It has been observed that whenever a windstorm knocks down a tree, it’s usually not because of the wind. When a tree ages, many insects find their home within the tree and eat it from the inside out causing it to grow weaker and weaker until, one day, a strong gust of wind knocks it down. The internal rot, though not visible from the outside, caused the tree to eventually lose its strength and to fall. This is a great picture of a backsliding heart. Backsliding always begins on the inside with wrong thinking, wrong attitudes, wrong priorities. And this inward spiritual rot, though often not visible to others, is what brings a great fall when the winds of life blow upon it.
The nation of Israel was often in a backslidden state. This is addressed throughout the book of Hosea as God didn’t overlook their backsliding, but rather, dealt with it justly. Yet, in the last chapter of Hosea (Ch. 14), God’s heart of mercy was displayed towards His backsliding people. Though they had fallen, God’s invitation to repentance and restoration was still offered to His people- “O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity” (v. 1). God knew that His people were “…bent to backsliding…” (Hos. 11:7), yet promised to heal them from their backslidden state- “I will heal their backsliding…” (v. 4). God would heal them, not because they deserved it, but because He loved them- “…I will love them freely…” (v. 4). God saw their backsliding not as a crime, but rather, as a spiritual disease. God saw the internal rot that needed healing and promised, with certainty, to heal them.
God’s promise to heal His people from their internal rot of sin would be seen in the process of restoration that would bring life back to His people. Notice vv. 5-7- “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree; and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.” God saw His people’s inward spiritual rot, yet promised not only to heal them, but to restore life to them. God promised that if they would repent and return to the Lord, God would restore their growth, their beauty, their strength, their delight, and their abundance.
Verse 9 asks “Who is wise…?” The foolish man will neglect the message of Hosea. He will continue to allow the spiritual rot in his life until at last he falls. The wise man will listen to the message of Hosea. He will see his opportunity to repent and find restoration. And he will receive God’s invitation to exchange the rot of backsliding for the renewal that comes through repentance.