The Return of Israel to God
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

In this lesson, we will be looking at chapter 14 of the book of Hosea. We have been discussing this book for several weeks now, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, endeavoring to give to you the information that is contained in it. Sometimes we have read a chapter and have recognized immediately upon the reading of it that it was rather confused in our thinking on the first glance, but as we delved into it we found some wonderful, marvelous truths.

We have said to you that chapter 14 of the book of Hosea is the apex of the book not only because it is the last chapter, but because of the tremendous message that it contains. If you have anticipated it somewhat and have read this chapter, you know what we are talking about. It is not a chapter that needs a great deal of detailed explanation. It speaks very much for itself.

It seems to me to be a fitting climax to the entire chapter, because you remember that the book began with the story of Hosea and Gomer, his wife. You will remember that Gomer left Hosea and followed after various lovers until she came to the end of the road and was sold in a slave market like a common slave. Hosea, who never ceased to love her, followed her everywhere she went with his mind and his heart. He was instructed by God to go purchase her out of the slave market and marry her and reinstate her to her position as wife, as the wife of his youth and the wife of his home. He was to act as if nothing had ever happened. There were to be no recriminations. There was to be no criticism. He was to act as though the joy of his first love was thriving anew. God said, “I want you to do this, Hosea, because I have been speaking for a long time, and nobody has been listening. Maybe if they see this thing really in action they will accept it and believe it.”

The Prophet's Request

It is a fitting thing to come to the conclusion of the book of Hosea with the story of how Israel is brought back to God just as Gomer was brought back to Hosea. I would like for you to follow along as we read from Hosea, chapter 14, verse 1:

Hosea 14

1O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
2Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
3Asshur 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.
4I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
5I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
6His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
7They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
8Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
9Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.

As we begin the study, we call to your attention the prophet's request . The prophet's request is found in the statement in the first verse: “Oh Israel, return unto the LORD thy God.” This was Hosea's great burden. He had complained, as we have seen. He has condemned; he has consoled, and now he would plead with Israel in the light of everything that he has said. He would make a request of them, and that request would be to come back to God.

You know, an individual's coming back to God involves more than the mere steps that he takes in front of a church, if that is the procedure that he follows, or the steps that he takes toward an individual that he has wronged. Much more is involved than that. There is a perfect picture of what is involved in return in this chapter.

Recognition of Sin

When Hosea requested that they return, he requested that they make recognition of their sin. You'll notice there in verse 1, he said, “For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. It is your fault, and your fault alone, that you are in the condition that you are. When you come back to God, don't be telling God how difficult it has been, and don't be making excuses for all of the reasons you have wandered away from Him. Tell God that you are to blame. Confess your sin.”

Of course, this is exactly what the Holy Spirit of God has in mind in I John, chapter 1, verse 9:

I John 1

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If your fellowship has been broken with the Lord, and you would love to be restored to fellowship, you are never going to be restored if you beat around the bush and if you blame everybody else for your condition. It will only be when you confess your sin to the Lord Himself that you will be restored.

The first thing that Hosea said was, “Recognize your sin.” Then, strange to say (I say “strange to say” because of the attitude that some people have) Hosea said, “Ask for mercy. Don't go to God and tell God how important you are to Him and to His cause. Don't go to God and make a lot of promises to Him about everything that you are going to do for Him, if only He will take you back, as if you are worth anything at all, as though you have anything that God could possibly be interested in.”

Resting On His Grace

Look at verse 2:

Hosea 14

2Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously…

I like this statement here: “Take with you words, and turn to the LORD.” Sometimes when we are dealing with individuals concerning their relationship with Jesus Christ, and we suggest to them that we pray together, they will say, “I don't know what to say. I don't know what words to use.” They are sincere. They are not used to praying, and they don't know how to phrase their need; yet they want to pray. We say to them, “Why don't you pray after me, these words,” and we phrase the prayer for them.

Some people object to that, and say, “You are putting words in their mouth. They don't really mean that.” If we are putting words in their mouth, then Hosea was putting words in the mouth of Israel when he said, “Take with you words and turn to the Lord: Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.” You see, he was asking for forgiveness. “Acknowledge your sin. Recognize it,” said Hosea, “and then ask the LORD to receive you graciously. Rest upon His grace.” This is so important.

One of the most pathetic things, I think, that I have ever experienced, and I have experienced it numerous times, is individuals that have been out of fellowship with God for some great length of time, and as they want to be retored to fellowship, they beg and they plead and they promise, and you would think surely that they are trying to convince God that they are worthy of acceptance. That is never necessary. As a matter of fact, it is unscriptural. When you come back to God, all you can do is rest upon His grace. That is all.

