Tonight I’ll be wrapping up a Bible study on the Book of Hosea at the church where I serve. This book, like all of the prophetic volumes, contains a lot of harsh words of judgment. It is obvious that God was upset with Israel for turning to other gods and that He felt they needed to be punished. But punishment was not the final word in Hosea.
In the concluding verses of this book God speaks of healing Israel’s waywardness and loving them freely. God then goes on to use several references from the natural world to explain His intentions. He says, “I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain.” Finally, God says “I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.”
Each reference here to items from the natural world has significance. In the mention of dew, for example, God revealed that His presence would bring fruitfulness and support life. Dew in a desert region can represent the difference between life and death. The shade provided by plants is symbolic of God’s protection provided for His people.
Scholars are uncertain exactly what specific tree is intended at the end of this text. Some translate the Hebrew word used here “fir tree,” others use “pine tree.” What is clear is that a coniferous tree is in mind, a tree which is always green and not diminished with the changing seasons. Old Testament scholar James Luther Mays suggested that this biblical reference “is used not so much as a particular species as a type of tree of life. In Yahweh alone Israel may find life!”
Israel’s primary problem in Hosea’s time was that they had turned to the fertility god Baal. They thought mistakenly that it was Baal that brought life and fertility to the earth. Through the prophet Hosea God reminded Israel that it was He who had created the earth; it was He who sustains it. In the end God points to particular elements of His Creation to remind Israel of His never-ending love and care for them. If God is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” as the Bible says, then my guess is He still wants us to see in His Creation the evidence of His love and concern for us. Perhaps as we all enjoy the beautiful foliage of fall, now would be a good time to do just that.
(I took the image above of Upper Tahquamenon Falls last fall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)