One of the biggest challenges we face in life is having an understanding that we need saving. It looks like we are fine. We are doing well. We have work, money, and family. So what do you mean that I need to be saved? When Jesus walked the earth, his challenge to the religious was to get them to see that they needed to be saved and they needed to be saved by him. One of the ways to understanding our need for salvation is to see that we need to be saved from something. Talking about salvation does not make sense without a context of danger. If you say that I need to be saved, then you are implying that I am in danger or am in trouble. This is why when we come to a study of the prophets you will see page after page of descriptions of sins and judgment. How else are you going to get people to understand that they need to turn to God for help unless you see your sins and see the judgment that is coming? Throughout our study of the book of Hosea we have seen that very pattern. Hosea has been saying repeatedly to the people that you have left God and put yourselves in danger. I know you do not see it because you are blinded by your prosperity. For our final lesson in Hosea we are going to see God present this message again to the people, hoping to get them to see what God will do for them if they will see their sins and turn to him.
Israel’s Past, Present, and Future (13:1-3)
God tells another story about the history of Israel. In the past, Israel had so much going for it. Ephraim rose to a place of prominence among the other tribes, to such a point that the name became synonymous with the northern nation. But the nation has died by their sins. Their sins have killed them and rather than having the wisdom to stop, the people sin more and more. The idols that they thought were bringing them life were bringing them death. So their future is predicted in verse 3. They will be like the morning mist and soon disappear. Remember that God said their love was like the morning mist in Hosea 6:4. Since their love disappeared, the nation will disappear.
Forgotten Love (13:4-6)
The reason the nation has turned to the poison of sin is because they had forgotten God. Hosea declared this before and wants to emblazon this message into their minds as the prophecy ends. Your doom has come because you forgot God. There is no other savior but God (13:4). There is no one else who can rescue you. You cannot save yourself. Your wealth and prosperity cannot save you in your trouble. Nothing can help you. No one can help you. God reminds them that they were slaves in Egypt and no one could rescue but God. When we studied through Exodus through Deuteronomy we saw that this was a model for the whole world. All are enslaved to sin and are oppressed by their sins. Only God can save from this condition. God further reminds the people how he helped them in the wilderness (13:5). God gave them provisions for four decades in the middle of the wilderness. But the people forgot the Lord when they became prosperous (13:6). We must remember this danger: when life goes well we will be strongly tempted to forget God. God is warning us about doing this. The real danger of material prosperity is that it crowds out and kills our spiritual desires. This is why Jesus said that it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23).
Results of Forgotten Love (13:7-11)
Since the people ignored the warnings about forgetting God, there are results that come from that choice. Judgment will come upon Israel like a lion, and like a bear robbed of her cubs. When that judgment falls, who is going to save you? Where are your saviors, that is, your idols and your leaders, that will help when God comes against you (13:10)? Look at verse 9 as God reveals our foolishness. The people turned against their helper. God is not our enemy. God is our helper. This is the same word used in Genesis 2:18 when the woman is called the helper to the man. The point to see is that there is nothing derogatory or lesser about being called a helper. God calls himself our helper and decries the foolishness of turning against him when he is our helper. When we forget God, we are forgetting the one who helps us. We are forgetting the only one who can truly help us. We have an amazing ability to reject and forget the very ones who are truly helping us. To forget God, the one who can help, is absolutely tragic.
Death Is Not The Final Word (13:12-16)
Up to this point, God has already pictured the death of the nation in verses 1-3 where the nation will vanish like the morning mist. Further, the death of the nation is pictured in verses 7-8 where the nation will be destroyed like bear robbed of her cubs or like a lion or leopard. In verses 12-13 Israel is pictured as experiencing death again. This time God uses the picture of an abnormal birth. The labor contractions are happening, but the child unwisely refuses to be born. The picture is that Israel has been unwise by making sinful choices. The implication is that death is the fate because of the refusal to be born. Israel stubbornly rejects the path of life.
