This week's Haftorah reading is from Hosea 14:1-10. Join Dr. Jeffery Myers as he emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and our words and how they reflect the condition and intentions of our hearts! We need to pursue a heart that freely and often forgives, just as we have been freely and consistently forgiven by our ELOHIM!
Follow along in the AUDIO PODCAST, by clicking on the play button below, and reading along with the notes, as you listen to today's Haftorah Portion:
Lion of Judah Speaks: Haftorah Portion – Hosea 14:1-10
This haftorah is about forgiveness and your words. In Hosea 14:2 it says, “Take with you words, and turn to Adonai; say unto Him, Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips.” Let me ask you this question, “Do you have a vocabulary for forgiveness? Whether we realize it or not, forgiveness is something all of us are looking for. What we could call “ultimate forgiveness” is one of the most valuable things any of us can possess. However, if we accept the fact that we need genuine forgiveness, who then, will teach us how to ask for it?
This is where Hosea 14 comes into play…the passage “Take with you words” is very important. It is around 750 B.C. A prophet named Hosea has been called by Elohim. He is speaking to the people of Israel about their relationship with Elohim. The northern tribe had broken away and wandered away from Elohim. So, Hosea tells the people about finding forgiveness. Hosea 14:1-2, “Return, O Israel, to Adonai your Yah, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words and return to Adonai; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vow of our lips…they shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine, their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.”
Do you see what Hosea has given them here? What Elohim has given them through Hosea? He has given their instructions about pursuing and finding the precious gift of ultimate forgiveness. Hosea reveals to the Israelites the object of their pursuit. Sounds obvious—but our pursuit of forgiveness – must always be about returning and restoring our relationship with Elohim. Our quest for forgiveness cannot simply be about us or our needs.
In some sense, it’s just like any relationship. Why do you seek someone’s forgiveness? It might be from purely selfish motives; it might just be about you feeling better. However, it should be about restoring a relationship, about reconciliation, about being in a right relationship with someone else. As with ultimate forgiveness, we need to be restored to Elohim. We are like fish out of water or plants without soil when we are away from Elohim. We are gazing and flailing; drying up and wilting away…we are dying! As verse one puts it, we are stumbling.
Why are we stumbling? It is because of our iniquity. As outdated as that word sounds it is alive and still very much a part of our modern society. The Hebrew word “iniquity” used here is “avon” which comes from the word for “twist or bend or distort.” You see we distort; we twist what we know we should not do and do it anyway. We bend the rules about what we should do and make excuses for not doing it. And we do this because who we are deep down is twisted and distorted from who we were made to be. This desire to distort, this desire to play Adonai, is what keeps us from Elohim. This is why we need to return to HIM. We need to be forgiven!
Pursuing forgiveness must always be about pursuing Elohim. He is not simply offering us a blank slate so we can turn around and fill that slate up again with our own desires and distortions. He wants to give us the power to be right with Him; to walk with Him. If the forgiveness we’re seeking is not this kind of forgiveness, then what we’re looking for is nothing more than a band-aid. The right kind of forgiveness deals with what’s wrong deep down. It has to do with who we’ve wronged and who we desperately need.
Hosea 14:1-2 gives us an amazing picture of a heart that is genuinely turning to Elohim. What we see is Elohim, through Hosea, and like a loving parent, giving the people words to describe this heart. He’s giving them a vocabulary of forgiveness. But wait a minute, Hosea is not giving them a formula. He’s not saying, just go to Elohim and say these words and everything will be OK.
We see here-there is no formula because the real issue is not what we say, it’s who we are. The issue is our heart! So, what does a heart that is genuinely seeking the forgiveness of Elohim look like? Let’s look closer at Hosea 14:1-2 again. First, the heart that is genuinely pursuing Elohim’s forgiveness is a heart that acknowledges the seriousness and scope of its distortion. Hosea instructs, “Take away all iniquity.” It only seems obvious that seeking forgiveness begins with acknowledging that you’ve done something wrong. But sometimes, we struggle with this idea. Sometimes there are other reasons we seek forgiveness: someone pressured us to do so, maybe we have something to gain, we don’t like the tension in the relationship or maybe just to clear the air.
However, Elohim teaches us through Hosea, our heart in coming to Elohim for forgiveness should be able to genuinely say, “Take away all my iniquity.” Hosea is telling them to listen and understand that we cannot cling to any justifications and to any notion that there are just a few things wrong; that it can be a mixed bag, half confession and half rationalization. Hosea is calling on them to recognize the scope of their condition.
Do we understand the extent of our condition before Elohim? The psalmist declared in Ps. 143, “No one living is righteous before you.” The Apostle Paul would later accept this personally in Romans 7, “I know that nothing good dwells in me.” We not only need to recognize that what we do, say, and think is distorted in light of Elohim’s character and desire, but more importantly, we need to recognize that who we are is distorted before Elohim. Are you still clinging to the notion that, apart from Elohim, there is still some part of you that is OK, a part that really doesn’t need to be forgiven and fixed? If we are going to receive Elohim’s forgiveness, we need to recognize our desperate need for Elohim’s forgiveness.
We also need a heart that is pursuing Elohim’s forgiveness and is a heart that looks fully to the mercy of Elohim (v.2). When we come to Elohim, we cannot come with any sense that there is some deal we can make with Elohim. We have no leverage with Him. He does not have to forgive us because we have some secret knowledge that forces Him to do so. Elohim is not compelled to show us forgiveness. He does so because of His grace. So, when we come to Him for forgiveness, with sincerity, we come humbly appealing to His mercy. We then need a heart that desires to worship Adonai. We need to offer Him a sacrifice of praise. We recognize that we have not worshipped Him as we should. That we have been playing Elohim instead of praising Him. This desire to worship is simply part of what it means to be reconciled to Elohim.
Lastly, looking at verse 3, we see that the heart that is genuinely pursuing Elohim’s forgiveness is a heart that rejects every other alternative as false in light of the goodness of Elohim. Hosea is calling the people to forsake their false hopes and telling them to stop looking in other places for help and deliverance. He is telling the people that if they are going to return to Elohim, then they must fully abandon any alternative path and must believe that Yah alone is worthy of their love and adoration.
Our greatest need is forgiveness because forgiveness reconciles us to Elohim, the One who is truly our greatest need. But the forgiveness of Elohim cannot be ours unless we receive it with the right heart. A heart that understands the extent of its own sickness, a heart that is throwing itself on Elohim’s mercy, a heart that acknowledges that Elohim alone is worthy of our worship and thereby, a heart that knows that every alternative to Elohim is a dead-end! This is what the Bible calls repentance.
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Let us reflect on the Prophet Hosea’s words and prepare ourselves in these days headed toward Yom Kippur. Search our hearts and make sure that we have prepared our lives for the coming season. Set aside the weight that so easily stops our forward movement. Reconcile back to the Father and let our praise be known among the people. See you at the altar!