Have you ever wanted a fresh start—an opportunity to forget the problems of life and embark on a fresh start in life? Nicodemus asked Jesus about the possibility of a new start in life. “Can an individual enter a mother’s womb a second time and be born” (John 3:4)? The Northern Kingdom died, yet God offered the promise of a new beginning. God’s promise of a new beginning—a fresh start—applies to individuals as well.
How can one begin with a fresh start? Throughout his book, Hosea described the seriousness of the nation’s condition. His hearers perceived his message as gloomy. Hosea’s message up to this point was preparation for a beautiful conclusion—we can begin with a fresh start.
How does a fresh start in life occur?
First, a truthful evaluation precedes a fresh start, that is, a nation or individual must recognize the need of a new beginning (Hosea 13:1-3). Hosea revealed the spiritual needs of the people. Ephraim referred to the descendants of the youngest son of Jacob. In a manner opposed to the general culture, yet frequently true to God’s plan, the youngest became the mightiest: “When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling.” Joshua (Num. 13:8, 10) and Jeroboam I (1 Kings 11:26) serve as a good example and a bad example of key leaders from the tribe of Ephraim. Jeroboam I established the practice of Baal worship in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
What were the consequences of idolatrous worship? First, the tribe of Ephraim lost their influence; they died (13:1). The worship of Baal through sexual perversion, designed to lead to life, led to death. Second, the tribe established a pattern of moral sliding—they continued sliding downward into sin (13:2). Third, they became adept at the practice of foolish worship. Humans created as the crown of creation “kissed the calves” in worship (13:3). Fourth, the people became like that which they worshiped—as empty as the mist, dew, chaff, and smoke. They became in the word of T. S. Eliot “the hallow men.”
Second, truthful memory precedes a fresh start (Hosea 13:4-6). God called the people to remember. The satisfaction of plenty received from God led to arrogance and spiritual complacency (13:6). God challenged the people to remember two important matters: the intimacy (know) they once possessed with God and His tender care.
Third, honest repentance precedes a fresh start (Hosea 14:1-3). Hosea provided a beautiful summary of the meaning of biblical repentance. First, repentance involves acknowledgement of sin—“Say to Him, forgive.” Second, repentance includes a desire to serve God—“with praise from our lips.” Third, repentance includes the renouncing of any other sources of help—other gods, other people (Assyrians), possessions (horses) or self.
What are the benefits/blessings of a fresh start (Hosea 14:4-8)? God promises to heal people’s heart condition. He further promised to freely love. Hosea used the imagery of flora and trees to depict the vitality (deep secure roots), fruitfulness (new branches), beauty (lily), bounty (luxuriant olive) and positive influence (fragrance) of God’s blessings upon repentant people.
Fragrance depicts the purpose of God for His people to be a blessing to others. Paul used the imagery of fragrance as a picture of the Gospel spreading the knowledge of God in all places (2 Cor. 2:5) Hosea depicted the new beginning available from God as Eden-like. God’s people will live in the shade of His protection.
Hosea closes with a challenging description of two ways—a frequent biblical theme—the righteous way and the way of stumbling (Hosea 14:9). Hosea provides a threefold depiction of wisdom: recognition of the rightness of God’s ways, submission to God’s ways through obedience (walk), and the foolishness of the self-chosen path.
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