The Divine Prescription
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, December 12, 1999
Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
We spoke previously about God's great love for sinners--his everlasting, undying love that will not let us go--as demonstrated in the book of Hosea. Hosea's wife became a prostitute, left him for other lovers, and became a slave. As Gomer stood in the marketplace of slavery, God commanded Hosea to go and love her again, as we read in Hosea 3, "The Lord said to me, 'Go show your love to your wife again. Though she is loved by another and is an adulteress, love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turned to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.'" In this we see the love of God for sinners, the love that we read about in John 3:16, where Jesus said, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life."
Just as Hosea came to his wife Gomer, God also comes to us, even though we have not called upon him to help us. He diagnoses our problem and prescribes medicine so that we may receive divine healing. In this study we will speak about the divine prescription, which assumes a diagnosis that comes with the hope of healing.
God has a future for us, a plan for us--a plan to bless us in his Son, represented by the prophet Hosea, whose very name means salvation. God's plan is to bring us home and transform us from rebels and sinners to saints. That is why God sent his Son and that is what the Christmas season is all about: God sent his Son to seek us and redeem us from the marketplace of slavery.
Let me tell you, God has a plan to forgive all your sins. God has a plan to heal you and to love you freely. That plan is found in this fourteenth chapter of the book of Hosea. It is God's plan--his only plan--and therefore I exhort you and beseech you to pay serious attention as we study this passage.
The first point we want to examine is the divine diagnosis given to us by God. God looks at us and sees that we have a problem, but we have no idea what it is. What is our problem? Contrary to what we may think, our problem is not the world or our country or our president or our economic system. In fact, it is not even our family--our parents, our spouse, our children--or our bodies or anything else that we may think of.
God's diagnosis reveals that our problem is our personal iniquity--our wickedness, our rebellion, our apostasy, our arrogance, our self-sufficiency, our independence of God, our autonomy. It is our departing from our great King and his beneficent rule. It is our becoming prodigals, leaving our Father and his home, and, as a result, becoming powerless, ungodly sinners and enemies of God.
This is the problem of all human beings from God's point of view. And because God is just, he must deal with our problem. In Romans 1:18 we read that the just and well-deserved wrath of God is being revealed against all our ungodliness and unrighteousness.
The Divine Prescription
God has diagnosed our condition as human beings and the diagnosis is not good. Contrary to what we may think about ourselves, we are not okay, we are not good, we are not doing fine. All of those ideas are lies--false diagnoses. Our true state is that we are by nature enemies of God. That and that alone is God's estimation of us, his divine diagnosis.
We have another problem as well: we cannot heal ourselves of all this wickedness and sin in us. There is no self-salvation, in other words. But God, in his grace and mercy, offers us a divine prescription to deal with our problem, and we must pay attention to it. It is given in the first verse of Hosea 14: "Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God."
In the Hebrew the word "return" means to return totally, completely, with authentic and total repentance. We must return as far as our God is, not just taking one step in that direction and thinking we are returning satisfactorily. We must come all the way back to the Lord our God, whom we abandoned.
Why must we return to God? Because he alone has exclusive rights of ownership over us. He is the great Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and we are but his vassals. Like Hosea's wife Gomer, we also became unfaithful rebels, as we read in Hosea 9:1, "Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute at every threshing floor." But now God invites us to return to him.
How to Return
How do we return to God? By repenting with a repentance that is total, complete, and authentic--a repentance which is from the heart. In Psalm 51: we read, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." We must realize the heinousness of our sin, as it is described in 1 Samuel 15:22-23, "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion" --that is our problem-- "is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry."
In Isaiah 66:1,2 we read, "This is what the Lord says: 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?' declares the Lord. 'This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.'" This is true repentance.
In Hosea 14:2 God gives further counsel about returning to God: "Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: 'Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously. . . ." What kind of words should we take before God? Words from a heart that is changed, words from a heart that loves, words from a heart that is circumcised, words from a heart that trembles, words from a heart that realizes one's own sin and iniquity. In other words, we must confess our sin--our idolatry, our covetousness, our sexual sin, our gluttony, our disobedience, our greed, our lying, our deceit, our insubordination, and so on. We must confess our sins specifically and forsake them before God will heal us.
