“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine— Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.” Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. – Hosea 14:4-9
Well this is the last water-related passage in Hosea and it is a very appropriate one to close out a book that has contained many hidden wells of wisdom for me. The main focus of this passage is waywardness, and how God sees it. Waywardness is an interesting concept. It conjures up for me images of a runaway teenager that has chosen to leave a loving home for something that seems to be better out “on the road”. It seems like the freedom that many runaways find is not so free after all with plenty of predatory people out there to take advantage of their desire for freedom. God’s promise here is to “heal their waywardness and love them freely”. This is a very reassuring picture of a God who believes in us even when we have chosen to run from Him.
I am reminded of one of my favorite parables, the story of the prodigal son from the Gospels. The picture of a loving father running to meet his wayward son is a very powerful one for me. I am reminded of a song called “When God Ran” originally sung by Benny Hester. Here are some of the lyrics:
Almighty God, The Great I Am,
Immovable Rock, Omnipotent, Powerful,
Victorious Warrior, Commanding King of Kings,
Mighty Conqueror and the only time,
The only time I ever saw him run,
He ran to me,
He took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest,
Said “My son’s come home again!”
Lifted my face,
Wiped the tears from my eyes,
With forgiveness in His voice He said
“Son, do you know I still love You?”
He caught me By surprise, When God ran…
Songwriters: Benny Ray Hester / John Parenti
For many years I have had discussions with others and to some extent with myself about reconciling the God of the old testament with the loving picture of Jesus in the New Testament. Comments run something like “how could the bloodthirsty God of the Old Testament be the same God that we see in Jesus?” I think the answer to this questions is probably “beyond my pay grade”, but it is verses like this that leave no doubt in my mind that the God being described here in Hosea is the same God who reached out his arm to save us in Galilee in the form of Jesus.
We are all wayward in ways that may seem quite different to us, but I am convinced that they are all equal in God’s sight. His love overcomes all the things that we hold onto as reasons to remain separate from Him and His love. When we are a far from God it is not because He is a God so far above us that we cannot reach him. It is because we are still running away rather than toward Him. The father in the story of the prodigal son had to await his wayward son’s return, his son had to turn around and return home before his father’s arms could surround Him.
God’s promise is pretty amazing, “I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow.” Although this comment was directed at Israel I think it applies to us as well. His “dew” in modern times is the Holy Spirit and it covers and infuses all those who are willing to be covered by it.
God finishes with a bit of a warning that we remember where our fruitfulness comes from when we follow God. “your fruitfulness comes from me.” Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them”. Fruitfulness in our following God is not a “reward” for good behavior, but rather a consequence of being drenched in the “dew” of the Holy Spirit, planting ourselves near the one river, and sinking our roots deep into the spring of Living Water that God offers to all those who would follow Him.
Prayer: God thank You for pursuing our wayward souls even when we are running from You.