Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hosea and the Heart of God: A Profile in Generous Forgiveness

Nathan JonesBy Nathan Jones

We continue on with our eleventh installment of our faith study of the biblical Minor Prophets book of Hosea. This time we'll better understand the vastness of God's divine heart by looking at His profile when it comes to how He is both forgiving and generous in offering salvation.


God—A Profile in Generous Forgiveness

Forgiving. The heart of God is forgiving. If only Israel had heeded Hosea's messages and asked for forgiveness by repenting of their rebellion and other evil deeds, God would have been merciful. Loving-kindness and mercy are at the heart of Yahweh God. In His goodness, He desires mercy and not sacrifice. The Righteous Judge declares, "I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy." If Israel would have repented, God promised, "I would have healed Israel."

God also offered hope to Israel's brothers to the south—Judah—that if they would repent He would show them mercy as well. God did indeed show Judah greater mercy by allowing them many more decades to repent. But because they, like their northern brothers, refused to ask forgiveness for their evil deeds, Judah later fell to the Babylonian Empire in 582 BC (Hosea 1:7; 2:19,25; 3:5; 6:6; 7:1).

Saving. The heart of God saves. God's mercy towards Israel has not been extinguished even to this day, for God in Hosea 1:11 made His people a promise: "Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and appoint for themselves one head; and they shall come up out of the land." In that future day, God will turn His anger away, and the people of Israel will be regathered back in the Promised Land to proclaim, "for in You the fatherless find mercy." This very day, you and I are witnessing first-hand the beginnings of that promised time of mercy.

Regardless of what person, ideology, work or faith may claim to offer in the way of salvation, the Lord God reveals with total absoluteness in Hosea 13:4, "for there is no savior besides Me." God alone saves.

A few types of salvation are referred to here. First, when it comes to the salvation of the Jewish people, Israel's temporary banishment from the Promised Land is part of God's ongoing work in saving a remnant of believing Jews from idolatry. As God promises, "I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, and they shall be remembered by their name no more."

Second, the world needing saving from its own self-destructive inclinations. God promises that one day His Son Jesus Christ will set up an earthly kingdom where "bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth."

Third, and ultimately the most important form of salvation, God promised His Son Jesus would perform the ultimate sacrifice for our crimes to bring about our personal salvation. God will "ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death."

And fourth, when those forgiven fall back into their wicked ways, God will "rescue yet again and heal their backsliding." I just love what God promises in Hosea 6:1, "He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up" (Hosea 1:7,11; 2:1,17-18; 13:4,14; 14:3-4; 6:1). Our God saves!

Generous. The heart of God is generous. When one is restored to a right relationship with God, they are continually bathed in God's generosity. When a believing remnant of Israel is restored to God and the Holy Land once more, "the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered... O Judah, a harvest is appointed for you, when I return the captives of My people." No longer will Israel be under constant attack by world powers, for God will make them lie down safely, for God will be "like the dew to Israel."

When Jesus returns to set up His Millennial Kingdom, great will be the day for those who have accepted Him as Savior. "The earth shall answer with grain, with new wine, and with oil." Christ will let them dwell in their houses in peace and safety.

I'm reminded of a west Texas sheep farmer named Yates who could barely keep his ranch afloat. Day after day he barely eked out a living and was always worried the bank would foreclose. He eventually was forced to live off a government subsidy to buy clothes and food for his family. Then one day a seismographic crew from an oil company stopped by and asked if he'd let them drill a wildcat well on his land. Thinking it couldn't hurt, permission was given. The drill crew at 1,115 feet struck an oil reserve so huge that it ended up producing 80,000 barrels of oil per day. Living over so much oil, Yates had always been a millionaire, yet never in his ignorance knew it. The rancher owned the land, but hadn't truly claimed its wealth. Likewise, God wants to share His abundant generosity with us through great spiritual blessings, but like Yates, so few of us claim what is already there.13

The claim is when any person in repentance gives their heart to Jesus Christ as Savior, and the generosity is in God's promise that He will come and rain down righteousness upon us. A believer in Christ will joyously testify that they are filled and their heart exalted (Hosea 1:10,11; 2:18,22; 6:11; 10:12; 11:10-11; 12:6; 14:5; 13:6). Great is the generosity of our loving, heavenly Father!


In the twelfth part of this series on faith in the book of Hosea, we'll ascertain just what's caused all these problems—sin—and what it is exactly.


References

13. Millionaire Unawares. (1984, January). Parables, Etc., 3(11). p 4.

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