THE FINAL CHAPTER OF THE PROPHECY, Hosea 14, has a gentler tone. It is almost as if the thunder of rebellion and judgment has exhausted itself, and grace triumphs. The chapter begins and ends with exhortation from Hosea. In between there are, first, the words of the people (or, more precisely, the words the prophet instructs the people to say), and then the words of God. I shall reflect briefly on each of these four sections.
(1) Hosea begins with repentance: “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God” (Hos. 14:1). “Return” is perfectly answered by “your God”: the prophet is not calling for some new and hazardous spiritual journey, but for a turning away from the rebellion, a turning back to the Lord they have long known. They must come to terms with the heart of the problem: “Your sins have been your downfall!” (Hos. 14:1). There is never any way back without coming to grips with this fundamental reality. Moreover, what the prophet wants is not a mere return to formal adherence to a code of law. He wants them to “take words” with them when they return (Hos. 14:2). Words, of course, can be empty: sometimes actions speak louder than words. But often genuine repentance demands not only begrudging conduct, but words—not a sullen return to prescribed ritual and church attendance, but the kind of repentance that bubbles up in words that disclose what is in the heart.
(2) And what words should they say? Hosea tells them (Hos. 14:2b-3). They must ask for the forgiveness of sins; they must ask that God would receive them; they must renounce their political allegiances, implicitly acknowledging that such ties distracted them from trust in God; they must put aside their idolatry and place their hope in the living God. Precisely how should such petitions find echoes in our own lives?
(3) The Lord’s words (Hos. 14:4-8) are lovely. “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them” (Hos. 14:4). Then in a series of images God describes the blessings he will be to Israel and provide for Israel. The closing lines of the section reinforce the theological point of the entire chapter: “I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me” (Hos. 14:8). God has all the “greenness,” the constancy, of the evergreen, and all the nourishment and prosperity of a fruit-bearing tree (cf. Ps. 1:3).
(4) Hosea concludes the book: “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them” (Hos. 14:9).