Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE PERSON OF HOSEA.
1. His name and descent. Our names are mere arbitrary labels affixed to us; but, among the Jews, names were often given in allusion to circumstances in character or destiny. "Hosea" means "salvation." To some readers this name may appear to stand in direct contrast to his message, seeing that he denounced national ruin. Yet it was appropriate, after all; for Hosea's ultimate prophetic word was the redeeming mercy of Jehovah. We know nothing of his father, Beeri; or of his own life, except as reflected in his book. He was a native and citizen of the kingdom of the ten tribes (Hosea 1:2; Hosea 7:5). He loved his fatherland with the deep love of a patriot; and his life-message was to "Ephraim." He is the only prophet of that kingdom who has contributed to the Bible a book which is really a prophecy.
2. His lengthened ministry. Hosea must have been a young man when, during the powerful reign of Jeroboam II., he began his life-work; and he maintained his testimony throughout the turbulent period which ensued after the death of that prince, and indeed nearly to the time of the deportation of Israel into Assyria. He thus labored bravely during more than two generations. He did not withdraw from his ministry after thirty or forty years' work, upon the plea of long service. Nor did he retire on the ground of his non-success, although it does not appear that he ever made a convert, or enjoyed the sympathy of even "a very small remnant" of his fellow-countrymen.
II. HIS TIMES. Hosea lived in the eighth century before Christ, about the time when Rome was being built. He must have begun his labors some years before Isaiah in the southern kingdom. His times were characterized by:
1. Deep spiritual apostasy. Indeed, his life extended over the darkest period of the whole history of Israel. God had, in great grace, espoused the Hebrew people to himself, and had called himself their Husband. But they had been miserably unfaithful to him. The kingdom of the ten tribes, especially, had "committed great whoredom" (ver. 2). Its very existence as a separate kingdom was a course of adultery. Its political flirtations with Egypt and Assyria, when it ought to have relied wholly on Jehovah, were acts of adultery. The calf-worship at Jeroboam's two "chapels of ease" was adultery. The Baal-worship introduced by Jezebel, with its shameful rites, was adultery. The nation, in fact, had cast off all fear of God, and lost all knowledge of him.
2. Fearful moral corruption. Wherever the foundations of religion are undermined, immorality becomes gross and rampant. Hoses contemplated almost with despair the universal secularity and violence and dissoluteness (or rather, dissolution) of society in his day. Riot and drunkenness prevailed everywhere. Sensuality was observed as a sacrament in the temples of Baal and Ashtoreth. Rivers of blood flowed through the land (Hosea 4:1-3).
3. Hopeless political anarchy. After the death of Jeroboam II., the flames of revolution burst forth, and were never entirely quenched until the nation was suddenly carried into captivity. There was often confusion in the government, and sometimes utter anarchy. Kings perished by the hand of the assassin, and factions strove one with another until they were mutually devoured. Soon came the final rush of rain; and Hoses must have lived almost to see it.
III. HIS LIFE-WORK. Hosea is the Jeremiah of the northern kingdom. But his isolation was more complete, his sorrow more tragic, and his prophetic work more barren of results than even Jeremiah's.
1. He denounced Ephraim's sin. The nation had rejected Jehovah as its Husband, and gone a-whoring after other gods. So Hosea was raised up on purpose to rebuke this unfaithfulness in all its forms: the Baal-worship, the calf-worship, the rampant licentiousness, the revolt from the house of David, and the leaning for aid upon heathen powers.
2. He pronounced Ephraim's doom. When he began his ministry there were as yet no signs of ruin. Hosea's thunderbolts dropped at first out of a clear sky. It was the time of Jeroboam II., when the kingdom was in the zenith of its prosperity. But from first to last the prophet warned the ten tribes that their commonwealth would soon become a total wreck. They would be carried away into perpetual exile. God would set their kingdom aside on account of its sins, and not for seventy years only (as would be the case with Judah), but forever.
3. He announced redeeming love in store for Ephraim. For, after all, Hoses was not a despairing pessimist. He spoke with confidence of the continuance of the Divine tender mercy towards Israel. The northern kingdom, as such, must perish; but, notwithstanding, Jehovah will yet have a people for himself, who shall be gathered out of all the twelve tribes. So Hoses mingled with his menaces urgent calls to repentance. His appeals are surcharged with the tenderest pathos. It has been pointed out that he is the first of the Hebrew prophets who calls God's affection for his people by the name of "love;" the first clearly to forecast the Christian conception of the fatherhood of God, with the infinite tenderness implied in it. Hosea's message of grace was that God has still the heart of a husband towards Israel, and the heart of a father towards her children.
IV. HIS scour. It is important to distinguish between a prophet's life-work and his contribution to Holy Scripture.
1. The arrangement. This book is by no means a methodical record of Hosea's long ministry. It comprises only a few notes indicative of its burden and spirit. Yet the order of the book seems to be chronological. The first three chapters tell of the "word" given him before the fall of Jehu's house, and while the kingdom still seemed strong and flourishing. The other chapters reflect those vicissitudes of frightful anarchy and feeble misrule which characterized the fifty years that followed (see Pusey's Introduction, p. 5).
2. The speaker. It is worthy of notice that throughout the book the speaker is generally the Lord in his own person. The whole prophecy contemplates Israel's disobedience to "the first and great commandment;" and so the first personal pronouns usually refer to God himself. The Lamentations of Jeremiah is a sad book, but the Book of Hoses reverberates with even a profounder bass of sorrow; it is the saddest book of Holy Scripture, being in effect the lamentations of Jehovah. Hoses shows us the Divine heart as it were agitated with such conflicts of passion as a good man might experience whose conjugal and parental love had been cruelly blighted.
3. The style. Hoses is really a poem. It is so even in literary form; for only Hosea 1. and 3. are written in prose. The first three chapters constitute a symbolical introduction, while the body of the book (Hosea 4-14.) is a dirge, composed of mingled wailings, entreaties, threatenings, and promises. The style is abrupt, sententious, laconic, and "rather to be called Hosea's sayings than Hosea's sermons" (Matthew Henry). But "a verse may find him who a sermon flies."
4. The profitableness of the book to us. Although Hoses was raised up primarily for Israel, his prophecy has its place as an elect stone in the temple of Divine revelation. It teaches the politician that only "righteousness exalteth a nation." It reminds the moralist that a sound and pure ethics can rest only upon a foundation of living religion. It warns the Christian of the danger of harboring idols within his heart. Hoses is by no means a shallow book. It is not for superficial minds. It requires - as its epilogue (Hosea 14:9) suggests very deep and diligent study. - C.J.
I. FROM WHOM THE WORD COMES. Their formula was this: "Thus saith the Lord." Their word was "the word of the Lord." This is witness:
1. To the personality and spiritual nature of God. Words are the clothing of thought. He who speaks first thinks. The Divine mind is presumed in the Divine utterance. Language like that of the text could not be used of a principle, an abstraction, a law, an unconscious force, such as stone would thoughtlessly substitute for the living God.
2. To the interest of God in the moral state and welfare of men. Why should the Supreme concern himself to address the members of our race? That he has done so is evidence of his grace and benevolence. And to this the mission of the prophets bears witness only less powerfully than the advent and ministry of the incarnate Word.
II. BY WHOM THE WORD CAME.
1. By the medium of human spirits. There might have been other methods of communicating with mankind; but infinite Wisdom made choice of this. Man has ever been the minister of God to man.
2. The appeal of Heaven is thus seen to be to the human reason and conscience. It is plain that the Divine intention was not to overwhelm with an irresistible impression, but to convince and to persuade.
3. The Lord made choice of agents morally in sympathy with his holy character and aims. The prophets uttered the word of God, but they made that word their own. They plainly felt indignation with rebellion and unfaithfulness, and commiseration for wretchedness, and joy in every righteous endeavor and aim. In a word, they were what their designation implies - inspired utterers of the Divine mind, voices to all who would hear.
III. TO WHOM THE WORD CAME.
1. In every case it came to beings naturally capable of understanding it, and therefore responsible for the manner in which it was received.
2. To Israel the word came with an especial emphasis and adaptation; for the people had already received from the Lord such revelations as rendered them peculiarly qualified now to hear and to obey.
3. The especial circumstances of the northern tribes, the northern kingdom, were such as to make it peculiarly appropriate that Hosea should address to them language, first of severity, and then of consolation and encouragement.
4. The fact that these prophecies form a part of the canon of the Old Testament is an evidence that these words are profitable to all; and of this the experience of the Church is a sufficient confirmation. - T.
I. THE ESSENCE OF SCRIPTURE. What is the essence of the Bible? It is here called "The word of the Lord." Analyze the expression:
1. It is a "word." A word fulfils two functions; it is a revelation and an instrument. A true word reveals the mind of the speaker, and is at the same time an instrument to accomplish his purpose. The Bible is the manifestation of God; it shows his intellect and heart; and is his instrument as well, by which he accomplishes his purpose on the human mind. By it he is said to enlighten, quicken, cleanse, conquer, etc.
2. It is a Divine word. "The word of the Lord." Words are always powerful and important according to the nature and character of the speaker. The words of some men are unclean and weak, the words of others pure and mighty. Because the Lord is all-mighty and holy, his word is all-powerful and pure.
3. It is a Divine word concerning men. The prophecy came to Hoses in relation to Israel. The Lord has spoken many words, words to other intelligences unknown to us. If all the words he has spoken in the universe were written in books, what globe or system would contain them? But the Bible is a word to man.
4. It is a Divine word concerning man coming through men. The Lord's word came now through Hoses to Israel. In the Bible God speaks to man through man. This gives the charm of an imperishable humanity to the Bible.
II. THE MORTALITY OF KINGS. Several kings are here mentioned who appeared and passed away during the ministry of Hosea. He prophesied "in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, Kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, King of Israel." Uzziah was the eleventh king of Judah. His example was holy, and his reign peaceful and prosperous. Ahaz was a son of Jotham; at the age of twenty he succeeded his royal sire. He gave himself up to idolatry, and sacrificed even his own children to the gods of the heathen. Hezekiah, the son and successor of Ahaz, was a man of distinguished virtue and religion, animated by true piety and patriotism. Jeroboam was the son of Joash, and great-grandson of Jehu, and followed the former Jeroboam, the man who made Israel to sin, and, like him, sank into the lowest idolatry and corruption. Some of these kings had come and gone during the ministry of Hoses; - Kings die, etc.
