Walk With God, and Reap What Is Good
“It is wind that they keep sowing, and a storm wind is what they will reap.”—HOSEA 8:7.
1. How can we walk with Jehovah?
A TRIP through a dangerous region would be safer if an experienced guide led the way. It would be wise to walk with such a guide rather than heading off on our own. In some respects, this illustrates the situation that we are in. Jehovah has, in effect, offered to guide us through the vast desert of the present wicked world. We are wise to walk with him rather than trying to direct our own steps. How can we walk with God? By following the guidance he provides in his Word.
2. What will be discussed in this article?
2 The preceding article discussed the symbolic drama found in Hosea chapters 1 to 5. As we have seen, that drama contains lessons that can help us to walk with God. Let us now discuss some highlights of Hos chapters 6 through 9. It would be helpful to begin with an overview of these four chapters.
A Brief Overview
3. Briefly relate the contents of Hosea chapters 6 through 9.
3 Jehovah sent Hosea to prophesy primarily to the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. That nation, also known as Ephraim after the name of its dominant tribe, had turned away from God. Hosea chapters 6 through 9 show that the people displayed disloyalty by overstepping Jehovah’s covenant and practicing wickedness. (Hosea 6:7) They trusted in worldly alliances rather than returning to Jehovah. Because they kept sowing what was bad, they would reap what was bad. In other words, adverse judgment was coming. But Hosea’s prophecy also contains a heartwarming message. The people were assured that they could return to Jehovah and would be shown mercy if they gave evidence of heartfelt repentance.
4. What practical lessons from Hosea’s prophecy will we consider?
4 From these four chapters of Hosea’s prophecy, we can obtain further guidance that will help us to walk with God. Let us consider four practical lessons: (1) True repentance is manifested by deeds, not just words; (2) sacrifices alone do not please God; (3) Jehovah feels hurt when his worshippers turn away from him; and (4) to reap what is good, we must sow what is good.
How True Repentance Is Manifested
5. Give the essence of what is said at Hosea 6:1-3.
5 Hosea’s prophecy teaches us much about repentance and mercy. At Hosea 6:1-3, we read: “Come, you people, and do let us return to Jehovah, for he himself has torn in pieces but he will heal us. He kept striking, but he will bind us up. He will make us alive after two days. On the third day he will make us get up, and we shall live before him. And we will know, we will pursue to know Jehovah. Like dawn, his going forth is firmly established. And he will come in like a pouring rain to us; like a spring rain that saturates the earth.”
6-8. What was wrong with Israel’s repentance?
6 Who spoke the words recorded in these verses? Some ascribe these statements to the unfaithful Israelites and say that the disobedient people were feigning repentance and presuming upon God’s mercy. Others, however, say that the prophet Hosea was speaking, begging the people to come back to Jehovah. Regardless of who made these statements, the crucial question is, Did the people of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel in general return to Jehovah, manifesting genuine repentance? The answer is no. Jehovah says through Hosea: “What shall I do to you, O Ephraim? What shall I do to you, O Judah, when the loving-kindness of you people is like the morning clouds and like the dew that early goes away?” (Hosea 6:4) What a testimony to the deplorable spiritual condition of God’s people! Loving-kindness, or loyal love, had almost disappeared—like the morning mist that quickly vanishes with the rising of the sun. Although the people apparently pretended to repent, Jehovah found no basis for extending mercy. What was the problem?
7 Israel’s repentance was not truly from the heart. Hosea 7:14 says this about Jehovah’s displeasure with his people: “They did not call to me for aid with their heart, although they kept howling on their beds.” Hos 7 Verse 16 adds: “They proceeded to return, not to anything higher”—that is, “not to an elevated form of worship.” (Footnote) The people were not willing to return to Jehovah’s exalted worship by making the changes that were needed to restore their relationship with him. Indeed, they did not really want to walk with God.