Our repentance must be authentic because phony confession will produce phony results. If you say that you repented before and God didn't heal you, I would say that yours was a phony, external confession only.
We find an example of a phony confession in Hosea 6:1-3, where God's people say, "Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."
What do you notice about this confession? There is no mention of the sin these people had committed against God. They thought God's grace is cheap and easy to obtain. But this is phony repentance, and it will not bring about true healing.
Let me assure you, if you have not met with God and received your healing, you must conclude that your confession was phony and, therefore, there was no result. God refuses to heal, to change, and to transform us on the basis of externalism and superficiality.
God himself says this in Hosea 6:4, "What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears." In other words, theirs was not a heartfelt, enduring love for God. It was something they did in the morning but by noon it is gone. Thus, their repentance was fleeting and false, and such repentance will never bring true healing. We cannot fool God.
What is true repentance? We are given some examples in the Scriptures. In Psalm 32 we find David taking words with him, going to the Lord, and being healed. In verse 3 he says, "When I kept silent," meaning when I was arrogant, when I refused to acknowledge my sin, "my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer." Then David confesses his sin: "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord'--and you forgave the guilt of my sin." This is an example of true repentance.
In Psalm 51 David gives us another example of how to return to the Lord. In verses 3-6 we read, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place."
In 1 John 1:9 we find another example of how to repent in a true, biblical way: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
We see true repentance also in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. A man had two sons, the second of whom was a rebel who abandoned God and his father. He went away to a far place to sin, but soon found himself starving and in abject poverty. Beginning with verse 17 we read, "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare and here I am, starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father."
Did this son just take a few steps towards his own home and stop, thinking that showed satisfactory repentance? No, he went all the way back until he was home. And in verse 21 he said to his father, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." How could this previously defiant, rebellious son speak these words? God had given him a different heart. He made a total, authentic, complete confession in which he abandoned and forsook his sin and returned all the way to God.
Agreeing with God's Diagnosis
In Hosea 14 God instructs us as to what words to take with us when we repent. In verse 2 we read, "Say to him, 'Forgive all our sins.'" In other words, we must agree with God's diagnosis of our problem.
In verse 1 God said, "Your sins have been your downfall," meaning we are the reason for our problem, not God or anyone else. We must accept personal responsibility for our own sin. Don't be like those who never confess sin, thinking it is a sign of weakness to do so. The Bible tells us that if we don't confess our sins, we shall never be approved and healed by God.
"Your sins have been your downfall!" God says. Thus, we must tell him, "O God, we agree with your diagnosis of our problem. Please forgive us all our sins," and God will forgive our sins. Let me remind you, eternal punishment is the just and logical punishment we deserve for our sins. But what is not logical and is amazing to us is that God forgives sins.
How can God forgive sins? He cannot do so unless it is based on his justice. God's forgiveness is based on a wonderful word we find in the Bible called propitiation. It means that God's wrath can be turned away from us because someone else, Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, suffered that wrath in our place to make propitiation for our sins.
God can justly forgive our sins as we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. So the ground of forgiveness is the cross--the place of divine judgment and justice. It is on the cross where justice and mercy kissed each other. It is on the cross that God the Father presented his Son as a sacrifice of atonement to demonstrate his justice so as to be just and the justifier of those who will trust in Jesus Christ alone.
God's Remedy for Sin
In Hosea 14:4 God says, "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely for my anger has turned away from them." God's just wrath was coming toward us, hurtling toward us from heaven. But here is a verse that says it has turned away.
In Hosea 11:8-9 we find the very heart of God revealed: "How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim?" In other words, God is saying, "How can I destroy my people totally, completely, finally, and everlastingly?" which is what we deserve. But then God says, "My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man--the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath."