Rendition of Praise

The third thing that the prophet suggested when he requested that they return to the LORD, I have described with the phrase, a rendition of praise . Don't forget to thank the Lord. When sins are forgiven and fellowship is restored, remember to thank Him. Notice there in verse 2, he says:

Hosea 14

2…so will we render the calves of our lips.

Notice the words carefully. The text does not suggest that your lips have calves. Your legs have calves, but your lips don't. What he is suggesting is simply this: Instead of bringing the bullock as a burnt offering to the Lord, as Old Testament saints did to render their praise to God—they had been doing this for a long time—they were to render the praise of their lips. You know when you are out of fellowhsip with God and your activities are related to outward form, you can fulfill the outward forms all the time, and nobody will know any different. It will look like it is all right, whether it is or not. What Hosea was saying was, “When you go to God, you tell Him that from here on out you want to render the praise of your lips instead of the calves and the bullocks that you have been bringing. Instead of that empty formality that means absolutely nothing, you want to render the praise of your lips to God.”

Restoration to Fellowship

I ask you a question to provoke your thinking. Have you ever been out of fellowship with God? Have you ever wanted to be restored to fellowship? What procedure have you followed? Are you out of fellowship today? Do you have any desire at all for restoration? It is very possible that you are out of fellowship and you have no desire for restoration, because sin blinds, and the Holy Spirit, grieved, is not active. You might desire to go along on your merry way without any change, but mark what I say to you today. There will come a time, if you are really born-again, when you will become miserable in the pigsty where you are, and you will be like the prodigal. You will want to get up and go home. When the time comes, remember, you don't have to make any production of it. You don't have to wait until you get to church and make some formal committment. Wherever you are, recognize your sin. Depend upon God's grace, and then thank Him for His forgiveness, for remember I John, chapter 1, verse 9, which is emphasized consistently from the standpoint of confession, is not emphasized as much as it needs to be from the standpoint of God's faithfulness.

I John 1

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…

If, after you confess your sin, you do not render the calves of your lips in praise unto God, you are casting doubt upon the faithfulness of God, because you are wondering, at least inwardly if not outwardly, whether or not God has forgiven the sin that you confessed.

This was the prophet's request: “People, go to God. Recognize your sin. Recognize that you are responsible for what has happened. Rest on God's grace, and render to God the praise of your lips.”

The People's Reply

I wonder what kind of reply the people would make. If you were in their position, what would have been your attitude? Let's look for a moment at what we might term, the people's reply , as it is suggested for us. Look at verse 3:

Hosea 14

3Asshur 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.

The people's reply was related to confession, in the manner in which Hosea had requested. The first thing they confessed, in relation to their sin, was their independence of God. Did you notice there in verse 3, they said:

Hosea 14

3Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses…

Just that statement in itself probably means absolutely nothing to you, but if you keep in mind that Asshur is another name for Assyria, and keep in mind the boastfulness of Israel, as it is recorded in chapter 30 of the book of Isaiah when they said, “God, we don't need You. Assyria is on our side. Egypt is on our side, and we will have the strongest cavalry any nation has ever known.” Ordinarily, God could not care less one way or the other whether a nation has a cavalry or not, but He never wanted Israel to have horses and chariots for warfare. He knew that they would put their faith in horses and chariots instead of the Lord their God, and that is exactly what they did. When they made an effort to become like other nations, they got their horses, they got their chariots, and they boasted and bragged about their strength. They laughed in the face of God, and said, “We don't need You, God. We can get along very well without You.”

Confession of Independence

I don't know whether any of us here would really laugh in the face of God and tell Him we could get along without Him. I don't know that we would be quite so blunt, but we might as well face it. A lot of people treat God just that way. They declare their independence of Him without declaring it to Him by their very actions. They make their decisions without Him. They do what they want to. They find themselves in all kinds of trouble, and when they are out of fellowship to the extent that their need is pressing upon them and they want to turn back to God, they confess their independence of the Lord, and they say, “I got myself into this mess. I have nobody to blame but myself for all of this.”

Sometimes it takes a while to get to this place, because when we are first out of fellowship with the Lord, there is never anything wrong with us. It is always wrong with everybody else. Everybody else is to blame. But it is when the Lord brings us down to the bottom that we are ready to recognize that we have been at fault, and we are ready to recognize and confess our independence of the Lord. It is good to say, “Lord, I have gotten along without You as long as I can.”

