************ Sermon on Hosea 14:5 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on January 8, 2006


Hosea 14
Hosea 14:5
"The Dew, the Lily, and the Cedar"

Introduction
In chapter 14 we meet the same Hosea we met at the very beginning the prophet of love, the man with a warm heart full of love. But Hosea's language of love is not always the same. Sometimes love speaks tenderly and with compassion. Sometimes love speaks in tones of wrath. Sometimes love speaks in a gentle whisper. Sometimes it curses. And, sometimes it prays.

Hosea mentioned, more than once, all the sacrifices and offerings that the Israelites presented to the Lord. But the Lord did not accept them because they were all show and not sincere.

Israel needed to come to the Lord with sincere and penitent hearts. "Take words with you and return to the Lord," says Hosea (14:2). What words? What is Hosea talking about? We notice immediately that Hosea is talking about prayer. A sincere and penitent heart comes to the Lord in prayer. A sincere and penitent heart confesses sin and guilt and shame to the Lord in prayer. A sincere and penitent heart seeks the help of God in prayer.

And, Hosea out of love teaches Israel how to pray, just as fathers and mothers teach their children how to pray, just as Jesus teaches us how to pray.
(Hosea 14:2-3) Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. (3) Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion."
This is how I want you to pray, says Hosea. This is how I am teaching you to pray, says Hosea. This is how I am praying for you, says Hosea. And, he does all this out of love.

"Take words with you and return to the Lord." Fall to your knees and pray. If only Israel would do this. If only Israel would repent. If only Israel would cry out to God. Hosea is working for this and praying for this and waiting for this. And the Lord will answer. He will hear. He will not leave them unanswered. As the Lord Himself says:
(Hosea 14:4) "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them."

(2 Chr 7:14) if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
We see again that the heart of God doesn't want sacrifice as much as it wants a broken and contrite spirit.

The heart of God melts when His people repent of their sin. The result? God will heal. God will love. God will forgive. This is so sure, as far as Hosea is concerned, that he talks of the Lord's promises and blessings.

I The Dew
A When God's people repent of their sin the most beautiful promise is that the Lord "will be like the dew to Israel" (Hosea 14:5). Do we know what that means? Yes, we here in the Central Valley have dry, desert-like conditions just like in Palestine. But, with our extensive irrigation systems and the big rain storm of this past week (that brought flooding at Sierra Village and other subdivisions around town), we don't realize the importance of the dew in Palestine. Remember what Gideon was able to do? He was able to squeeze an entire bowl of water from a piece of wool left on the ground overnight (Judges 6:38). In ancient Palestine it made little difference if it rained or not, as long as there was plenty of dew on the ground each morning. That's why the judgment of Elijah was so frightening when he told Ahab: "There shall be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word" (1 Ki 17:1). In Palestine, dew is what refreshed the land after a day of scorching sunshine.

B "I will be like the dew to Israel" (Hosea 14:5). This is a promise of life and growth and abundance for a miserable people in a dry and thirsty land. Just like dew gives life and growth and abundance, so God gives life and growth and abundance. Just like dew is needed for life, so God is needed for life. Just like dew quenches the thirst of man and beast, so God quenches the thirst of His people. Just like plants and animals look to the dew, so Israel looks to God. In other words, without God in their lives the people were dry and miserable and stunted and dying. But with God, theirs was life and growth and abundance.

"I will be like the dew to Israel" (Hosea 14:5). God promises that He Himself will quench the deepest thirst of the people. Because what they need above all else is God Himself.

This reminds me of what David cried out when he was in the Desert of Judah.
(Ps 63:1) O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

C "I will be like the dew to Israel" (Hosea 14:5). Here is a reminder that the Israelites were not able to attain life and growth and abundance through their own power. Dew doesn't come from below but from above. Life and growth and abundance, like the dew, is God's blessing.

"I will be like the dew to Israel" (Hosea 14:5). Here is a reminder that God's blessing is also meant for all. Just as there is dew on even the smallest blade of grass so God's blessing would rest upon everyone of His children from the most important to the least important, from the largest to the smallest, from the oldest to the youngest.

"I will be like the dew to Israel" (Hosea 14:5). Here is a reminder that God's blessing would not come every now and then but regularly, just as the dew appears on the ground every morning during Palestine's dry season.

D Hosea gives us a rich promise when he speaks of dew. In the final analysis, it is the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I think of the words of Jesus as recorded by John:
(John 7:38-39) Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (39) By this he meant the Spirit ...
Because of this dew Israel will have life and growth and abundance. And, because of this dew we also have life and growth and abundance. In fact, without the Spirit there can be no life and growth and blessing.

II The Lily
A "I will be like the dew to Israel" (Hosea 14:5). That is God's response to Israel's repentance. The result, as I said, is life and growth and abundance.

