“The Ways of Jehovah Are Upright”
“The ways of Jehovah are upright, and the righteous are the ones who will walk in them.”—HOSEA 14:9.
1, 2. Jehovah gave the Israelites what kind of start, but what happened to them?
JEHOVAH gave the Israelites an upright start in the days of the prophet Moses. By the early eighth century B.C.E., however, their situation had become so bad that God found them guilty of gross wrongdoing. This is evident from Hosea chapters 10 through 14.
2 Israel’s heart had become hypocritical. The people of that ten-tribe kingdom had “plowed wickedness” and reaped unrighteousness. (Hosea 10:1, 13) “When Israel was a boy, then I loved him,” said Jehovah, “and out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1) Although God had delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, they repaid him with lying and deception. (Hosea 11:12) Jehovah therefore gave them this counsel: “To your God you should return, keeping loving-kindness and justice.”—Hosea 12:6.
3. What was to happen to rebellious Samaria, but how could the Israelites receive mercy?
3 Rebellious Samaria and its king would have a disastrous end. (Hosea 13:11, 16) But the final chapter of Hosea’s prophecy opens with the plea: “Do come back, O Israel, to Jehovah your God.” If the Israelites repentantly sought forgiveness, God would extend mercy. Of course, they would have to acknowledge that “the ways of Jehovah are upright” and walk in them.—Hosea 14:1-6, 9.
4. We will consider what principles from Hosea’s prophecy?
4 This section of Hosea’s prophecy contains many principles that can help us to walk with God. We will consider these: (1) Jehovah requires unhypocritical worship, (2) God shows his people loyal love, (3) we need to hope in Jehovah constantly, (4) Jehovah’s ways are always upright, and (5) sinners can return to Jehovah.
Jehovah Requires Unhypocritical Worship
5. What kind of service does God expect from us?
5 Jehovah expects us to render sacred service to him in a clean, unhypocritical manner. However, Israel had become an unproductive “degenerating vine.” Israel’s inhabitants had ‘multiplied altars’ for use in false worship. These apostates had even put up pillars—perhaps obelisks designed for use in unclean worship. Jehovah was going to break down these altars and destroy such pillars.—Hosea 10:1, 2.
6. To walk with God, we must be free of what trait?
6 Hypocrisy has no place among Jehovah’s servants. Yet, what had happened to the Israelites? Why, ‘their heart had become hypocritical’! Although they had once entered a covenant with Jehovah as a people dedicated to him, he found them guilty of hypocrisy. What can we learn from this? If we have dedicated ourselves to God, we must not be hypocrites. Proverbs 3:32 warns: “The devious person is a detestable thing to Jehovah, but His intimacy is with the upright ones.” In order to walk with God, we must display love “out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.”—1 Timothy 1:5.
God Shows His People Loyal Love
7, 8. (a) Under what circumstances can we enjoy God’s loyal love? (b) What should we do if we have sinned seriously?
7 If we worship Jehovah in an unhypocritical and upright way, we will be recipients of his loving-kindness, or loyal love. The wayward Israelites were told: “Sow seed for yourselves in righteousness; reap in accord with loving-kindness. Till for yourselves arable land, when there is time for searching for Jehovah until he comes and gives instruction in righteousness to you.”—Hosea 10:12.
8 If only the Israelites would repentantly search for Jehovah! Then he would gladly ‘give them instruction in righteousness.’ If we have personally sinned seriously, let us search for Jehovah, praying to him for forgiveness and seeking spiritual help from Christian elders. (James 5:13-16) May we also seek the guidance of God’s holy spirit, for “he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” (Galatians 6:8) If we ‘sow with a view to the spirit,’ we will continue to enjoy God’s loyal love.
9, 10. How does Hosea 11:1-4 apply to Israel?
9 We can have confidence that Jehovah always deals with his people in a loving way. Evidence of this is found at Hosea 11:1-4, where we read: “When Israel was a boy, then I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. . . . To the Baal images they took up sacrificing, and to the graven images they began making sacrificial smoke. But as for me, I taught Ephraim [the Israelites] to walk, taking them upon my arms; and they did not recognize that I had healed them. With the ropes of earthling man I kept drawing them, with the cords of love, so that I became to them as those lifting off a yoke on their jaws, and gently I brought food to each one.”
