in society (Ex. 22:21–23; Deut. 27:19).
A Call for Healing (4–9)
The book’s closing words belong to God. The extent of the divine love is seen in God’s promise to “heal their disloyalty” (4). Not content standing on the sideline waiting for Israel to return, God responded to unfaithfulness with faithfulness and disobedience with chastening love. By taking the first step to heal Israel, God showed the kind of initiative and perseverance that marks a truly loving relationship. Much later, the apostle Paul would speak of an unfailing love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). Images from the natural world were used to describe the re-established covenant, since much of Israel’s disobedience lay in misconstruing its relationship with nature. Earlier the image of dew was used to describe both Israel’s fickleness (Hos. 6:4) and punishment (Hos. 13:3). Now God was a dew that settles gently, almost imperceptibly, over the newly blossoming flower of the nation (5). Similarly groves of trees that gave good shade were the sites of idolatrous worship (Hos. 4:13). Now God would be the One who faithfully shaded the newly reborn nation (7–8). The closing of our study of Hosea’s writings brings us once again to the question with which we began: What can his extensive use of analogous language for God reveal to us about the divine nature? How does it help us know God to understand Him as husband, father, mother, lion, bear, rot, tree, rain or dew? First such common images reveal a God who is accessible to human understanding and open to relationship with His creation. The desire to be known resides in God; the responsibility to know God lies with us (Hos. 6:3). Second the sharply contrasting images remind us that the God we know, we know only in part. The God who is beside us as leader and companion is also the God above us. That our frail sight is not able to penetrate all the divine mysteries — how anger and love coincide in God or how justice and mercy are satisfied in God — should not be cause for frustration but rather praise.