“Come, let us return to the Lord.” Hosea’s message is a good one for every time and place. In the days of ancient Israel, those who had faced divinely ordained trials could take heart that the God who had “torn us” and “struck us down” might soon “heal us” and “revive us.” His purpose was not to destroy Israel forever, but to remake her for a more healthy future. “On the third day He will raise us up.”
This were Hosea’s words to His contemporaries, but then the Lord adds this jarring question addressed to the people who claimed to be ready to submit to Him: “What shall I do with you?” The nation did not yet have a solid heart of surrender to the Lord, but were fickle in their affections. “Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.” They may have imagined that the Lord’s discipline would be lighter or more trivial than decades of difficult exile.
Yahweh was not seeking more and more sacrificial animals in a system of perpetual sin management, nor would He be content with scrupulous attention to external obedience combined with only passing concern for the meekness of true repentance and the heavenly joy of faith in a future Messiah. “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (See also Matthew 9:13 and 12:7.)
Like Adam so long ago, Israel and Judah had forgotten the depth of what it would mean to live in true relationship with the Lord. They had “transgressed the covenant.” Their spiritual leaders were more than disappointing, they were “robbers” who would “band together” in order to “murder.” They would not embrace the Lord God if He came in person, and they would try to prevent others from finding the way to eternal life.
God’s chosen people needed a righteous substitute to stand in the gap for them. They needed a Man who would fully obey His Father and would then “restore the fortunes” of the lost through His own blood. Those who think of sin lightly in any era need to take another look at the theology of the cross of Christ which stands at the center of Christian doctrine. Any view of our moral failure that minimizes the problem of sin can never make sense of what God has done to accomplish our eternal reconciliation with Him.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, teach us the difference between mere words and true repentance. We want to return to You and know You. Meet us now with the Bread from heaven, our sure and holy Redeemer. Our devotion to You has been temporary and conditional, and so we have transgressed Your commandments. Teach us the way of steadfast love and patient endurance, turning us away from all sin. Restore the fortunes of Your people forever.