Hosea 14:1-8 (ESV)
A Plea to Return to the Lord
14 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
2 Take with you words
and return to the Lord;
say to him,
“Take away all iniquity;
accept what is good,
and we will pay with bulls
the vows[a] of our lips.
3 Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.”
4 I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
6 his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
7 They shall return and dwell beneath my[b] shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
8 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.[c]
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.
As I write this devotion, our part of Illinois is in great need of rain. Instead of the colorful fall foliage we often see, our leaves are, for the most part, turning brown, dying, and falling to the ground. Southern Illinois truly needs several good, soaking rains. Imagine what it’s like when that good rain comes. Trees, grass, flowers, bushes—they all look clean and fresh and alive.
The prophet Hosea uses a similar image to talk to God’s people about God’s grace and forgiveness. After acknowledging that Israel has sinned, Hosea reminds them that their help will not come from the neighboring countries, but from God. God’s forgiveness will be like a good, drenching rain, soaking them in grace and love. God will be like life-giving dew and the people will blossom and grow and spread out and flourish and, get this, smell good too.
Despite hearing God’s call to love and serve our neighbors, we often know the dryness of looking the other way. Even when we know what a follower of Jesus would do, we manage to go another way and later wonder why we are parched. This situation is when the prophet’s words come to us. God’s abundant forgiveness rains down on us, bringing us back to life. In God’s infinite grace, we are pardoned and restored. God calls us to “live beneath God’s shadow,” where we will “flourish as a garden” (14:7).
There is no rain in the forecast here for at least another week. However, the chance of grace raining down daily is 100%. Living, loving, and serving in community with other forgiven sinners—that promise does indeed smell so sweet.
How often we fall and fail, we are stubborn and selfish. We wonder how you could continue to love and forgive us over and over again. But you do. Thank you for the grace you shower on us daily. Strengthen us as your forgiven people to walk with you and serve your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Written by Pastor Pam Mitcham Pastor of Community Care email@example.com