Confession of Idolatry

The people replied to the prophet's request by confessing not only their independence, but by confessing their idolatry as well. If you will look again at verse 3, they said:

Hosea 14

3…neither will we say any more to the work of our hands. Ye are our gods…

They had made their idols out of wood and of stone. They had made them very attractive, and they bowed down before them and said, “Ye are our gods.” This is idolatry. But they said, “God, we have learned our lesson. Nevermore are we going to be independent of Thee, and nevermore are we going to bow down to the creation of our own hands and worship and say, ‘Ye are our gods'.”

We have said to you, many times over, that it is not likely that anybody in this generation will be making idols of wood and stone, putting them on pedestals or shelves and bowing down to worship them. If you keep in mind the spiritual implications related to idolatry, you will be aware that many believers fall into idolatry without even realizing they have. The thing that has broken their fellowship is this idolatry, and fellowship is never restored until the thing that has broken it is confessed. They confessed their idolatry.

Recognizing Their Dependence Upon the Lord

Something else I would like for you to notice is that they confessed their dependence upon the Lord. Notice the last statement in verse 3, where they said:

Hosea 14

3…for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.

If you read this carelessly, you might think they are talking about their idols, but if you read it in the original text, you will find that they have stopped talking about their idols, and they are talking about God. They say, “There is no point in our bowing down to idols anymore. They are worthless. God, in Thee, will the fatherless find mercy.”

What were they doing? They were confessing their dependence upon the Lord. They had lived in independence, following the pathway of idolatry, and now they would say to God, “We've learned our lesson. We cannot get along without Thee. In Thee and Thee alone do the fatherless find mercy.” By this time, they had felt like helpless children with no one to whom they might turn. They knew that they could turn to the Lord. They were like the prodigal who in the pigsty said, “I will arise and go to my father's house.” They were like the prodigal who not only said, “I will arise and go to my father's house,” but they were like the prodigal who arose and went.

You remember the story so very well. The father saw the son coming from a great way off, ran to greet him, welcomed him with open arms. He killed the fatted calf, provided the robe, the shoes, and the ring, and a time of great rejoicing. If you keep in mind that Israel is the prodigal, I would ask you if you need to read any further to find out what the Father's response is going to be? That prodigal's father is a perfect picture of God. Since the prodigal's father is a perfect picture of God, you can be sure that just as the prodical's father welcomed the prodigal home, so God welcomes Israel home as Israel returns and responds to Hosea's request. The story of that welcome is found in the paragraph which begins with verse 4, where he said:

Hosea 14

4I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
5I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
6His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
7They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.

This was the Father's response to the individuals who came to Him seeking mercy as they confessed their sin. Exactly how did the Father respond? In what concrete way did He respond?

Provision for Restoration

First, let me say to you that He provided for these Israelites restoration. Look again at verse 4:

Hosea 14

4I will heal their backsliding…

We learned earlier in the book of Hosea that they were like a backsliding heifer; they were stubborn, willful, and rebellious. Every time God told them to do anything, they wanted to do the opposite. They couldn't be depended upon for anything, and God said, “I am going to wipe all of that out. I am going to heal their backsliding.”

I love this next statement. I want to remind you as I read this next statement that His restoration was without restriction, and it was without recrimination of any kind.

Hosea 14

4I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely…

The word freely does not refer to a lack of cost; it refers to abundant love—love without restriction of any kind, nothing reserved about this love, love without reservation.

Think with me a moment about Hosea. Had you been in his place where your wife had been faithless to you and had gone out after many lovers and had sunk so low in her degradation that she was sold in the open slave market as a prostitute, who was of no value at all, and you brought her back and took her into your home and into your bosom and into your bed again, tell me, wouldn't you find it a little difficult not to have some reservations? Wouldn't you find it a little difficult not to be a little reserved in the expression of your love? Wouldn't there be, in the back of your mind, the thought, “She did it once, and she may do it again. She made a fool out of me once. She might make a fool out of me again.”? I think you would probably have those reservations because you are human. But we are not talking about human love today; we are talking about God's love, and God's love, Beloved, has no reservations. When He welcomes you back, He welcomes you back with open arms.

Love Without Recrimination

We mentioned to you that His love had no recriminations . If you will look at the last part of verse 4, you will notice:

Hosea 14

4…for mine anger is turned away from him.

