i-will-love-them-freelyGod through Hosea tells the people exactly what to do and what to say to come back, to return, to repent. If they would, we see in verses 4-7 the Promise of Restoration. If the people will do and say what He tells them to do and say, He says, “I will heal their backsliding,

I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him. 5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon. 6 His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon. 7 Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall be revived like grain, and grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.” God promises restoration. The first step is that He will heal our backsliding.

What is backsliding? We think of making forward progress or moving backwards away from what is right. The word actually means to wander off course by turning away. We are so prone to wander off and to walk away, to go our own way. And God says that when we repent and confess He will heal our backsliding. In other words, He will stop our wandering and bring us back home. That is discipline. Just as a shepherd retrieves a wandering sheep and with the rod of correction brings him back to the fold, so God will come after us and bring us back by means of discipline and correction. He will break us of our sin by breaking us with His Word!

In returning to God we need to see that we don’t have to find our way back, we just need to turn back toward Him and He will come get us and carry us and restore us and embrace us!
He says there also, “I will love them freely.” The question that arises then is what can constrain the love of God? Does God love us any less when we sin? No. But what happens to our relationship with Him? It is hindered. So sin does not interrupt His love but it does affect our relationship. We see that the free flowing love is there “for My anger has turned away from him.” In our relationship things go better when there is love without anger!

It is not that His anger just dissipates or goes away. Does He just decide not to be mad any longer? No. He applies the sacrifice of Christ to our account. He bore the wrath, the anger of God toward our sin on Himself on the cross. His anger is satisfied by the suffering of Christ for us.

In verse 5 we see the continuation of the restoration. 5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon. This is nourishment. The morning dew that waters the lily. You are not sure where it comes from and you can’t hear it fall like the rain, but when you get up in the morning, if you are a morning person you’ve experienced this, and the ground is wet, the grass is wet with dew. Just like the dew, God says He will be there.

The lily represents beauty. God will restore Israel’s beauty He says. Joel 2:25 says, “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.”

Discipline at times, and brokenness can leave scars. There are signs of the faithful wounds of love. We are hurt, we hurt others, relationships are damaged. God is able to restore beauty. Even from ashes! Isaiah 61 tells us Jesus has come, “To comfort all who mourn, 3 To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Hosea goes on to quote the Lord, saying He will “lengthen his roots like Lebanon.” These are the deep roots of the cedar trees of Lebanon. This is a reference to God strengthening Israel. We fall into sin because we are weak. He will strengthen us as we repent and confess and return to Him. This is the promise of Isaiah 40:28-31, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” God will restore our strength.

He continues, “6 His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.” This is a restoration of value. Olive oil was one of the most valuable commodities during this time. God will expand them like a healthy growing olive tree. And there will be a restoration of delight – the people will delight in God and He will delight in them. This is the sweet aroma, the fragrance mentioned. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 tells us, “14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” In Christ, we are a designer fragrance J – the fragrance of the Designer, the fragrance of Christ in the world.

Another way in which we diffuse the fragrance of God in the world is found in how God describes our prayers! He says that the prayers of the saints, the prayers of the saved, are a sweet smelling aroma to before His Throne.
He closes this section of the chapter with verse 7, “Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall be revived like grain, and grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.” He promises to restore abundance. Those who repent and confess and return will grow and bear fruit. What hinders spiritual growth? A lack of repentance. Willful sin. Refusing to confess. These things hinder growth in grace.

John 15:5 is a reminder to us as Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Verse 16 says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” It says right there we were chosen to bear fruit that remains. This is the fruit of the Spirit. It does not originate with us or in us or from us – it is Christ in us and with us and through us.

And notice the reference to fragrance again, “Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.” And we confess that we are Baptists but that we understand wine is a good gift to be appreciated according to God’s Word. Think about the senses here. God is restoring all these things and He references fragrance and scent. The first reference speaks of an aroma, the second is more specifically a scent that brings a memory to mind. How powerful is scent with it comes to memories? Things you smell and the mind runs to a place you thought long forgotten, or a place of sweet remembrance. And that is what we find, when we repent and confess and are restored we find again the sweetness of abiding with God.