Repentance and Forgiveness
(Adapted from an address by Dr. Kyle Yates at Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota)
Let’s begin immediately with the idea of repentance as Hosea preached it. It is interesting to read that Jesus came preaching, John the Baptist came preaching. The one great theme for both of them, so far as their preaching is concerned, was the word “repent.” I read back in the Old Testament until the book of Joel I found that Joel spent his time calling on the people to repent. Then I went into the New Testament and I noticed the very center of the Gospel message is the message of the evangelist, the message of repentance. They all say: “Come back home to God.”
Did I talk with you about Psalm 51? It seems to me that interpreting that Psalm you have one of the most interesting, one of the most gripping presentations of the way back home to God found in the Bible. The author of that psalm was praying, of course.
First of all we find a great prayer for forgiveness. Second, a clear confession of his own personal sin. Third, his prayer for cleansing, that he might be absolutely clean and fit for God’s presence. Fourth, that he might have a new heart, completely recreated by the hand and power of God. Then, that there might be the ringing of the joy bells again in his life in his heart. And then the final word, the great vow that he made, that as long as he lived he would spend his time telling others of the things that God had done for him. Some marvelous things.
In this book of Hosea, from the beginning to the end, the great theme is repentance. Again and again he calls: “Come back to God.” Hosea is the evangelist. There are several words that are used. Hosea’s presentation of the call to repentance was direct and positive, personal and pleading, pungent, persuasive and powerful. I am not sure just how the word pungent fits in, but the more I look into his book the more I am convinced that it was a powerfully pungent message. And it was persuasive.
Let’s take up the word repentance. I believe you will not find one Hebrew word. The word for repent in Hosea is shuv. Shuv, then means to turn or to return. They used to explain the way of repentance this way. Here is a person walking straight down this way. All of a sudden he make up his mind that he is going to turn around. He turns on his heel and comes back directly in the direction from which he was going.
Now the way to repent is to turn away from sin and turn to God. I realize that it is possible to mince words and to piddle around with words and play word games. I do not believe that is right. The principle thing is to turn to God, as Hosea said over and over. The idea is to turn your eyes upon Jesus. If a sinner will turn to God in repentance, this matter of turning away from sin will become as automatic as it is. You might turn away from sin and still not turn whole-heartedly in full repentance to God. So, turning to God seems to be the essence of Hosea’s emphasis.
For a moment, let’s take on what were the demands called for in repentance. First, the sin of Israel demanded true repentance. We saw an alarming picture of the sins of the land. Second, the so-called religion, the shallow, empty ritual was an affront to God. Such an utter shallow, godless kind of something that it cried out for repentance. Third, the character of God demands repentance. We have no idea of the full significance of the holiness of God. Hosea is saying that when you catch a vision of the holiness of God it cries out to high heaven, demanding your attention.
The fourth thing that cries for repentance is the unquenchable love of God. Hosea said, “When you really look on the love of God, and when you realize how tremendous and how beautiful and how tender and how sweet and how abiding it is, God makes a strong appeal for repentance.”
There are a lot of other things, too. One thing that appeals to me is that God calls to His bride, “Come Home!” It seems a bit strange to speak of God as married to His people, but that is the covenant relationship. God was in a covenant relationship; the figure as I said before, is of a loving father. Finally, the sacred marriage vow demands repentance. Just as Hosea went after Gomer, God was Himself begging and urging Israel to come back on the basis of the sacred relationship.
There is one other thing we must spend a few moments on and that is the sure way of salvation. I told you all along that victory was promised. Hosea was not fighting a losing battle. It may be that the people of his day did not come back. It may be that the second word we discussed—judgment—had to be. But it was no fault of God’s that judgment had to go into effect. The love of God was begging and pleading, and the way of coming back was presented in this word repentance. The guarantee of forgiveness was made absolutely certain. We find Hosea declaring that there is absolute and certain and eternal victory for those who accept God’s way.
OUR SUBJECTS FOR THIS SESSION ARE REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS
After reading each verse, write down what it says to you about repentance.
Hosea 14:1, 2
Hosea 5:4, 15
As above, after reading each verse, write what it says about forgiveness.
Hosea 14:4 – 7
Hosea 11:8, 9
Hosea 3:2, 5
Hosea 2:21 – 23
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.