1. This fact is a blessing. Royalty has a tendency so to feed and fatten the depravity of human nature, that, were not death to interpose, the lives of men would become intolerable. When we think of such kings as those of which Ahaz and Jeroboam were types, we thank God for death, and rejoice in the "king of terrors," who comes to strike the despots down.
2. This fact is a lesson. What does the death of kings teach?
(1) The rigorous impartiality of death. Death is no respecter of persons; it treats the pauper and the prince alike.
"The black camel death kneeleth once at each door, (2) The utter powerlessness of wealth. The wealth of empires cannot bribe death, nor can all the armies of war ward off his blow or keep him at bay. (3) The sad hollowness of worldly glory. Death strips sovereigns of all their pageantry and reduces them to common dust. "It is a monitory truth, I ween, III. THE PERPETUITY OF TRUTH. Although these kings successively appeared and passed away, the ministry of Hosea kept on. 1. The "Word of the Lord" is adapted to all generations. It is congruous with all intellects, it chimes in with all hearts, it provides for the common wants of all. 2. The "Word of the Lord" is necessary for all generations. All men in all ages and lands want it; it is as indispensable to their happiness as air is to their life. Generations may appear in the distant future who may not require our forms of government, our social institutions, our artistic devices, our mechanical inventions, and who may despise our literary productions; but no generation will ever appear who will not require the "Word of the Lord." - D.T.
(2) The utter powerlessness of wealth. The wealth of empires cannot bribe death, nor can all the armies of war ward off his blow or keep him at bay.
(3) The sad hollowness of worldly glory. Death strips sovereigns of all their pageantry and reduces them to common dust.
"It is a monitory truth, I ween, III. THE PERPETUITY OF TRUTH. Although these kings successively appeared and passed away, the ministry of Hosea kept on. 1. The "Word of the Lord" is adapted to all generations. It is congruous with all intellects, it chimes in with all hearts, it provides for the common wants of all. 2. The "Word of the Lord" is necessary for all generations. All men in all ages and lands want it; it is as indispensable to their happiness as air is to their life. Generations may appear in the distant future who may not require our forms of government, our social institutions, our artistic devices, our mechanical inventions, and who may despise our literary productions; but no generation will ever appear who will not require the "Word of the Lord." - D.T.
III. THE PERPETUITY OF TRUTH. Although these kings successively appeared and passed away, the ministry of Hosea kept on.
1. The "Word of the Lord" is adapted to all generations. It is congruous with all intellects, it chimes in with all hearts, it provides for the common wants of all.
2. The "Word of the Lord" is necessary for all generations. All men in all ages and lands want it; it is as indispensable to their happiness as air is to their life. Generations may appear in the distant future who may not require our forms of government, our social institutions, our artistic devices, our mechanical inventions, and who may despise our literary productions; but no generation will ever appear who will not require the "Word of the Lord." - D.T.
I. THE PROPHET. "Hoses, the son of Beeri." Hoses, whose name (Hoshea, "salvation") remittals of Jesus (Matthew 1:20), was:
1. A native of Israel. One, therefore, who lived in the midst of the evils which he describes, and felt a patriot's love for his people.
2. A man of gentle, pensive, and confiding nature. This made his anguish at the thought of the nation's sins and impending ruin the more poignant. There are striking resemblances between this prophet and Jeremiah, who sustained a relation to Judah similar to that which Hoses sustained to Israel.
3. A man sorely tried by domestic sorrow. Hoses was no mere spectator of the evils of the time. The iron had entered his own soul. He had been tried in the sorest way a man can be tried, by the unfaithfulness of his with. It was, however, in connection with this sorrow that God's word came to him (ver. 2). It was his own experience which enabled him to enter so deeply into the mystery of God's love to Israel.
II. HIS TIMES. "In the days of Uzziah, Jotham," etc. He dates by the reigns of the legitimate kings of the house of David. Israel, after the fall of Jeroboam's house, was governed by usurpers (Menahem, Pekah, Hoshea, etc.).
1. The chronology of the times. This has important bearings on the duration of the prophet's ministry, and on the time which elapsed before the downfall of the kingdom. We cannot here, however, enter at length into the tangled questions raised by the apparent conflict of Hebrew and Assyrian dates (cf. Robertson Smith, 'Prophet of Israel,' Leer. 4. and notes), It seems to us
(1) that the biblical data do not warrant us in assuming the identity of the Pul of 2 Kings 15:19, 20, to whom Menahem paid tribute, with Tiglath-pileser (cf. 1 Chronicles 6:26); and that insuperable difficulties attend the lowering of the dates of the kings to the degree necessary to bring them into entire accord with the dates in the Assyrian canon. We believe it will be found that there is a break in the canon at B.C.. 745, sufficient for the insertion of the reign of Pul, and that the Menahem of the monuments, who paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser in B.C. 738, is not the Menahem of Scripture, but probably a second Menahem, a rival of Pekah's, whom Tiglath-pileser, after putting down the revolts of B.C. 743-748, attempted to set on the throne in his own interest. We have a Menahem of Samaria, clearly an Assyrian viceroy, as late as B.C. 702, in the reign of Sennacherib (Smith, 'History of Assyria,' p. 113).
(2) On the other hand, there are strong grounds for believing that the interregna commonly assumed to have existed between the death of Jeroboam II. and the accession of Zachariah (eleven years), and again, between the murder of Pekah and the accession of Hoshea (eight or nine years), must be abandoned as untenable. Scripture does not recognize them, and, as shown by the monuments, Pekah and Rezin of Damascus (2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 7:1) were certainly at war in B.C. 734. The numbers are probably to be harmonized by assuming that the regnal years of Uzziah and Jotham include, the former, eleven years of association with Amaziab, and the latter, eight or nine years of association with Uzziah (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:21). For an example of this mode of reckoning, see 2 Chronicles 21:5 compared with 2 Kings 8:16. This lowers the dates by nineteen years, and assuming a break of twenty-eight years in the canon at date of Pul (Rawlinson, 'Ancient History,' allows him twenty-five years), we bring the two chronologies from Ahab downwards into harmony. A formidable objection to the theory of a break in the canon is the mention, under date June, , of an eclipse of the sun, known to astronomy to have taken place at that date; but it is noteworthy that a similar eclipse took l lace June, , that is, twenty-eight years earlier, which exactly satisfies the conditions of our hypothesis (see Pusey on Amos 8:9). The seventeenth of Pekah, given in 1 Kings 16., as the year of the accession of Ahaz, must, on this theory, be corrected to the seventh, and this is the only change required in the biblical numbers. Accepting these dates, it will follow that Jeroboam II. died about B.C. 762 or 763, a little more than forty years before the fall of Samaria ( B.C. 721). If, further, we assume Hosea 1-3, of this book to be based on real history, and to have been composed before the downfall of the house of Jehu, we must suppose the prophet to have commenced his ministry about the middle of Jeroboam's reign, and to have labored for nearly sixty years.
2. The character of the times. They were evil exceedingly. The state was tottering to its downfall. Revolution succeeded revolution (Hosea 7:7). The land was filled with idolatry and with every species of wickedness (Hosea 4:1, 19). Priests and prophets, instead of reproving sin, openly encouraged it (Hosea 4:5-9). The result was a general dissolution of social ties (Hosea 4:2). To internal miseries were added the horrors of foreign invasion (Hosea 5:8-11). Yet in their distress the people sought not to God, but turned instead to Assyria and Egypt (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9; Hosea 10:6; Hosea 12:1). The nation, in short, was reeling to its ruin, and remonstrance and warning had no longer any effect upon it. The blow fell in the capture of Samaria, followed by the captivity of the people (Hosea 13:16).
III. HIS MISSION. "The word of the Lord that came unto Hoses." Hosea's task in Israel was:
1. To testify against Israel for its sins; to hold up to the people a mirror which should show them to themselves.
2. To show them the root of their transgressions in apostasy from God.
3. To show them how God felt to them in their backslidings - how strong, pure, consistent, and unchanging was his affection towards them.
4. To warn them of the inevitable destruction they were bringing on themselves by sin.
5. To blend promise with threatening, and declare how grace would triumph even over Israel's unfaithfulness. Though sharing in many of the calamities of the latter days of the nation, Hosea seems to have been removed before the final stroke fell. This was God's mercy to him; he was "taken away from the evil to come" (Isaiah 57:1).
IV. HIS BOOK. Hosea's prophecy preserves to us the substance of his public teaching. The materials wrought up in it belong to different periods of his ministry. Hosea 1-3, belong to the, reign of Jeroboam (Hosea 1:4). They show no traces of the anarchy which set in after that monarch's death. Hosea 4-6., belong to the succeeding period, the reign of Menahem, and earlier years of Pekah. Hosea 7. and 8. may be a little later. They speak of a time of busy political intrigue, and of chastisement by the Assyrians. We are disposed to refer them to the middle of the reign of Pekah, when the Assyrians were frequently in Palestine (B.C. 743-73?). The key-note of Hosea 9., "Rejoice not," suggests a gleam of returning prosperity. This answers to Pekah's later days when at war with Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28.), prior to the crushing of his power by Tigtath-pileser (1 Kings 15:29). Hosea 10. plainly takes us unto the times of Hoshea, while Hosea 11-13., refer to the very last days of the kingdom. The abruptness, pathos, and quick emotional transitions which have been noted as characteristic of the prophet's style appear in these chapters in an exceptional degree. Hosea 14. is the fitting conclusion to the whole. Calm succeeds to storm. The language is soft, gliding, peaceful, and laden with tenderness; the imagery is idyllic; glorious vistas open themselves into the future. Keil's division of the second part of the book into three sections, viz. Hosea 4-6:3; Hosea 6:4-11:11; Hosea 12.-14., each section rounded off by promise, is as good as any. - J.O.
Hosea 3:1, "The children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love grape-cakes). We need not suppose Gomer to have been unchaste at the time of her marriage, though she soon afterwards fell into light ways. Ver. 2 is not to be pressed too literally. The prophet, in the light of his later knowledge, reads back into the beginning of his relations with Gomer a meaning which could hardly have been obvious to him at the time. Children were born of the marriage, to whom, by Divine command, the character of the mother having by this time revealed itself, Hosea gave prophetic names. These, as they grew up, appear to have followed only too faithfully in their mother's footsteps. Wife of whoredoms," "children of whoredoms." Hosea did all he could to reclaim his wife from her sinful ways, but without success. The sequel of the story is given in Hosea 3. The present section yields the following lessons: -
I. A DIVINE LEANING IS TO BE RECOGNIZED IN THE EVENTS OF LIFE. In what befell Hosea there was, as the prophet came afterwards to see, a clear Divine purpose. He was bidden take Gomer, for "the land hath committed grievous whoredom, departing from the Lord." The object of the union was to afford a symbol of the unhappy relations subsisting between Jehovah and his people. The prophet, further, was to be trained through his own great personal sorrow to sympathy with God in his. The human heart was to be made an interpreter of the Divine. Life is shaped for us by a power higher than our own. Its events embody words of God. The meaning hidden in them is often not manifest till afterwards. They are shaped for our instruction. They are parables to us and to others of Divine things. The teaching of the Spirit should be sought to aid us in understanding them.
II. THERE IS A NATURAL ANALOGY BETWEEN EARTHLY MARRIAGE AND THE AFFIANCE OF THE SOUL WITH GOD. It is tiffs analogy which underlies the representation of Israel's apostasy from God as whoredom. "The whole Jewish Scriptures," says R. H. Hutton, "insist with a strange and almost mystical monotony on the close connection between the constancy required in marriage and the constancy which God demands in the spiritual relation of worship to himself. Sometimes there appears to be almost a confusion between sins against the one kind of fidelity and sins against the other, as if it were implied that he who is incapable of appreciating duly the sacredness of the human tie, will necessarily be incapable of appreciating the sacredness of that which is at once more awful and more intimate. It is clear that the Jewish prophets regarded constancy in the most intimate of human relations, as a sort of initiation into the infinite constancy of God." God claims our heart-whole love. The least wandering of desire from him is sin. Paul warns against the slightest deviation from perfect simplicity of affection towards Christ as a species of unchastity (2 Corinthians 11:1).
III. THE BEST-GUARDED HOMES ARE NOT SAFE FROM THE INFECTION OF SURROUNDING EVIL. No home would be more jealously guarded than Hosea's. Yet the infection entered it. In a dissolute state of society it is almost impossible to exclude the pestiferous germs with which the moral atmosphere is loaded. They find insidious lodgment in places and hearts where we would least suspect their presence. Our safety lies in vigilance, and in doing our utmost to resist the spread of moral corruption.
IV. CHILDREN TEND TO FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE PARENTS. Especially of the mother. A mother's influence is greater than a father's. A pious mother is the best of blessings, as a wicked mother is the worst of curses. - J.O.
I. HOSEA'S CONJUGAL DISHONOR. How are we to explain the narrative portions (Hosea 1. and 3.) of this book? The most interesting problem of Hosea's life, and the "vexed question" in the exposition of his prophecy, lies in the meaning of this story of his domestic experiences. There have been three principal interpretations. At the one extreme is the severely literal view; viz. that Hosea, in obedience to a Divine command, united himself in marriage with a woman notorious for her impurity (Augustine, Pusey, Dean Stanley, etc.). At the other extreme is the purely allegorical view; viz. that the narrative is to be regarded merely as a parable; or, at most, that the marriage took place in prophetic vision only (Jerome, Calvin, Hengstenberg, etc.). The exegesis which the writer of this homily prefers lies between these two; viz. that Hosea's marriage was real, but that Gomer did not become profligate until after she had borne the prophet's three children (Ewald, Professor A.B. Davidson, Dr. Robertson Smith, etc.). No view which it is possible to take is free from difficulties; but this last one is not exposed to the insurmountable objections which, in the writer's judgment, adhere to the two extreme interpretations. It also furnishes an appropriate parallel in Hosea's experience to the love of God for his people Israel. The prophet, accordingly, contracted a marriage which turned out to be unhappy. Gomer did not love God. Her heart became contaminated with the moral miasma which was poisoning the social life of the whole nation. Hosea's quiet home, his simple occupations, and his devout sabbath-keeping, grew distasteful to her. She felt her life intolerably slow. After the birth of her third child she was directly tempted, and wandered and fell. Gomer joined the throng of the priestesses of Ashtoreth, took part in the abominable rites of the Phoenician idolatry, and left her poor husband to "cry to vacant chairs and widowed walls" that she had made his home desolate. Hosea's love for his spouse had been very deep and tender, and he felt that he loved her still, despite the fierce conflict which his affection had now to wage against his outraged honor. It would almost seem too, from the ominous names given to the children, that they also, as they grew up, followed for a time in their mother's evil ways. So Hosea begins his book by showing that it was the blighting of his fireside joys and the breaking of his household gods that first made him "a man of sorrows."
"Now I sit
II. GOD'S PROVIDENCE IN THIS DISHONOR. The shipwreck of his home-happiness taught Hosea very solemn spiritual lessons. He heard in it the voice of Jehovah pointing out to him his life-work. Looking around, he perceived that his experience was not an isolated one. Rather, his home was a picture of the moral state of the entire northern kingdom. The land was reeking with sensuality. And with that sin the sin of idolatry was closely intertwined. So Hosea became very deeply convinced that all the crime and vice of the age sprang from one spiritual root: "The land had committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord." He reflected that his own bitter experience was but a parable of God's experience. What Gomer was to him, the Israelitish nation had been to Jehovah. She had been betrothed to God "in the days of her youth, when she came up out of the land of Egypt;" and the nuptials had been celebrated at Mount Sinai. But, alas I she had fallen now into foul and shameless idolatry. Hosea, from his own sad experience, could have sympathy with God. Himself a victim - and not an eye-witness merely - of the wickedness of his age, he realized more fully than he could otherwise have done the odiousness of Israel's apostasy. When he thought of Gomer, he could understand the words of the second commandment, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God." And thus his conjugal dishonor was his birth as a prophet. It was "the beginning of the word of the Lord in Hosea." The Book of Hosea is a poem; and while, of course, "the poet is born, not reader events in his own life are oftentimes needed to strike from him the poetic fire. Although the poet is "dowered with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn, the love of love," it is also true that
"Most wretched men
III. LESSONS FOR OURSELVES.
1. God himself is the supreme end of our life. He is so:
(1) To the individual. "Man's chief end is to glorify God." The life which does not do this is a failure.
(2) To the family. This sad story reminds us of the blessedness of household piety, and of a pure family life. Holy Scripture everywhere magnifies the family, and enjoins that the fear of God be enthroned in its very heart. "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it."
(3) To the nation. National religion, on the part of a self-governing people, depends upon the spiritual state of the persons and households which compose the nation. "Departure from the Lord," whether in the case of the individual, or the family, or the commonwealth, is idolatry and adultery; and it leads inevitably to ruin (Psalm 73:27).
2. All of us require to repent of Gomer's sin. Our evil hearts have gone a-whoring from our God; our wrong words and actions are the children born of our adultery. Each of us may say -
"Thou, my soul, wast loved,
3. A course of affliction affords a valuable prophetic curriculum. There is a sense in which "all the Lord's people" should be "prophets." But, before we can be fully qualified and accomplished to teach the truth as it is in Jesus, we must be washed, not only in his blood, but in our own hearts' blood also. - C.J.
I. GOD IS THE HUSBAND OF HIS PEOPLE. Human relationships are pressed into the service of religion; and the fact that God created man in his own image is the justification of such similitudes as that of the text. The Creator is represented as the King, the Father, and the Husband of the children of men. Under each relationship some new aspect of religious life and duty is brought into prominence. Jehovah declares that he espoused Israel in selecting her from among the nations, admitting her to special' intimacy, and conferring upon her peculiar dignity and favors.
II. GOD'S PEOPLE ARE UNDER OBLIGATION TO FAITHFULNESS TO THEIR LORD. The wife who has accepted a man as her husband binds herself to "keep to him only." Adultery has ever been regarded as a shameful vice and crime. How much more are those, whom the eternal Supreme has favored with the revelation of his Law and his purposes, bound to render to him the most loyal and faithful service! He alone is to be worshipped, adored, obeyed, and served. Israel was distinguished among the nations by many events in the national history; and "in these last days" all to whom the gospel has come are signally honored, and are placed under a sterner responsibility.
III. IRRELIGION AND APOSTASY ARE NOTHING LESS THAN FLAGRANT INFIDELITY. When Hosea wrote, the northern tribes, constituting the kingdom of Israel, were again and again guilty of idolatry, and even those who were free from this stain in many instances fell into gross ungodliness and disobedience. Such conduct was represented as equivalent to spiritual adultery. Israel forsook her espoused husband and went after other lovers, and attached herself guiltily and disgracefully to the worthless rivals who wooed her. And all who depart from God are guilty of infidelity of a flagrant kind, such as the Lord cannot overlook or treat with indifference.
IV. THE UNFAITHFUL ARE SUMMONED TO REPENTANCE, AND ARE INVITED TO RETURN TO THE LORD. Conscience witnesses to the justice of God's claims and to the sinfulness of neglecting and outraging them. And the word. of the Lord comes to the unfaithful in mercy and compassion. For, whilst he might righteously cast off his unfaithful spouse, he graciously opens the arms of his love and welcomes hack the penitent and the contrite. - T.
Isaiah 7:3, 14; Isaiah 8:3). Hosea's ill-starred children were cursed in the very names which they bore; and each of these was to be as a sermon to the nation. It may be that they personally walked for a time in their mother's evil ways; but whether or not, the names which they received concentrate into a focus Hosea's message of judgment.
