Hosea 14:2-10 (NRSVCE)
What a beautiful passage about repentance, forgiveness, and faithfulness! The Israelites are told to give a prayer of repentance which hits at some of the major struggles we all have in our own lives. It opens immediately with “Take away all guilt.” There is a big difference between being repentant and wallowing in guilt. The repentant man accepts that he has done wrong and seeks to be reconciled with those he has wronged. The guilty man retreats in on himself, hiding himself away out of shame like Adam hid in the garden. Thus we ought to pray for an end to our guilt, so that we can be truly repentant.
Notice what is to be offered to God. Not sacrifices, gifts, or the fruit of our labors, but the fruit of our lips. Praising, rejoicing, and love are what are to be offered, for it is love which God has for us, and love first and foremost which we ought to reciprocate. We often get so caught up in producing fruits from our labors that we forget it is the fruits of our lips that God wants us to give. We make idols of our work, saying “’Our God,’ to the work of our hands” instead of remembering that everything we do ought to give glory to God and not to ourselves. For what is making an idol out of our own works if not glorifying ourselves? Israel has made an idol of their work, and thus they have separated themselves from their Father. But “in you the orphan finds mercy.”
Then we get an assurance of that mercy. For their repentance, God promises His love and His favor for Israel. God will “be like the dew to Israel,” the very source of their fruitfulness. When we come to God with true repentance, God will renew us. God will restore our strength and beauty, so that we “shall flourish as a garden.” This renewal is emphasized in the last two verses. Through true repentance we shall receive forgiveness from God, and God’s abundant love for us will strengthen the love we have for God. “O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?” Nothing! Idols no longer glimmer before our eyes, because we are God’s people and God has placed us beneath His shadow!
“I am like an evergreen cypress; your faithfulness comes from me.” Our faith is a gift from God. He is the dew which enables us to have life itself. His love for us strengthens our love for Him, making us capable of remaining faithful to His commandments. When the trees and flowers of the garden are healthy, they grow tall and strong. So too, if we stay faithful to God’s ways, He says “the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” Repentance, forgiveness, and faithfulness are what give us life.