Focus: Hosea 14:1-2, “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for your sin has been your downfall! Return to the LORD and repent! Say to him: “Completely forgive our iniquity; accept our penitential prayer, that we may offer the praise of our lips as sacrificial bulls.”
While many of us think of the work of the prophets as hell, fire and brimstone preaching, it amazing to discover just how gracious the Lord was. When prophets would declare impending judgment on God’s people, it was really a call to turn back to Yahweh. But even if Israel did not repent, the rule of thumb was first the worst and then the best. While God would bring judgment on his people, he would always spare a remnant of people and announce a promise of future blessing and restoration. However, the heart of God was for his people to return to Him with all their heart.
In Hosea 14, we can see this pleading of the Lord through His servant Hosea. Israel was a nation that was suffocated with multiple treaties to multiple pagan nations. She was choked by her commitment to pagan countries and the gods they served, and her affection was so far removed from Yahweh, that she had no regard for Him. But in His mercy, Yahweh called out for Israel to repent. He was calling them to return their affections to him.
The prayer that Hosea gives to Israel is a great prayer. It is similar to what many would pray for salvation today. God wants us to acknowledge our rebellion against Him. We need to know that our hearts have deserted Him and it should be expressed to the Lord. If we are sincere about turning back to Him, God wants us to ask him to accept our prayer of remorse. When we are repentant, our heart should grieve over our actions. If we would pray like this and mean it, God would accept our prayer. God does not want empty religious works. If we are not sincere in our words and actions, he does not care if we read our Bible more, serve in His temple, or memorize a thousand verses. What God wants is the sacrifice of praise from our lips.
The sacrifice of praise is what we bring into the house of the Lord (Hebrews 13:15). It is a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) of constant repentance and praise to the Lord for His grace. The reason why we would praise Him is first because of who He is, but in this context, we are to praise Him because He will forgive us and accept us back again. When we praise someone, it means that we accept him. When we praise someone, it means that he has our affection. When we praise someone, we verbally affirm in that person what our hearts deeply value. This is what God seeks from us when we give Him praise.