I. JEZREEL. (Vers. 3-5.) "Jezreel" was the name of the great plain in the heart of the northern kingdom which was the glory of Palestine for its beauty and richness, and which has been in all ages a battle-field of nations. It was also the name of the fair city which stood near the eastern end of the plain, where Ahab had his ivory palace, and where Jezebel and he committed so many infamous murders. Now, Hosea's firstborn was called "Jezreel:"
1. To recall the blood spilt there, which was still crying for vengeance. (Ver. 4.) This must mean the blood shed by Ahab and Jezebel - the murder of Naboth and his sons, and the massacre of the Lord's prophets. But it probably includes also the revolting cruelties of John, by which he exterminated the whole family of Ahab. Divine retribution may slumber for many generations; but it will awake some day, and do its dreadful work. Jehu had destroyed the house of Ahab in obedience to a Divine command, and God had commended him for it (2 Kings 10:30). But, while his act was in accordance with his commission, his motive was not. He had complied with the will of God only in so far as he judged that compliance would advance his own political ends. His "zeal for the Lord " (2 Kings 10:16) was only a thin veneer overlaying his zeal for Jehu. So, although he overturned the altar of Baal, he clave to the calves of Jeroboam. Calvin refers here to Henry VIII. of England as having been a modern Jehu. Henry broke with the pope, not that he might repudiate the errors of the papacy, but because he was determined to divorce Queen Catherine. He suppressed the monasteries, not because they were dens of vice, but that he might deliver a blow at the papal power, and at the same time fill his own coffers with the treasures of the monks. But, again, Hosea's firstborn was called "Jezreel:"
2. To suggest that Israel was about to be scattered by God for its sins. (Vers. 4, 5.) "Jezreel" in Hebrew sounds and spells like "Israel;" and the play of sound suggests the thought that the nation which had "seen God," and been a "prince that prevailed with God," was to become "Jezreel" in the sense of being "God-scattered among the heathen. The impending ruin of John's dynasty was to be the beginning of the end. For although the northern kingdom continued for half a century afterwards, it was constantly distressed with civil war, or distracted with revolution and anarchy, until at last Assyria came and subverted it altogether. Not only so, but Israel was to lose its prowess and meet its overthrow in the valley of Jezreel" itself, hitherto the theatre of its military glory. That smiling plain had been to Israel what Marathon was to Greece, or what Bannockburn is to Scotland. Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Saul, Ahab, had all gained great victories there. Yet "in the valley of Jezreel" "the bow of Israel," which still seemed so strong, was to be irreparably broken. Hosea himself lived to witness, at least in part, the fulfillment of this oracle (Hosea 10:14). And illustrations may be readily multiplied from history of how God can break the pride of an ungodly nation at the innermost shrine of its glory. He did so with Nineveh, with Babylon, with Tyro. He did so again and again at Jerusalem. He did so a few years ago in France, when the victorious German army entered Paris by the Arc de Triomphe, and when King William of Prussia was crowned the first Emperor of United Germany in the palace of Versailles.
II. LO-RUHAMAH. (Vers. 6, 7.) This second child of Hosea and Gomer was a daughter. Her name, meaning "Not-pitied," brought a still sadder message to the guilty nation than the name "Jezreel" did. To be unpitied by God is a worse calamity than even to be "God-scattered." Hitherto Jehovah had at least always compassionated his erring children. And does not the whole of revelation tell us that the heart of God yearns with infinite tenderness over frail, suffering humanity? "Can a woman forget her sucking child?... Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." Why, then, was Israel called "Lo-ruhamah"? Not because the Divine heart had changed, but simply because she herself insisted upon not being "his own." She persistently "would none of" him. And so, at last, there was nothing for it but to allow her to "eat of the fruit of her own way." Hosea's daughter was to be a living witness by her name that the Divine patience was now at length exhausted. And the presage of this name would be fulfilled in the total and irremediable deportation of the ten tribes into Assyria. In case, moreover, the people should cling to any false hope, the opposite lot of the kingdom of Judah is referred to (ver. 7) by way of contrast. Judah was not so thoroughly and hopelessly dissolute as Israel. The southern kingdom had not deserted the temple and the sacrifices. When it was spiritually at the worst, it possessed at least "a very small remnant." So Judah would receive chastisement rather than judgment. And God would "save" Judah, although not "by bow, nor by sword." There would soon be the marvelous deliverance from Sennacherib. Then, after the seventy years' exile, the return from Babylon. And, last of all, in the fullness of the time, the spiritual salvation of Jesus Christ. But all the while, alas! the northern kingdom, as such, was to be unsaved. For Ephraim's apostasy had been unanimous and universal. Not one of its kings was a godly man. And the people would not hearken to God's prophets, but settled down in confirmed wickedness and impenitence. So now at length there was no refuge for Israel even in the compassion of God itself.
III. Lo-AMMI (Vers. 8, 9.) The name of this third child, meaning "Not-my-people presaged still worse disaster than either of the preceding. The third installment of judgment would plunge the nation into the lowest depth of all. The withdrawal of the Divine favor could only lead to positive rejection. What though the Jews kept boasting that they were the Lord's chosen people, when by their works they denied him"! The life of the nation was such as at length to allow him no alternative but to declare that he would not be their God. Jehovah must dissolve his covenant relation to them. He is compelled to disown and disinherit them. Henceforth they are to be no longer a sacred people; they are to differ in nothing from the profane Gentiles. A dreadful doom! Yet still that nation is finally cut off, and that soul is lost for ever, to whom God says these withering, woeful words (ver. 9), "I will not be yours."
CONCLUSION. If we can conceive what a dreadful trial it must have been to Hosea to give his children these mystic names, so ominous of woe, we shall be enabled in some measure, as he was, to sympathize with the Lord's sorrow for those in his human family who live and die in obdurate impenitence, and over whom his wailing, despairing lament is, "How often I would have gathered you together, but ye would not!" - C.J.
Isaiah 8:18). Their names - Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, Lo-ammi - were significant. A prophetic word was attached to each.
I. JEZREEL. (Vers. 4, 5.) This first name - "God will scatter" - foretells Israel's scattering. Through it judgment is denounced
(1) upon the house of the king - "Yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu;" and
(2) upon the kingdom - "I will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel." The lessons taught are:
1. The character of an action is determined by its motive. By the "blood of Jezreel" is meant the slaughter of the seed of Ahab (2 Kings 10.). God had commanded the extermination of Ahab's house (2 Kings 9:7). Jehu was his chosen instrument in executing the judgment. Yet God says, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu." The apparent contradiction is solved, by remembering the unsanctified spirit in which Jehu went about his work of bloodshed. He did what God commanded, but there was no purity of motive in what he did. His "zeal for the Lord' was mere pretence, covering the seeds of personal ambition. He served God only so far as he could thereby serve himself. The massacre of Ahab's seed opened his own way to the throne. When, therefore, having extirpated Ahab's house, Jehu and his successors showed themselves heirs to Ahab's sins, the bloodshed of Jezreel was justly imputed to them as guilt. Actions formally right may yet become sin to us through the motives which prompt them.
2. Partners in guilt will be made partners also in punishment. The kingdom had followed in the steps of its guilty rulers. The doom of excision, therefore, which is denounced against them - the same doom as had been denounced formerly against the house of Ahab - will fall on it also. Judgment is impartial.
3. There is a law of symmetry in the Divine visitations. It was the "blood of Naboth," shed in Jezreel, which brought down on Ahab's house the sentence of extermination (1 Kings 21:17-25). It was in Jezreel that the doom was inflicted on Ahab (1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 22:34-38), on Jezebel (2 Kings 9:30-37), and on Ahab's sons (2 Kings 10:11). Jezreel was the head-quarters of the wickedness for which the whole nation was now to be punished. And now Jezreel is again chosen as the place of vengeance. "I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." A similar correspondence of sin and punishment may be traced in very many of God's dispensations. God would "break the bow." When he smites, weapons of defense afford but small protection.
II. LO-RUHAMAH. (Vers. 6, 7.) The first name spoke of external judgment. The second, "Unpitied," lays bare the ground of the judgment in the withdrawal of the Divine pity. It tells that Israel has nothing to hope for from God's mercy in the dire hour that was so rapidly approaching. "For I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel," etc. (ver. 6). The fact that mercy was no longer to be shown to Israel implied:
1. That mercy had been shown to Israel hitherto. This was the case. No attribute had been more conspicuously displayed in the history of God's dealings with the nation. Mercy was to be shown to Judah still (ver. 7). God's end was merciful, even in the threatened rejection.
2. That there are limits to the Divine mercy. Not, 'indeed, to the mercy itself, but to the exercise or manifestation of it. Righteousness sets limits to mercy. There comes a time when, consistently with righteousness, punishment can no longer be postponed. Even love sets limits to mercy. Paradoxical as it may seem, there are times when the only mercy God can show us is to show no mercy. It is no kindness to the incorrigible transgressor to continue sheltering him from the results of his transgression. God's very love for Israel compelled him to exchange kindness for a holy severity which would not spare. This was needful, as Hosea 2. shows, for Israel's salvation. The experience of the bitter fruits of sin may be the only thing which will bring the wayward one to repentance (cf. Luke 15:11-32).
3. God would pity Judah while rejecting Israel. (Ver. 7.) The distinction made was not arbitrary. Judah, too, had deeply sinned, but she had not yet filled up the cup of her iniquity. Mercy, therefore, was still to be extended to her. The ground of this mercy, however, was to be sought, not in Judah, but only in God. "I will save them by the Lord their God." There is indicated here
(1) the long-sufferingness of the Divine mercy;
(2) the sovereignty of the Divine mercy;
(3) the omnipotence of the Divine mercy. Will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen. We read of many such signal deliverances granted to Judah (Isaiah 7:7, 8; Isaiah 37:6).
III. LO-AMMI. (Vers. 8, 9.) The third name, "Not my people," is most significant of all. It bespeaks a present, though, as the sequel shows, only temporary, dissolution of the covenant bond subsisting between the people and Jehovah. Through this rejection Israel would cease to be God's people - would sink to the level of the Gentiles.
1. In declaring Israel to be not his people, God but ratified the choice of the people themselves. They had refused to be God's people. They had resisted all attempts to bring them back to their allegiance. God at length ratifies their choice. It is the same with every sinner. He chooses his own position. He makes his choice, and God confirms it.
2. In declaring himself to be not their God, God took up the only attitude now possible to him. Many would gladly have God as their God, i.e., would retain the benefits of his favor, friendship, and protection, while refusing the counter-obligation of living as his people. This cannot be. If we refuse to be God's people, he has no alternative but to refuse to be our God. - J.O.
