INTRODUCTION TO MARCH LESSONS: Unfaithfulness is a painful word. It is painful for the wounded party, for sure, but it is also painful for the one who wounded. Recognizing one’s unfaithfulness just might be the first step toward grace. The earlier of the Minor Prophets—Amos, Hosea, and Micah—will help us understand that. These eighth-century BC Minor Prophets cried out against Israel’s (and Judah’s) unfaithfulness. God’s punishment for his people’s unfaithfulness would come from Assyria and Babylon. Students will learn the progression of returning to God by seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy, getting help for one’s brokenness, and getting back on the trail of righteousness.
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Unit: Minor Prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah)
Theme: I’ve Been Unfaithful
Lesson text: Hosea 11:1-7; 14:1-9; Psalm 32:1-7
Supplemental texts: Psalm 51:7-19; Luke 19:1-10; 1 John 1:8-10
Aim: Return to the Lord you who are wise and discerning.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_March5_2023.
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The theme for Hosea might be, “Good News from a Troubled Home.” God’s love for his people was on display at Hosea’s house. This minor prophet had married Gomer, who was unfaithful to him. But Hosea had purchased her back as an object lesson for Israel. Hosea 11 is one of the great love chapters of the Bible. Hosea 14 is one of the stronger confessional chapters of the Bible. Psalm 32 celebrates the liberation that comes when one goes from unfaithfulness to confession.
Love Behind Forgiveness
Repentance toward God is something we do, but his love creates the environment that causes people to want to respond favorably to him. Hosea 11 is one of the most tender chapters in Scripture. God bares his heart in this text. God likened his love for Israel to that between a father and son. Even though the son rebelled against his father with idolatry (Baals and incense) and unhealthy political alliances, God still loved them, delivered them, taught them, and cared for them.
God’s love prompted him to redeem them out of Egyptian slavery. Matthew 2:15 quotes this verse and, through typological interpretation, applies it to Jesus’ coming out of Egypt. Jesus is, after all, the New Israel. God performed the duties of a good dad by teaching his children how to walk. All the time it was God who healed them, led them (with cords of human kindness), and eased the yoke from their jaws so they could eat. The NIV might take too many liberties by saying, “I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek.”
Israel continued to court help from Assyria and Egypt. But that was like asking for help from one’s enemies. God would use the enemies’ swords to punish Israel. The people called on God Most High, but it was only lip service—not heartfelt faith. God was ready to give up on Israel, but alas, he could not (Hosea 11:8-9). He loved them too much.
Wisdom Behind Repentance
God compassionately pleaded with Israel to repent in Hosea 14. He wanted them to return to him. The word means to “turn around.” Even though their sins had caused their downfall (stumbling), God coached them to ask for forgiveness and admit that making alliances with the enemy and worshiping idols (what our own hands have made) would not end well.
God agreed to heal their waywardness and love them freely if they would just show the wisdom to turn to him. God would turn his anger away from them. He even likened his tenderness toward their repentance to several similes. He would be like dew in the morning—refreshing (unlike the use of that same figure of speech in Hosea 6:4 concerning Israel’s loyalty). He would cause Israel to blossom like a lily. He would be like one of the cedars of Lebanon that would grow majestic and tall in addition to smelling nice. He would be like an olive tree (one of the main crops in Israel). He would be like flourishing grain and abundant wine. Some of these similes even have messianic connections. He would be like a flourishing juniper (like a cypress or fig tree).
Wise (cunning) people and discerning (perceptive) people understand the right ways of the Lord. They will walk in these ways even when the rebellious (transgressor) stumble in them. Wisdom always lies behind genuine repentance.
Confession Behind Freedom
Here we move from the book of Hosea to a Psalm that celebrates the joy of pleading for and receiving God’s forgiveness. Some scholars believe that thematically this Psalm comes after David’s repentant song of Psalm 51. The first two verses declared the happiness of the forgiven person. When God covers their sin and does not count their sins against them it is a blessed moment.
But David looked back to his unconfessed state in verses 3-4. Life was not good. His bones wasted away, he went about groaning (roaring) all day long, he felt God’s heavy hand on him, and he felt as if his strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. But once David came clean and acknowledged (knew) his sin, he felt freedom that only God could give. His transgressions and guilt were forgiven.
The freedom experienced through forgiveness gave David tremendous security. He likened it to not feeling afraid when mighty waters rose up. He knew God had become his hiding place (think Corrie Ten Boom). David experienced songs of deliverance and protection. There is no unfaithfulness that God’s forgiveness cannot reach.