For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

14:1.  “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.”

This appeal has to be understood in its proper context.  As noted already, the generation of Israel addressed by Hosea had crossed over the invisible line separating Jehovah’s mercy from His wrath.  For her there was no hope, so clearly this present plea is to another generation of Israel: the one that will be back in the land in the impending Tribulation, the terrible judgments of which will bring a remnant of Israel (and of the Gentile nations) to repentance and faith in Christ, those who physically survive the horrors of that awful era being those who will remain on the earth to enjoy millennial blessing.

In addition to the clear prophetic message, however, there is an equally clear practical lesson relative to the restoration of a backslidden saint, and what God would teach us in there being no possibility of restoration for the apostate generation of Israel addressed by the prophet, is that time spent in backsliding is time in which the believer might as well have been dead.  Those wasted years can never be recovered.  The penitent saint may begin again, and that is what is being portrayed symbolically in the blessing of a yet future generation of Israel, but the wasted years are eternally lost, as is the eternal reward that could have been earned by the wise use of them.  Consider, for example, the case of Abraham recorded in Ge 12 and 13.  The time spent in Egypt (type of the world) was wasted, for Ge 13:3 records that upon returning to Canaan, “He went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning.”

14:2.  “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.”

“Take with you words....”  The “words” are those which must be uttered by all who would  make themselves the recipients of God’s mercy and blessing: penitent confession of sin, and avowal of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  The plea that all iniquity be taken away is the tacit confession of sin; and the plea that He receive them “graciously” is the oblique acknowledgment of the truth that it is pure grace on God’s part that makes possible His forgiveness of sinners, as it is written, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” Eph 2:8-9.

Virtually the same path must be followed by the saint who has backslidden, and having learnt the folly of disobedience, desires to be restored again to communion with God.

“... so will we render the calves of our lips,” means simply “so that we may offer Thee the sacrifice of praise and worship,” see Heb 13:15.  Worship should be the inevitable response to God’s pardon and His gift of eternal life; nor should we fail to note that only the redeemed have the ability to offer that worship, the worship so-called of unbelievers being a travesty which is an abomination to God.  But the uttering of pious words doesn’t necessarily constitute worship, for true worship is the presentation of an obedient life, as Samuel declared to Saul, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” 1 Sa 15:22.

14:3.  “Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.”

Asshur means Assyria (the greatest power of its day).  The generation addressed by Hosea had foolishly looked to Assyria for deliverance, only to find the hoped-for deliverer become their captor.  The believing remnant that will emerge from the Tribulation as millennial Israel, will not even acknowledge the mighty Roman beast ruler of that era: their trust will be in God alone.  Horses, a biblical symbol of strength, is used here metaphorically to denote military might.  The faith of the Tribulation remnant will not be in man’s might but in God.

“... the work of our hands” refers to the idols worshiped by the evil generation rebuked by the prophet.  The believing remnant of the Tribulation era will not repeat the folly of that earlier generation.  While the unbelieving world will bow in worship before the image of the beast, the believing remnant will put their trust in God alone, having the faith and wisdom to recognize that He Who mercifully pardons the penitent sinner, or backslidden saint, is the One Who alone has also the power to deliver His own out of the hand of every foe.

The assurance that the fatherless find mercy in God is particularly appropriate relative to the Tribulation remnant, for as the fatherless are weak and vulnerable, so will that remnant be, but God will deliver them.

14:4.  “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.”

Any question as to the legitimacy of applying this chapter to the restoration of a backslidden saint is surely removed by the words, “I will heal their backsliding.”

“I will love them freely” is literally “I will love them with all My heart.”  God had never ceased to love Israel, even that apostate, idolatrous generation addressed by Hosea; nor does He love today’s sinful world any less, Calvary being the irrefutable proof of that love, as it is written, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,” Jn 3:16.  Man’s sin, however, limits the expression of God’s love to chastisement rather than blessing, for it is to be remembered that chastisement is no less an evidence of His love than is His blessing, see Heb 12:6, His chastisement being designed to lead men to repentance and to blessing.  But it isn’t just the sin of the unbeliever that hinders blessing: the believer’s sin is no less effective in cutting it off.

All the evil results of the past sin, not only of the Tribulation Jewish remnant, but of the believing remnant of the Gentile nations as well, will be healed in the Millennium.  Those final thousand years of this world’s history will be marked by universal blessing rather than chastisement because the rule of the Lion of Judah will ensure the instant death of every overt offender, so that there will be no opportunity for sin to become rampant as it has in this present and in past dispensations.

their backsliding ... love them” emphasizes the individual nature of the millennial blessings.  “... mine anger is turned away from him,” on the other hand speaks of the corporate character of those blessings, the “him” being Israel, the nation through whom all others are to be blessed.  The obedience of Israel, to whose rule all the other millennial nations will be subject, will guarantee universal blessing during that glorious era.

A further truth to be noted relative to the restored backslider is that he is loved no less by God than before he allowed sin to lead him into disobedience and departure.

14:5.  “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.”

The dew, besides being one of nature’s most effective fructifying agents, is also a biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit, so that God’s being as the dew unto Israel is the metaphoric assurance that in the Millennium He will not only bless Israel temporally, but also spiritually.

