G-d implores the people to return to Him because these troubles have come upon them due to their sins. He’s not asking them for gold or jewels; all He wants is sincere words of repentance. The people should ask Him to show them the proper way and the words of their lips will serve as sacrifices. The people cannot count on Assyria or Egypt to save them, nor can their idols accomplish anything. Only G-d can show mercy, as He did to their ancestors when they left Egypt.
G-d will correct them of their backsliding ways and He will love them unconditionally; His anger will have been turned away. His goodness will never be withheld from them (the chapter uses the simile of dew) and they will blossom like a rose. Their branches will spread out and they will be as beautiful as an olive tree (referring to the menorah of the Temple) and they’ll be as fragrant as the Lebanon (referring to the incense of the Temple). The exiles will return to the land where they will be reinvigorated.
The people of the nation will say, “What do I need with these idols?” G-d will save them from their troubles and all goodness will come from Him. Who is wise enough to recognize this and return to G-d? His ways are straight (not crooked like those of man); the righteous will walk in them and those who reject G-d will stumble.
G-d sent warning through His prophets, so that the people should repent, because who can stand up before His punishment?
G-d still asks the people to repent and return to Him. He would rather they “tear their hearts” in repentance than be punished and tear their clothes in mourning. He is quite merciful, slow to anger and He would rather avoid having to punish people. If people recognize their shortcomings and resolve to improve, they can still walk away from the coming plague relatively unscathed.
Sound the shofar! Call a fast! Gather the people together and prepare them for this! Let the kohanim (priests) serving in the Temple beseech G-d for mercy. If the people do all this, G-d will agree to turn aside His punishment, instructing the locusts not to destroy the land. G-d replied that He would cause the plants to grow again, so the people would have produce and they would no longer be ashamed. G-d will drive the locusts from the land and the people will rejoice. The pastures of the animals will re-grow, just like the trees.
Everyone rejoice with G-d, for He sent His prophets to instruct the people how to return to Him. He brought the rains so that food would grow and the storehouses could be filled. When G-d has mercy on His people, He will repay them for the damages incurred by the locust swarms. The people will eat, be satisfied and thank G-d for the wonders He has worked for them. The people will recognize G-d and never be ashamed.
Who is like G-d, forgiving sins against Him? He doesn’t stay angry forever, preferring acts of kindness. He will cast our sins into the sea. (This is the Tashlich prayer, which is said on Rosh Hashana.) G-d will restore truth and kindness, the attributes of Jacob and Abraham, to their descendants.
Excerpted from The OU’s Nach Yomi