“O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; Take words with you, and return to the Lord. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. Assyria shall not save us, we will not ride on horses, nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, “You are our gods.” For in You the fatherless finds mercy’ " (Hosea 14:1-3).
Have you ever messed up so bad you just didn’t think there was any hope of getting out of the terrible situation in which you had placed yourself? God’s people of Hosea’s day had done this as they had forsaken God for idol worship (Hosea 4:17). They were mistreating each other as they engaged in lying, stealing, and committing violence against one another (Hosea 4:2).
They had sown to the wind and would reap the whirlwind for what they had done (Hosea 8:7). God would punish them by allowing the Assyrians to carry them into captivity because they refused to repent (Hosea 11:5). In His judgment God realized there was no other way to deal with His people than to let them suffer the consequences of their own sins; yet, God struggled to enact such harsh but necessary discipline upon His children whom He loved (Hosea 11:3-4, 8-9).
Praise God that Hosea’s ministry does not end on this sad note. Instead, as the opening verses indicate, Hosea’s work ends with God’s people crying out for God to “take away all iniquity” and to “receive us graciously”. It ends with God’s people being humbled to the point of them repenting of what they had done. God responds to them in love: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him” (Hosea 14:4). Furthermore, God adds that His blessings will once again shower upon His people: “I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon. Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall be revived like grain, and grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5-7). God had taken away their iniquity and would graciously receive them back.
As Hosea finishes his book he writes, “Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9). God’s ways are always right. Unfortunately, for many of us, it takes years of self-inflicted hurt and stubbornly beating our heads against the wall as we resist Him in order for us to learn this. Yet, God never gives up on us. He continues to reach out to us in love. He is longsuffering hoping that we, too, will come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
The book of Hosea is very comforting to me as I realize God’s incredible love for me. I realize I struggle with sin and fall short of God’s Will for me (Romans 3:23). It is difficult for me to know that I have hurt God with my sin. I acknowledge my weaknesses and seek to return to God by showing repentance during such times. However, I praise God that when I fall in sin, I can lift my hand up to Him and He will grab hold of it, lift me up, take away all my iniquity and receive me graciously!
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:6-9).