Years ago, my wife decided to hang several wall decorations in our kitchen. We used a hammer and some nails and hung them on the wall. A few months later she asked me to paint in the kitchen, so I had to remove all of the nails we had used to decorate. When I removed one of the nails I was immediately hit by a stream of water. Apparently, the nail had hit a water pipe hidden in the wall and when I took out the nail the pressure in the pipe was released and everything got soaked. It took a while, but I was able to turn the water off, repair the pipe and clean up the wet floor. The marks left by a nail are not irreparable, and neither are the wounds we experience because of sin, but the scars and results are real. Even though God graciously heals the consequences of sin for those who repent of that sin, He much prefers that we never have to experience the consequences to begin with. We should learn be aware of the temptations to sin we are likely to face and decide to obey God and avoid the sin and its consequences.
In the book of Hosea the nation of Israel is shown as an unrepentant, rebellious and unfaithful people. In essence, they were in a backslidden condition. Hosea 14:1-2 says “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.” The lesson in this passage in regard to a backslidden condition is repentance. Repentance describes the act of turning from sin and turning to God. Hosea called for words of repentance, rather than just thoughts of repentance as a means of testing their sincerity. It is an attitude more than good intentions into something sincere and not superficial. When someone owes you an apology, you can tell from their words if they are sincere about apologizing to you? A sincere apology is specific and includes a statement, like I am sorry that I said that about you. The result of Israel’s sin had been their downfall and had led to their condition. It was important for them to personally acknowledge their sin for the same reason it is so important for an individual to acknowledge their sin in order to be saved. A lost person must realize that their sin will lead to death and everlasting punishment separated from God. The people of the Old Testament demonstrated their recognition of sin and turning to God by offering animal sacrifices. Hosea 14:2 literally says “…we will render our lips as bulls,” or “we will make the words of our repentance a replacement for animal sacrifice.” For us today, we can apply this to our lives as well. God is more interested in our living by faith in Christ, in our hope of eternity, and in our love for others, than in our good works, our giving money, or in our church attendance. He desires that we not remain in a backslidden condition, but that we come to Him with a repentant heart rather than offer our religious acts.
In Hosea 14:3 we read, “Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” If Israel was to truly repent they would have to disavow any reliance on anything or anyone other than God Himself. If we look at Israel’s history, even in the Mid-East politics of today, there remains evidence of Israel emerging from their exile. As a people they have often taken a stance in the world political arena, that does not rely on any other nation to help them out. They have developed military might, they are fierce negotiators, and their use of espionage and other non-military strategies is second to none. More importantly Israel to this day has never gone back to idol worship, they have remained faithful to the belief in one God ever since. The phrase, “for the fatherless find mercy (compassion) in you,” means that only in the one true God could mercy for a rebellious and wayward nation be found. What do we rely on as believers? So often we rely on human wisdom, our own ingenuity, possessions, and even our past accomplishments. We need to take note that God shows compassion and mercy to people who do not depend on themselves for their strength and safety. When believers wallow around in a backslidden condition it is a good chance that they are depending, not on the strength of God, but in their own abilities. The lesson for people with messed up lives today is simple but clear. If a person has not been born again their only hope for a new life is to trust Christ as their Savior and let Him change their life. If they are a child of God, but backslidden, they need to return to Him by their own choice and obey Him. Both require confessing that they are a sinner and turning to God. Both are promised to receive His love and blessings freely.
Robert Andrews, Ph.D.