A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson for Sunday, November 6, 2022, “The Restoration Promised, from Hosea 14:1-9. A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: ??? You could start off by asking your class to share:
“What is a decision you made in your life, that you are very happy that you decided to make?”
(For example, about 12 years ago I decided to have LASIK surgery on my eyes; that was a VERY good decision for me; it has been a real blessing not to have to wear glasses all the time.
Or the decision I made to accept the call to our church in Angleton 4 years ago; we love it here and are so grateful we decided to come.
There are MANY examples that you/your group can share.)
Then I would say: today in our study of Hosea God is asking us to make a decision to come to HIM. If we do, it will be THE best decision we ever made!
CONTEXT: This week we look at the very last chapter of the Book of Hosea, Chapter 14. The immediate context is that it follows Chapter 13, which talks about the destruction that is coming on Israel for their sins. Chapter 13 refers to “Ephraim,” “Israel,” and “Samaria”; remember all three of these are used interchangeably and all refer to the Northern Kingdom of Israel that split from Judah after Solomon. They had worshiped idols for so long, and now they were being judged. There is a HORRIFIC picture of that judgment in :16, where it says “they will fall by the sword, their little ones will be dashed to pieces and their pregnant women will be ripped open.” Horrible; yet that is what the Assyrians would do to them, as a consequence of their sins. THAT is the immediate context of Chapter 14.
THEN Chapter 14 opens our study for this week: We see here:
I. The Problem (:1)
II. The Solution (:1-3)
III. The Blessings (:4+)
I. The Problem (:1)
He tells Israel: “Return” to the LORD your God. This means that they had turned AWAY from Him.
Remember in the Old Testament when you see “LORD” in all 4 capitals, in Hebrew that is God’s personal name, Yahweh. So they had turned away from Yahweh, to worship and serve other gods, Baal, Molech, and others; that was their root problem.
This is really the root problem of ALL people — us today as well. We have turned aside from the One true God, to serve all kinds of other things instead.
He says: “You have stumbled because of your iniquity.” What is this word “iniquity”? We’ve all heard it, but what does it mean?
The Hebrew word “avon” comes from a word that means “to bend, twist, or distort; to make crooked.” Of course it is talking about our spiritual condition. It means we have BENT God’s Laws; we have CROOKED behavior; we’ve PERVERTED what was right. Taking what God told us to do — a good thing — and “twisting” or perverting it; that is “iniquity.”
One illustration you could use comes from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. It’s a book about a fictitious demon, “Screwtape,” who is instructing his apprentice demon nephew, “Wormwood,” on how best to tempt a human who has been given to his charge. At one point Screwtape tells Wormwood:
“Never forget that when we are dealing with pleasure with its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.” (When Screwtape speaks of “the Enemy,” he is of course speaking of God, from his perspective.) He says: “I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural …”. (The Screwtape Letters, p. 44)
Screwtape gives us a pretty good picture of “iniquity” there: taking something good that God has given, and “twisting” it to be something bad.
??? So at this point you might ask your group: what are some ways that people have “perverted,” or distorted, something that God originally made good?
— Sex: was made good for marriage, but has been perverted into immorality, homosexuality, and so on.
— Money/material possessions: God gave to bless us and provide for us; but we’ve made “gods” out of them and live for them.
— we’ve taken food which is good and make it gluttony
— or taken work which is good and become a “work-a-holic”
— Some substances: God gave plants, herbs, fruit, etc; but people abuse them, get intoxicated by them, get addicted to them.
— Social interaction/social media. Communication is a good thing; and yet many have distorted it and become addicted to it; or use it for illicit purposes, or to “slam” others from a safe distance.
You/your group can think of other ways we’ve taken good things from God, and distorted them. Most importantly, we’ve taken the godly desire to worship Yahweh, the one True God, and like Israel have perverted that desire to worship other gods/things instead.
So THAT is their problem. They have stumbled because of their iniquity.
II. So what is the solution? What does God say needs to happen?
First, He tells them at the opening of :1 here, to “RETURN” to Him. They’ve gone down the wrong road, and followed all kinds of wrong things. They need to “return” to Him. This Hebrew word for “return” is an IMPERATIVE, which means it is a COMMAND. You must return to Him!
This “returning” is what we call “repentance”: a change of mind that leads to a change in direction, like we saw in the Prodigal Son. He left his father, and in the pig pen he had a change of mind/change of heart, that led him to return to his father. That’s a good picture of repentance.
God says here you MUST repent (imperative command). Repentance is an oft-neglected concept today. Even many good people who speak of “putting your faith in Jesus,” or “asking Jesus in your heart,” often neglect the necessity of repentance. But it is necessary. You MUST repent in order to be saved. (We’ve talked about this before: Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, all talk about the necessity of repentance.)
One of my favorite verses in that regard is Acts 20:21. Paul had just told the Ephesians elders who he was seeing for the last time, that he had not held anything back from them; he had shared the whole gospel with them — and then he specifically says he testified of: “REPENTANCE towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” BOTH of these are necessary for salvation.
You can’t just say “I’m going to love Jesus,” and continue down the same road you are walking, continually committing the same sins. You must “reverse course” and “Return to Him” as He says here. Repentance is absolutely necessary. We must change directions and return to Him.
Secondly, He says in :2, “take WORDS with you and return to the Lord.” (Here’s that “RETURN” emphasized again; it is important!)
But what “words” does he say you should take? He says, “Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips.”
We see several elements in this prayer:
— we are to ask Him to “take away all iniquity” — so we’re asking for forgiveness of sins
— to receive us graciously — that is, by His grace, NOT by our works, which are not adequate to save us.
