Anytime I’ve ever sat down to read one of the minor prophets in the Bible. I start making excuses. Lots of them. Clever little excuses until I skip back to one of the letters in the New Testament and say “Phew! That was a close one!”. This, of course, is no good. The Bible is God’s word, and all (yes all) of it is good for teaching. So trying to really drive that home for a change. I sat myself down and forced myself to work through the book of Hosea.
If you’ve ever cracked open Hosea you know it’s not exactly sunshine and roses. It’s anything but. In the world of lovely Bible verse graphic designs you can find on Pinterest, there’s not exactly a plethora of verses from Hosea. Not unless you really like the idea of a fire and brimstone verse for your next phone background. Hosea is filled with brokenness, depravity, and all manner of wrong turns. It’s a written equivalent of a light switch suddenly being flipped on to reveal all the roaches in a filthy room. Fun stuff! I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a Bible verse like Hosea 13:8? “Like a bear whose cubs have been taken away, I will tear out your heart. I will devour you like a hungry lioness and mangle you like a wild animal.”
So I’ll freely admit that I was struggling and squirming as I worked through this book. Not because I felt God needed to lighten up, but because I knew just how righteous all of the anger in this book is. It’s real, it’s raw, and it’s deserved. Israel and every human since has bungled things so badly that the only logical choice left is to cast us out. Hosea seems like a story that will end with God finally getting away from us, leaving us behind for things that won’t treat the love he offered them so horribly, and honestly, it’s a just ending. How could the little roaches possibly fix what they’d done? Is this really the only ending left to them?
Not a chance.
Something happens in Hosea 14, the last chapter of the whole book. The chapter where we should see God driving off into the sunset with us in his rearview mirror. In the final scene of this story, we get a twist that never should happen and yet it does anyway. God gives us a way back to him. He tells us to come home to him and promises a world very different than the one seen in Hosea thus far:
The Lord says,
“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;
my love will know no bounds,
for my anger will be gone forever.
I will be to Israel
like a refreshing dew from heaven.
Israel will blossom like the lily;
it will send roots deep into the soil like
the cedars in Lebanon.
Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees,
as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon.
My people will again live under my shade.
They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines.
They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. (Hosea 14: 4-7)
Here at last, after all that doom and gloom and heartbreak, is the promise of hope. This doesn’t have to be a forever separation. There’s hope. There’s a chance. We don’t have to be cut off forever. We have hurt God and sinned so immeasurably and yet he still loves us. He still wants us back. The book of Hosea is not just a book about everything that’s gone wrong, it’s a book about how God is going to fix it.
God’s endgame is not to send us away, but to bring us back.
The story God’s telling in Hosea is not a story of banishment. The credits don’t roll on him watching us walk away while he points an accusing finger to cast us out. The story ends with him wrapping his arms around all those who come running back and saying “Welcome home.” Despite everything we’ve done to him and yelled defiantly in his face, he chooses to tell a story that has a place for us in it if we decide to come home.
We are rapidly heading towards Easter Sunday. Tomorrow is Good Friday, a day that at the time seemed anything but good. Jesus, the only one who seemed to be getting things right, was hoisted on a cross. He was executed like a criminal by means that were specifically designed for maximum pain and length. Even then, the physical pain of being hoisted on the cross was nothing compared to the pain he endured in being separated from God. This, right here, is the most painful day in human history. It’s also the most hopeful.
Jesus is the reason the ending of Hosea we get is even possible. Without him in the equation, we’re back to squirming and struggling through the book, this time knowing full well there’s nothing that can be done about the ending. Without Jesus, Hosea is not a redemption story but rather a sentence being read out in court just before we’re walked away to our entirely just execution. God, the injured party, has every right to point the accusing finger at those who wronged him, but that’s not his way. He decides to change the ending. Jesus is the pen God used to write a new ending to not just Hosea, but to the entire story of our world.
For all the pain, suffering, heartbreak, wrongdoing, and anger, the book of Hosea does not end without hope. Your story doesn’t have to either. If there’s a greater reason for joy out there, I don’t know it. You are sought after, you are longed for, you are loved. Live that well.
Let’s find some joy,