Hosea gives us two pictures of that life and growth and abundance. The first picture concerns the lily:
(Hosea 14:5) I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily.
Hosea is talking about the fruit of grace and compares it to a lily.

What do we know about the lily? The lily is known for its beauty, for its glory. Isn't this what Jesus focused on in one of His parables?
(Mat 6:28-29) "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. (29) Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."
Who gave the lily its beauty? Who gave it its glory?

B God's people are like the lily whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament. God's grace fills them with beauty and glory. This is a beauty and glory that is not dependent upon body shape or size. It is not dependent upon makeup and cosmetics. It is not dependent upon weight-lifting and exercise and a certain kind of diet. It is not dependent upon breast-enhancement, face-lifts, tummy-tucks, hair coloring. It does not shout, "Look at me!" It does not seek admiration. The lily blossoms in hidden, unseen places. Its beauty is the inner beauty of the heart that repents and loves God.

When we repent and enjoy the dew from heaven, we are like the lily. When we are reborn with new life and growth and abundance, our callousness and insensitivity and self-centeredness give way to something gentle and caring and kind.

Hosea teaches us something very important here, a lesson that is taught often in the pages of the New Testament. He is teaching us that justified people are also sanctified people. He is teaching us that people who are made right with God because of Christ are also people who are gentle in judgment, careful in speech, and holy in life.
(Hosea 14:5) I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily.
Hosea is teaching us that grace always conforms people to the beautiful image of Christ. The ugliness of sin is always driven away by the beauty of grace.

C By grace, God's people are like the lily. This not only speaks of beauty and glory but it also speaks of faith and trust. I think again of the words of Jesus:
(Mat 6:28-29) "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. (29) Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."
The lily does not spin or weave, labor or work. The lily does not worry, nor is it filled with anxious thoughts.

The lily is a symbol of faith and trust. That's why the tops of the pillars in Solomon's temple were engraved with lilies. That's why many aristocrats of the Ancient World had the lily as part of their coat of arms.

By grace, God's people are like the lily. When God's people are like the lily they trust in God instead of making a treaty with Assyria or sending bribes to Egypt (cf Hosea 11:11; 12:1). Theirs is a faith and trust that rises above anxiety and worry.

III The Cedar
A "I will be like the dew to Israel" (Hosea 14:5). That is God's response to Israel's repentance. The result, as I said, is life and growth and abundance.

The second picture that Hosea gives us of that life and growth and abundance concerns the cedar:
(Hosea 14:5) 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 ...
Again Hosea is talking about the fruit of grace and compares it to a cedar.

What do we know about the cedar? The cedars of Lebanon are known for their height and majesty. Big trees, of course, have big root systems. That is what Hosea refers to in our text when he says, "Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots ..."

It is the root system that allows the mighty cedar to stand in spite of wind and rain and storm. It is the root system that keeps it from budging even an inch. It is the root system that makes it unshakable and unwavering. This reminds me of what the Psalmist says about the righteous man:
(Ps 1:3) He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

B By grace, God's people are like the cedar. Here we need to contrast the lily with the cedar. The lily is indeed beautiful, but it is also frail and transitory. Remember what Jesus said about the lily? It is "here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire" (Mt 6:30). The church of the Lord, however, is not frail and temporary. Rather, it has the strength and permanence of the cedar because its foundation, its root, is Christ.

The image of the lily and cedar complement each other. This pairing reminds us that the church is both glorious and strong. Some people want the church to be as attractive as possible to seekers, newcomers, visitors, strangers; they put all the emphasis on appearance, on beauty. Other people put all the emphasis on the root, on the foundation, on matters of principle and doctrine.

Hosea reminds us that beauty and strength do not exclude each other but belong together. The fruit of grace is that God's people, the church of Jesus Christ, is both. The church is as beautiful as the lily and as well-rooted as the cedar.

C By grace, the church is like the cedar. This not only speaks of strength and durability but also of fragrance. This past week Ruth and I spent a day at Shaver Lake. One of the first things we noticed was the fragrant smell of cedar. Some of you have a cedar-lined closet. Some ladies have a cedar-lined hope chest. When you open the closet or chest the aroma is very pleasing. Hosea has this in mind too. He says about Israel, "his fragrance [is] like a cedar of Lebanon" (Hosea 14:6). This reminds me of what Paul writes about himself and the church:
(2 Cor 2:14-16) But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. (15) For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. (16) To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

The Bible describes the sacrifice of Christ as a pleasing aroma to God (cf Eph 5:2). By grace we are united to Christ so that His fragrance becomes our fragrance. When God's people unite themselves with Christ in His death and resurrection, they are a pleasing aroma to God. At the same time, as Paul reminds us, we are a stench to the unbelieving and ungodly.

Conclusion
When God's people repent, when they fall on their knees before the Lord, then God out of grace is like the dew. The result: we blossom like the lily and we send down roots like the cedar. Let me end with the words I said earlier:
(2 Chr 7:14) if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

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