COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 3:5 Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hos 3:5)
To this point, the condition of Israel has been described in awful terms. Ponder some of those statements. “The land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (1:2). “Ye are not My people, and I will not be your God” (1:9). “She is not My wife, neither am I her husband” (2:2). The Lord refers to “her whoredoms” and “her adulteries” (2:2). “Their mother hath played the harlot” (2:5). “She hath said, I will go after my lovers” (2:5). “She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil” (2:8). Is it possible for a recovery to be experienced by such a people?
Consider what the Lord declared concerning His response to Israel’s obstinance and unfaithfulness. “I will . . . cause to cease the kingdom of Israel” (1:4). “I will break the bow of Israel” (1:5). “I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away” (1:6). “I will not have mercy upon her children” (2:4). “I will take away My corn . . . and My wine” (2:9). “I will discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers” (2:10). “I will cause her mirth to cease” (2:11) “I will destroy her vines and fig trees” (2:12). “I will visit upon her the days of Baalim” (2:13). Again I ask, Is it possible for a people like this to recovery from their waywardness, and again experience the blessing of the Lord?
Israel’s described condition is one from which she cannot extricate herself. Nor, indeed, can any kind of assistance come to her from this world – especially those in whom she trusted. That is why the Lord declared, “none shall deliver her out of Mine hand” (2:10). God will reduce Israel to a state of utter hopelessness, depriving her of every imagined resource and advantage. In fact, her condition is presently such that even among those who are in Christ Jesus, some affirm the recovery of Israel is impossible. In the estimation of such people, God has thoroughly repudiated Israel, and that repudiation is without repentance. The church, they say, has not taken the place of Israel, for whom no further Divine purpose exists. However, after we have heard all of their scholarly arguments, we must give attention to the words of Hosea. They provide quite another picture.
THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL WILL RETURN
“ 3:1a Afterward shall the children of Israel return . . . ” In the midst of a dark moral and spiritual night, the star of hope rises in the sky, testifying to the grace and power of God. This is not a word of possibilities, but a prophecy of what will surely occur.
AFTERWARD. Other versions read, “And after that,” BBE “And after this,” DOUAY “Then,” NAB “But after that,” NJB and “But afterward.” NLT This is AFTER Israel has wandered away from God – AFTER she has followed other gods, and given them credit for the blessings that came from the hand of Almighty God. It is AFTER God has dealt severely with her, turning her over to her own desires, exposing her lewdness, and depriving her of all Divine privileges.
PREVIOUS EXPRESSIONS OF RECOVERY. This is not the first indication of the future recovery of Israel. The first two chapters of Hosea have been sprinkled with promises of hope. Consider what has already been said. “ . . . and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (1:10). “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head”(1:11). “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her” (2:14). “And I will give her . . . the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt” (2:15). “And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali” (2:16). “For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name” (2:17). “And in that day will I make a covenant for them . . . and will make them to lie down safely” (2:18). “And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD” (2:19-20). “And I will sow her unto Me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not My people, Thou art My people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (2:23).
NOT UTTERLY ABANDONED. Among other things, this confirms God has not completely abandoned Israel. This is substantiated by other Divine statements. “Nevertheless in those days, saith the LORD, I will not make a full end with you” (Jer 5:18). “ . . . but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure”(Jer 46:28). “For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return” (Isa 10:22). God determined to blot out the remembrance of Amalek (Deut 25:19), but made no such commitment toward Israel.
ISRAEL AND JUDAH TO BE JOINED AGAIN. Although it has not yet occurred, God states several times that Judah and Israel will be reunited. “The house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel” (Jer 3:18). “And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all” (Ezek 37:21-22).”For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of My people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it” (Jer 30:3). “And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first” (Jer 33:7).
