I'm Backslidden

Bible Book: Hosea  14 : 1-9
Subject: Christian Living; Backslidding; Rebellion
Introduction

DEFINED – To lapse into bad habits or vices from a state of virtue, religious faith.  To revert to sin or wrongdoing.  To drop to a lower level as in one’s morals or standards, fall away, go wrong, slip back to old ways, regress, go astray.

Proverbs 14:14, “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above.”

There are no short-cuts to dynamic relationships with the Lord.  In this text, Gomer is a picture of Israel in a backslidden state.  Her “long ways home” involved periods of discipline, moments of desolation and despair, along with experiences of repentance and renewal.  The way back is never as easy as it may seem to some, for the simple reason that we wander so far from God (walking at a guilty distance).  We liter the path leading away from the Lord with the broken fragments of our relationships.  While the way back may not be easy, we may be sure that it is certain.

It is to those who stand afar off, separated and removed from the Lord’s purposes, that the prophet addresses his closing appeal.  For every believer, troubled over both his estrangement from the Lord and the quality of his present commitment and discouraged at the level of his achievement as a disciple, these words will serve to be very encouraging.

GOOD NEWS:

There is a way back to God, a way out of one’s present predicament.  The call is personal, urgent, and pertinent.  Like a rainbow after a storm, these words promise final restoration.  Here is an invitation that displays God’s unfailing love for His faithless people, the triumph of His grace, and the assurance of His healing, described in imagery that reveals the loving heart of God.

I.  REPENTANCE.  1

The first step in returning to God is to accept responsibility for departing from Him.

“return” – repent; this is the necessary point of beginning for every weary wanderer.  God’s forgiveness is to be accompanied by awareness of sin.  Repentance is a call for genuine, heart-felt, true expression of a person’s deepest being. All sin points to a need for repentance.

“you have stumbled because of your iniquity” – speaks of persistent sin, habitual.  God’s repeated overtures of love, guidance, and blessings were consistently denied.

We all know what it is like to sense a growing distance between us and the Lord.  Prayer becomes strained, life becomes increasingly stressful, and our heart becomes restless.

It’s often times because of unconfessed sins or resistance to what God has clearly guided us to do.  We feel the emptiness but seek to forget it by filling our lives with distractions.  Then, when life crumbles or a crisis strikes, we are brought face to face with the person we have become.

“stumbled” – describes those who have missed the way which God would have them walk.

Jeremiah 18:15, "Because My people have forgotten Me, they have burned incense to worthless idols. And they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways, from the ancient paths, to walk in pathways and not on a highway”

The people of God stumbled beneath the burden of their iniquity; the cause of our stumbling is our sin.  Sin separates people from God and from one another.

II.  RETURNING.  2

Make an honest confession to God.

“take words with you, and return to the Lord”

These words are to express our true condition before the Lord:

Note what Israel tried

Hosea 5:6, "With their flocks and herds

They shall go to seek the Lord,

But they will not find Him;

He has withdrawn Himself from them.”

“take words,”  “Say to Him, take away all iniquity” – it is an awesome experience to tell God what we have done to cause us to drift apart from Him.

We confess to God what He has shown us or we know to be true of us.

“Take away all iniquities; receive us graciously” – we confess our iniquity; we believe You are gracious.  The Gospel initially is bad news before it is good news about God’s forgiving love in Christ.  We have nothing to offer God but our stammering confession from a broken heart.

“offer the sacrifices of our lips” – we cannot barter our good works to justify ourselves. We offer our lips as “bullocks”(uttering prayer and praise to God)

Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

III.  RELINQUISHING.  3

Proverbs 28:13, “He who covers his sins will not prosper,

But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”

Turn from the way of living that led us away from God.  Each of the things that lured them away from God had to be relinquished in a specific prayer of commitment.  Repentance without relinquishment does not change us.

The people of Israel must tell God that they now know what He had told them repeatedly that,

“Assyria shall not save us” – they destroyed them.

“We will not ride on horses” – no longer could they trust in their own military might.

“Nor will we say anymore to the works of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’”

All of the previous objects of trust had to be disavowed. 

QUESTION:  Who or what has the potential of becoming our false gods?  What in our lives do we use to draw security and assurance that only God should provide?

The way back to God is to be as specific about confessing our false gods as Hosea challenged the people of Israel to be.

If you have a desire to return, it’s because God has instigated the desire.

When people place their confidence in the Lord as the source, strength, and deliverer, there is a way back home.

Apart from the Lord, Israel was like a helpless orphan.

“For in You the orphans (fatherless) find mercy.”

IV.             THE RESULTS.  4-9

We claim His promises for the future.   Here is   a picture of unqualified and undeserved mercy   and grace.  The Lord called for specific  repentance, He responds with specific promises of restoration.

Hosea 14:4, "I will heal their backsliding,

I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.”

“I will heal their backsliding” – the breach of the covenant that brought about Israel’s punishment will be healed.  Means He will cure them of backsliding, or it could mean He  would heal the harm brought upon them on account of their backsliding.  Tragic effects of backsliding would be forgiven in response to genuine repentance.

One translation says, “heal their faithlessness” – pictures sin as an illness, a malady that requires healing.  Seen as a turning away or waywardness (defection)

‘I will love them freely” – includes loyalty and faithfulness; freely – generously, voluntarily given

“My anger has turned away from him” – love has replaced anger (discipline).  Love creates responses which otherwise would never come to realization.

As Israel responds right with God, He promises that they will spiritually prosper, live in security and service .5.  “I will be like the dew to Israel”- the mist that rolls off the Mediterranean at night and moistens. 

God will come to refresh, to give life.  For the dry land (or life) He refreshes.

“he shall grow like the lily” – speaks of rapid growth because of the nourishment of God; sprout

“and lengthens his roots like Lebanon” – unlike the shallow rooted lily, the cedars of Lebanon have roots anchored deep underground; depth to your growth.

v.6  Speaks of its influence; God’s gracious presence bringing abundance, beauty, growth, firm rootedness, and the fragrance of holiness.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15,”Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

v.7  This pictures the return of Israel from exile and being back in the land.  Two thoughts are flourishing and blossoming.

v.8  Here is a rhetorical question that relates to the idolatry that had been Israel’s besetting sin.

In God’s sight, idols are absolutely nothing.  God, not the idols, is the One Who will answer and care for us.  All our fruitfulness comes from Him.

In this text, it is as though the people are speaking to themselves, What have I to do anymore with idols?”  In light of blessings of repentance, We will never turn to idols again.”

“green cypress tree” – symbolizes life and vitality.

Sources of false trust are no longer attractive to those who have been reconciled.

This is an expression of the commitment of Israel to renounce all previous dependence on false gods (Baal) for fruitfulness and trust only in the Lord for sustenance, prosperity, and strength.  They are here depending on the promises of God to provide for their future.

V.                THE REMAINING.  9

The final step of returning and remaining in fellowship with God.  It’s a call to surrender.  Those doing so can expect forgiveness and the abundance of His grace.  Refuse, live out your life in spiritual poverty.  It is “wise” to hear and respond to the Lord’s way.