These last two chapters of Hosea are more of the same, but with a verse that seems to come out of nowhere, and that expresses something I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen yet to this point. For the first 13 verses of chapter 13 the Lord again recounts Israel’s sin and coming judgment, then this incongruous verse:
14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?
Then right back to judgment, “I will have no compassion . . . ” Actually, I was mistaken. I went back and looked at all the references in the prophets and the Psalms, and there is one that comes from the same time of Hosea in Isaiah 25. Our ultimate salvation is victory over death itself:
6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
9 In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
And Paul quotes these two verses together in I Cor. 15:
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes (all the time?) this is hard to believe when we have to actually go through death, experience its horror, its ugliness, its loneliness, its uncertainty, to achieve this victory over death God promises us. But we hold firm, nonetheless, because of what Paul is defending in this chapter, the resurrection. Jesus, who himself had to go through death, and a more horrible death than any of us will ever face, to experience his own resurrection. Thank God that, as Luke tells us at the beginning of Acts:
After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
He gave them “proofs” so they, and we, could know what our own resurrection bodies would be like, that we too will one day be “alive” like him.
Then chapter 14 in contrast to 13 ends the book with hope, and the Lord having mercy on them, healing “their waywardness.” They will no longer worship objects their hand have made, and the true and living God will make them fruitful. The book ends with a verse that speaks to the offense of the gospel Paul writes about elsewhere in Corinthians. I will first quote from Hosea, and then Paul:
9 Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.
but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
And I remembered Peter quoting the Psalms:
and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.
So this theme of God’s grace and mercy being a stumbling block is a theme in Scripture. Sinful human nature wants to depend on its own righteousness, even though it has none. It wants to justify itself based on the law, and thus put God in its debt. Doesn’t work that way. All we can do, like the tax collector, is beat our breast, not even look up to heaven and ask, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”