The lily is one of the biblical symbols of beauty and purity, so that Israel’s growing as the lily speaks of the glory and purity that will luster Israel in the Millennium.

Lebanon, meaning whiteness, is used symbolically in Scripture to portray power and might, so that his casting forth his roots as Lebanon, is the declaration of the power and might that will be Israel’s in the Millennium because his trust will be in God.  It is also significant that Lebanon means whiteness, the universal color of purity, which is an essential element of all true greatness in a man or a nation.  Purity will characterize millennial Israel and ensure her stability, as its roots ensure the stability of the Lebanon cedar.

Relative to the believer’s position in Christ, it is instructive to read what Paul has written in Eph 3:14-19, “... I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ... that he would grant you ... to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

14:6.  “His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.”

The spreading forth of his branches speaks of Israel’s multiplication in the Millennium; and his beauty being as the olive tree confirms that this is a symbolic portrait of millennial Israel, for the vine represents Israel in the past as a vine which God brought out of Egypt and planted in Palestine, while the fig tree portrays her as she has been during the past two millennia: cursed, withered and dead, but now beginning to bud again in preparation for her restoration; and the olive is the consistent scriptural symbol of millennial Israel.  During that time Israel will be what God had always intended her to be: His witness to the nations, for the olive is scripturally associated with witness, see for example, Re 11:3-4, “And I will give power unto my two witnesses .... These are the two olive trees ... standing before the God of the earth.”

It is also instructive to note that in Scripture Israel is most often referred to by the feminine pronoun she or her, but here, appropriate to the context of millennial supremacy and dominion, by the masculine he or his.

“... his smell as Lebanon” is literally “as the Lebanon cedars,” which lent the fragrance of cedar to the whole mountain, and yielded a beautifully perfumed wood, virtually impervious to decay, fitting symbol of millennial Israel whose righteousness will be as fragrance pervading the whole millennial earth, and whose international supremacy will endure to the end of time.

Relative to these plants which are used to portray Israel, the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary makes the following interesting remark, “The lily depicts its (Israel’s) lovely growth; but as it wants duration and firmness, the deeply-rooted cedars of Lebanon are added; these, however, are fruitless, therefore the fruitful, peace-bearing, fragrant, ever-green olive is added.”

The blessed condition of restored Israel is no less that of the backslidden saint restored to communion with his heavenly Father.

14:7.  “They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.”

While “his shadow” has ultimate reference to God’s shadow, in the present context the application seems to be to millennial Israel, “return” referring not to a regathering of scattered Israelites, but rather to the restoration of Israel’s national life.

Their revival as corn sprouting up out of the earth is the symbolic declaration that millennial Israel will be as food to the nations, feeding (instructing) them in the knowledge of God; while his growth as a vine speaks of the joy that will fill the earth under Israelite administration.  As the wine of Lebanon was of renowned quality, so will be Israel’s government of the earth.

14:8.  “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree.  From me is thy fruit found.”

The first part of this verse announces millennial Ephraim’s (Israel’s) disavowal of idolatry.  He will worship only Jehovah.

The second part of the verse is generally accepted as being the words of Jehovah.  He will have heard Israel’s cry of repentance and faith, and in response will watch over them in blessing as He had once watched them in anger like a leopard ready to destroy them, see 13:7.

Some take “I am like a green fir tree” to be the words of millennial Israel to the Gentile nations, but the context leaves little doubt that they are the words of Jehovah assuring millennial Israel of His unfailing protection and abundant provision for all their needs.

14:9.  “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things?  prudent, and he shall know them?  for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.”

The wisdom spoken of here is not that of the world, but of the man who walks in the reverential fear of God, as it is written, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding,” Pr 9:10.  All the world’s wisdom is incapable of understanding Scripture, for that understanding comes only from an unquenched and ungrieved Holy Spirit, as declared by Paul in 1 Cor 2:14, “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The difference between wisdom and prudence in the present context is that wisdom refers to the capacity given by God to every believer to understand spiritual things; but prudence refers to the diligence needed to study and search out what God has written.  Prudence makes use of the God-given capacity, the general spiritual ignorance of the majority of Christians being the eloquent witness to the fact that few are willing to do the  necessary work.

The rightness of the Lord’s ways needs no comment; and as for those who are justified, i.e., believers, walking in those ways, the truth is that however faltering that walk may be there is a world of difference between the most erring saint and the most moral unbeliever, for the former walks, even though with faltering steps, on the narrow way to heaven; while the latter, in spite of all his morality, travels the broad way that ends in hell.

The transgressors are unbelievers, and they, seeking justification by any means other than faith in Christ, stumble along a road they think leads to heaven, only to find that the end of that way is death.

This brief study of Hosea is concluded with the prayer that it will be used of God to reveal that the sins which brought His judgment on apostate and idolatrous Israel, are the very same sins which are preparing an equally apostate and idolatrous Christendom for similar catastrophic and impending judgment.  It is the prayer of the writer that that knowledge will lead at least a few of those who read to save themselves by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior while there is still time. 



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough