Are you in the good-news, bad-news-good-news story?

When bad news is good news.

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
    for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
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 of our lips.
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.”

I will heal their apostasy;
    I will love them freely,
    for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
    he shall blossom like the lily;
    he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
his shoots shall spread out;
    his beauty shall be like the olive,
    and his fragrance like Lebanon.
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
    they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
    their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
    It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
    from me comes your fruit.

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 upright walk in them,
    but transgressors stumble in them. – Hosea 14:1-9

The bulk of the book of Hosea is just sad. Israel, sometimes referred to as Ephraim the largest tribe in Israel, is called a whore, one who has run after idols, instead of God, her husband. One of the famous passages from Hosea is in Hosea 8:7, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” The prophet had the unenviable calling to speak for God a message that was hard and extended over about 30 years and four kings. I surmise that Hosea was not too popular in the king’s court or anywhere else in Israel.

However, the message wasn’t all “bad.” Right after being told, “You are Not My People,” he says, “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” So, even in the midst of pronouncements of judgment, there is the promise of mercy. We still see the loving heart of God.

In 14:2-3, God gives Israel a prayer of repentance to pray,

    “Take away all iniquity;
accept what is good,
and we will pay with bulls
the vows [fruit] of our lips. [worship]
3 Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses; [a reference to military alliances with Assyria]
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.” [a reference to idolatry]

God’s response to their repentance is a complete reversal of all the bad news in chapters 1-13

God’s anger has turned from them; God will be like the dew to Israel causing her to blossom like the lily and take root like the trees of Lebanon. Israel will dwell under the shadow of his wing.  God makes it clear that it was him all along who answered their prayers and looked after them, not the idols they went whoring after. Then it gets really good, “I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes my fruit.” Does that seem familiar? Jesus said, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” The provision of all that is good in our lives is a product of our intimate fellowship with Jesus.

Then comes the final statement of wisdom from Hosea:

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 upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.

The big takeaway to understand is that the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control come from the vine. As we abide in him, he, by the Holy Spirit, produces these good things in us.

For those who have not been living in fellowship with Jesus, the story of Hosea can be a life-changer. It is a good-news, bad-news-good-news story. That is, the good-news is that if you will turn from your reliance on the strength of other alliances than God, and stop worshipping idols (anything that takes the place of God in your life), then he calls you “Children of the living God.” That is, you are welcomed back into deep fellowship with Jesus.

The bad-news-good-news is that if you continue to compromise your trust in Christ and continue in self-reliance and continue to allow other things to be more important than Jesus, he will love you (good-news) with strong discipline (bad news). He will bring the unpleasantness of discipline to correct us so we can live under the shadow of his wing and experience him as the dew in the morning that causes our lives to flourish.

If you find yourself in a place like Israel, trusting in human alliances and worshipping your idols, I encourage you to listen to his loving call to turn to full confidence in him.

Let me know if I can pray for you.