Last shabbat was Shabbat Shuvah, the sabbath of repentance. The prophetic reading for that day has a message we do well to remember as we go into Yom Kippur and into the coming year for by employing its wisdom, we can find transformation in this season of change.
(2) Return, O Israel, unto the LORD thy God; For thou hast stumbled in thine iniquity. (3) Take with you words, And return unto the LORD; Say unto Him: ‘Forgive all iniquity, And accept that which is good; So will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips. (4)Asshur shall not save us; We will not ride upon horses; Neither will we call any more the work of our hands our gods; For in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.’ (5) I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; For Mine anger is turned away from him. (6) I will be as the dew unto Israel; He shall blossom as the lily, And cast forth his roots as Lebanon. (7) His branches shall spread, And his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, And his fragrance as Lebanon. (8) They that dwell under his shadow shall again Make corn to grow, And shall blossom as the vine; The scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. (9) Ephraim [shall say]: ‘What have I to do any more with idols?’ As for Me, I respond and look on him; I am like a leafy cypress-tree; From Me is thy fruit found. (10) Whoso is wise, let him understand these things, Whoso is prudent, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, And the just do walk in them; But transgressors do stumble therein (Hosea 14)
Although we are used to thinking of coming to God taking with us sacrifices, in this passage we are urged to take words with us. Indeed, this passage shows us how choosing the right words can be utterly transformational, for those prepared to seek such transformation. Therefore, the first thing to consider is this:
Although he was an anti-Semite, Henry Ford was not wrong about everything! And he was certainly right when he said this: “If you say you can or you can’t you are right either way.” The words we choose have the power keep us down or to lift us up. And the choice is ours. The prophet fills us in on how this is to be done.
When we choose the right words, and take them with us, our words will also take us where we need to go.
Repentance means choosing to leave behind false means of satisfaction and safety. Ultimately, we sin when we seek to satisfy natural desires in unacceptable ways. These are our idols. “Asshur shall not save us; We will not ride upon horses. Neither will we call any more the work of our hands our gods.” All of these were the things that Israel relied on for satisfaction and a sense of safety instead of relying upon God. What are the habits, toys, behaviors. relationships, and possessions that rely on as a substitute for God's place in your life? Guess what: these are your idols!
Our passage from Hosea reminds of two areas where our lives will be enriched should we choose change through choosing the right words and the actions that accompany them.
When we return to God, we return to frutifulness of life. Lie becomes richer, more beautiful, more productive. Yeshua reflected this truth when he said,
“I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch which is part of me but fails to bear fruit, he cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. Right now, because of the word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned. Stay united with me, as I will with you — for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me. “ am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me you can’t do a thing. Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up. “If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you. This is how my Father is glorified — in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my talmidim.
These are good words, and this entire lesson presents us with both an incentive and means to pursue personal transformation in this holy season. We do well to remember the words with which Hosea closes his chapter:
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things, Whoever is prudent, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, And the righteous walk in them; But transgressors stumble in them.
The call for us in the coming year is to take with us words, to take our words seriously, and choosing words that speak the truth and lead us in the direction of righteous living. With this in view we might bear this in mind:
Integrity is living in alignment with your beliefs and your word. If your words and your actions are not lined up, you are being out of integrity. Integrity is being accountable to your word. And your word is the only thing you have that supports relationship with others and with yourself. Your word comes across not only verbally, but through the way you are being. So, how are you being with yourself and with others? Without integrity your word has no meaning or value. It is just gibberish, noise to fill up space. You break promises to yourself and others. People can’t trust you, you can’t trust you. Without integrity, self-empowerment is a joke. We prostitute our energy, our words, our ideas, our intentions in the name of safety and security.
Rosie Kuhn, PhD – “Self-Empowerment 101”
And seeking safety and security in anything other than the values and faithfulness of God is idolatry. And as the Bible says, “flee from idols.” Especially your pet ones.