THEY WILL RETURN. Israel left the Lord, and they will return to Him. They left His favor, and they will return to it. The ten tribes of Israel once revolted from the kingdom of Judah, but they will return to be joined to them once again. They were driven from their land, and they will return to it. As it is written, “For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it” (Jer 30:3). Again, Jeremiah credits their return to the working of the Lord Himself. “And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first” (Jer 33:7). In fact, the New Covenant is said to be essentially made “with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31; Heb 8:10).
There is no doubt about this word being spoken to the sensitive of heart – those who had a heart for the people of God. Whatever one may think about the possibility of Israel being recovered, Hosea has opened the door of hope, and no man can shut it.
THEY WILL SEEK THE LORD THEIR GOD, AND DAVID
“ 3b . . . and seek the LORD their God, and David their king . . . ” After the house of Israel has lived “a long time be without king and without ruler, without offerings and without pillars, and without ephod or images,” BBE a revival will take place among them. This verse associates that renewal with the Messiah. This will not be a revival of the Jewish ceremonies ordained under the Law, but will be immediately related with the salvation that is “in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:10).
THEY WILL SEEK THE LORD THEIR GOD. To “seek the Lord” is to enquire, or ask, after Him. It means to beg Him, beseech Him, and request to be received by Him. This is not trying to find out if God exists. Rather, this seeking proceeds from the conviction that “God IS, and that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). This seeking goes beyond feeling after Him, which is the appointed occupation of every person (Acts 17:27). This is what Hosea prophesied earlier: “then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now” (2:7). That “return,” however, will involve an earnest petitioning of the Lord, and a fervent quest for His favor – calling upon the name of the Lord. Returning to the Lord is not simply resuming a relationship that had been interrupted. Israel will seek the Lord with all of the earnestness with which she pursued other “lovers” (2:5,7). When she pursued those “lovers,” she forgot God (2:7). When she pursues the Lord, she will forget her “lovers.”
Jeremiah also confirmed the coming of such a time. “In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God” (Jer 50:4). By saying “their God,” the prophets establish Israel will seek for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God who had chosen them, delivered them, and cared for them. This is the God who made promises to them, and who had chastened them. It was the God with whom they were intellectually acquainted, but from whom their hearts had been estranged. This search will be with their whole heart, fulfilling the word of the Lord: “And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13). Moses told Israel that if they sought the Lord from the place where once they served other gods, they would find Him. “And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deu 4:28-29). This postulates a thorough discontent with all false gods, and repentance from their evil ways.
THEY WILL SEEK DAVID THEIR KING. This is a prophetic reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. David had died around two hundred years before this prophecy. This does not speak of a return of David to a kingly rule upon earth, for Peter affirmed he remained in the grave even unto his day (Acts 2:29). Jeremiah also referred to the coming Savior as “David.” “But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them” (Jer 30:9). Ezekiel also spoke in this way. “And I will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them, even My servant David; He shall feed them, and He shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and My servant David a Prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it” (Ezek 34:23-24). Again Ezekiel prophesied, “And David My servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd” (Ezek 37:24). Salvation in Christ Jesus is called “the sure mercies of David” (Isa 55:3; Acts 13:34). The salvational reign of Jesus is also referred to as the restoration of “the tabernacle of David” (Isa 16:5; Amos 9:11; Acts 15:16). This refers to the building of place in which the Living God would reside – like the dwelling David constructed for the ark of the covenant (1 Chron 15:1). This tabernacle is the people of God themselves, “builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph 2:22).
The reference to the Lord Jesus as “David” puts the accent upon His reign. He is presently enthroned (Acts 2:31), exalted “to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). As a King, He is “bringing many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10), nurturing the saints, and working all things together for their good. He is more a King for them, than over His enemies. That is, the emphasis of His reign is not the subduing of His enemies, but bringing the sons to glory. All of His enemies will be suddenly consumed with “the spirit of His mouth” and the “brightness of His coming” (2 Thess 2:8). Subduing the enemy is a small thing with Jesus. His appearing alone will accomplish that.
Israel will yet seek their Messiah, and will say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt 23:38), thus ending a long period of enmity (Rom 11:28).
