This closing chapter of Hosea’s prophecy is God’s appeal to His people. When it was written, they were still rebelling against God, living in sin, and worshiping idols. But God still loved them and He cast a vision for what it could be like if they would repent. Through the miracle of Holy Scripture, it is also God’s call to His people of any age to repent and experience revival.
God offers a model prayer for those who find themselves far from Him in their hearts (v.2-3). There are many ways to end up there, distanced from the Lord and in need of a return trip. Sometimes the “stumble” into sin (v.1) happens quickly: a stupid decision, an unguarded moment, a foolish lunge into sin. Other times it is a slow-motion stumble: a gradual drift into complacency or a long period of spiritual apathy. However it happens, God mercifully calls us back.
Repentance opens the door for God’s reviving work. We return to the Lord when we admit our sin, our inability to save ourselves, and our total dependence on Him. Hosea’s original audience would have immediately understood the references to Assyria (v.3), the nation to which Israel always turned when she was in trouble. “The work of our hands” refers to the idols they had made and worshiped instead of the one true God (v.3). If we are going to return to the Lord we must forsake our dependence on anything we have substituted for Him. When we return to the Lord, bringing nothing but our repentance with us, we will find mercy.
God’s response to our returning is healing and love (v.4). Hosea uses botanical imagery to describe it in verses 5-8. God will let His blessings fall gently like a refreshing dew on dry grass. He will cause that which was dead to bloom again with signs of new life. He will infuse us with spiritual vitality, sending down roots of stability and bringing about new growth (v.6). Then the metaphor switches in verses 8-9 and God becomes the great “evergreen” (ever-living) tree, in whose shadow we find rest and relief and all we need.
In the final verse of the book, the prophet offers a clear choice. We can heed the message we have read and walk confidently with the Lord in a life of purpose — or we can refuse His guidance, make our own way, and stumble through life. Blessed or broken. That is the choice.