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. After two days he will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. 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. --Hosea 6: 1-3

These verses are tucked into three chapters in Hosea which are a scathing indictment against Israel's unfaithfulness to her faithful God. As with so many sections of the scripture, there is the echoing of what has been said back to the sayer. One commentary sees these three verses as "Israel's Plea", another as "Repentance Transient and Futile." God's answer is so like a loving Father, reluctant to bring well-deserved punishment on His children, reluctant to inflict the harsh discipline needed to bring His idolatrous and adulterous children back to lives of righteousness. "What shall I do with you...?" Repentance is a choice which must be turned into a life style. Israel's refusal (and our refusal) to turn to a righteous and godly life has finally angered Him to a point where He is ready to shred them, cast them to the wind and turn His back until the people will turn from their wicked ways and earnestly seek Him. (Hosea 5:15) Earnestly would seem to be a key word here. God is not looking for lip service, He is looking for earnest repentance, the lives changed by a diligent search for His presence. In Hosea 6:6, He spells it out plainly for us: "For I desire mercy not sacrifice and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings."

After the stinging words have reddened the faces of the Israelites, perhaps there were those among them who remembered the heart of King David and his earnest desire to go up to the city of God, to Mount Zion, to the House of the Lord. Perhaps there was some spark within them that flickered in remembrance that their place at the feast times was in Jerusalem, gathered together. Was there a distant memory of the miracles that God has done on behalf of their forefathers? Was there a shadow of the prophecy from Isaiah about those stripes by which they were already healed?

In the banner, we see the nations represented in the three figures approaching the city of God. We can see only their silhouetted forms because of the overpowering brightness of the City. In Revelation 21:23, we are told that "the city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the Glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its Lamp." The city is golden to represent the Glory of God. The plea in Hosea 6:1 can be seen as a reference to Isaiah 1:21-26 speaking to Zion. "I will turn My hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove your impurities. I will restore your judges as in days of old, your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called City of Righteousness the Faithful City. (Isaiah 1: 25-26). When her name is changed, she will indeed shine forth with the Glory of her God.

The blue and purple field at the top of the banner represents the dwelling place of God, or the presence of God. (Psalm 18:11 "He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him-the dark rainclouds of the sky.") The letters are gold and red which says that this invitation and the promise of healing comes from the blood sacrifice of Deity. The green and turquoise descending streams represent the winter and spring (former & latter) rains spoken of in Hosea 6:3b and Joel 2:23. Rain represents the visitation and favor of the Lord (Provers 16:15 "In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favor is as a cloud of the latter rain.") Former rain comes from the Hebrew root 'yo-reh' which means "a sprinkling, a first rain.". "Latter rain" comes from 'mal-koshe' which means to gather after the crop, or to flow as water. The rains seem to gently embrace the returning people, even as the loving arms of the prodigal's father. The same arms which mete out discipline and punishment are those which seek to embrace and to heal.

The panels both have branches and leaves. Curled up fading leaves represent adversity and decay. (Isaiah 64:6 "We all shrivel up like a leaf".) On the "TORN" side, the leaves are scattered, torn from the Branch which is stricken and bleeding (Isaaiah 53:4) Like the Branch, the leaves are golden representing Glory; they are prophesying, for we are to be carries of His glory (I have given them the glory that You gave me... John 17:22).

On the "HEAL" panel, the vital, healthy leaves draw their life from the Branch. They represent prosperity and healing (Psalm 1:3; Ezekiel 47:12 "Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will swerve for food and their leaves for healing"). Fringe usually represents obedience to the Law and consecration to the Lord (Numbers 15:39) and green represents life. Thus the green fringe represents the life which comes from consecration to the Lord. There are nine black tassels on each panel. Nine is the number of Judgement. Tassels also represent the law which judges us (Numbers 15:39 and Romans 2:12). They are black because the Law judges and condemns us to death. There are eight emerald gems on each panel; eight is the number of new beginnings and resurrection: green is life; so they represent the expectation of new life.

The backs of the panels are green with five square patterns applied. Five is the number of Grace; green in this application represents everlastingness-eternity. It is only by His grace that we can enter into eternal life. On the back of the banner are doves with olive branches, reminding us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and that God's plan is the Peace should indeed come to all of Israel.

Let Us Return was commissioned by Christian Friends of Israel as the theme banner for one of their annual Shavuot conferences held in Jerusalem each year.

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