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The Process of Returning to the Lord

Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, poetically known as Ephraim. Hosea devotes the bulk of his prophecy to describing the spiritual adultery of Israel and plainly setting forth the sure judgment of God if they did not return to Him. In fact, God had Hosea play out in his own life a physical, temporal expression of Ephraim’s spiritual reality.

Hosea chapter four touches on five evidences of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God:

Vs: 6 – Israel rejected knowledge

Vs: 6 – Israel had forgotten the law of God

Vs: 8 – Israel had set their heart on their iniquity

Vs: 10 – Israel had left off to take heed to the Lord

Vs: 17 – Israel was joined to idols

In short Ephraim had forsaken knowledge resulting in them forgetting the law of God thus allowing them to set their heart on their iniquity which hardened them to the point that they no longer gave heed to the LORD causing God to declare that Ephraim had been joined to idols.

The word “joined” here is interesting. It suggests a joining that is the result of spells, to be charmed. Israel was so thoroughly apostatized that it was as though they were under a spell. They had allowed themselves to be charmed to the point that they were fascinated with their idols.

By the time we get to chapter fourteen Israel’s condition is determined to be so systemic that they do not even know how to get back to God. They had wandered so far and for so long that they had to be tutored on the process of returning to the LORD!

It might be helpful to us to consider the ABC’s of returning to the LORD! Chapter fourteen opens with an invitation, yea, a call! “O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God;” The call to return is immediately followed up by confronting the crux of the problem! “for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.”

They needed to return because they had fallen. The occasion of that falling was their own iniquity. Iniquity is a word that points to perversity. It comes from a root word that means to make crooked. If they were ever going to return to the LORD, they would have to recognize the source of their demise. It was their own crookedness. Most people get hung up right here. They simply will not own the fact that they are so crooked that returning to the LORD is the only answer. Most will own a universal crookedness applied to all men but to acknowledge and say “I am crooked” is not something a misinformed, arrogant heart can easily abide. Israel was so fallen, so far gone into apostacy, that the prophet had to tell them what to say for the purpose of returning to the LORD. Verse two they are instructed to take words when you turn to the LORD. This is what they were to say, “Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.” They were to ask God to take away the source of their fall. There are actually two things a play here. Both are necessary in order to return to the LORD. 1. We must want the iniquity taken away. We cannot return to the LORD holding on to iniquity. We cannot return to the LORD content with our crookedness and not wanting to be made straight. 2. We must seek restoration. We want to be with God. We want to know the power of his grace in our lives. The fact that one asks to be received graciously indicates they have a genuine sense of their own unworthiness! We do not get to turn to the LORD because we have worth but because he has grace!

Before we leave verse two, we find them being encouraged to speak words of faith as to the outcome. “So will we render the calves of our lips.” There is an expectation that the day has come that they will be able to “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” We render the calves of our lips because he had taken away our iniquity and received us graciously!

Then in verse three they were to express to God that they were forsaking the very things with which they had been spellbound and captivated. They were going to take their eyes off themselves and their idols. “Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses:” They were committing to refrain from looking in other places for deliverance. They would in effect have eyes for only the LORD from this time forward. Hosea continues, “Neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods, for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” They would not stay connected to their idols. They would cease to be mesmerized by their false gods!

Verse four God lays before them what they can expect if they will return to him.

I will heal their backsliding

I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him

I will be as dew to Israel

There is a solid expectation to be had by Ephraim if they would return to God. They did not have to be anxious about God’s response to their genuine repentance. He clearly states the degree to which he would restore them to himself.

The last part of verse five through verse seven the prophet Hosea paints a glorious picture of what a restored Ephraim will look like. They will be fruitful, and lively, and firmly rooted!

The restoration will be so complete and significant that Ephraim will say, according to verse eight, “What have I to do any more with idols?” Ephraim will be in such a place of unprecedented joy and delight that they will not even be able to imagine becoming once again enamored with the false gods and false hopes.

Then, in conclusion, in verse nine, I get the sense that this process of returning to the LORD is not just about Ephraim, but the scope of the exhortation is much broader. It reaches even to me. It reaches even to you. Note what the prophet writes, “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? Prudent, and he shall know them? For the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall therein.”

“Who is wise?” Anyone, anywhere, at any time! This tutorial for Ephraim’s return to the LORD is timeless. It is good in every generation for every culture and for every person. If I am going to return to the LORD, I will have to do it the way Ephraim was instructed to do so. If you are going to return to the LORD, you are going to have to do it the way Ephraim was instructed to do so.

Ephraim never did! They did not take up God’s call to return. They did not own their iniquity. Consequently they did not ask for their iniquity to be taken away or for the LORD to receive them graciously. They did not turn from the things in which they were trusting. Thus they never knew how the LORD could heal their backsliding and love them freely. They never experienced God’s anger being turned away from them. They never had God be as the refreshing dew in their lives. They never knew the peace and joy that accompanies restoration.

Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent and he shall know them?”

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