10 Here Israel is compared to a small child. Jehovah lovingly taught the Israelites to walk, taking them upon his arms. And he kept drawing them with “the cords of love.” What a touching picture! Imagine that you are a parent helping your child to take his first steps. Your arms are outstretched. You may be using cords for your little one to hold on to so that he does not fall. Well, Jehovah’s love for you is just as tender. He is delighted to lead you with “the cords of love.”
11. In what way did God ‘become as one lifting off a yoke’?
11 In dealing with the Israelites, Jehovah “became to them as those lifting off a yoke on their jaws, and gently [he] brought food to each one.” God acted as one who lifts off or pushes back a yoke far enough to enable an animal to eat comfortably. Only when the people of Israel broke their yoke of submission to Jehovah did they come under the oppressive yoke of their enemies. (Deuteronomy 28:45, 48; Jeremiah 28:14) May we never fall into the clutches of our archenemy, Satan, and suffer the pains of his oppressive yoke. Instead, let us continue loyally walking with our loving God.
Hope in Jehovah Constantly
12. According to Hosea 12:6, what is required in order for us to go on walking with God?
12 To go on walking with God, we must hope in him constantly. The Israelites were told: “As respects you, to your God you should return, keeping loving-kindness and justice; and let there be a hoping in your God constantly.” (Hosea 12:6) Israel’s inhabitants could provide evidence of a repentant return to Jehovah by displaying loving-kindness, by exercising justice, and by ‘hoping in God constantly.’ Regardless of how long we have walked with God, we must be determined to display loving-kindness, exercise justice, and hope in God constantly.—Psalm 27:14.
13, 14. How does Paul apply Hosea 13:14, giving us what reason to hope in Jehovah?
13 Hosea’s prophecy involving the Israelites gives us a special reason to hope in God. “From the hand of Sheol I shall redeem them,” said Jehovah. “From death I shall recover them. Where are your stings, O Death? Where is your destructiveness, O Sheol?” (Hosea 13:14) Jehovah was not going to rescue the Israelites from physical death at that time, but he would eventually swallow up death forever and nullify its victory.
14 Addressing fellow anointed Christians, Paul quoted from Hosea’s prophecy and wrote: “When this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up forever.’ ‘Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?’ The sting producing death is sin, but the power for sin is the Law. But thanks to God, for he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) Jehovah raised Jesus from death, providing a comforting guarantee that people in God’s memory will be resurrected. (John 5:28, 29) What a blessed reason to hope in Jehovah! Yet, something in addition to the resurrection hope motivates us to walk with God.
Jehovah’s Ways Are Always Upright
15, 16. What was foretold regarding Samaria, and how was the prophecy fulfilled?
15 Our conviction that “the ways of Jehovah are upright” helps us to continue walking with God. The inhabitants of Samaria did not walk in God’s righteous ways. Consequently, they would have to pay a price for their sin and lack of faith in Jehovah. It was foretold: “Samaria will be held guilty, for she is actually rebellious against her God. By the sword they will fall. Their own children will be dashed to pieces, and their pregnant women themselves will be ripped up.” (Hosea 13:16) Historical records show that the Assyrians, who conquered Samaria, were capable of such dreadful atrocities.
16 Samaria was the capital city of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Here, though, the name Samaria may apply to the entire territory of that kingdom. (1 Kings 21:1) Assyrian King Shalmaneser V laid siege to the city of Samaria in 742 B.C.E. When Samaria finally fell in 740 B.C.E., many of its leading residents were exiled to Mesopotamia and Media. Whether Samaria was captured by Shalmaneser V or by his successor, Sargon II, remains uncertain. (2 Kings 17:1-6, 22, 23; 18:9-12) Nevertheless, Sargon’s records refer to the deportation of 27,290 Israelites to places in the Upper Euphrates and Media.
17. Rather than treating God’s standards with contempt, what should we do?
17 Samaria’s inhabitants paid dearly for their failure to comply with Jehovah’s upright ways. As dedicated Christians, we too would suffer tragic consequences if we were to become practicers of sin, treating God’s righteous standards with contempt. May we never pursue such a wicked course! Rather, let each of us apply the apostle Peter’s counsel: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a busybody in other people’s matters. But if he suffers as a Christian, let him not feel shame, but let him keep on glorifying God in this name.”—1 Peter 4:15, 16.