— “that we may present the fruit of our lips” or literally “our lips as bulls.” He’s saying our “lips,” our words, our songs, our thanksgivings, will take the place of “bulls” as sacrifices. In other words, we’re repenting, and now we are going to come back to worship YOU with our lips.
When I read verse 2, I thought: This almost sounds like a “sinners’ prayer” — a prayer that you lead somebody in who wants to be saved. He’s basically saying, take these words, and say this to the Lord: ask Him to forgive you; ask Him to receive you graciously; tell Him you are going to serve Him. That’s a pretty good “sinners prayer,” isn’t it? Especially when you recognize that the “graciousness” He shows us, is given in Jesus, because of His death on the cross for us.
So at this point you might have a “Sinner’s Prayer” ready to share with your group:
— Find one online and print one out and hand it to each class member.
— OR have a gospel tract like this one: “Steps to Peace With God,” by Billy Graham. At the end of it is a “sinner’s prayer.” (You might ask your pastor if your church has some tracts you can use for this purpose in Sunday’s lesson)
Then, for an evangelistic emphasis, you could have every class member bow their heads, and you talk about the importance of salvation, and say, I am going to lead in this prayer out loud; if you need to, pray this in your heart to God. Emphasize that these aren’t “magical words” that you have to “say just right,” or anything like that, but that if you really mean it, Romans 10:13 says “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
So lead in that prayer and give your group members an opportunity to pray and be saved. And afterwards, tell them if they did that, to tell you after class, or go tell the pastor at the invitation during the worship service. But this is a great chance to share Christ with those who might need Him in your class.
— You might also tell your Christian class members: learn to share a prayer like this with others; take this tract, or prayer, and tuck it in your Bible, or purse, or somewhere where you can use it when you need it. And pray for opportunities to share the gospel with someone this week.
??? Another discussion question you *could* use, might be:
What might be the advantages/disadvantages of a “sinner’s prayer” like that?
(— one advantage is that is gives you a way to help someone “nail down” their commitment to Christ.
— one disadvantage could be that someone might believe, wrongly, that if they “just pray this prayer” without true repentance and faith, that they’ll be saved. They won’t. Just mindlessly “repeating the right words” won’t save you if it’s not from your heart.)
:3 then continues the theme of the “solution”, deals with not having your faith in the wrong things. We’re putting our faith in GOD, but that also means we need to put aside (repent) of putting our faith in the WRONG things.
??? What all “false hopes/trusts” do you see in this verse:
— Assyria (foreign power)
— horses (our own military might)
— “the work of our hands” (other gods they made)
Then emphasize that an important part of genuine repentance and salvation is not only accepting Jesus as your Lord & Savior, but also turning AWAY from trusting in the wrong things.
For example, when I was in India on mission, many people were willing to accept Jesus as “a” god — they believe in millions of gods; what was one more?! But they can only have genuine salvation if they turn away from trusting the wrong gods (Vishnu, Kali, etc.) to trust Jesus ONLY. Few of them are willing to do that.
??? You could also discuss with your class: Israel trusted Assyria, their military, their false gods; what are some things that people in OUR country today might have a false trust in?
(Examples could include: OUR country’s military might; our money; politicians or political influence; our own wisdom; etc.)
III. Then the final section (:4+) speaks of the blessings God will give His people if they will repent and put their faith in Him.
??? What does He say He will do for them in :4
— “heal their apostasy” (the word “apostasy” means “falling away.” He will heal them of the things that their falling away from Him had brought on them. And also:
— “love them freely”
— and turn His anger away from them
Then :5 gives a picture: God says He’ll be like “dew” to Israel, and He gives several agricultural pictures of how they will be blessed:
(You could ask your group, “What plants/trees do you see in :5-6?”, or you could just point them out to them:)
— Blossom like the LILY
— Take root like CEDARS of Lebanon
— (:6) beauty like the OLIVE tree
— fragrance like the CEDARS of Lebanon
(These are all pictures of living, vibrant, healthy plants. God says you will FLOURISH like these beautiful plants if you return to Me.
(Interestingly, He had said in Chapter 13 how they would be like “chaff” (:3) that is blown away, and “become dry” (:15) because of their sin. But here He says, if you will make the decision to come to ME, you will flourish like these healthy plants.
??? You might ask your group: “In what ways could a healthy Christian be like a healthy, flourishing plant?”
(— Healthy plants put down strong roots — and healthy Christians also put down strong roots, in God and His word; in the truth they have to anchor them;
— healthy plants grow; and Christians grow spiritually;
— healthy plants also reproduce; and so do healthy Christians!
You/your group can think of others.)
But this picture of the Christian being like a healthy plant is a good one; it’s not surprising that God often compares His people to healthy plants (think of Psalm 1: “He will be like a tree, firmly planted by rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in season,” etc.
People who continue in the “iniquity” we talked about, will have a “dry” life; they will be blown away like chaff, 13:3 says.
But those who repent and put their faith in Christ will “flourish” like these plants: they’ll put down roots; they’ll grow; they’ll multiply — a flourishing plant is a good picture of one who has made that most important decision in life: to repent and walk with the Lord.
I hope you’ll take the opportunity to share the gospel in your class this Sunday, and give each member a chance to pray to repent and receive Christ — and challenge them to share the hope we have in Christ, with others God brings across their path this week.
I pray this overview will help you with this last lesson in Hosea. Next week we’ll start the first of 3 weeks in Micah, before we go to the Book of JOHN for the winter study — that will be exciting!
And if you write something in the Comments below, I’ll be sure to pray for your and your group by name this week.
Per my licensing agreement with Lifeway:
– These weekly lessons are based on content from Explore the Bible Adult Resources. The presentation is my own and has not been reviewed by Lifeway.
– Lifeway resources are available at: goExploretheBible.com and: goexplorethebible.com/adults-training
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