Verse 9 is an epilogue that serves as a conclusion to the entire prophecy of Hosea. It also provides the final step of returning to the Lord and remaining in fellowship with him: surrendering our will to him.
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the Lord are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.
The wise, spiritually discerning, upright person has discovered the main thing in life. In the movie City Slickers, the character Curly says, “There’s one thing in life, and you have to figure out what it is.” Thank God we don’t have to see City Slickers II to figure out what it is! The prophet Hosea, guided by the Spirit, tells us what the one main thing in life is: that the ways of the Lord are right. Very simply, there are only two ways in life: Either walk in obedience to God’s revelation in the Scriptures, or stumble over it and fall. That phrase “stumble” at the beginning and end of this chapter doesn’t mean to just stub your toe. It means to fall to destruction or death. There is hell to pay in the life of transgressors who stumble. We can choose to relativize the word of God, trivialize it, try to manage it like we do everything else in life, and make it mean what we want it to mean. Or we can learn to walk obediently in the Lord’s ways, to surrender our will to him.
It struck me forcefully this week that Hosea chose to end this passionate book with an appeal not to our emotions or even to our intellect, but to our wills. There is a very simple choice before us, but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s very difficult. G.K. Chesterton once acknowledged how hard it is to return to the Lord, remarking about Christianity, “It has not been tried and found wanting-but found difficult and not tried.” I am reminded of Joshua’s appeal to the national will of Israel and to the personal will of each individual just before they were going to cross the Jordan and begin the conquest of the Promised Land. He thundered, “…Choose this day whom you will serve….” (Joshua 24:17). Oswald Chambers in his book My Utmost for His Highest talks about the act of the will involved: “Surrender is not the surrender of the external life, but the will. When that is done, all is done. There are very few crises in life. The great crisis is the surrender of the will.”