RETURN AND REPENT
Hosea 14: 1-9 NET
I’m beginning the new year with a series of sermons based on repentance and believing. These two ideas go together: repentance from sin and believing in what God has revealed to us in his word.
I am beginning our study of these two ideas in the Old Testament. Repentance and faith did not just magically show up in the New Testament. If we ignore what the Old Testament says about these subjects, we will be missing some vital pieces of the puzzle.
So, this morning we are going to look at Hosea 14, where the prophet Hosea talks about repentance.
Hosea urges his people to repent (1-3)
1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for your sin has been your downfall!
2 Return to the LORD and repent! Say to him: “Completely forgive our iniquity; accept our penitential prayer, that we may offer the praise of our lips as sacrificial bulls.
3 Assyria cannot save us; we will not ride war horses. We will never again say, ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made. For only you will show compassion to Orphan Israel!”
Hosea uses two Hebrew words to explain the process of repenting. First, he uses the word shuv (שׁוב) – which means to turn or return. That is the word translated return in verse 1 and repent in verse 2. In the military, if you have a soldier looking in one direction, and you want that soldier to look in the opposite direction, you give the command: about-face. That’s what shuv means. Repenting requires a person to change direction.
But how do you change direction in your life? Hosea explains how to get started doing that in verse 2 as well. He says literally “take words with you.” The Hebrew word for take is lakach (לָקַח). If you really want to repent, before you do your about-face, you have to come before God’s face. You have to do that with words. Don’t try to repent without saying anything. God knows the thoughts of your heart. But being truly repentant requires that we tell him something.
The principle is called confession. The New Testament elaborates on this principle, but it is right here in the Old Testament first.
Hosea urged his people to confess four things.
He urged them to confess their inability to save themselves. They had fashioned idols made of wood, stone, and metal. Then they bowed down to those idols and called them their gods. So, in verse 3, Hosea instructs his people to say “We will never again say, ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made. For only you will show compassion to Orphan Israel!”
He urged them to confess that they had trusted the wrong things. In Hosea’s time, the political superpower was Assyria. Hosea tells his people to come to God and confess “Assyria cannot save us; will not ride war horses.” God wanted his people to admit that if they were going to be delivered, it was not going to happen by aligning themselves with a more powerful nation. They had to align themselves with the most powerful God.
Hosea urged them to confess faith in God’s ability to forgive them completely. He told them to ask God to forgive them. They were to ask for a return to the position they held before they rebelled.
Hosea urged them to confess the desire to return to proper worship. They promised to offer God the praise he deserved.
True repentance begins with these four confessions. When you are ready to repent, you are ready to acknowledge that you cannot save yourself. You have tried other ways, and they just got you more lost. But you believe that God can save you completely. One cross fits all. Not only do you dare to ask God for help, but you are also committed to acknowledging his salvation for the rest of your life by regular worship.
God promises repenters that he will turn away his anger and bless them instead (4-8)
4 “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger will turn away from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily, he will send down his roots like a cedar of Lebanon.
6 His young shoots will grow; his splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
7 People will reside again in his shade; they will plant and harvest grain in abundance. They will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon.
8 O Ephraim, I do not want to have anything to do with idols anymore! I will answer him and care for him. I am like a luxuriant cypress tree; your fruitfulness comes from me!
Forgiveness is just the beginning of what God offers the truly repentant. It is the door to the house. Once you enter through the door, you can start enjoying everything in the house. Look at what God has in his house in store for those who repent.
God promises to heal us.
God promises to turn his anger away from us.
God promises to make us blossom and be fruitful like a lily or a vine, or a cypress tree.
God promises to give us strong deep roots like a cedar.
God promises to protect us like shade protects those exposed to the sun.
God promises to make his fame and glory shine through us.
It all begins with a prayer of repentance.
Hosea reminds his people that wisdom begins with repentance (9).
9 Who is wise? Let him discern these things! Who is discerning? Let him understand them! For the ways of the LORD are right; the godly walk in them, but in them the rebellious stumble.
Do you feel that sometimes you are just not wise enough to deal with all the problems you face, or discerning enough to help others? If you have come to God through Jesus Christ, you have already begun the process of getting God’s wisdom.
The next step is going to God’s word and letting him teach you wisdom. A prayer of repentance is a prayer of dependence. It consists of telling God you want him to teach you. Once you have repented, you can begin a hard reboot of your life.
Now, God has given us a body of literature in his word that is expressly for the purpose of reconfiguring our minds to his wisdom. It’s called wisdom literature.
It starts with Job – God’s wisdom when life does not make sense.
Then, Psalms – God’s wisdom in poetic form.
Proverbs – God’s wisdom collected.
Ecclesiastes – God’s wisdom applied to aging.
Finally, Song of Solomon – God’s wisdom applied to human love.
Now, the key to actually learning from the wisdom literature is this: you have to start with repentance.
LORD, we want to start the new year right and live right all the rest of our years. For that reason, if we have never done so before, we come to you in repentance. Accept our heart’s yearning for a new relationship with you, where we denounce our own self-sufficiency and trust you to bless us. Make us wise by teaching us wisdom. Restore the years that the locust has eaten. Heal us. Turn your anger away from us. Make us blossom and be fruitful like a lily or a vine, or a cypress tree. Give us strong deep roots like a cedar. Protect us like shade protects those exposed to the sun. Make your fame and glory shine through us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.