Acknowledge Sin (1–2)
God can restore anyone. Ask Moses. God changed him from a murderer into a deliverer. Ask David. God changed him from an adulterer and a murderer into a psalm writer and for 3,000 years he’s been helping believers in their relationships with God. But there is one requirement: repentance. “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,” is God’s command to His people. The word return conveys the idea of repentance. The people need to return/repent because they have been on the road of rebellion, and now God wants them to come back to Him on the road of obedience. The people’s sin has caused them to stumble. Now they are commanded to ask for God’s forgiveness.
“Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously,” is the prayer of repentance that all people need to pray. We need to come to God just as we are, but after encountering the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator God, a radical change must be observed in us after God takes away our iniquity and imparts grace to us. Patrick Morley writes that the church’s integrity problem is in the misconception “that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior.”
Establish Commitment (3)
Salvation only comes from God. We cannot save ourselves. No matter how many good deeds we do, no matter how many missions trips we make, and no matter how many times a day we pray, we cannot save ourselves. Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. For a moment God’s people thought that they could be saved by the great Assyrian army. Verse 3 concludes, “Assyria will not save us.”
To place trust in a government or a military power is foolish. Salvation only comes from God. Our commitment to the God who saves us must be seen in a real day-to-day commitment. “Nor will we say again, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands.” The people have understood that a relationship with the true and only God means rejecting allegiance to the blind, motionless, powerless piece of wood or iron they have been unwisely worshiping.
Accept Healing (4–8)
Although God must punish people for their sin, He always has a word of hope for those who repent of their sin and turn from their sinful ways. “I will heal their apostasy,” is God’s commitment. “I will love them freely,” is God’s assurance. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. The people’s sin has turned them into a dry land, but God promises to be “like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily, and He will take root like the cedar of Lebanon.” Not only will Israel be blessed, but as a result of God’s healing and love, Israel will be a blessing to others. “Those who live in His shadow will again raise grain and they will blossom like the vine.”
Walk in Wisdom (9)
All Christ’s followers are required to walk in wisdom. Wisdom is not acquired when one earns a degree, and it cannot be bought in the “Religion” section of your local bookstore. One cannot download wisdom from a self-help site and one cannot inherit wisdom from his or her parents.
Wisdom, like salvation, comes from God. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Proverbs 2:6 teaches us that “The Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” When one walks in God’s ways as spelled out in the Bible, one is wise.
Hosea concludes his book by affirming that “the ways of the Lord are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.” The apostle Paul says, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” May we live in God’s obedience and Christ’s wisdom in such a way that we’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit and live for the glory of God every moment of our lives.
(Editor’s Note: Dr. Tiberius Rata is professor of Old Testament Studies and chair of the Department of Biblical Studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Ind. This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist and is used with permission.)