God's Way of Reconciliation
God says he will not come in wrath. How can his wrath be turned away from us? It must be poured out on someone else. This happened when Jesus Christ came. In the fullness of time, God came and poured out his wrath upon his Son, Jesus Christ. That is the only reason his anger is now turned away and he can now forgive us in response to our cry, "Forgive all my sins!" God is ready to forgive us because his wrath, his anger, fell on a substitute, a mediator, a Savior--Jesus, the Son of God. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree," says the apostle Peter, "so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24). Thus, in Romans 8:1 Paul could write, "Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
Let me ask you: Are you in Christ Jesus? Have you run to him? Have you trusted in him? Have you linked to him by faith? If not, God's wrath is still hurtling toward you. There is only one ark of safety, one city of refuge, which is the person of Jesus Christ. If you have not trusted in him, you are in serious danger.
In Romans 4:25 we read that Jesus Christ "was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." And in Galatians 3:13 Paul wrote, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."
Forgiveness and righteousness--two needs of man--are met in Jesus Christ. In him we receive forgiveness and in him we receive divine righteousness. He freely gives forgiveness and righteousness to all who trust in his Son. It is so simple. As we are told in Isaiah 45:22, "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."
Coming by Grace
In Hosea 14:2 we also read, "Receive us graciously." If we come to God depending on our works, God must condemn us. God receives us by grace, not by our works. Our salvation has to be based on God's love, God's grace, God's mercy. It is undeserved, and we receive this salvation by faith alone. Salvation is by grace alone and by faith alone.
"Take words with you," verse 3 tells us. What do we need to confess to God? "Assyria cannot save us." You see, these people were always trusting in the military strength of foreign powers, whether Assyria or Egypt or whoever. They refused to trust in their God and King, even thought he is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the God of the covenant and the Defender of Israel. They rejected and abandoned God, choosing to trust in Assyria and Egypt instead.
Isn't that our problem as well? How many of us refuse to trust in God while we trust in everything else? But let me tell you, Assyria, Egypt, or whatever else we are trusting in, cannot save us. We must recognize this sin of not trusting in God and confess that to him.
We read about this also in Hosea 5:13: "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help." But then we find a declaration for everyone who trusts in anything and anyone else other than in the Lord Jesus Christ: "But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores."
In other words, Assyria cannot help you. Egypt cannot help you. Military power cannot help you. Economic power cannot help you. Technological power cannot help you. The United Nations cannot help you. Your mother cannot help you. Your children cannot help you. Your position and your power cannot help you. Your education cannot help you. No one and nothing can help you. Only God can help and save you.
"Assyria cannot save us." In other words, acknowledge that you trusted in things or people other than God and say to God, "I abandon these things and people and come to you. I realize you alone can help us." That is why, when we ask the question, "What must I do to be saved?" the answer is, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved" --saved totally and completely. If we trust in Christ, he will forgive all our sins and receive us graciously.
Abandon False Gods
Not only that, we must forsake any false gods we have. In Hosea 14:3 we read, "We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made." We may say to our gods, "You are our gods," but we will never hear them say to us, "You are my people." Why? Because idols are nothing, the works of human hands. They cannot speak, they cannot understand, they cannot love, they cannot forgive, they cannot judge, and they cannot save. Idols are impotent. They can do nothing, and yet many people throughout the world fall down and worship them.
In Acts 4:12 we read, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." And in John 14:6 Jesus himself said, "I am the way and the truth and the life." In Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of Deity in bodily form. There is no other God and no other gospel by which we can be saved. In fact, in Galatians 1:8 Paul told the Galatian church, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" There is no other gospel and no other Savior other than Jesus Christ.
Now, I must say that you can believe whatever you want, if you please. But if you desire to be saved from the wrath of God, you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. You must go to God, taking words with you, and tell him that you do not trust in Assyria or your own military power or idols or in anything or anyone else, but only in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation.
Find Compassion in God
In the last part of Hosea 14:3 we read, "for in you the fatherless find compassion." This speaks of the humility we must have in order to return to God.
Have you ever confessed your need to God? God cannot heal us if we are telling him how great we are, how big we are are, how beautiful we are, how rich we are, how famous we are, how well-connected we are. We must realize our desperate need for God, and then confess it to God.