So now God asks two questions in verse 14? Should he ransom Israel from the power of the grave? Should he redeem Israel from the power of death? Let us understand the words for a minute. Ransom is a process in which ownership or control is transferred from one individual to another by means of an appropriate payment. So God is asking if he should take Israel from the power of death to the power of life by means of an appropriate payment. The concept of redemption is similar. A redeemer is one who is legally entitled to intervene, who must possess sufficient resources to meet the obligation that is due and who is willing to act in this capacity. So God is legally entitled to intervene and has the ability to meet the obligation. But is he willing to act in this capacity? God’s answer is yes he will ransom and redeem from death. So the proclamation of hope is made. “O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting?” Even though Israel will die, it is not the final word. God has power over death and will raise Israel back to life. You may remember this image being used by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37 where the nation was pictured as dead and lifeless, but God breathes life back into them.
The apostle Paul uses this imagery and applies it to us in 1 Corinthians 15:55. The message the apostle Paul is giving that in our own bodies, death does not have the final say. Paul says that this is the long range view for this prophecy’s fulfillment. Bringing Israel back was not the only thing God had in view. God also had in view the salvation of all people by overcoming death. The resurrection of Jesus from dead proves to us that death does not have the final say over our lives. Our perishable bodies must be changed to imperishable bodies and this is the ultimate victory that God has in store for us. Jesus is our redeemer who ransomed us from death as well. So what is this message supposed to generate in the hearts of those who hear it? This leads us into chapter 14 where we see the answer.
Call To Repentance (14:1-3)
The first response is that we would simply repent. God wants to give life and blessings to his people but that is only possible if the problem of sin is dealt with and removed. God is saying he will deal with the problem of sin and death. So now bring your words of confession and return to the Lord (14:2). Ask God for forgiveness so that you can worship him. Declare that you have no other god, renouncing all relationships with other gods. Come and experience the compassion and mercy of the Lord (14:3). This is what true repentance looks like. Ask God for forgiveness, declare you will seek the Lord and do his will, bring your worship to him, and enjoy the mercy of God.
God’s Promise (14:4-7)
God makes an amazing promise. Here is how he will respond to our true words of repentance. God will heal them (14:4). God will heal when we turn to him and worship him alone. Listen to the middle of verse 4, “I will love them freely.” God’s love will be without limits or bounds when we return to him. God can freely love because he has turned away his anger by his redemption and through our repentance. Verses 5-7 describe God blessing his people. Israel will be like a plant with deep root so that it will not be destroyed. God will give healing and strength.
Final Exhortation (14:8-9)
God’s message is that if you will repent and forsake your ways and your idols he will heal and bless. The final two verses are now an exhortation to consider your life. First, why should there be idols in your life? God is the one who answers your prayers. God is the one who cares for you. God is the one who heals you. God is the one who will give you life after death. God is the one who redeems you from the grave. God is your helper. God is your savior. God is full of compassion and mercy toward you. God will bless you. God should not have to see any idols in our hearts. God should not have to be concerned about us turning to our desires and to our false hopes because he has proven that he is all we need. There is no other god beside him. God is so faithful to you. He is like a tree that is always green causing you to bear fruit. Your life will flourish when you are connected to God. Your life will be fruitful if you choose God and reject all false gods and false hopes.
Second, carefully consider your decision. Be wise and discerning and think about what God is offering to us. If we have ears to hear, then we need to hear what God is proclaiming. The wise understand what God is trying to give to us. The discerning know the right choice to make. The decision is something that we sometimes call in life “a no-brainer.” You can have God who is a Father caring for you, loving you, rescuing you, helping you, and redeeming your life even from the grave. You can have God who will make you fruitful and bless you. Or you can have your own way, following your own heart and your own desires which will lead to an empty life, a hopeless life, and ultimate judgment and doom. It is a clear choice and the wise understand this. Choose God. Repent and receive healing.
Finally, the ways of the Lord are true and right. The righteous live by walking in those paths. We will look at God’s law as a guide for directions. When we go on vacation, I always have my GPS on my phone open and active to tell me where to go in these new cities that we visit. I do not look at my GPS and argue with it when it tells me to go a particular direction. I am not upset when it gives me directions because I think it is limiting my options and inhibiting my will and desires. The GPS is helping me. It is telling me the way to stay safe and the way to get to where I want to go. That is the way we must see God’s paths. They are true and right. The wise walk in those paths and do not resist what God says because his paths lead you to where you want to go. However, the sinners stumble in them. Sinners resist God’s way. They are yelling at God’s guidance and run off the path of life and safety into their own destruction.
The choice is ours. Choose the path of life. Choose to listen to God’s guidance. Reject the wisdom and the ways of the world. Understand that your life and your hope is only found in God and listen to him.