THEY WILL FEAR THE LORD AND HIS GOODNESS
“ 3:5c . . . and shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.” Other versions read, “they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness,” NASB “They will come trembling to the LORD and to His blessings,” NIV “They shall come trembling to the LORD and to His bounty,” NAB and “and have hastened unto Jehovah, and unto His goodness, in the latter end of the days.” YLT Not only will Israel seek the Lord, they will find Him, for they will seek for Him with their whole heart! That is, they will not be content until they find Him, nor will they be discouraged in their quest to be received by Him.
SHALL FEAR THE LORD. The word “fear” is much stronger than ordinarily presented. Some have chosen to define it as “revere,” which, technically, is included in the idea of fear. Yet, in the minds of most people, “revere” is much like “respect,”which can easily be associated with merely being perfunctory. From the standpoint of language, the word “fear” includes the idea of trembling and great dread (Ex 15:16). STRONG’S Nine times it is associated with being “afraid,” and once with “shaking” (Job 4:14). Once it is translated “terror” (Job 31:23).
When addressing the matter of people confronting the Living God, the Scriptures speak of “great fear” (Psa 14:5). When God appeared in a subdued manner on Mount Sinai, Moses responded, “I exceedingly fear and quake” (Heb 12:21). When Eliaphaz related his confrontation of a spirit – not God Himself – he said, “Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up” (Job 4:14-15). When the church was first formed, it is said of the people, “And fear came upon every soul” (Acts 2:43). When the Lord took the lives of Ananias and Sapphira, “great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” (Acts 5:11).
Israel had thought nothing of forsaking the Lord, and even crediting his blessings to false gods. They had eagerly pursued other lovers, imagining they would better themselves by doing so. There was “no fear of God” within them (Psa 36:1). But that will all change. Their awareness of the Person and judgment of God will constrain them to be afraid of offending Him – afraid of forsaking Him. They will seek His favor, and come to hate the wandering heart and an unfaithful and insolent spirit. This response is also experienced by all who come to Christ.
A casual spirit toward God, as well as unfaithfulness and waywardness, are all the results of being blind to the Lord – unable to perceive Him or His ways. God can only be “forgotten” (Deut 32:18; Isa 42:9) when He is not perceived! Fearing the Lord indicates He is no longer forgotten, but is in constant remembrance.
AND HIS GOODNESS. There is a sense in which God’s goodness can be “feared.” This occurs when the heart is convinced that goodness has been ignored, and even held in great disdain. Jeremiah spoke of a time when the people would return to the Lord. At that time they would fear and tremble at the recollection of God’s goodness toward them. “And it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise and an honor before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it” (Jer 33:9). This is the spirit Jacob had when he confessed, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto Thy servant” (Gen 32:10). It is also the means through which we are led to repentance. “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom 2:4). God’s goodness leads men to repentance when they consider their unworthiness of the least of His mercies. While they have continued on in sin, God has patiently forborne them, giving them space to repent.
IN THE LATTER DAYS. All of this will come to pass “in the latter days,” or “last days.” NASB This is the time when the Deliverer will come out of Zion, “and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom 11:26). The forming of Israel took place in the early days of the world. It’s restoration will take place in “the latter days.” According to Paul, this will take place “when the full number of the Gentiles has come in” NIV (Rom 11:25). Jesus referred to a period when “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Lk 21:24).
More specifically, this will occur during the administration of the Lord Jesus, who is the Captain of salvation (Heb 2:10). The return of Israel will be the working of the Christ Himself. He is “the Deliverer” who will turn ungodliness from them. Only He can take away the veil of obscurity from their eyes, “which veil is done away in Christ” (2 Cor 3:14). In a word of holy optimism, Paul says of Israel, “But even unto this day . . . the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away” (2 Cor 3:16). This will take place in “these last days,” when God is speaking exclusively through His Son (Heb 1:2). Truly, the Lord will “finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness” – a prophesy referring to “the children of Israel,” from whom “a remnant shall be saved” (Rom 9:28) .