God must hear from our own lips that we are orphans, because that is our true condition. We are fatherless, homeless, and abandoned, with no one to help us. But the Bible tells us God defends the cause of the orphans, the widows, the aliens and those who are nobodies. So we must come to God, saying, "O God, we are orphans; please be a Father to us. O God, we are helpless; please save us." Tell him, "O God, we were Lo-Ruhamahs--not pitied, and Lo-Ammis--not your people. Please have mercy upon us, O God!" When we come to God like that, we will find compassion from him.
Let me ask you: Have you accepted the divine diagnosis, that you are a sinner and helpless to save yourself? Have you received the divine prescription--to return to your God--and taken the medicine of coming in repentance and faith towards God? Or do you say, "I have not found any help in God?" If the latter is true, then I say that your previous prayers and confessions were inauthentic and superficial. Your love was like the morning mist. It didn't have any root. You didn't take into account your most serious problem--sin. You did not accept God's words to you, "Your sins have been your downfall!"
But if you accept God's diagnosis and return to him in humility, in God's prescribed manner, you will find a God who will heal you, help you, and cure you of your backsliding, your apostasy, your stubbornness, your autonomy, and your rebellion. (PGM) God will receive you graciously and forgive all your sins, because in God the fatherless find compassion.
Divine Blessings from the Divine Healer
The third point we want to consider is that if you acknowledge the divine diagnosis and freely and willingly take God's prescription, then you will experience certain divine benedictions, divine healing, divine blessings, divine approval. We read about these blessings in Hosea 14:4-8.
"I will heal their waywardness." The first blessing for those who follow God's divine prescription is the healing of their waywardness, which means their perversity and iniquity. Oh, what a great promise from our God! To make the crooked straight, to make the rebel a lover of God, to make a sinner a saint--no one can do that but God alone. Here is a promise we can bank on, count on, depend on, trust in and believe on: "I will heal their waywardness."
We find the same promise in Jeremiah 3:22: "Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding." God promises to forgive all our sins and cure our perversity, to make us lovers of God and seekers after righteousness. He will make us sing in the wilderness, walk in holiness, prefer the straight and narrow way, delight in the law of the Lord and continually do that which is right and pleasing to him.
In Exodus 15 we find this name for God, Jehovah Ropheka, which means "the Lord who heals you." The healing of our souls is the greatest miracle God performs. Even the name of this book, Hosea, speaks to us of our need for salvation and God's willingness to grant it. Hosea was the name of Joshua son of Nun until God changed his name to Joshua. Hosea means "Save us, O Lord," but Joshua means "Jehovah saves." So Hosea can cry out, "What must I do to be saved?" and the answer will come: "Joshua--Jehovah saves." And the greatest Joshua is Jesus Christ himself. In Matthew 1:21 we read, "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." The mission of Jesus Christ is to heal our waywardness by granting us salvation.
Let me say something: If Jesus Christ has not cured you of your perversity and waywardness, it is because you did not want to repent, confess, and forsake your sin. You may be looking for a "both/and" principle--holiness and sin, Jesus and sin. I was speaking to a young man who was trying to become a minister. He said he was in a church in which most of the young people were fornicating. The preacher did not know it, and he himself was fornicating. That is the kind of Christianity we have now.
But here God promises, "I will heal their waywardness," meaning their perversity, their gluttony, their alcoholism, their immorality, their greed, their covetousness, their rebellion, their independence, their autonomy. That is true Christianity. That is the power of God at work in people's lives. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes and that is what God is offering us in this book of Hosea.
In 1 Peter 2:24 we find this wonderful summary of the gospel message. Peter writes, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness," and then he adds, "by his stripes we are healed." Peter is speaking about something larger, something greater, something bigger than physical healing. He is speaking about the salvation of our souls. When Jesus Christ heals us, we will not continue to be like the dog that returns to its own vomit. He will heal our waywardness!
"I will love them freely."" The second blessing is God's promise to love us freely. In Hosea 11:8-9 we see mention of God's great love for his people: " How can I give you up, Ephraim?" God says. "How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim."
Oh, there would be judgment, a pouring out of divine punishment, and God's people would be sent to exile. But God is saying here that he will not totally destroy his people, though they deserve it. Then he gives the reason: "For I am God, and not man--the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath." God's people merited destruction, but God says he will come to them in mercy, in love, and in compassion. That is what he means when he says, "I will love them freely."