I. THAT A LITERAL OBEDIENCE TO A DIVINE COMMAND MAY ULTIMATELY BRING PUNISHMENT INSTEAD OF REWARD. "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu." The reference is to one of the greatest tragedies in history, recorded in 2 Kings 9. and 10. Jehu destroyed the guilty house of Ahab, and the powerful hierarchy of Baal and Astarte, in obedience to God's command. Why, then, was this blood to be avenged upon his house? Because, as Calvin puts it, "the massacre was a crime so far as Jehu was concerned, but with God it was a righteous vengeance." In other words, a n act which is commanded by God may be so done as to become a crime to the man who does it. Let us take Jehu as an example of this
1. Jehu sinned in his obedience because he was seeking his own ends, and not God's. He slew the princes of Ahab's house because they might rebel against himself; and destroyed the priesthood of Baal and Astarte because, as they owed their position to Jezebel, they would foment dissension, and use their influence against his usurpation. God does not seek such obedience as this. He teaches us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven," though the answer to the prayer may destroy our own cherished plans. The highest exemplification of this spirit we see in our Lord, who, being in an agony in Gethsemane, prayed, "Father, not my will, but thine, be done." In later times the Pharisees sinned just as Jehu had done; and Christ, who read their hearts, declared that, although they obeyed the Law, they were condemned by God in their obedience, because they sought not his honor, but their own. Such sin is possible to you. If you do what is right in business merely because "honesty is the best policy," and trade depends on a good reputation; if you give to the poor for the sake of the popularity you can win; if you abstain from a sinful indulgence because you can no longer afford it, or fear you may lose some prestige; - you have in all these things "your reward;" you will gain what you seek, but nothing more. Yours is the sin of Jehu, who won the throne because he obeyed; but at last had this curse because he wrongly obeyed. Seeing, then, that you have to do with him who decides unerringly about the motive of every act, put up the constant prayer, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
2. The sin of Jehu also appeared in this, that he loved and practiced the very sins he had been called upon to punish in others. (2 Kings 10:31.) He refused to worship Baal and Astarte, not because they were idols, but because their worship was associated with the house of Ahab. But he did worship the calves (and so was equally idolatrous), because this cultus served his political ends, and seemed essential to the independent existence of the kingdom of Israel (see 1 Kings 12:25-33). He hated the sinners, but he loved their sins; the very reverse of what was true of our King, who hated sin, but loved us and died for us "while we were yet sinners." Now, if we punish a person for wrongdoing, and yet do the wrong ourselves, we are not only inconsistent, but we prove that we are sinning against the light, and so aggravate our offence. Suppose, for example, that a parent rebukes his child for swearing, while he himself is guilty of that sin, though right in the actual reproof, he is wrong, as Jehu was, in its insincerity. Paul contemplates this in Romans 2:3, where he asks, "Thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" Such were the two elements of sin in Jehu's outward obedience, which called for the threat, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu."
II. THAT DEPARTING FROM GOD IS THE BEGINNING OF ALL SIN. Calf-worship (a modification of Egyptian idolatry) was less hideous and degrading in its ritual than that which desecrated the groves of Astarte or the high places of Baal. But it paved the way for these grosser idolatries. Indeed, even in itself it was not so innocent as some declare it to have been; for the calf did not represent Jehovah, but "nature," so this was the worship of the creature, as opposed to that of the Creator. In less gross forms this idolatry appears in modern times. Many talk of "nature" till they forget God in his works, and are in spirit followers of shrewd, irreligious Jeroboam, who set up the calves at Dan and Bethel, and so made Israel to sin. In that false worship were found the germs of other sins. Spiritual adultery was followed by carnal adultery. Faithlessness towards God led to unfaithfulness towards man. So men became entangled, as they ever do, in the meshes of sin, till they were "drowned in destruction and perdition." It is because we are fearful of the consequences of departure from God that we are anxious about many who are dead to us. They have contracted no notorious vices and are unstained in reputation; but they have no safeguard against the worst sins and woes, so long as it is true that "God is not in all their thoughts." They are as much exposed to danger as the sheep on the fields of Bethlehem were before David, their shepherd, rich in his heroism and strength, slew both the lion and the bear. An estranged life is an endangered life.
III. THAT A TIME OF OUTWARD PROSPERITY MAY BE A TIME OF APPROACHING DESTRUCTION. "I will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel." Never had the realm seemed more prosperous than when Hosed uttered this prophecy. It was daring the reign of Jeroboam II. a brave and able man, who had regained all that Hazael had conquered, had subdued Moab and recovered Damascus. The kingdom seemed strong, but it was on the eve of disruption. So has it often been. When the King of Babylon was feasting with his nobles, Cyrus was marching up the bed of the river, transforming the city's means of defense into its means of destruction. When the people of the Roman empire were giving way to luxury, as men who could afford to relax the old toil and strain, the Goths were at their gates. Let any nation fail in moral strength amidst material prosperity, and forget that it is "righteousness which exalteth a nation;" let it in spirit say to itself, "Thou hast much goods laid up for many years," then there sounds from heaven the warning words, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee!" Nor ought a Christian Church to consider that its wealth and numbers constitute a gauge for its stability and spiritual strength, for not infrequently its truest prosperity has been seen in the days of persecution for righteousness' sake. To ourselves also let us fearlessly apply the same principle. Our peril may be greatest in our hours of success and prosperity. Woo is nearest when all men speak well of us; for it is when we have eaten and are full that we must beware lest we forget the Lord our God.
IV. THAT A SCENE OF MEMORABLE VICTORIES MAY BECOME THE SCENE OF FINAL DEFEAT. "I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." The "bow" is always in Scripture an emblem of strength, and here denotes the military and political power of Israel, which would be broken in the valley of Jezreel. No place was more distinguished than this for the execution of Divine judgments against the foes of his people. There the hosts of Sisera were scattered by Barak, and there the Midianites slept securely in their camp till, in the dead of night, Gideon with his three hundred swept down the hillside like an avalanche and overwhelmed them. This place, made memorable by former victories, was to become the scene of final defeat to God's people who had become God's foes. This dreadful change was strikingly set forth by the two contrasted names, "Israel" and "Vidsreel," names which implied that it was brought about by change in character; for the people were no longer "Israel," having power with God, but had become "Yidsreel," scattered by God, from him and from each other. Israel's bow should be broken in the valley of Jezreel. What is the bow of our strength? If it be not in Jehovah it will be broken; for the day of retribution must come upon all that sets itself against God, or dares to take his place. We are hastening on to a final conflict which will test us to the utmost. In the valley of the shadow of death our fathers have exclaimed, "Now thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory;" but if we forsake God as Israel did, that place of holy memories will be to us, not the place of conquest and song, but of defeat and shame, for there that in which we have foolishly trusted will be broken, like the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. - A.R.
I. GOD'S RETRIBUTION TAKES AWAY THE POWER OF ITS VICTIM. The bow of Israel is to be broken. The language means the utter destruction of all their military power. Israel fought many battles, won many victories, and trusted in its "bow" - military force - but now that very thing in which it trusted is to be destroyed. It is ever thus, when retributive justice comes to deal out suffering to the sinner, it strips him entirely of his power; it breaks his bow, and cuts his spear asunder. Thus he is left to the mercy of his enemies. What are the great enemies of the soul? Carnality, prejudice, selfishness, corrupt impulses, and habits. Retributive justice leaves the sinner at the mercy of these - breaks his bow, so that he cannot deliver himself. He becomes their utter and their hopeless victim, and their "bow" is gone. The Word of truth, the Spirit of God, and all the ministers of religion are taken from him, and he is left morally powerless. What "bow" have the victims of retribution in eternity by which to deliver themselves from their crushing tyrants? No bow at all - all redemptive instrumentalities are taken from them. Thank God, we have a bow now in our hands; the Bible, the Spirit, the ministry, are all with us.
II. GOD'S RETRIBUTION DESPISES THE PRESTIGE OF ITS VICTIM. The bow is to be broken in the valley of Jezreel. Perhaps re spot on earth did Israel think of so much as Jezreel. It was the scene of their grandest military exploits; the scene, too, where Jehu their king had slain all the worshippers of Ball. It was to Israel what Marathon is to Greece, what Waterloo is to England. In this very scene the punishment shall come; the place of their glory shall be the place of their ruin and shame. Thus it is ever; when retribution comes, it seems to despise the very things in which its victim gloried. A noble lineage, great wealth, patrimonial possessions, elevated positions, brilliant genius, and distinguished abilities, - these are the modern Jezreels of sinners. In these they boast. But what are these? God, when he comes to judgment, will strike them in those very places; he will break their bow in the valley of Jezreel.
III. GOD'S RETRIBUTION DEFIES THE OPPOSITION OF ITS VICTIMS. Jezreel was well fortified. Israel had great confidence in the protection which it had. When the prophets foretold the ruin of their kingdom they would think it perhaps impossible; they would think of the victories won in Jezreel and the protection offered there. But retribution will take the sinner in his strongest place, strike him down on the spot where he feels himself most fortified. Notwithstanding Jezreel, the kingdom of Israel was broken; the ten tribes were scattered upon the hills as sheep that had no shepherd. What defense has the sinner? "Though hand join hand, iniquity shall not go unpunished."
CONCLUSION. Retribution must always follow sin. It may move slowly and silently, but its pace is steady, resolute, and increasing. Swifter and swifter it moves towards the victim. Sooner or later it will reach him, break his "bow," and overwhelm him in shame and confusion. "Be sure your sin will find you out." - D.T.
I. THERE IS A WITNESS TO THE ENORMITY OF HUMAN SIN. Men sometimes imagine that God is indifferent to the conduct of man. But the truth is that while he is merciful, while his mercy endureth forever, he is not on this account an unobservant Governor. If he were not righteous, his mercy would be unmeaning. If he forgets to be gracious, if he lays aside his compassion, that which provokes him to such action must be iniquity of the deepest dye.
