“I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;
his young shoots will grow.
After everything that has happened, Israel finally decides to repent and return to God, having acknowledged their rebellion and renouncing idolatry− God rejoices and welcomes His errant ones back into His blessing. Notice the imagery of the dew, the lily and the cedar: Israel is the plant life, God provides the moisture so it can grow. Israel returns to God, and God provides what they need to once again grow in His favor.
It would take Israel, and remember that Hosea is addressing the Northern Kingdom here, a very long time to repent and return to God; it would not happen until Jesus came upon the scene. Yet for those who did so, God was once more their God, and they were once more His people. If you think about it, Israel’s story is our story as well, for all of us once lived in rebellion against God. Most of us, at one time or another, flirt with the idea of turning away from Him, either for a season or forever. Even then, God wants us to turn back to Him, not to simply have His way, but instead because He loves us and wants the best for us.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade;
they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine—
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
your fruitfulness comes from me.”
God continues His response here, showing that in repentance, Israel will once again flourish, and then we come to verse 8: Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. This seems a bit awkward, doesn’t it? If you’ve every studied languages you know that sometimes translating isn’t so easy, because languages tend to have nuance and meaning that doesn’t always adapt easily in another language; this is one of those times. You’ll note that the NIV has a footnote in this one, but even then, the meaning isn’t quite clear. Here’s how the ESV renders it: O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I should mention that they too have a footnote on this; it can go either way, but the ESV makes a lot more sense.
Idols never did anything for Israel except to cause them to fall− it was God who looked after them all along, not those idols. It is God who gives life and who sustains it, and now that they have returned to Him, He will bless them richly in Christ.
There’s only one more verse to go, and it is quite a verse! We’ll discuss it next time- see you then!