The Wounds of a Friend
Lord, deal kindly with me as You guide me through a variety of circumstances I may not understand.
Read Hosea 6:1—7:2
“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
3 Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
4 “What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.
5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth—
then my judgments go forth like the sun.
6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
7 As at Adam, they have broken the covenant;
they were unfaithful to me there.
8 Gilead is a city of evildoers,
stained with footprints of blood.
9 As marauders lie in ambush for a victim,
so do bands of priests;
they murder on the road to Shechem,
carrying out their wicked schemes.
10 I have seen a horrible thing in Israel:
There Ephraim is given to prostitution,
Israel is defiled.
11 “Also for you, Judah,
a harvest is appointed.
“Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people,
7 1 whenever I would heal Israel,
the sins of Ephraim are exposed
and the crimes of Samaria revealed.
They practice deceit,
thieves break into houses,
bandits rob in the streets;
2 but they do not realize
that I remember all their evil deeds.
Their sins engulf them;
they are always before me.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3).
The Bible celebrates the God who “heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds” (Psa. 147:3; cf. Psa. 34:18; Isa. 61:1). Hosea does the same, but he also asserts that God first inflicted the wounds! This is an uncomfortable thought. It is unpopular today to think of our sufferings as evidence of God’s working with us in judgment and mercy, but the prophets undoubtedly thought in this way. Such an approach is problematic if we apply it as a blanket answer to all suffering. It is especially problematic when we apply it to the suffering of others. Still, many of us as Christian believers can consider some of our own difficulties as self-inflicted or our troubles as divinely allowed, yet for our own good.
Along with Hosea, many other biblical passages assert that God might use the circumstances of our lives to shape and guide us. Jesus used the image of the vine to say that God prunes those of his people who bear fruit, in order that they may bear more fruit (John 15:2). The letter to the Hebrews similarly teaches that God, as heavenly Father, chastises those whom he loves (Heb. 12:6). The letter of James offers a slightly different but complementary approach: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (Jas. 1:2,3). Finally, the book of Proverbs declares that a forthright rebuke testifies not to the enmity but to the faithfulness of a friend (Prov. 27:6).
If God has wounded us, says Hosea, it is for a purpose: that we might take stock of our lives and make amends. “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds” (6:1).
Reflect on your life experiences. Can you identify a time when God opposed you? Are you holding on to attitudes and behaviors that are contrary to God’s way now?
Lord, as You bind and heal Your people, using our shortcomings for our greater good, give us understanding of Your greater plan.