That is so unlike us, isn't it? When we have been offended, and we forgive, we find ourselves saying something like this, “You know, I'm really glad that everything is great now, but once in a while when I think about that, I get so angry.” Then sometimes, you know, when the restoration has been made and the forgiveness has been accepted and some other error is made, the recriminations come. Sometimes we say, “I shouldn't have expected anything else. I know what you did once. I should have been prepared for this.” But, you know, our God never speaks to us that way. When He welcomes us back, He welcomes us back without reservations of any kind, and He welcomes us back without any recriminations of any kind.

God's Promise of Renewal

An individual who is restored oftentimes is weak, and progress is slow, so I am glad to read in the story of restoration in this chapter that the Father's response included something else. It includes what I call a renewal . The Spirit of God describes that renewal in symbolism which was well known to the people to whom He addressed the letter. Notice what He said:

Hosea 14

5I will be as the dew unto Israel…

The dew was terribly important in the land of Israel. It came before the rising of the sun, and it did not tarry long after the sun got up; but during the time that it, the heavy dew, came, it provided strength that was needed for the fruit that was laboring, the plants that were laboring, and the crops that were growing. It was, indeed, a renewal every morning, and this was exactly what God said that He would be to Israel.

So often when people have made bitter failures, if they have never before really failed bitterly, they usually can snap back, and say, “I won't have any trouble.”, but if they have had a very serious failure, they wonder if they are going to be able to make it. They can't. But God's gracious renewal will make it possible for them to. He will be like the dew unto Israel, unto them. Notice what He said about that in verse 5:

Hosea 14

5…he shall grow as the lily…

The lily was known for its reproductive capabilities, sometimes five bulbs coming from one bulb in a short time. He said, “You are going to grow, and grow plentifully.” Lilies, however, do not have any roots, and if you are going to grow and grow stalwartly, you need roots, and so God said, “I'm going to see to it that you cast forth your roots as Lebanon.” Of course, a deep-rooted tree always has branches which spread and show forth their beauty, and the trees of Lebanon produced a smell which indicates their attractiveness.

Are you thinking? Would you think that anybody like Gomer could ever be attractive again? Humanly speaking, it would be pretty difficult; but when you are dealing with God, it is amazing how He can take an individual who has become so unattractive and has slipped down to the depths of sin and make them so attractive that God can even speak about his scent. This is God's renewal. This is God's promise of blessing.

The Ultimate Regathering of Israel

God responded in yet another way. I use the word regathering to describe it, and of course, much of what I have been saying is applicable to any Christian in any era. This, however, is a special thing that must be mentioned in relation to the nation of Israel. If you will look down at verse 7:

Hosea 14

7They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.

Israel was then scattered to countries round about. To the far corners of the world, they can rest on the promise of God's Word, that God's response to their initial desire to return to Him will be the ultimate regathering of His people. Look again at verse 7, because some of the saints of God down through the ages have found a tremendous blessing by way of application in relation to that verse. Verse 7:

Hosea 14

7They that dwell under his shadow shall return…

The grammatical construction of the verse indicates that the shadow, which is the subject of discussion, is not the branches of the tree about which we have just been speaking, but it is the shadow of the Almighty. It is the shadow of God. “They that dwell under His shadow shall return…” The believing remnant of Israel will indeed return in God's own good time, but as I said, believers down through the ages have found a great deal of comfort, by way of application of that verse, by believing that those who have known the Lord and who have broken fellowship with Him will return. They rest on that promise: “They that dwell under his shadow shall return.”

Today, perhaps you have some loved ones, and you know that they are not what they were. You know they are out of fellowship, and your heart has been heavy about it. You have been praying much that God would speak, move and work. It has been so long that you have almost despaired of it ever happening, and you have even reached the place where you say, “I guess it will work out, but I don't know if I will live to see it.” Take courage today: “They that dwell under His shadow shall return.” I believe that.

A Reciprocal Interlude

I want you to notice with me, in this chapter, a little interlude. It is a very interesting one. You will pass it by if you're not careful in the reading of the chapter. I refer to it as the reciprocal interlude , because what it represents is a little conversation between Israel and God. It is as though the telephone line has been tapped, and you have been permitted to hear a little of it, or the curtain has been drawn back, and you have been able to recognize a little of it. Look down at verse 8:

Hosea 14

8Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.

The way that we read it in the King James text, it sounds like a jumble of phrases that have very little meaning, but if you read it as in indicated in the original text, you will find that it is a conversation. The first thing that is brought to your attention is what Ephraim asks in the form of a question—Ephraim, of course, being Israel. Ephraim shall say, “What have I to do any more with idols?” It is a question of respect. It is a question of summary. “I have been so foolish,” Israel said. “These idols haven't meant anything at all to me. How could I be so foolish to have spent so much time away from God? How could I have been so foolish as to think these idols could have meant anything to me? What have I got to do with them?” The implication of the question is, “I'm not going to ever have anything more to do with idols again.”