8 There was another problem with Israel’s repentance. The people were continuing to practice sin—actually, a great variety of sins, including fraud, murder, stealing, idolatry, and forming unwise alliances with other nations. At Hosea 7:4, the people are likened to “a furnace,” or baker’s oven, evidently because evil desires were burning within them. In view of such a deplorable spiritual condition, did the people deserve mercy? Certainly not! Hosea tells the rebellious people that Jehovah will “remember their error” and “give attention to their sins.” (Hosea 9:9) No mercy for them!
9. Hosea’s words teach us what about repentance and mercy?
9 As we read Hosea’s words, what do we learn about repentance and mercy? The warning example of the faithless Israelites teaches us that in order to benefit from Jehovah’s mercy, we must demonstrate heartfelt repentance. How is such repentance manifested? Jehovah is not deceived by tears or mere words. Genuine repentance is made apparent by actions. In order to receive mercy, a wrongdoer must completely abandon his sinful course and bring his life into harmony with the high standards of Jehovah’s elevated worship.
Sacrifices Alone Do Not Please Jehovah
10, 11. As illustrated in the case of Israel, why do sacrifices alone not please Jehovah?
10 Now let us discuss a second lesson that can help us to walk with Jehovah. It is this: Sacrifices alone do not please God. Hosea 6:6 says: “In loving-kindness I [Jehovah] have taken delight, and not in sacrifice; and in the knowledge of God rather than in whole burnt offerings.” Notice that Jehovah takes delight in loving-kindness, or loyal love—a quality of the heart—and in knowledge about him. But you may be wondering: ‘Why does this verse say that Jehovah does not take delight in “sacrifice” and in “whole burnt offerings”? Were those not required under the Mosaic Law?’
11 Sacrifices and offerings were required under the Law, but there was a serious problem with Hosea’s contemporaries. Evidently, there were Israelites who dutifully made such offerings in a showy display of devotion. At the same time, they were practicing sin. By their sinfulness they indicated that their hearts were devoid of loyal love. They also showed that they had rejected knowledge of God, for they were not living in harmony with it. If the people did not have the proper heart condition and were not pursuing the right way of life, of what value were their sacrifices? Their sacrifices were offensive to Jehovah God.
12. Hosea 6:6 contains what warning for people living today?
12 Hosea’s words contain a warning for many churchgoers today. They make offerings to God in the form of religious practices. But their worship has little, if any, real influence on their daily conduct. Are such people really pleasing to God if their hearts do not motivate them to take in accurate knowledge of him and to apply that knowledge by turning away from sinful practices? Let no one imagine that religious works alone please God. Jehovah finds no delight in humans who try to earn his favor by a mere form of worship instead of truly living by his Word.—2 Timothy 3:5.
13. What kind of sacrifices do we offer, but what should be borne in mind about their value?
13 As true Christians, we bear in mind that sacrifices alone do not please God. It is true that we do not offer animal sacrifices to Jehovah. Nevertheless, we do “offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) It is vital that we do not become like the sinful Israelites of Hosea’s day, thinking that we can compensate for wrongdoing by offering such spiritual sacrifices to God. Consider the example of one youth who secretly engaged in sexual immorality. She later admitted: “I increased my field ministry, thinking that this would somehow cover up the wrong.” That was similar to what the wayward Israelites tried to do. However, our sacrifice of praise is acceptable to Jehovah only if it is accompanied by the proper heart motivation and godly conduct.
Jehovah Is Hurt When His Worshippers Leave Him
14. Hosea’s prophecy reveals what about God’s feelings?
14 A third lesson we learn from Hosea chapters 6 to 9 is regarding how Jehovah feels when his worshippers turn away from him. God has both strong and tender feelings. He has tender feelings of joy and compassion toward those who repent of their sins. When his people are unrepentant, though, he takes strong, decisive action. Because God has deep concern for our welfare, he rejoices when we faithfully walk with him. “Jehovah is taking pleasure in his people,” says Psalm 149:4. Yet, how does God feel when his servants are unfaithful?
