Hosea, prophet of mercy—chapter 42, New Covenant Salvation
Jan 19, 2017
Hosea 14:4 tells us how Israel will find mercy:
4 I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them.
God does this to fulfill His New Covenant vow. Take note that there are no “if” clauses here. He does not plead with Israel to turn from their apostasy. Instead, He takes responsibility and exercises His sovereign rights as the Creator by healing their apostasy. God always gives the flesh the first opportunity to succeed on its own, and then when its utter failure is proven, then He does it Himself.
In other words, the Old Covenant vows of men are given time to prove that no man can be saved by his own works or by his own will. When the appointed time arrives, God then intervenes by His sovereign work and by the counsel of His own will in order to make good on His New Covenant vow to make us His people and to be our God.
So we see throughout Israel’s history that for a long time God calls them to repentance. Occasionally, the people repent partially, but such repentance never takes root in their hearts. By the next generation, the same apostasy has re-established itself, and the call to repentance must again be issued. This cycle continues until God Himself heals their apostasy.
He says also, “I will love them freely.” Paul tells us the nature of His love in Romans 5:8,
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:10 adds that “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God.” The main force of Paul’s argument was to compare man’s love to God’s love. Men love friends, not enemies. Men might be willing to die for their friends, but God was willing to send Jesus to die for His enemies. That is the love of God—the same love that God shows to Israel in Hosea 14:4.
The point in which God moves from Old Covenant expectations to New Covenant promises is also the point where He moves from “anger” to “love.” When men fail to fulfill their vows, God expresses “anger,” and when He moves to fulfill His own vow, He expresses “love.” The love of God does not leave mankind to flounder in their inability to be perfect. Neither does He leave mankind’s eternal destiny to be determined by the power of his own free will. Instead, He saves mankind by the power of His own free will.
God’s Love Bears Fruit
Hosea 14:5-7 gives us the result of God’s love, saying,
5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. 6 His shoots will sprout, and his beauty will be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon. 7 Those who live in His shadow will again raise grain, and they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Each of these statements are promises of God, not commands that He expects men to perform. God says, “I will” do this, and so also “he will” do that. God does not hope that men will respond, but He takes responsibility upon Himself to make man do His will. This is precisely how the New Covenant itself is worded, for we read in Hebrews 8:10-12,
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.
Unlike the Old Covenant, there is no “if” here, no expectation from man to make this happen, no confidence in the will of man to fulfill his best intentions. Hence, when God turns from expressing “anger” over man’s failure to expressing His “love,” it is a New Covenant change. So Hebrews 8:13 closes out that section, saying,
13 When He said, “a new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
So when Hosea speaks of God’s mercy, it is God’s unfailing Statement of Intent, setting forth the things that God will do by the power of His own will, as shown in Deuteronomy 29:10-15, where He vowed to make us His people and to be our God. Ephraim will indeed bring forth fruit, but not by his own will. Israel will indeed recover the Birthright, but not by his own strength. Apostasy will certainly be healed, but not by his own understanding of truth.
The Wisdom in New Covenant Understanding
The prophet concludes his message in Hosea 14:8, 9, saying,
8 O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit. 9 Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the righteous will walk in them. But transgressors will stumble in them.
The Hebrew expression, “what have I to do with you?” was their way of expressing impatience at someone’s lack of understanding. We see this expression used often in Scripture. (For examples, see 2 Samuel 16:10; 19:22; 2 Kings 3:13; John 2:4 KJV). In Hosea 14:8 God says, “what MORE have I to do with idols?” In other words, if anyone doubts that God can indeed get rid of Israel’s idols, God expresses some impatience with him. The implication is, “What idols? I don’t see any idols. You remember idols, you say? That’s old news. Hit the Refresh button.”
Once again, God claims to be the cause of this: “It is I,” He says, and “from Me comes your fruit.” Ephraim, whose name means “double portion of fruit,” could not bear fruit by His own will or through the Old Covenant. He could not fulfill the Fruitfulness Mandate inherent in the Birthright of his father, Joseph (Genesis 49:22). It is only God who can cause us to bear fruit. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7,
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
Bearing fruit is the goal of the great Husbandman. He does not grow plants for the sake of good scenery. He has been looking for fruit from the beginning, and the fruit of the Fruitfulness Mandate in Genesis 1:28 is sonship. God’s desire and goal from the beginning is to bring forth sons in His image and likeness. For thousands of years man has been given opportunity to be fruitful by the power of his own will, but he has failed.
Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit, to show us that the sons of God must be begotten from above. Those sons will be brought to full birth (as a group, or body) at the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles that is associated with His second coming.
Hosea’s message ends with a word to the wise. “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things.” This is similar to the messages given to the seven churches in Revelation 3:22, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” Daniel 12:10 KJV says, “the wise shall understand.” If a person is given revelation of this New Covenant, they will understand that it is only the will of God that can cause us to bring forth fruit.
Hosea’s message throughout his book appeals to Israel to turn to God and to forsake idolatry. But in the end, he recognizes the futility of man’s will and shows that the real solution is for God to intervene by the power of His own will. Those who understand the difference between the two covenants, then, are the wise and discerning ones. Neither should we argue with the divine plan for giving us two covenants, “for the ways of the Lord are right,” he says.
The righteous will “walk in His ways,” for they will not only submit to God’s will, but they will actually agree with His wisdom. On the other hand, the transgressors will “stumble” over His ways, because, having no understanding of mind, they will disagree. Psalm 119:165 says,
165 Those who love Thy law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.
The Jews in the first century, who rejected the Mediator of the New Covenant, choosing to remain under the Old Covenant, stumbled over the Rock of Offense. They stumbled, because they retained confidence in their own ability to become righteous by the self-discipline of their own will and the righteousness of their own works. But Hosea tells us that those who stumble are not the righteous ones, but “transgressors.”
The righteous walk by faith in God’s ability to fulfill His vow, thereby showing His mercy (ruhamah). The prophet’s daughter, Lo-ruhamah, “no mercy, or no compassion” was not the final word in this prophecy. Hosea 14:3 says “in You the orphan finds mercy” (ruhamah). This fulfills the earlier prophecy in Hosea 2:23, “I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion.”
This is part 44 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Hosea." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones