July 12, 2022 Pastor Steve Behlke

To Repent Is To Return

To Repent Is To Return

God blessed His ancient people Israel, but not always trusting, not always responding, they kind of fell out of love, worshiped other gods, and did awful things. Over generations they didn’t know God, His love, or His ways. 

And that’s not a healthy place to be.  

So the Lord God raised up prophets to speak some sense into His people. And really to turn their hearts back to Him. 

Hosea was one of the prophets, but he was to do more than speak. God asked him to marry a loose, lustful woman who would be a promiscuous, unfaithful wife, who didn’t trust, and couldn’t receive her husband’s love. 

By marrying her, Hosea showed God’s perspective on His relationship with His people. We’ve seen God’s love. He felt bitterly betrayed, cut to the heart, violated by how easily and frequently His people had all these idols and other loves, and how we seek our worth and identity and happiness outside of our relationship with God and in everything, it seems, but God. 

We make idols out of money, fame, sex, sex appeal, even food. We can make an idol out of our job, our weekends, social media, sports, shows. Whatever we trust to give us a meaningful, happy, fulfilling life. We can make an idol out of politics, patriotism, equity, diversity, inclusion.

We turn to these to meet real needs for meaning, peace, significance, so we feel strongly about them—we won’t give them up—but they don’t deliver. They bring temporary relief yet they put a wedge between us and our Lord.  

Yet, Hosea shows God still loves you. However you respond to His love, He responds to your response.

Our Lord is heaven-bent on bringing you into a richer and more meaningful, better-than-ever relationship with Him.  

The final cycle of Hosea in chapters 12-14,

Hosea 12:2 The LORD also has a dispute with Judah, and will punish Jacob [Israel] according to his ways; He will repay Him according to his deeds… 6 Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually.

Israel and, similarly, the church, you and I, have a long history of sin and unfaithfulness. He says, “You’ve been unfaithful by trusting different idols for different aspects of your life.” Then He reminds us of His great love for us,

Hosea 13:4 Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt [and He has faithfully been your God ever since YOU first trusted Jesus]; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no Savior besides Me.

COVID has shown that work cannot be the basis for a fulfilling life. While everyone is hopped up on politics, social activism, these will not bring the meaning you need. Entertainment. Watch that you don’t forget God and put your hope on what cannot satisfy. There’s no Savior besides the Lord.

Of course, the same One who in the OT said, “I am YHWH the Lord your God” is Jesus Christ in the NT. And there is no Savior besides Him.

Which is exactly what Peter the apostle wrote about Jesus,

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

While it is easy to trust our worth and well being to material things or causes that seem "bigger than the moment" and "on the right side of history,"

Hosea 13:5 [God says] I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. 6 As they had their pasture [ease, prosperity], they became satisfied [with these], and being satisfied [with material goods], their heart became proud [they didn’t need me]; therefore they forgot Me. 

This a common pattern. God blesses us. But we become satisfied with the blessings, and we can even idolize the blessings. And love them, trust them, serve them over God. In America, we have an abundance...

And you and I too frequently forget God. At least practically.

And it breaks His heart.

But God never stops loving you.  

And yes, like Israel, like Gomer, the Lord may discipline us for our sake—in love—to keep us from digging ourselves in too deep, or getting too hurt. (Wow, this is so important to trust, especially in the moment.) But He will not abandon you, nor divorce you, nor will He ever give up on you.  

Hosea 11:8 How can I give you up…? How can I surrender you, O Israel?… My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled. 9 I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

Again this is something to recall and trust. He’s not like you. He’s not like people you know. He is God. He loves and forgives freely and perfectly.

This is what makes Him “holy.”

And He has never stopped loving you. And in the final chapter of Hosea, as He closes this chapter, the Lord our God keeps pleading with us,

Hosea 14:1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.

"Because of your iniquity." Not because God failed you. Not because life is too hard. No, we stray, you've strayed because you love your sins. But God loves you! He's telling us, “I’m stoked to have you back; I want us to be together.”

Return to the Lord your God who loves you so fiercely, so vulnerably.

If YOU realize, for whatever reason, that you’ve drifted away, and you know it you need the LORD—heed His invitation: “Return, to the Lord your God!

If you don't know how to return to God, Hosea instructs us what to do. And it’s not fix your life. Be more religious. Or get your shiplap straight.

But repent. 

Repentance is not feeling bad for being such a rotten Christian. It’s not remorse. It’s a change of mind. A change of trust.

To repent is to the God who loves you and gave His life for you and He’s stoked for you to return. But how?

Hosea 14:2 Take words with you and return to the LORD. [Turn your heart to Him and] Say to Him, "Take away all of our iniquity, and receive us graciously, that we may present to you the fruit of our lips. 

By faith in His grace, say to Him, “Take away all of our iniquity…

Which is what He wants to do.

I mean, you don’t have to plead your case or justify yourself.

But trust God and accept His forgiveness in Christ—Forgive us, Lord! Take away our sins. And trust Him that He forgives you… 

And say to Him, “LORD, we went our own way but restore us—receive us graciously,” undeservedly, according to Your grace not for any merit in us. 

Hosea 14:3 [Say to Him] Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses [I.e., we won't trust our stronger neighbors or the cavalry to save us]; nor will we say again, 'Our god,' to the work of our hands [For we repent. We change our mind. We change our trust. Whatever resources we’d looked to besides you, we no longer trust to provide what only God provides]; for in You [the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—in YOU] the orphan finds mercy."

Orphans? Yes, that’s us when we reject God. That's how we practically live.

But God wants us to know that in Him the orphan finds mercy. The prodigal son is always welcomed home. The lost can be found if they want. The adulterous wife is loved despite her unfaithfulness.

Return to the Lord today.

And if you return? How would God respond to them and to us?

Hosea 14:4 I will heal their apostasy [turning away from Me], I will love them freely [despite all they’ve done!], for My anger has turned away from them.  

God’s anger was turned away on the cross when Jesus paid for the sins of the world. This is where our relationship with God is started, and restored. This is where forgiveness is found. This is where grace has been offered once for all.

At the cross, the unilateral love of God is given for the sins of the whole world. At the cross, we see God’s kindness that leads to repentance.  

Hosea ends his prophecy with a choice to be made,

Hosea 14:9 Whoever is wise, let him understand [what Hosea wrote]; 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.

Here we have a choice. You do.

Know and trust what Hosea reveals to us. And choose to walk in them. Return to the Lord, no longer trust the false gods you rely on, which stand in the place of God as if we’ve forgotten Him. His love. His power. His justice. His works.

Heed the call even now, choose to trust the Lord, and by His grace, however imperfectly, to walk in His ways, for they are right and wise and truly freeing.