Then you hear God's answer. I have always been interested in this answer. If you look at verse 8 very carefully, God said, “I have heard him and observed him.” If you will permit a paraphrase, God said, “I am listening. I'm hearing what you're saying. I like that. I like the sound of it. I like to know that you're through with idols.”

You see, God never discourages any resolves on the part of any of His children for greater spiritual strides, greater spiritual accomplishments. He just listens. Haven't you done that sometime with your children? You have heard your children make a boast of some prowess, something that they are going to accomplish, and you smile to yourself and say, “Well, well.” Oh, you don't say anything to them. You don't say, “You're not going to be able to do that.” You just listen. You observe, you watch, and keep your eyes open so that the conversation can continue. You see, if you said anything right then, the conversation would be brought to an end immediately.

In this reciprocal interlude, we have Ephraim's claim presented to us in the next statement. Ephraim said, “I feel like a green fir tree. I feel so strong. I've come back to God; fellowship has been restored. That old life doesn't mean anything any more. Oh, it is so good to be back in fellowship with God. I'm like a green fir tree. My roots are deep. I'm never going to depart from the Lord anymore. I'm never going to have any more problems.”

It is good to feel that way, but you need a gentle reminder from the Lord, and so God offers the warning, which is in the last part of this verse. He said:

Hosea 14

8…From me is thy fruit found.

“It is all right to talk about being a green fir tree. It's all right to talk about everything that you are going to do and everything that you are going to accomplish, but you just remember that the source of strength and the source of your fruit is in Me.” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).

One of the sad things that happens oftentimes in the lives of people who have been out of fellowship for any length of time and then enjoy the privilege of restoration, is that they think it all depends on them again. That new serge of strength and energy they have, that renewal is so wonderful that they forget where their fruit comes from. You shouldn't ever do that.

A Lesson In Retrospect

The last thing we want to say to you is found in the chapter in what we are going to term, a lesson in retrospect , a summary of what has gone before. It is the only way that you can explain verse 9 in this chapter. Some Bible scholars refer to it as an appendix . Some refer to it as an epilogue . I like to refer to it as a lesson in retrospect , and hence a summary of all that has gone before. You have read the book of Hosea. What does it mean to you? You have studied the book of Hosea. What have you learned from it? You have spent seventeen weeks in this book. To what conclusion have you come? Look at verse 9:

Hosea 14

9Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.

He addresses himself, first, to those who are wise—spiritually discerning: “They shall undertand.” To those who are prudent—that is, to the thinking person: “He shall know them.” If you are wise, spiritually discerning, and have been thoughtful as these messages have been delivered, you have learned two lessons, and we summarize them for you now.

The first of them, we describe as an undeniable statement . It is found there in verse 9, in the words, “for the ways of the LORD are right.” That is a statement that no man can deny. “The ways of the LORD are right.” You may wonder why God dealt with Israel as he dealt with her. You may wonder why God did what He did. You may have even questioned the wisdom of what He did, but after pursuing the study of this book, you should come to the solemn conclusion, or you should be re-emphasizing in your mind the thing that you already know, that the ways of the LORD are right. He never makes a mistake.

The other lesson is, an unalterable fact . Regardless of what you think about it, regardless of what someone else may have told you about it, the unalterable fact of the entire story is found in the last two statements of verse 9:

Hosea 14

9…the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.

“The just, the righteous, shall walk in the way of the Lord, but the transgressors shall fall in them.” If you find a person walking in the ways of the Lord, you know he is just. If you find a person refusing to walk in the ways of the Lord, you know that he is a transgressor.

Turn, in your Bibles, please, to I John, for a New Testament emphasis upon this truth presented in the Old Testament. I John, chapter 1, verse 6:

I John 1

6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

The ways of the Lord are right. The transgressor does not walk in the ways of the Lord. John said, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, and do not walk in His ways, we lie, and we don't do the truth.” You can talk about fellowship, sing about fellowship, lie about fellowship; but unless you are walking in the way of the Lord, you are not in fellowship.

Conclusion

You will notice in verse 7:

I John 1

7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

The just shall walk in the ways that are right. Learn from the book of Hosea that God never makes a mistake. Determine what the will of God is for your life in accordance with the Word of God and walk therein, and you'll have no problems. Walk against that will, and you may wind up in a slave market.


Home Contact Us Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church Living Bible Studies
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting

www.livingbiblestudies.org