Take with You Words
by Jacob Hudgins
“Take with you words and return to the LORD”(Hosea 14:2).
The book of Hosea pictures God as a jilted lover, waiting for his betraying spouse to return. Hosea lives out this truth personally, accepting his wife despite her adultery (Hosea 3:1). God threatens and expresses his anger in the book, but he also shows the tenderness of one who refuses to give up on his beloved (Hosea 11:1-9). All his anger is intended to bring Israel back. But how do you come back to God? How do we approach the God we have deserted and wronged? “Take with you words and return to the LORD”(Hosea 14:2). Through Hosea, God teaches us that real repentance involves fully sincere commitments to change.
We tell God what we will do. “Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, ‘Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips’”(Hosea 14:2). We pledge to obey and honor God. We will give him the things he asks. We will serve him alone. One of the great concerns in Hosea is halfhearted repentance. “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away”(Hosea 6:4). Efforts at doing right, God laments, only last as long as the early-morning dew. What is the solution? “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”(Hosea 6:6). Instead of only grieving over our sin and offering sacrifices to get rid of it, we declare that we will live in a higher way. We will pursue knowledge of God. We will treat others with mercy. Things will be different, from this moment forward.
We tell God what we will not do. “Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him…‘Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, “Our God,” to the work of our hands’”(Hosea 14:2, 3). Repentance demands acknowledgement of the things that have angered God and that we pledge to stop. God’s anger has been aroused because the people have turned to other nations to save them rather than to him. Tell him you’ll stop! God’s anger has been aroused because his people have abandoned him and made their own gods. Tell him you’ll stop! Repentance has this stark, focused approach to our past: I’m never going back there again. If we are unwilling to make this commitment, pledging to stop our sin, then we have work to do.
Hosea’s words are practical for us. Christians try not to sin, but honesty demands that we admit we do sin from time to time (see 1 John 1:8-2:1). How do we return to God? We take words with us. We make commitments. We will stop this—and we will do this instead. It is important that we do more than simply get rid of the guilt and ask for forgiveness (though this is a part, 1 John 1:9). It is important that we take words pledging to do God’s will again.