II. THIS WITNESS IS ALL THE MORE STRIKING BECAUSE OF GOD'S MERCIFUL NATURE AND DISPOSITION. That some kings show no pity to their enemies, to rebels and traitors, seems only natural; their character is stern and unforgiving. But this is far from being the case with Jehovah. All Scripture concurs in exhibiting him as rich in mercy, as delighting in mercy, as unfailing in mercy. If, then, he in any case refuses or withholds mercy, his most glorious attribute seems to be in abeyance. He does not refuse mercy for his own pleasure, but only when its exercise would lead to anarchy and encourage rebellion.
III. THE REFUSAL OF MERCY IS NOT IRREVOCABLE. It is not for us to question the consistency of contiguous representations of the Divine government and purposes. We take them as we find them. And we observe that even when denunciations so terrible as that of the text have been uttered, after all they are followed by promises of deliverance and blessing.
IV. ACCORDINGLY THE THREATS OF GOD SHOULD NOT LEAD THE SINNER TO DESPAIR, BUT RATHER TO REPENTANCE. TO some temperaments especially, language like that of the text is productive of great depression as well as of serious concern. Let it, however, be remembered that to dread the Divine displeasure is one step towards the Divine favor. It is the insensible and impenitent who are working out their own destruction; whilst the man who trembles at God's word is in the way for blessing. They who deserve no mercy may nevertheless obtain mercy; but only by sincere contrition, unrestrained confession, deep repentance, and a confidence in the Divine grace, which is warranted by the gospel of Jesus Christ. - T.
I. MERCY WITHHELD FROM SOME. "For I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away." "There are," says Burroughs," three estates of the people, signified by the three children of Hosea: First, their scattered estate, and that was signified by Jezreel, the first son, and the story of that you have in 2 Kings 15:9-19, where you may read their woeful seditions; for Zachariah reigned but six months, and then Shallum slew him, and reigned in his stead; and he reigned but one month, for Menahem came and smote Shallum and slew him, and reigned in his stead; so here were nothing but murders and seditions amongst them. A scattered people. The scattered state of the people of Israel was their weak condition signified by the daughter; and the history of that you have from ver. 16 of that chapter onwards, where, when Pul, the King of Assyria, came against Israel, Menahem yielded to him his demand, gave him a thousand talents of silver to go from him, and laid a tax upon the people for it. Here they were brought into a very low and weak condition. And afterwards this King of Assyria came to them again, and carried part of them into captivity. The third child was Lo-ammi, and the history of the state of the people signified by what you have in 2 Kings 17:6, where they were fully carried away and wholly rejected for ever. And because they were a little before that time grown up to some strength more than formerly, therefore this last was a son." God now threatened to withhold mercy from Israel, and we know that when he did so the consequence was national ruin. Where mercy has been abused the time comes when it is withheld, and the subjects are left abandoned of God. When mercy is withheld from nations they perish, from Churches they decay, from families they sink to corruption, from individuals they are lost. "My Spirit shall not always strive with men;" "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone."
II. MERCY BESTOWED UPON OTHERS. "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah." This mercy was signally shown to Judah. "When the Assyrian armies had destroyed Samaria, and carried the ten tribes away into captivity, they proceeded to besiege Jerusalem; but God had mercy on the house of Judah, and saved them; they were saved by the Lord their God immediately, and not by sword or ' bow.' When the ten tribes were carried into captivity, and their land was possessed by others, they being utterly taken away, God had mercy on the house of Judah and saved them, and after seventy years brought them back, not by might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts." And truly most signal was the mercy shown to Judah, when in one night one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian warriors were slain.
"The angel of death spread his wings on the blast, "And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide, "And there lay the rider distorted and pale, 1. It is of mercy. "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God." The deliverance of man from the guilt, the power, and consequence of sin is entirely of God's mercy - free, sovereign, boundless mercy. 2. It is by moral means. "Will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." No material force can deliver the soul from its spiritual difficulties and perils. Moral means alone can effect the object." Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." CONCLUSION. Use mercy rightly while you have it. Its grand design is to produce reformation of character and meetness for the high service and lofty fellowship with the great God, here and yonder, now and forever. - D.T.
"And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide, "And there lay the rider distorted and pale, 1. It is of mercy. "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God." The deliverance of man from the guilt, the power, and consequence of sin is entirely of God's mercy - free, sovereign, boundless mercy. 2. It is by moral means. "Will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." No material force can deliver the soul from its spiritual difficulties and perils. Moral means alone can effect the object." Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." CONCLUSION. Use mercy rightly while you have it. Its grand design is to produce reformation of character and meetness for the high service and lofty fellowship with the great God, here and yonder, now and forever. - D.T.
"And there lay the rider distorted and pale, 1. It is of mercy. "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God." The deliverance of man from the guilt, the power, and consequence of sin is entirely of God's mercy - free, sovereign, boundless mercy. 2. It is by moral means. "Will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." No material force can deliver the soul from its spiritual difficulties and perils. Moral means alone can effect the object." Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." CONCLUSION. Use mercy rightly while you have it. Its grand design is to produce reformation of character and meetness for the high service and lofty fellowship with the great God, here and yonder, now and forever. - D.T.
debris of fallen empires, until he should come forth from it who was the King of Judah, the Son of David, the Redeemer of the world. The Jews were to be humiliated and punished for sin, yet they should not as a people be destroyed; and so they were cheered by the promise, "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God." The earlier fulfillment of these words is recorded in 2 Kings 19., where we read of the deliverance of Jerusalem, not by brave defense, nor by bribes, nor by auxiliaries, but by the unseen pestilence which slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the crowded camp of the Assyrians. Nor was the promise exhausted then, but was again fulfilled when the Jews of the Captivity, to their own amazement, were restored, not by revolt or stratagem, but by the free offer of the magnanimous Cyrus (Ezra 1:2, 3). Our text, however, has more than a local and temporary interest. The principle of Divine deliverance, through other than human means, perpetually asserts itself in Old Testament history. It was the first lesson the Israelites were taught after leaving Egypt, when at the Red Sea Moses said, "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord! He shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." And this lesson, emphasized in the wilderness, was repeated immediately Canaan was entered, when the walls of Jericho fell before the strength of an army which lifted up no weapon against it. In elucidating this principle of Divine deliverance we observe -
I. THAT IT IS MAN'S NATURAL TENDENCY TO TRY TO DO WITHOUT GOD, to trust the bow, and the chariots of human providing. The story of the prodigal is repeated constantly. Every man says in effect, "Father, give me my portion; let me see how I can do for myself without thee." It is only by-and-by, when he finds that there are worse friends than the Father, and wearier places than the home, that, clothed in rags, with failing heart and many a tear, he says, "I will arise, and go to my Father."
1. Israel showed this tendency. They confided in their bravery and patriotism and in the strength of Egypt, believing that unitedly they could construct a dam against which this great sea of Assyria, surging in so ominously, would break in vain. It was not an unreasonable expectation from the human point of view; for it seems still accepted as an axiom that "Providence is on the side of big battalions," and that the destinies of peoples are decided by their material resources. Hosea would be rebuked as a prating preacher who was going beyond his province, when he urged that righteousness and godliness were elements which demanded consideration; by the lowest subaltern and by the highest general his counsels would be laughed to scorn, though events showed that he was right.
2. Temptations to this were never stronger than now. In proportion as our powers develop, our liability to trust to them, and not to him who gave them, increases. In our day physical sciences have grown, and the principles so educed have been swiftly and boldly applied to our necessities. We are pointed to evidences in every direction of the constancy of law and the absence of fortuity. Indeed, the religious fallacy of Judah has been formulated into the philosophy of Positivism, which recognizes nothing but that which the intellect can prove, and excludes everything spiritual and supernatural. It points out that in human distresses we should turn to science, not to God; and that the study of political economy and natural science may fairly supersede the preaching of righteousness as a means of salvation to a people. We do not disparage scientific discoveries, but rather rejoice that they are made so frequently and fearlessly. We only ask men to recognize that there is another sphere not discoverable by the intellect, which underlies and impinges upon the sphere of sensuous life, and. that, while things seen are temporal, there are things unseen which are eternal. Well may one of the characters in 'The New Republic' be represented as saying to such teachers, "Your mind is so occupied with subduing matter, that it is entirely forgetful of subduing itself - a thing, trust me, that is far more important." But the disappointment of men's shrewdest anticipations proves that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. "The shields of the earth" (the means of defense, temporal and spiritual) "belong to the Lord."
II. THAT THE DISCIPLINE OF LIFE IS INTENDED TO ERADICATE THIS TENDENCY TO FORGETFULNESS OF GOD. God rarely disappoints expectations which are founded on a study of natural law; for to act in accordance with natural law is to put ourselves in harmony with the Divine will, law being the expression of will. Yet there should be no idolatry of law, because it works in an orderly way. Law without God is a body without life, a machine without motive power. To bring about a belief in this, "time and chance happen to all;" in other words, things occur which are not expected and could not have been foreseen.
1. In history we see that God has often baffled man. He has defied probabilities, and chosen things which were weak to confound things which were mighty. Take as an example the destinies of Assyria and Judah, which were utterly unlike what man would have predicted. Assyria, in Hosea's time, was the strongest creation of military force, and political genius. In the magnificence of her wealth, and the splendor of her palaces, she rose before men's thoughts gloriously as the image Daniel saw in his vision. But no politician would have expected what the prophet foresaw - that a stone cut without hands would come from the mountain and smite that gigantic fabric to the dust; that those richly peopled plains would become the haunts of the bittern and owl, and the lair of wild beasts. Meantime Judah, a little despised kingdom, tossed helplessly between the opposing forces of Egypt and Assyria, like a piece of seaweed between two enormous waves, was to be "saved by the Lord her God." And thence, in the fullness of time, there came forth One whom men recognized as possessing the highest power, and amidst the ruins of a greater empire than Assyria herself, Christ, the true Ruler, founded a kingdom which never shall be moved. The world's expectations were set at naught.
2. Have not our previsions often been falsified, and our best plans frustrated, so that the old adage has reasserted itself, "Man proposes, God disposes"? Happy is it if, amidst the ruins of our enterprises, we can say, "it is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good."
