Repentance. One of those words that you hear in the Christian church a lot, but not so much outside of the church walls.
What is it really? That’s what Hosea addresses in this last chapter. He told the Israelites,
Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him, “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war horses. We will never again say, ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made for in you the fatherless find compassion.” (1-3)
What does it mean to repent? It means to return to the Lord. To turn around as it were from going in your own direction, and following the Lord once again. It’s to confess our sins before God and ask for his forgiveness. It’s to turn away from all the things we were chasing after in our lives, and to confess our need for God once again. And it’s to throw ourselves upon the mercy of God. That’s repentance.
And when we do, how will God respond?
I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be a dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar from Lebanon he will send down his roots; his shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like the cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain. He will blossom like the vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon…I will answer him and care for him. (4-8)
In other words, God will forgive, and we’ll know his love once again. The areas in our lives that became dry and withered because of sin, will once again grow strong, bringing blessing not only to ourselves, but to the people around us.
The question is, why do we stray in the first place?
God closes with these words,
Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (9)
May we not only be wise enough to repent, but wise enough to stay under the shelter of God each and every day of our lives.