We read more about this free love of God in Ephesians 2. Paul writes that we were once dead in trespasses and sins, disobedient ones, objects of divine wrath. But in verse 4 he says, "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions." We must realize this truth: None of us deserves or merits God's love. And in verse 8 we read, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith. . . not by works, so that no one can boast."
What is the measurement of this great love of God? It is impossible for us to grasp. In Ephesians 3:17 we read, "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know his love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God."
This is the love God is speaking of when he says, "I will love them freely." He is speaking of the undying, everlasting love of God; the love that will not let us go; the love that did not spare his own Son; the electing love of God; the love that chose us from all eternity; the love that predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son; the love that called us effectually, saying to us, "Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God"; the love that justified us and adopted us as sons and daughters of God; the love that even now sanctifies us and will glorify us; the love that chastens us; the love that will present us to the Father one day without fault and with great joy; the love that will commune with us forever and ever. That is the love promised to us by God.
"I will be like the dew to Israel." What do we need in the desert of this world? Water. Here God promises, "I will be like the dew to Israel." Without water we wither and perish, but when God nourishes us, we will flourish.
In Deuteronomy 32:1-2 we read, "Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants." What does this mean? That God himself will be with us. He is like the dew to Israel. And in Isaiah 57:15 we read, "For this is what the high and lofty One says--he who lives for ever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" God's presence with us is like the dew that refreshes and revives us.
What is the purpose of having God with us? To revive the spirit of the lowly and the heart of the contrite. Let me ask you: What more can you want? God himself promises to come down to be with us, to nourish us, to refresh us, to revive us. In fact, that is the meaning of the name Immanuel--God with us.
This is also speaking about having the Holy Spirit with us. In John 14:16 Jesus promised, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever." I hope and pray that you will desire that the Spirit of the living God come upon you like the dew of heaven. When that happens, the desert shall blossom.
In Isaiah 35:1-2 we see a picture of the blossoming of a desert, which is a picture of God coming upon his people. Isaiah writes, "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it; the splendor of Carmel and Sharon." And then Isaiah adds, "they will see the glory of the Lord and the splendor of our God." When God comes to dwell with his people, it is like the dew falling upon withering plants in the desert. We need the Spirit of God to come upon us, to refresh us, to revive us, to strengthen us, and to heal us, that we may blossom.
What is our greatest need? It is not money. It is not a sports car. It is not any machine or thing. I feel sorry for parents who give machines and things to the children but do not point them to the one thing needful: God being with us. They do not realize that our hearts will be restless until they find rest in God. The world is a desert and we live in it like withering plants. We need God's presence, the dew of heaven, and God makes it available to us. In Genesis 39 we are told about Joseph who was thrown into a pit, sold as a slave, and thrown into prison. But we are told something else in that chapter: Joseph was successful because God was with him. That is what this verse is speaking about.
In Psalm 46:4 we read, "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells." This is speaking about Jerusalem, but there is no river in Jerusalem. What, then, is this river? It is God--God is with us. And in Ezekiel 47 we read about a river flowing from the throne of God. Wherever that water flowed, it healed, revived, and refreshed. Again, that speaks about the presence of God with his people.
We need God with us! Oh, may we stop trying to provide an abundance of things for our children. May we begin to provide ways that our children may experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that their souls may be revived, refreshed, healed, and strengthened. May they be granted productivity, beauty, and strength, that they will blossom like the desert as they serve the living God.
"He will blossom like a lily." The fourth point is that when God nourishes us with himself, we will flourish and blossom "like a lily." To put it simply, this speaks to us about the beauty and fecundity of the people of God.
Jesus said that Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like a lily in all its splendor. Let me assure you, the plan God has for us is a wonderful plan. Not only does he heal us, but he loves us freely, and he will come upon us like dew until our beauty is like the beauty of the lily. And what is this beauty? It is the beauty of holiness. It is being made like unto the image of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever thought about what sin does to us? It disfigures and destroys us, does it not? But God gives us beauty. He deals with our sin and its effects, and makes us beautiful in his sight. I feel sorry for those who care only about external beauty. God is in the business of making our souls beautiful.
"Like a cedar of Lebanon, he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow." This speaks about strength and stability--about a tree putting roots down deep and growing up tall. Sin saps our strength, but when God heals us, when God loves us freely, when God becomes like the dew upon our souls, we will be like mighty cedars--strong and stable and secure.
Have you ever read the fortieth chapter of Isaiah? There God gives us a great promise: "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint" (Is. 40:28-31). This is the strength God will give us.
"His splendor will be like an olive tree." If you travel to Israel, you will see olive trees everywhere throughout the country. Olive trees were especially valuable in ancient times because of the preciousness of the olive oil. This verse speaks of the fact that although sin makes us worthless and nothing, when God heals us, we will become valuable and precious in his sight, like the olive tree is precious to the people of Israel.
"His fragrance like the cedar of Lebanon." Oh, the fragrance of Christians! This speaks of God being delighted with us, God being pleased with us, just as he was pleased with Jesus Christ, of whom he said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." It speaks of the sweet fragrance of God's people rising up from the earth to the very throne of God.
"He will blossom like a vine and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon." This means that fame will come to those who serve God. Are you seeking the approval of the world or of God? Do you know that that which is popular in the world is an abomination in the sight of God? Why, then, should you seek the approval of the pagan world, the approval of your peers, or the approval of your friends who are carnal? Fame comes to us from God himself. Real fame comes when you put your trust in Jesus Christ alone.
Additionally, this verse says "he will blossom like a vine." Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches," and this verse tells us we are not only going to blossom, but we are going to be fruitful in the kingdom of God, bearing fruit, more fruit and much fruit. How can this happen? Because God will heal our waywardness, love us freely, be like dew to us and will nourish us. The Spirit of the living God shall come upon us and be with us forever. The spiritual moisture from God will enable us to bring forth fruit.
"He will flourish like the grain." This again is a picture of abundance, isn't that true? God says we will bring forth fruit--thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and one hundredfold. Praise God for these blessings!
Fruitfulness from God
In Hosea 14:8 we read something in the last part of that verse that should make us extremely humble. What does it say? God is addressing his people, symbolized by Ephraim. "Ephraim, . . . your fruitfulness comes from me." In other words, Hosea is saying that any fruitfulness on our part is only because of God. In fact, the fruitfulness of God's people is a direct result of God's covenant with Abraham. As Paul asked in 1 Corinthians 4:7, "What do you have that you did not receive?"
In Romans 7:4 we read, "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God." We must always remember that our fruitfulness comes from God. Jesus told his disciples, "Without me you can do nothing," and Paul said, "I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengtheneth me."
Choosing God's Way
In the last verse of Hosea, God issues a challenge to his people: "Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them."
God is putting a choice before us. The question is, will you be wise or will you act like a fool? If you are wise, you will choose to walk in the way of the Lord and enjoy life eternal. You will listen to the divine diagnosis, take the prescribed medicine, and enjoy the divine healing and divine benedictions we just mentioned. But if you are a foolish person, you will stumble and fall in the way of the Lord. This is your choice.
Moses issued the same challenge in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him."
Are you wise? Are you discerning? Then you choose the straight and narrow way. You will pay heed to God's diagnosis, God's prescription, and receive the divine benediction. Just look at the promise that God who cannot lie is making: "I will heal you." What will God heal? "I will heal their perversity, their twistedness. I will straighten them up. I will love them freely with undying, everlasting love. I will be like the dew upon Israel--ever-nourishing and refreshing. And as a result, you--the church of Jesus Christ--shall blossom like a lily and be as stable and strong as a cedar of Lebanon. You will emit fragrance that rises to the very throne of God and I will be pleased with you. You will become famous in the sight of God and abundantly fruitful."
May God help us to pay heed to his diagnosis and agree with it. May he also help us to agree with the prescription and take the medicine that we may experience God's healing, God's love, God's nourishing presence, and all the blessings that accompany it. Amen.
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Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™