God has given us a “sinner’s prayer” in Hosea 14.1-3 asking forgiveness, gracious acceptance, and mercy. God is not mocking us in our need; he offers only blessings that he is eager to give any and all hearers who will believe him for them (the point of Rom 10.13)! In Hosea 14.4-8 he describes them in elaborate terms to arouse our desire for them. He spreads the table with his feast of grace and brings us near to salivate.
Consider God’s condescension in all this. He urges his enemies to accept his kind invitation, when by all rights he should be reading a sentence of eternal punishment for their rebellion. Instead of seeking revenge on us whose sins occasioned the excruciating execution of his beloved Son, he speaks as one determined to spare us instead! Never, ever think you are doing God any favors to return to him and to live as a Christian! He is no better if you do, or worse if you don’t. No, no, no—a thousand times, no! It is only because God is love and he delights in mercy that he calls you as if he needed you desperately for himself.
GOD PROMISES TO CURE YOUR WAYWARD HEART AND DELIGHT IN YOU (v. 4). Two promises and a reason:
First Promise: “I will heal their backsliding [apostasy, ESV].” We need more than forgiveness of our sins (legal). We need the total cure of our sin-sick souls (spiritual), and that is the blessing God promises here. “Heal” is to restore health from sickness, injury, or a bad condition—here, used figuratively. “Backsliding” is waywardness from God, rebellion against his authority. “I will cure them of their unfaithfulness” (GW). God always heals those he forgives!
Some hesitate to receive Christ because they think, “I could never live as a Christian should.” True—unless God would cure your lethal addiction to sin, and this he is both able and willing to do. Begins with regeneration (new life) and proceeds with sanctification (increasing spiritual health), both being grace gifts to those who are only guilty and spiritually dead in ourselves! Your spiritual inability is no excuse not to believe the gospel and follow Christ, because he raises the dead and makes them whole.
Second Promise: “I will love them freely,” “generously, I will take them back in love” (JPS). God’s love had been compared to that of a sad and lonely husband craving his old harlot wife back. Here it is different—comparable to the feelings of a warrior who lost his wife to an enemy and then celebrates her rescue. Zeph 3.17 ESV: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
[This] verse speaks tenderly of God’s love for his people. Three phrases express the deepest inner joy and satisfaction of God himself in his love for his people . . . that the Holy One should experience ecstasy over the sinner is incomprehensible. [This is] the John 3.16 of the OT (NAC).
The Reason: “For mine anger is turned away from him” (i.e., Israel, vv. 1, 5). There really was anger before (cf. Psa 7.11-12; John 3.36), but in the case of his elect, God acts as if he changes his mind about their punishment, even though he intended their salvation from eternity (Num 23.19). God actually cures some sinners of waywardness and delights in saving them because it pleases him to show them mercy he withholds from others (Rom 9.14-18).
GOD PROMISES TO BECOME YOUR DELIGHT AND INVIGORATION (vv. 5-6). This language is figurative, graphic, extravagant, poetic, in a cultural setting which would have been familiar to the Jew of 8th cent. BC.
He Will Be Like the Dew to You (v. 5a). The God you despise now will be refreshing, rejuvenating to you when you have trusted in him. It must come as a great surprise to non-Christians that the greatest blessing of being saved is God himself, our exceedingly great reward (Gen 15.1). “God is the gospel” (Piper). Unbelievers hate God; Christians cannot live without him. See “The Sands of Time Are Sinking,” TH #599, verse 4.
He Will Cause You to Thrive (vv. 5b-6). Five images:
- You shall grow (blossom, JPS) as the lily. God will restore his own image in you and you become a flower-garden of lovely graces.
- You will cast forth your roots as Lebanon. Trees there were renown for depth and stability→ your happiness will not be fading, but enduring and permanent (Calvin).
- Your branches will spread, a general metaphor for health, progress, fruitfulness, maybe even influence. God’s blessing upon a Christian is not mainly outward prosperity but spiritual well-being (Psa 1.1-3).
- Your beauty shall be as the olive tree. Not mainly visual, but as a means of wealth and well-being to Jewish landowners. God beholds his own olive orchard in his church of believers, and rejoices, as they bring forth fruit for his glory.
- Your smell (fragrance, JPS) shall be as Lebanon, which wafted “the fragrance of odoriferous trees and flowers. So Israel’s name shall be in good savor with all” (JFB). Saints are destined for personal glory.
GOD PROMISES YOUR ETERNAL BLESSEDNESS (vv. 7-8). The Hebrew translation is difficult; we will follow the ESV for these two verses.
You Will Return and Dwell Forever under God’s Care (v. 7). “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.”
You Will Be the Focus of God’s Loving Attention (v. 8a). “O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you.”
You Will Be Filled with Eternal Life from God (v. 8b). “I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.”
With these blessings promised by God, won’t you call upon the name of the Lord and be saved, and then rejoice in that salvation, and serve the Lord?–D. Scott Meadows, Pastor Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed) Exeter, New Hampshire http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com