The Reunion of Two Prodigals Part 8
Hosea 6:1-3; 14:1-9
Luke 15 records the parable of the young man who, taking his inheritance in hand, walked out on his father. We call him the prodigal son. Unfortunately, few Christians take the time to look up the word "prodigal" in a dictionary. We assume, incorrectly, that it means "wayward," "rebellious," or "unruly." These definitions are far wide of the mark. The primary meaning of prodigal is "recklessly extravagant, or lavish." It describes the reckless abandon with which the son spent his inheritance. He "wasted his substance with riotous living."
Lloyd Olgivie in Autobiography of God points out that in the parable, the son’s prodigal living is set in contrast to the father’s prodigal loving. He writes,
Prodigal! Let the word stand alone … Tradition assigned it to the lost son [but] … It belongs to the Father. His love knew no limits, his forgiveness no boundaries, his joy no restraint…
Prodigal describes the father as well as the son. And like the father, God is recklessly extravagant with His love. He is lavish with His forgiveness. He is generous with His grace. He is the prodigal God!
In Hosea, prodigal nation and prodigal God meet. Israel had wasted her inheritance [the land of Promise] on idolatrous living. With reckless abandon, she had spent her affections on the altars of pagan idols. And like the son in the parable, Israel suffered for her infidelity. Hosea looks ahead to the time Israel would realize how much better off she had been with God. In the far country of her exile, she would arise and return to her Lord. When she reached Him, she would find Him running to meet her, arms outstretched in a welcome embrace - a prodigal display of forgiveness and grace.
The remainder of the book of Hosea anticipates that moment.
In Hosea 5:15, God warned, "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face." In 6:1, Israel says, "Come, and let us return unto the LORD." It anticipates the day when the nation would awaken to her folly and retrace her steps to the God she had abandoned. Hosea 14:4-7 describes God’s reception of the returning nation. "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely … I will be as dew unto Israel … they shall revive as the corn and grow as the vine." The prodigal nation will be welcomed home to the prodigal love of God.
Sadly, Christians are not immune from wasting their spiritual inheritance. How often we discover that we have been serving the idols of self-indulgence or self-sufficiency. One example should suffice – prayerlessness. It is so easy to cut loose from our spiritual lifeline and survive on our own resourcefulness. Duty is substituted for dependency. Activity is substituted for intimacy. This usually continues until we are confronted with a problem we can’t handle. Then, when we look for God, we discover He has withdrawn to His place. We left Him, and we didn’t even know it.
What is required for a return to the Lord? What can we expect when we admit defeat and prepare to make our way back home? That is what we want to learn from this lesson.
I. Israel’s Resolve to Return – 6:1-3
- Their perspective of God’s Discipline (1)
- They acknowledged their accountability.
- They said, "Let US return." They realized that they had left God; He had not abandoned them.
- In this simple statement, there is a tacit admission that they were in the wrong and God was in the right.
- They acknowledged God’s activity. "HE hath torn … HE hath smitten"
- When we are out of step with the Lord, we want to blame our problems on "bad luck," unfavorable circumstances, or unfaithful people.
- The broken person knows when problems and are the result of God’s discipline and acknowledges God’s faithfulness in administering correction.
- Compare to Psalm 119:75
- The process of their restoration (2-3)
- The time involved. "After two days … in the third day"
- Although our relationship to the Lord is reestablished immediately, the visible fruit of that relationship takes time to be seen.
- It takes time for God to heal human relationships strained by sinful, selfish conduct.
- It takes time for God to recover health broken by disobedience.
- The reference to two and three days reminds us that the time involved is brief when compared to the period of discipline and brokenness.
- The thoroughness expressed.
- God describes the process of restoration in the terms of a physician caring for a wounded patient.
- First, the wound is bound.
- After two days, the patient begins to revive.
- Finally, on the third day the patient is fully recovered and raised up to start life anew.
- When we return to God with lives wounded by moral failures and selfish living, He heals the wounds and gives us a brand new start in life.