III. THAT MORAL VICTORIES ARE PREPARED FOR BY QUIET WAITING. God appoints quiet times for the recuperation of all life. The winter prepares for the spring. Sleep makes us ready for toil, and without it the world would go mad. So in the moral world. Work has been done most bravely and successfully by those who have had seasons of trust and waiting. Elijah had to learn that there was more power in the "still small voice" than in wind, or earthquake, or fire. Saul of Tarsus had to rein in his fiery spirit, and for three years was learning God's answer to his question," Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Neither Luther in the Wartburg nor Bunyan in the prison was wasting time, but gaining strength. Let us learn to wait as well as to work; and instead of being careful and troubled about many things, sit at Jesus' feet to hear his word, and "in quietness and confidence will be our strength." It is not by our subtle reasoning that we shall conquer our doubts, nor by our doings that we shall win salvation, nor by our efforts of speech that we shall save souls; for "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God." He has mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them neither by bow, nor sword, but by the Lord their God.
IV. THAT ITS HIGHEST EXEMPLIFICATION IS SEEN IN CHRIST'S REDEMPTION OF THE WOULD. Had he come in manifested glory, the skeptic would have been silenced and the wrongdoer abashed; but he was made lower than the angels, that he might suffer death upon the cross. Born in a stable, he was nursed by the poor, depended on the wages of a carpenter for his food, and played with the common children in Nazareth. Having begun his ministry, he called to himself none of the leaders in the ecclesiastical, or intellectual, or social life of his age; but appointed Galilean fishermen as his representatives. Then he let his foes do their worst. No angelic forces hurled back his assailants, no trumpet-peal startled the court during the mockery of his trial; but he was taken "by wicked hands, crucified and slain." And when he had passed away from earth, his disciples, without human advantages, won the world's attention and established the kingdom of the Lord amongst all peoples. "It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believed." Consider:
1. The principle which underlies our text has its application in the experience of every Christian life. We are justified, not by the works of the Law, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We conquer our easily besetting sins, not by strenuous resolve or Christian association, but by him who, working through these, says, "Without me ye can do nothing." We are saved from the fret of care, not because we are strong and brave to bear it, but because we have learnt to cast all our care upon him. We obtain rest from mental difficulties, not by reasoning, but by trusting, and leaving much contentedly to God's future revelation. And in our last conflict salvation will be ours, not through the memory of past service, nor through our clear perception of what awaits us in the unseen world, but through the realized presence of him who came to receive us to himself and to give us the victory.
2. And finally let us apply the principle to the accomplishment of Christian work. The foes of Christ are still around his Church, and they will be conquered, not by the bow of intellectual, or social, or civil power, but by the Lord our God. You will never conquer skepticism by logical demonstrations; nor cast out heresy by persecution or the thunders of excommunication; nor put down vices by civil law; nor compel the heathen to submit at the Feint of the sword. But against these evils they will prevail who trust, not in men, but in God; who, conscious of human helplessness, look beyond all that is seen as those who can re-echo the psalmist's words, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." For beyond the reach of mortal weakness and transient power he reigns who of old uttered this promise, "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." - A. R.
"The angel of death spread his wings on the blast, I. MAN'S SALVATION IS NOT WROUGHT BY HUMAN MIGHT. 1. History records the insufficiency, the vanity, of all human endeavors to effect the deliverance of man from sin. Rulers by legislation, warriors by arms, philosophers by systems of thought, poets by emotion and imagination, have all essayed the reformation, the moral elevation, of the race; and all who have tried have failed. The wisdom of the world has been proved folly, and its strength weakness. 2. The explanation of this failure is not far to seek. All human means are powerless in affecting the government of God; whatever is to affect that must of necessity originate with the Divine Governor himself. And all human means fail to reach the root of the mischief in man's spiritual nature. They deal with the surface, but do not penetrate to the center; they do not reach the heart of the individual; they do not, consequently, prove able to reconstitute society. II. SALVATION IS FROM THE LORD OUR GOD, AND FROM HIM ONLY. 1. It might be presumed that such is the case, from the infinity of the Divine resources. God is not buffed in the execution of his purposes, as men constantly are, by insufficient power. On the one hand, the nature of his creatures is accessible to him, and is known perfectly by him; on the other hand, the means of affecting that nature are all at his disposal. 2. We observe the supreme proof of this in the gospel of Jesus Christ. (1) The Savior himself was from God. (2) The Spirit, who effects the internal change, is the Spirit of God. (3) The gospel itself is "the glorious gospel of the blessed God." Thus it is apparent that the whole provision for man's redemption and recovery is nothing less than Divine. APPLICATION. This declaration is especially encouraging to those who feel pro-roundly at once their own need of salvation and the insufficiency of all human provision; a Divine interposition satisfies all the conditions and necessities of the sinner's case. - T.
I. MAN'S SALVATION IS NOT WROUGHT BY HUMAN MIGHT.
1. History records the insufficiency, the vanity, of all human endeavors to effect the deliverance of man from sin. Rulers by legislation, warriors by arms, philosophers by systems of thought, poets by emotion and imagination, have all essayed the reformation, the moral elevation, of the race; and all who have tried have failed. The wisdom of the world has been proved folly, and its strength weakness.
2. The explanation of this failure is not far to seek. All human means are powerless in affecting the government of God; whatever is to affect that must of necessity originate with the Divine Governor himself. And all human means fail to reach the root of the mischief in man's spiritual nature. They deal with the surface, but do not penetrate to the center; they do not reach the heart of the individual; they do not, consequently, prove able to reconstitute society.
II. SALVATION IS FROM THE LORD OUR GOD, AND FROM HIM ONLY.
1. It might be presumed that such is the case, from the infinity of the Divine resources. God is not buffed in the execution of his purposes, as men constantly are, by insufficient power. On the one hand, the nature of his creatures is accessible to him, and is known perfectly by him; on the other hand, the means of affecting that nature are all at his disposal.
2. We observe the supreme proof of this in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(1) The Savior himself was from God.
(2) The Spirit, who effects the internal change, is the Spirit of God.
(3) The gospel itself is "the glorious gospel of the blessed God." Thus it is apparent that the whole provision for man's redemption and recovery is nothing less than Divine.
APPLICATION. This declaration is especially encouraging to those who feel pro-roundly at once their own need of salvation and the insufficiency of all human provision; a Divine interposition satisfies all the conditions and necessities of the sinner's case. - T.
I. THE UTTER REJECTION OF ISRAEL FORETOLD. Stronger language of repudiation could not be used than that which is used here. Irene is completely disowned. "Ye are not my people, and I will not be your God." The adulterous spouse is divorced, cast out, and forgotten. The idolatrous nation is joined unto idols, and the aggrieved Husband of the adulteress pronounces the sentence, "Let her alone." In all this we discern the degradation into which sin plunges the ungodly. And we discern, too, the righteous rule of the Lord of all, who will not treat evil as good, and who will vindicate his Law.
II. THE GLORIOUS RESTORATION AND PROSPERITY OF ISRAEL ASSURED. In startling contrast to the denunciation of ver. 9, is the gracious and generous promise of ver. 10.
1. Increase and prosperity are denoted by the common expression, "as the sand of the sea."
2. Favor is expressed in the assurance that those who had been disowned as the subjects of God shall yet be regarded as his sons. The very spot that had echoed with the thunder of wrath should resound with the language of fatherly complacency and affection.
III. THE RECONCILIATION BETWEEN THE TWO DECLARATIONS. In several places in this prophecy similar paradox is met with; there is a strange and sudden reversal of tone and language.
1. The change is not in the principles of God's government, but in the condition and character of God's subjects. Repentance and renewal are undoubtedly presumed.
2. The two sides of religion are thus harmonized. The law threatens, the gospel promises; but both alike tend to the moral good of men and to the glory of God.
3. The reconciliation is supremely effected in the gospel of Jesus Christ; by him came grace and truth, and he made peace. - T.
yet with which this passage Clans is a blessed yet. It introduces suddenly an announcement of salvation for Israel. Hosea cannot think of everything as being always for the worst. His children are not to be living witnesses merely of approaching vengeance. So the prophet's sobs of agony are stilled for a little, to give place to the inspiring strains of Messianic promise. He points out three blessings which lie on the other side of the dreadful doom of the northern kingdom.
I. REALIZATION OF THE COVENANT PROMISE. (Ver. 10.) Some one might naturally ask the question - If Israel is to be scattered," "unpitied," and "rejected," what is to become of the promises given to Abraham and the fathers of the Hebrew race (Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12)? The prophet replies that these will be in no wise cancelled by the rejection of the ten tribes. The people of the northern kingdom are to be dispersed among the nations; but God's purpose is to gather his Church from the Gentile world as well as from the Jewish. The promises given to Abraham were not so much national as spiritual. While, therefore, the symbolic one hundred and forty-four thousand shall be "sealed," there shall stand with them before the throne the "great multitude, which no man could number" (Revelation 7:4, 9).
II. RECOVERY OF THE NATIONAL UNITY. (Ver. 11.) In the past there had always been more or less of enmity between Judah and Israel. Long before the disruption of the kingdom, Ephraim "envied" Judah. And for two hundred years now these tribes had also been sundered politically. But, in the good time coming, the twelve tribes shall again become one rod in the hand of the Lord (Ezekiel 37:16, 17). The oracle before us implies, further, that prior to this reunion Judah also shall have been rejected and carried into exile for its sins. To whom are we to refer this notable prophecy of the "one head"?
1. It refers typically to Zerubbabel, the head of the tribe of Judah at the return from the exile. Among those who went up with him were, at least, a few belonging to the ten tribes; so that a partial miniature of this union was presented in the return from Babylon.
2. It refers antitypically to Jesus Christ, the "One Head" of redeemed humanity. The literal Judah and Israel shall be reunited in him, along with the spiritual Israel of the whole Gentile Church. He receives the appointment, of course, from his Father; but also from his people, in the sense that they accept and rejoice in it. The lesson here is that only in the gospel of Christ is to be found the true basis of the brotherhood of the human race. The name of Jesus is the one adequate symbol of life and liberty. Only his body, the Church, can communicate to the world the blessings of the ideal republic - liberty, equality, fraternity. Union among men can only spring from their common union with God.
