My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to Hosea and Joel. The lesson for this week was titled “I Will Love Them Freely” and was about Israel’s covenant with the Lord. The lesson was introduced by the following information.
Israel’s covenant with the Lord was meant
to be so deep and meaningful that the Lord compared it to a marriage. The
covenant, like a marriage, included eternal commitment, shared experiences,
building a life together, exclusive loyalty, and most of all, wholehearted
love. This kind of devotion came with high expectations—and tragic consequences
for infidelity. Through the prophet Hosea, God described some of the
consequences the Israelites faced for breaking their covenant. And yet His
message was not “I will reject you forever for being unfaithful.” Instead it
was “I will invite you back” (see Hosea 2:14-15). “I will betroth thee unto me
in righteousness,” the Lord declared (Hosea 2:19). “I will heal their backsliding;
I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4). This is the same message He gives us
today as we seek to live our covenants with love and devotion.
Joel shared a similar message: “Turn unto
the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great
kindness” (Joel 2:13). “The Lord will be the hope of his people, and the
strength of the children of Israel” (Joel 3:26). As you read Hosea and Joel,
ponder your own relationship with the Lord. Think about how His faithfulness
inspires you to be faithful to Him.
are numerous principles contained in this scripture block, but I will discuss
just one of them: “Devotion to God must be felt inwardly, not just expressed
outwardly” (Hosea 6:4-7; Joel 2:12-13). The Lord had commanded His people to
offer animal sacrifices. The people in Hosea’s day were obeying this
commandment, but they were breaking more important commandments. Through His
prophet Hosea, the Lord called to Israel to return and be healed (Hosea 6:1).
Then He told them what they were doing wrong (Hosea 6:4-7).
Lord compared Israel to an adulterous, a wife who left her husband to seek
other lovers. Bernhard W. Anderson explained fickle Israel in this way.
Israel’s fidelity, then, was that of a fickle woman. It lacked the steadfastness, the trustworthiness of true covenant love. In Hosea’s native language, Israel lacked
We probably should not press Hosea’s words
to mean that he was opposed to formal worship. But clearly he was opposed to forms
that were devoid of the spirit of true faithfulness to the God of the covenant.
Jesus twice asked his hearers to go and reread Hosea 6:6 when he was accused of
breaking the formal rules of orthodoxy (cf. Matt. 9:13 and 12:7). (Understanding
the Old Testament, p. 248, as quoted in the Old Testament Student Manual.)
Savior used wording from Hosea 6:6 to instruct the people during His ministry.
Notice the similarity of wording in Hosea 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not
sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings”
and Mathew 9:13. See Matthew 9:10-13 below.
Through His prophet Joel, the Lord gave a similar message
to Israel: return to me and I will show you mercy. However, Joel tells them to
present a broken heart rather than tearing their clothing to show their repentance.
(See Joel 2:12-13.)
Therefore also now, saith the
Lord requires us to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He does not care
about our clothing. A person could tear their clothing in public and continue
to be wicked in private. Even though a broken heart cannot be seen in public,
the Lord can see the humble soul and will bless them.