Formations 08.02.2020: Taking Words with You

Hosea 14

There have been times when I have done something wrong, realized my fault immediately, and blurted out an apology, a sincere but entirely unrehearsed expression of regret. When you let your anger or sadness control your tongue, that kind of apology is definitely the way to go. When you cut the line because you weren’t paying attention or accidentally open the door onto someone’s face, a mortified “So sorry!” is called for.

That’s one kind of offense. It usually doesn’t hurt the other person that much, and it certainly doesn’t hurt us to say we’re sorry. Then, however, there are other offenses that can’t be smoothed so easily. Sometimes it happens in a second, just like the other, more trivial cases, but it cuts far deeper because of what we did or who we did it do. Sometimes it rumbles up from somewhere deep in our psyche: premeditated, willful sins against our neighbors and even against God. We all know what it’s like when things escalate to the point that nothing short of a direct, intentional apology will do.

Hosea urges the people: “Take words with you and return to the LORD” (14:2). That sounds like an apology the Israelites needed to take some time and get right. The prophet even suggests an appropriate script: “Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy” (vv. 2-3).

That’s a pretty good checklist:

(1) Ask for forgiveness.
(2) Promise to work toward mending the relationship.
(3) Resolve to correct the offensive behavior, calling it by name.

If you’ve got to “take words with you” because you’ve done somebody wrong, Hosea’s script is not a bad place to start. Do these things, Hosea says, and God will “heal [your] disloyalty” and “love [you] freely” (v. 4). With their covenant relationship restored, he imagines the Israelites blossoming, growing, and living once more beneath God’s shadow.

Of course, it’s never enough simply to “take words with you.” We must back up our words with actions that demonstrate that we mean it. The book of Hosea ends with one last impassioned plea: don’t be transgressors who stumble in God’s righteous ways. Rather, be wise and turn away from idols.

When we’ve done wrong, what words should we take with us? What actions?

Discussion

• What is the most serious apology you’ve ever had to give? How did apologizing make you feel? How was your apology received?
• How does God restore us when we turn away from sin?
• What if we repent but don’t experience improvement in our outward circumstances?
• What are the benefits of repentance today?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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