18. How can we “keep on glorifying God”?
18 We “keep on glorifying God” by walking in his upright ways instead of doing things our own way. Cain committed murder because he went his own way and failed to heed Jehovah’s warning that sin was about to pounce on him. (Genesis 4:1-8) Balaam accepted payment from Moab’s king but tried in vain to curse Israel. (Numbers 24:10) And God put the Levite Korah and others to death for rebelling against the authority of Moses and Aaron. (Numbers 16:1-3, 31-33) Surely we do not want to go in the murderous “path of Cain,” rush into “the erroneous course of Balaam,” or perish in “the rebellious talk of Korah.” (Jude 11) If we should err, however, Hosea’s prophecy gives us comfort.
Sinners Can Return to Jehovah
19, 20. Repentant Israelites were able to offer what sacrifices?
19 Even those who have stumbled by committing serious sin can return to Jehovah. At Hosea 14:1, 2, we find this entreaty: “Do come back, O Israel, to Jehovah your God, for you have stumbled in your error. Take with yourselves words and come back to Jehovah. Say to him, all you people, ‘May you pardon error; and accept what is good, and we will offer in return the young bulls of our lips.’”
20 Repentant Israelites were able to offer God ‘the young bulls of their lips.’ These were sacrifices of sincere praise. Paul alluded to this prophecy when he urged Christians to “offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) What a privilege it is to walk with God and offer such sacrifices today!
21, 22. What restoration would repentant Israelites experience?
21 Israelites who abandoned their wayward course and turned back to God offered him ‘the young bulls of their lips.’ They thus experienced spiritual restoration, even as God had promised. Hosea 14:4-7 says: “I [Jehovah] shall heal their unfaithfulness. I shall love them of my own free will, because my anger has turned back from him. I shall become like the dew to Israel. He will blossom like the lily, and will strike his roots like Lebanon. His twigs will go forth, and his dignity will become like that of the olive tree, and his fragrance will be like that of Lebanon. They will again be dwellers in his shadow. They will grow grain, and will bud like the vine. His memorial will be like the wine of Lebanon.”
22 Repentant Israelites would be healed spiritually and would again enjoy God’s love. Jehovah would become like refreshing dew to them in that he would bless them abundantly. His restored people would have dignity “like that of the olive tree,” and they would walk in God’s ways. Since we ourselves are determined to walk with Jehovah God, what is required of us?
Keep Walking in Jehovah’s Upright Ways
23, 24. The book of Hosea concludes with what encouraging prophecy, and how does it affect us?
23 If we are to continue walking with God, we must exercise “the wisdom from above” and always act in harmony with his upright ways. (James 3:17, 18) The last verse of Hosea’s prophecy reads: “Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Discreet, that he may know them? For the ways of Jehovah are upright, and the righteous are the ones who will walk in them; but the transgressors are the ones who will stumble in them.”—Hosea 14:9.
24 Instead of being guided by the wisdom and standards of this world, let us be determined to walk in God’s upright ways. (Deuteronomy 32:4) Hosea did that for 59 years or more. He faithfully delivered divine messages, knowing that those who were wise and discreet would understand such words. What about us? As long as Jehovah allows us to give a witness, we will keep on looking for those who will wisely accept his undeserved kindness. And we are delighted to do this in full cooperation with “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 24:45-47.
25. Our consideration of Hosea’s prophecy should help us to do what?
25 Our consideration of Hosea’s prophecy should help us to go on walking with God with everlasting life in his promised new world in view. (2 Peter 3:13; Jude 20, 21) What a splendid hope! That hope will become a personal reality if we prove by word and deed that we mean it when we say: “The ways of Jehovah are upright.”
How Would You Answer?
• If we render clean worship to God, how will he deal with us?
• Why should we hope in Jehovah constantly?
• Why are you convinced that Jehovah’s ways are upright?
• How can we continue to walk in Jehovah’s upright ways?
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Accept spiritual help from Christian elders
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Hosea’s prophecy gives us reason to hope in Jehovah’s resurrection promises
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Keep on walking with God with everlasting life in view