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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).
Many people have suggested that a suitable summary of the theme of Hebrews is “Jesus is better.” In chapters 1–2 he is better than the angels; in chapter 3 he is better than Moses. In Hebrews 4, the rest he offers is better than the rest provided by the Promised Land. In chapters 5 and 7 his high priesthood is better than the Levitical priesthood; in chapter 8, the new covenant over which he presides is better than the old covenant. In chapters 9–10, he officiates over a better sanctuary than the tabernacle, exercises a better ministry, and offers a better sacrifice. In short, “Jesus is better.” The message is designed to strengthen the hearts and minds of Jewish Christians who, though they have willingly suffered for Christ in the past, at this point are tempted to return to the Jewish rites and practices they inherited. The writer of Hebrews is afraid that they are abandoning exclusive confidence in Christ, somehow succumbing to the temptation to think that, although Jesus Christ is all right, one may gain a bit more substance, or spirituality, or historical depth, or acceptance among the kinfolk—whatever—thereby sliding toward an implicit denial that “Jesus is better.”
None of this means the old covenant was bad; it simply means it was not ultimate. Thus in the brief comparison of Moses and Jesus in Hebrews 3:1–6, Moses, we are told, “was faithful in all God’s house” (Heb. 3:2); he “was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future” (Heb. 3:5). There is not a word of reproach.
But Jesus is better. It helps to understand that in both Hebrew and Greek house can mean “household.” Like Moses, the author of Hebrews avers, Jesus “was faithful to the one who appointed him” (Heb. 3:2). Nevertheless, “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses.” Why? Because “the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself” (Heb. 3:3). That seems to suggest that Jesus’ role with respect to God’s “house” or “household” is radically different from that of Moses. Moses was faithful as a servant within the household, and his most important role was testifying to what was to come. Jesus is faithful as “a son over God’s house” (Heb. 3:6)—and that household is the community of believers (Heb. 3:6). Moses appears as one servant within the household, looking to the future; Jesus appears as God’s Son over the household, building that household (Heb. 3:3) and proving to be the very substance of that to which Moses was pointing in the future.
However important the comparisons between the two men, the differences are the more striking.
21:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 And he burned his son as an offering1 and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the LORD said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. 8 And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.
10 And the LORD said by his servants the prophets, 11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, 12 therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster2 that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, 15 because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.”
16 Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.
17 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh and all that he did, and the sin that he committed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 18 And Manasseh slept with his fathers and was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza, and Amon his son reigned in his place.
19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. 20 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done. 21 He walked in all the way in which his father walked and served the idols that his father served and worshiped them. 22 He abandoned the LORD, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD. 23 And the servants of Amon conspired against him and put the king to death in his house. 24 But the people of the land struck down all those who had conspired against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place. 25 Now the rest of the acts of Amon that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 26 And he was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza, and Josiah his son reigned in his place.
3:1 Therefore, holy brothers,1 you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's2 house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.3
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
14:1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
2 Take with you words
and return to the LORD;
say to him,
“Take away all iniquity;
accept what is good,
and we will pay with bulls
the vows1 of our lips.
3 Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.”
4 I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
6 his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
7 They shall return and dwell beneath my2 shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
8 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.3
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.
9 Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the LORD are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.
139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.1
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.2
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!3
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!4