Most church services feature a preacher. Preaching styles vary based on factors like a speaker’s philosophy, personality, setting, congregational need, and scripture text. Some words come fast, some like spoken song. Some read their sermons, others use no notes. Some voices are soft, others loud. Some slap the pulpit to make a point, others grow quiet, so you lean forward in your seat. What style speaks best to you?
Today’s verses sound like the sermon of an earnest preacher who desperately tries to capture our attention. The preacher pleads with us to act: Take words with you and return to the LORD (v. 2). We stumble, but we can come home. Hosea’s words compel us to experience God’s freedom and hope in the same way that springtime appeals to us after a harsh winter. Flowers bloom, roots shoot out, fragrance is everywhere. [You] shall flourish as a garden, he proclaims (v. 7).
Hear Hosea’s pleading tone. This preacher cares deeply that we enter springtime and not stay in the “bleak midwinter” of sorrow and sin. Do you know that bleak state? When I was twelve years old, I stole a pair of fingernail clippers from a local drugstore. I don’t know why I did: I was not a thief. I felt I’d gotten away with something, but it didn’t get away from me. I kept those clippers hidden. I told no one. I imagined trying to sneak them back to the store only to be caught and judged. It became a stain on my conscience.
I finally realized God would forgive me if I asked. Only then could I feel free from that youthful act. Going to God when I felt I could go nowhere else made a tremendous difference. That’s why Hosea pleads, calling for us to let go of guilt and sin and enter the springtime of God’s love.
For what do you need to seek forgiveness today? Think about the ways that God’s forgiveness provides you with a fresh, fragrant, joy-filled life.
God, search my heart and forgive me of my sins, that I may live more fully for you and enjoy the life you offer. Amen.