As usual, I was up early this morning. In our new house, all the bedrooms are upstairs and the kitchen is downstairs … which means I get to putter around and not disturb anyone. I made my coffee, opened a Bible, and read the last chapter of Hosea. Here are the first three verses:
1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for your sins have brought you down. 2 Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord. Say to him, “Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises. 3 Assyria cannot save us, nor can our warhorses. Never again will we say to the idols we have made, ‘You are our gods.’ No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy” (Hosea 14:1-3, NLT).
A few things struck me about these words. First of all, the prophet reminds us that our actions have consequences. It is our “sins” that have “brought us down.” Not circumstances or upbringing. Our choices carry the weight of good or bad, of blessings or curses. Restoration with God requires us to accept responsibility for our actions.
Outside of God, there is no power that can bring about complete healing and wholeness. No outside power (Assyria) or internal willpower (our warhorses) can save us. The Israelites had created symbols of power that were actually powerless to bring about change. As is true with us, the Israelites had elevated these idols to the level of gods.
The final thing that struck was the last phrase in verse three: “In you alone do the orphans find mercy.” In the midst of all this talk about sin, warhorses, and idols, Hosea throws in a plug for the less fortunate. The NIV puts it this way: “for in you the fatherless find compassion.” It seems strange until you realize that apart from a relationship with God, we are all spiritual orphans. But I also believe it is more than that: it is expressing the heart of God. Those who have sinned can be restored and those who are fatherless have an advocate.
Now that I think about it, “Early Morning Hosea” sounds like a good name for a band.