God's Response to the Penitent
Hosea 14:4-8
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for my anger is turned away from him.

Israel's repentance will be followed by the turning away of God's anger, and by superabundant blessings. Figures are heaped on each other, and one figure is employed to fill in another, to set forth the fullness with which this blessing will descend. The prophecy, hitherto so dark and troubled, ends in heavenly peace.

I. BACKSLIDING HEALED. (Ver. 4.) No time is lost in answering Israel's prayer. Forgiveness follows close upon return. So David also found it: "I said, I will confess my transgression unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:5). The penitent need not fear being kept long waiting at the door of mercy (cf. Luke 15:20-24). God:

1. Turns away his anger. "For mine anger is turned away from him." Terrible to him who realizes it is the thought of lying under the Divine anger. Infinite things are to be hoped for from God's love. Infinite things are to be dreaded from his wrath. We dread the anger of fellow-men. Much more should we dread to be the objects of the anger of the Omnipotent. "Fear not them which kill the body," Christ says, "but are not able to kill the soul," etc. (Matthew 10:28). Just, however, because God's anger is so terrible, is it a blessed thing to know, as every pardoned sinner may, that this anger is turned away. "O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me" (Isaiah 12:1). If God's anger is turned away from us, there is nothing else we need fear. And under the gospel it is turned away from every one who believes in Christ.

2. Restores his love. "I will love them freely." The love is free as being

(1) spontaneous,

(2) unbought,

(3) unlimited in measure.

God loves the redeemed with the same love which he bears to his Son. He rejoices in his love towards them. As it is the nature of the sun to shine, so it is the nature of God to love. Judgment is his strange work, but love is the proper exercise of his being. The gospel is the manifestation of love. Salvation is the triumph of love. God rejoices more over one lost sheep brought back to him than over the ninety and nine that went not astray. He sheds his love abroad in his people's heart (Romans 5:5).

3. Heals their backsliding. "I will heal their backsliding." He heals the wounds made by sin (cf. Hosea 6:1), both the spiritual wounds, and the wounds resulting from temporal chastisements. He revokes the curse. He restores prosperity. He gives compensations for past sorrow. Often, when wounds are healed, the scar remains. Even the sinner, though repentant, is not in this life relieved from all the consequences of his transgressions. He has to suffer both in soul and body for past indulgence in vice. But when God heals Israel, no scar remains. And all scars will be removed in eternity.

II. THE DEW TO ISRAEL. (Ver. 5.) God will be as the dew to Israel.

1. He himself will be as the dew. It is not merely his blessing which he gives; it is himself. He comes in his Spirit. He came first in the Son; and, now that Christ has ascended, he comes in the Holy Ghost.

2. The dew is copious. It was so in the East even more than it is with us. It lay thick and soaking on the herbage. Every tree, every twig, every leaflet, every blade of grass, every flower, received its abundant portion. Thus is it with grace. The Spirit will be poured out in the latter days yet more plentifully.

3. The dew is a source of manifold blessing.

(1) It refreshes;

(2) it revives;

(3) it promotes growth;

(4) it beautifies;

(5) it increases fragrance.

So God's Spirit is a reviving, refreshing, fructifying, beautifying, and sanctifying power in the soul. It gladdens, comforts, enriches, gives sweetness and fragrance to the character.

4. This dew is not, like Israel's goodness, evanescent. It does not pass away (cf. Hosea 6:4). It is not merely a thing of the dawn. Or, rather, it is ever morning with the soul to which this dew is given. It flourishes in perpetual youth.

III. LIFE AND FRUIT. (Vers. 5-7.) These figures from the vegetable world are used to fill out the different aspects of the prosperity which God would bestow on Israel. All are emblems of life, and fitly symbolize the life of grace. The features represented are:

1. Lily-like purity and beauty. "He shall grow as the lily." The lily is white, pure, delicate, fragile. It symbolizes innocence, purity, spiritual beauty. Grace bestows a rare sweetness and refinement. Nothing is more fair than a pure soul.

2. Cedar-like strength. "His roots as Lebanon." The lily, though graceful, has a weak root. But God would have his people "rooted and grounded" in faith and love - not easily shaken or removed (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:23). The cedar is an emblem, not merely of strength, but of stateliness (majesty), immovability, uprightness.

3. Spreading magnificence. "His branches shall spread." Depth of root leads to wide-spreading branches. The life of grace has breadth and expansiveness as well as depth and growth upwards.

4. Olive-like freshness. "His beauty shall be as the olive tree." "Like a green olive tree in the house of God" (Psalm 52:8; cf. Psalm 92:14). Fresh, unfading, evergreen, fruit-bearing.

5. Widely diffused fragrance. "His smell as Lebanon" Character has its aroma. Cf. what Christ says of Mary of Bethany (Matthew 26:13); what Paul says of Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:18). The renown of good deeds flows forth like spices.

6. Fruitfulness. "They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent ['glory'] thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon." Corn and wine are symbols of the highest material blessings - of plenty, comfort, nourishment, invigoration, joy. The soul possessed by grace is at once fed with bread of heaven, and becomes itself a fruit-producer. In holy deeds, in useful service, in efforts for the advancement of the kingdom of God, in the cherishing of noble and God-like affections, it yields both corn and wine.


1. God's goodness confirms Ephraim in his renunciation of idols. "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?" This time the goodness is not abused. It does not make Ephraim haughty. It does not lead him to forget God. He no longer attributes his prosperity to Baal. Taught by experience, he loves God more the more God bestows on him.

2. Ephraim's renewed vows are observed by God. "I have heard him, and observed him." God takes notice of every stage of our advance in grace. He takes pleasure in our progress, m our renewed vows, in our deepening consecration.

3. Ephraim, as the result of his renewed vows, becomes yet more fruitful. "I am like a green fir [cypress] tree. From me is thy fruit found." The first words are (as we understand them) Ephraim's; the last words are God's. The cypress is an evergreen, but it does net bear fruit. God, however, will give fruit to Ephraim as well as unfadingness.

(1) Ephraim derives his fruit from God. His fruit is spiritual. It is only as he abides in God that he is able to bring forth fruit at all.

(2) Ephraim "finds" his fruit in God. Fruitfulness is maintained by active fellowship, by constant trust, waiting, watchfulness, and prayer. "Abide in me," Christ says (John 15:4). "Without me," he adds, "ye can do nothing" (ver. 5). - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.

WEB: "I will heal their waywardness. I will love them freely; for my anger is turned away from him.

God's Promise of Forgiveness
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