repentTake your Bibles and open with me this week to Hosea 14. As we come to the text this morning we have arrived at the final message in our series through the Book of Hosea. This concluding message is titled, “The Ways of the Lord are Right.”

We have seen the life and marriage of Hosea played out before the nation as a living parable, teaching and warning the people of Israel about the Redeeming love of God and also the dire consequences of God’s wrath upon sin and unfaithfulness. Here then in these final 9 verses, for all of the talk of unfaithfulness, idolatry, repentance, restoration, judgment, and wrath, as we know from the Scripture and history that Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrian empire, here at the end, we hear a message of hope. Even though judgment is sure, even though by now it cannot be stopped, even though the people have refused to repent and return, even though…Hosea still holds out hope.

In verse 1-3 this morning we see the first ray of hope. Hope is found in the continued preaching of a message of repentance. Our text reads, “O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; 2 Take words with you, and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us, we will not ride on horses, nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’ For in You the fatherless finds mercy.”

The Lord through the prophet appeals to Israel that they might return, that they might repent of their sin. Keep in mind that the people already believe that they have repented. But as we have worked through the Book we have seen that while they claimed to repent and while they claimed to be striving to seek the Lord, we know that outwardly nothing ever changed. Why? Because inwardly nothing ever changed. They thought that if they said that they repented then that meant that they repented. But repentance is not merely a confession of wrong doing. Repentance is itself a change! If nothing ever changes internally or externally in our lives then we cannot claim to have repented.

The people continued in the same sins, the same iniquity, the same unfaithfulness and idolatry. They claimed to worship God but worshiped Him with false images and worshiped Him alongside other gods. So here is the call, “O Israel, return to the Lord your God.” The bad news is that they need to return. The good news is that they need to return to the Lord their God. He is still their God! In fact, we know from Scripture that the very judgment that is coming upon them is proof of God’s love. “For whom the Lord loves He chastens.” (Heb. 12:6). The Lord’s Word surely will be remembered by the people when they are in captivity. Surely they will recall to mind the preaching of Hosea and the other prophets. They will hear in their memory, “Repent! Return!” And because they did not repent and return before judgment now the hope will be that they repent and return, at least to the Lord, not the Land. The hope is that the chastening bears the fruit of repentance and that the people are broken and crushed because of their sin and in that hurt they find the grace that they had for so long neglected.

The very word discipline has as its root the word disciple, which refers to training. If they would not be trained by the preaching of the Word of God, perhaps they will be trained now after having been broken by their enemies.

Hosea reminds the people, “You have stumbled because of your iniquity.” And to say that they have stumbled is not to say that they have fallen into this mess. They jumped into it! The word stumbled here means to be weakened, to be made feeble. Their iniquity, their sins of self-will have brought the moral and spiritual decay to the nation that will mean that its fall into the hands of the enemy is unavoidable.

What is the nation to do? Hosea says, “Take words with you, and return to the Lord.” Again, the Lord tells His people what to say and what to do. When it is laid out before them in this way we must wonder why they do not do and say what He says. Then again, how often do we find ourselves here? Not doing or saying the things we know we ought, the things we have been instructed to say and do?

In the first two verses he uses the word “return” twice. This word means to turn back. We were going in one direction, changed direction to go the other way, and now need to turn back and go the way we were going. This is to repent. Of course we understand that the word repent means to change your mind. It is to turn back in the way we think, specifically about sin and about God. And when we turn our thinking around, our behavior should follow suit.

The truth is that when we sin, usually it is because we want to. We decide to give in to temptation and we choose to sin. This is why we need a change of mind. We need a change of thinking. We need to agree with God and His Word, choosing to believe His definition of sin and refusing to allow our flesh to try and justify iniquity because we are being led astray by our desires.

So in these first three verses the Lord teaches His people four things about repentance. First we see that repentance brings An Awareness of the Seriousness of Sin. This is how we know if chapter 6 that the people did not actually and truly repent. They did not treat their idolatry seriously and instead simply tried to blend the worship of God and all these false gods together into one religious buffet. If they had changed their mind about it then they would not have continued to participate in it with such vigor!

When we are aware of the truly heinous nature of our sin we then will be willing to fight sin! When we repent we understand that sin offends a holy God. And we know this, our sin is so horrible because our God is so holy! Sinning is falling short of His glory. It is to be less than He has created us to be. Matthew 9:13 finds Jesus telling us, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” He came to call those who had sinned to repent. To change their minds about their wickedness and to no longer find it acceptable or desirable. Instead we reject our sin and embrace Christ by faith. He is what we want. He is the desire of our heart!

Having this awareness of the seriousness of sin is not only to see that sin offends a holy God, but is also means that we call sin what it is. We call a spade a spade. Sin is sin. Too often today we would rather call sin a mistake, a disease, a weakness, a character flaw, an addiction, an accident, a failure, a bad choice, an oversight, or worse – we call it a fling, an affair, an indiscretion, a lapse in judgment, just being human. It is a man just being a man, or a woman just being a woman. It is just doing what comes natural to us – YES, in fact it is, and because our nature is fallen that is the problem! It is sin. It is transgression.

James Boice in his commentary on Hosea said something profound. He mentions Isaiah 53:5, in the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah, the verse reads, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” In this Old Testament prophesy about the crucifixion we are told why Jesus would be scourged and crucified. It was for our “transgressions” and “iniquity.” He died because of our sin! Boice said that with the way we talk about sin, perhaps we should read that verse this way, “He was wounded for our weakness, He was bruised for our mistakes.” Did Jesus have to die on the cross because we made a mistake? An error? An accident? No! He had to die because we sinned and the “wages of sin is death.”

We try so hard to soften it. We’ve changed the words. One example – have you heard about a “no-fault divorce?” Now let me tell you, if you want to know who is responsible in a no-fault divorce it is whichever of them that has not loved and forgiven as they are commanded to do so by Christ. In other words, while there are at times innocent parties in a divorce, there are never sinless parties. And using a legal term to describe a no-fault divorce is like talking about a sinless sin. There simply is no such thing. We use the term so that there are no legal consequences to the dissolution of a marriage – we fear the legal system and civil penalties more than we fear God and His Word. We work much too hard at trying to get away with doing the things God hates.

This awareness does not come to us naturally. By nature, as fallen human beings, we are bent toward sin. We sin because we are born sinners. So where does repentance come from? Where does this awareness of the seriousness of sin originate? According to Acts 11:18 it is granted as a gift by God. When the Jewish believers learned that Cornelius and his household had believed, “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.’”

Repentance is a change of mind wrought by God within us. Therefore, if we are struggling with the same sin and keep falling for the same temptation over and over again, and it seems we just cannot overcome this particular sin, then we need to repent! Start by asking God to grant you repentance! Seek it at the Source. Ask God to renew our mind, to change our thinking! Ask Him to bring our thoughts in line with His.