15. According to Hosea 6:7, how were some Israelites acting?
15 Referring to the unfaithful Israelites, Jehovah says: “They themselves, like earthling man, have overstepped the covenant. There is where they have dealt treacherously with me.” (Hosea 6:7) The Hebrew word rendered ‘deal treacherously’ also means “deal deceitfully, (deal) unfaithfully.” At Malachi 2:10-16, the same Hebrew word is used to describe the disloyal conduct of those Israelites who were unfaithful to their marriage partner. Regarding the use of this term at Hosea 6:7, one reference work says that it is “a marriage metaphor that infuses personal qualities into the relationship . . . The situation is a personal one in which love has been violated.”
16, 17. (a) How did Israel act with respect to God’s covenant with that nation? (b) What should we remember regarding our actions?
16 Jehovah viewed Israel as his figurative wife by reason of his covenant with the nation. So when his people violated the terms of that covenant, it was as if they were committing adultery. God was like a faithful husband, but his people deserted him!
17 What about us? God cares about whether we walk with him or not. We do well to remember that “God is love” and that our actions affect him. (1 John 4:16) If we pursue a wrong course, we may cause Jehovah pain and will certainly displease him. Our keeping this in mind can be a powerful deterrent to yielding to temptation.
How We Can Reap What Is Good
18, 19. What principle do we find at Hosea 8:7, and how did that principle work out for the Israelites?
18 Let us consider a fourth lesson from Hosea’s prophecy—how we can reap what is good. Regarding the Israelites and the folly and vanity of their faithless course, Hosea writes: “It is wind that they keep sowing, and a storm wind is what they will reap.” (Hosea 8:7) Here we find a principle that we do well to keep in mind: There is a direct relationship between what we do now and what happens to us later. How did this principle prove true in the case of the unfaithful Israelites?
19 By practicing sin, those Israelites were sowing what was bad. Would they be able to continue doing so without reaping bad consequences? They surely would not escape adverse judgment. Hosea 8:13 states: “He [Jehovah] will remember their error and hold an accounting for their sins.” And at Hosea 9:17, we read: “My God will reject them, for they have not listened to him, and they will become fugitives among the nations.” Jehovah would hold the Israelites accountable for their sins. Because they sowed what was bad, they would reap what was bad. God’s judgment against them was carried out in 740 B.C.E., when the Assyrians overthrew the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and led its inhabitants into captivity.
20. The experience of the Israelites teaches us what?
20 The experience of those Israelites teaches us a basic truth: We reap what we sow. God’s Word warns us: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) If we sow what is bad, we will reap what is bad. For example, those who pursue an immoral way of life will reap bitter consequences. There will be an unhappy outcome for an unrepentant wrongdoer.
21. How can we reap what is good?
21 How, then, can we reap what is good? That question can be answered with a simple illustration. If a farmer wants to harvest wheat, would he plant barley? Of course not! He must plant what he wants to reap. Similarly, if we want to reap what is good, we must sow what is good. Do you want to continue reaping what is good—a satisfying life now with the prospect of everlasting life in God’s new world? If so, you must continue to sow what is good by walking with God and living in harmony with his righteous standards.
22. What lessons have we learned from Hosea chapters 6 through 9?
22 From Hosea chapters 6 through 9, we have learned four lessons that can help us to walk with God: (1) True repentance is manifested by actions; (2) sacrifices alone do not please God; (3) Jehovah feels hurt when his worshippers turn away from him; and (4) to reap what is good, we must sow what is good. How can the final five chapters of this Bible book help us to walk with God?
How Would You Answer?
• How is genuine repentance manifested?
• Why do sacrifices alone not please our heavenly Father?
• How does God feel when his worshippers leave him?
• What must we sow if we are to reap what is good?
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Like morning clouds, Israel’s loyal love vanished
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Israel’s evil desires burned like a furnace
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Why did Jehovah reject the sacrifices of his people?
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To reap what is good, we must sow what is good