II. God’s Requirements for Return – 14:1-3
- Confession (1-2)
- God desires words of confession, not works of contrition.
- Only one work is sufficient to take away sin – that which was done by Christ upon the Cross of Calvary.
- No amount of good works can ever atone for a single sin. No human effort can ever be accepted as a substitute for the sacrifice of Christ for our sins.
It is a grave error to think that we can make up for our sins and failures by any kind of service or sacrifice. All we can offer God is the "calves of our lips," an honest admission of our guilt, expressing agreement with God about the source, nature, and consequences of our sin. Our focus is not on the mess that we have made of our lives, or the sorrow we feel, but the hurt we have afflicted upon the holy heart of God. It was His law we broke, His love we ignored, and His holiness we offended.
- Real confession seeks two things:
- Cleansing from sin, the stain removed from our soul – "Take away all our iniquity"
- Restoration of fellowship – "Receive us graciously"
- Commitment (3)
- We must identify and renounce everything we have trusted in apart from God to make our lives successful and satisfying.
- For Israel, it was foreign armies, military readiness, and pagan idols.
- For Christians, it may be a winsome personality, a special talent, hard work and determination, financial stability, etc – anything or anyone to which we look for security or personal value.
- We must declare our complete dependence upon God. "In thee the fatherless find mercy"
- God wanted Israel to see herself as an orphan child, destitute and defenseless, needing someone else to care for her needs.
- Total commitment is NOT promising God that we will do anything. It is admitting that we can do nothing.
- Like an orphan child, we need Him to meet our every need and take control of everyone and everything in our lives.
III. God’s Response to Our Return – 14:4-9
- He heals our failures (4a) "I will heal their backsliding"
Philippians 2:13 states that God is at work within us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure." When we walk in dependence upon Him, He provides us with godly desires (to will) and the ability (to do) to perform them. Our backsliding is "healed" by His faithfulness. We experience His victory in the areas of our lives that were once marked by defeat.
- He provides forgiveness (4b) "I will love them freely"
When the prodigal in the parable makes his journey homeward, we read that "when he was a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. It is impossible to miss the one-sidedness of this display of prodigal love. The father saw, had compassion, ran, fell on his neck and kissed the son. The response was immediate, energetic, and lavish. Although the son surely bore the marks of his failure and had done much to disgrace his father’s name, it is evident that every offense was instantly and completely forgiven so that nothing hindered the free flowing of the father’s love.
That is what forgiveness means – putting away the offense that barred the free flow of God’s love. That is what Israel is promised on her return. That is what we are promised on our return. God doesn’t hold us at arm’s length, put us on probation, or demand restitution. When we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. HE puts away the offense and pours out His love.
- He restores our fruitfulness (5-8) "He shall grow"
These verses speak of new life, growth and fruitfulness that finds it source in God. That is what we experience when we return to God. We discover that He is the "dew" that refreshes our lives morning by morning. He is like the shade ("shadow") of a great tree that shelters us from the destructive power of the noon day heat. He gives a sweet fragrance ("scent"), to our lives, like that of a garden full of fresh blossoms. He is the vine; we are the branches. As we abide in Him, we bring forth much fruit.
Conclusion (Verse 9)
Hosea closes with a searching question: "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things?" He has told us how and why we fail. He has warned us of where sin leads and how it will ruin our lives. Now he wants to know if we are smart enough to understand the message. Then, to be on the safe side, he tells us what that message is. It’s in two parts.`
- All the ways of God are right. You can trust Him.
- We will either walk in obedience to the ways of God and experience His blessings, or we will suffer the "fall" of failure that results from disobedience. THERE ARE NO OTHER OPTIONS.
Thus, Hosea ends by challenging us to make a choice. We can wastefully spend our lives in disobedience, pursuing things that will never satisfy. That is the way of failure and brokenness. Or, we can walk in a submissive relationship to the Lord, depending upon Him to meet our every need, knowing that all His ways are right. That is the way is the way of fruitfulness and blessing. We must choose between a prodigal life and God’s prodigal love.