III. RESTORATION TO THE DIVINE FAVOR. In the names of Hosea's three children God had denounced woe upon Israel. But these very names may also be understood so that they shall convey an assurance of mercy and redemption. It may be, indeed, that after following for a season in the evil ways of their mother Goner, the three young people were themselves converted, and thus became qualified in character to illustrate their father's prophetic message on its side of promise.
1. "Jezreel" will mean "God sows." (Ver. 11.) This name shall be purified from its baser associations, and be understood again in accordance with its richest meaning. Originally suggestive of the beauty and fertility of the plain of Esdraelon, its application shall be extended, in the spiritual sense, to the whole of Palestine and of the world (Isaiah 35:1, 2). When God sows there is sure to be a glorious harvest; hence the Messianic promise, "Great shall be the day of Jezreel."
2. "Not-my-people will become My people." (Ver. 10 and Hosea 2:1.) In the good time coming, the men of Israel are to salute one another no longer as "Lo-ammi;" but, joyfully dropping the negative, as "Ammi," i.e. those whom the Lord has again called to be his people. This name anticipates "the adoption of sons" under the New Testament. Hence we find the Apostle Peter applying this passage to the Jews of the dispersion (1 Peter 2:10); and the Apostle Paul to the reception of the Gentiles, in opposition to the Jews (Romans 9:25, 26). The words of the latter are not merely an ingenious adaptation of the prophecy to the heathen nations; they are an argument based upon the fundamental thought of it. Israel, through its apostasy, had fallen from the covenant of grace, and had taken its place spiritually as part of the Gentile world, which served dead idols. So the re-adoption of Israel carried with it the adoption also of the Gentiles as the spiritual children of God.
3. "Not-pitied will become Pitied." (Ver. 1.) The word "Ruhamah" will be applied to the daughters of the people, to express the climax of the Divine love. Israel is again to be the object of the Lord's tender and yearning affection. On the other side of all the sin and doom Hosea discerns the sovereignty of Jehovah's compassion and loving-kindness, and he calls upon the people rapturously to celebrate it.
CONCLUSION. How great the encouragement which these three verses afford to any of us who feel that we have, in our own lives, grievously departed from the living God l We, in this age, should understand more clearly than even Hosea did the unspeakable mercy of Jehovah. The prophet says nothing, for example, about the ground or method of the Divine forgiveness. But God has unfolded this "in these last days" in speaking "unto us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:2). The Lord Jesus Christ has come as the Prophet of the Church to emphasize and carry forward Hosea's message" Jezreel," "Ammi," "Ruhamah." - C.J.
I. THE LIGHT HERE CAST UPON THE NATURE AND CHARACTER OF THE SUPREME. It is a gospel needed by our age as much as by any that has ever existed - the tidings that the living God is the Father of the sons of men.
1. He is the living God; neither an abstraction nor a law, nor a Being uninterested in his works or indifferent to the fate of his spiritual creation.
2. He is the Father; which is something more, for it denotes his personal regard, his affectionate disposition, his benignant and bountiful care. To take any lower view than this of the Divine Being is to go back from the enlightened teaching of revelation to the effete and degraded paganism of the past.
II. THE LIGHT HERE CAST UPON THE CALLING AND DESTINY OF MAN.
1. Here is witness to our spiritual nature. This language could not be applied to the irrational and, unmoral brutes. Only man, among the inhabitants of earth, is capable of the dignity and blessedness involved in Divine sonship.
2. Here is witness to the transforming power of religion. The context shows that sinners have forfeited all claim to a hallowed relationship such as is here described, with its privileges and immunities. The grace of God, especially as revealed in the gospel of Christ, secures adoption. Christians are "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus;" they have "received the Spirit of adoption."
3. Here is witness to the duties of the new and spiritual life. What dignity clothes the sons of the living God! What relationships, what prospects, what services, are theirs! Surely it is obvious that those so honored are summoned, and are bound, to cherish filial sentiments, to render filial obedience, to offer filial devotion. A holy Father looks for holy sons. - T.
mankind, and use the text to illustrate the destiny of the race.
I. The race is destined to an INDEFINITE INCREASE in the number of good men. "The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered or measured." The good, the spiritual Israel, have been comparatively few in all ages, though perhaps there is a larger number now than in any preceding period. But the time will come when they shall be innumerable. What mean such passages as these? - "He shall have dominion from sea to sea, from the river to the end of the earth." Again, "All kings shall fall down before him." Again, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." Numerous as the sand on the sea-shore! A Jewish rabbi regards the good as the sand, not only in relation to number, but to usefulness. As the sand keeps the sea from breaking in and drowning the world, so the saints keep the world from being drowned by the waves of eternal retribution. This is true. Were it not for the good the world would not stand long. But it is to represent number, not protection, that the figure is employed. Who can count the sand which is upon the shore? Do you say that to all appearances such an increase is impossible? When God promised to Abraham that his seed should be as the stars of heaven and the sand upon the shore, what could seem more improbable than the fulfillment? It was twenty years after the promise that he had any child, and that only child he was commanded to destroy, and though Isaac was preserved, he had no offspring until twenty years after his marriage. How improbable the fulfillment of such a promise; but nevertheless it was fulfilled. How numerous the descendants of Abraham became! Do not judge from appearance. Trust God's Word; it will come to pass. There is a glorious future for the world.
II. The race is destined to a TRANSCENDENT PRIVILEGE. "And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God."
1. They are destined to a general conversion to God. From not being his people they are to become his people. The places el the earth now populated with the enemies of God will one day be crowded with his friends; places where idolatry, superstition, worldliness, and infidelity prevail shall in the bright future be consecrated to Heaven.
2. They are destined to a general adoption into the family of God. "Ye are the sons of the living God." They shall be endowed and animated with the true Spirit, the spirit of reverence and adoring love. They shall "worship the Father in spirit and in truth." "The living God." The world has abounded with dead gods; there is but one living God. He is the Living One. He is Life, the primal Fount of all existence. Christ calls him the living Father. "As the living Father sent me... I live in the Father, so he that eateth with me shall live by me."
III. The race is destined to a COMMON LEADERSHIP. "Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel."
1. This leadership shall unite the most hostile. "Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together." Great and long-enduring was the hostility existing between these people. The time will come when all antitathies existing amongst peoples shall be destroyed. "Ephraim shall not envy Judah: they shall be of one heart and one mind."
2. This leadership shall be by common appointment. They shall "appoint themselves one Head." Their Leader will not be forced upon them contrary to their consent, nor will he force himself. Who is the Leader? Christ. He is the Leader of the people. He is the Commander-in-chief, he is the Captain of our salvation. All shall unite in him. He is the Head of the Church.
3. This leadership will be glorious. "They shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel." As Moses led the Jews out of the wilderness, as Cyrus delivered them from Babylon, Christ will lead them out of Egyptian darkness and Babylonian corruption. "Israel is here called Jezreel," says Matthew Henry, "the seed of God. This seed is now sown in the earth, and buried in the clods, but great shall be its day whoa the harvest comes."
"For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south wind rushing warm,
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
Deuteronomy 4:25-28; Deuteronomy 31:16-19). But the same word which had predicted the rejection, predicted also the recovery (Deuteronomy 30:1-16). Hosea, in this new word from God, repeats and confirms the promise. The blessings predicted are -
I. NUMERICAL INCREASE. "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea," etc. This was the original promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:5). Israel's unfaithfulness could not make it void (Romans 3:3). Neither did it.
1. God has made up for the rejection of Israel by giving Abraham a spiritual seed vastly outstripping in numbers the natural seed. The spiritual seed was included in the promise:" And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). God has given Abraham this seed. Even now, while Israel's rejection lasts, a vast seed has been raised from the Gentiles, "which in time past were not a people" (1 Peter 2:10). God has, as it were, from the stones raised up children to Abraham (Matthew 3:9). This seed will go on increasing till it embraces all peoples of the earth.
2. Mercy waits even for the natural Israel, who will yet, in great numbers, enter the kingdom of God (Romans 11.).
II. RESTORATION TO SPIRITUAL HONOR. "In the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God."
1. The privilege. "Sons of the living God." Formerly they were called God's "people;" now they are called his "sons." The last honor is greater than the first. Sonship, which formerly was predicated of the nation, is now predicated of the individuals composing it.
2. The heirs of the privilege. Gentiles as well as Jews (Romans 9:26; 1 Peter 2:10). For Gentiles are now admitted to Israel's privileges, they are part of the spiritual seed. Israel, in its state of rejection, stands towards God on no higher a footing than the Gentiles. "Not my people." Conversely, the scheme of grace through which it is recovered has a range wider than the natural Israel; it applies to the whole class of "Not-my-people," and includes Gentiles as well as Jews. The middle wall of partition is broken down (Ephesians 2:14); there is no more any difference (Romans 3:22, 29).
3. Greatness of the privilege.
(1) Great, in contrast with former condition. "Once," not the people of God; "now," not his people only, but his sons.
(2) Great in its own nature. "Sons of the living God." What honor, what dignity, what favor, is implied in this! We have this sonship in Christ, the beloved Son. Angels do not possess this honor. It is reserved for sinful but redeemed man. "Behold, what manner of love," etc. (1 John 3:1).
III. REMOVAL OF DISUNION. "Then shall the children of Israel and the children of Judah be gathered together," etc. The words imply:
1. That Judah, like Israel, would be found at length in exile.
2. That mercy was in reserve for both.
3. That a new Head - a King - would be given, under whom both would return from captivity. The return will certainly take place, in a spiritual sense, in Israel's conversion; whether also in a literal sense remains to be seen.
4. That the leadership of the new King would be voluntarily accepted - "appoint themselves one Head" (cf. Psalm 110:2).
5. That in the restored kingdom of God no place would be found for existing divisions. The old enmities would disappear. Enmity has already disappeared between Judah and Israel. The present Jews have in them the blood of all the twelve tribes. We may learn
(1) that in the kingdom of God there ought to be no disunion;
(2) that in the perfected kingdom of God there will be no disunion;
(3) that in the kingdom of God the Center of unity is Christ - "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5).
IV. GLADNESS AND REJOICING. "Say ye unto your brethren, Amlni; and to your sisters, Ruhamah" (Hosea 2:1).
1. Because of God's great goodness in the extension of his Church. "Great shall be the day of Jezreel," this time in the sense, "God will sow."
2. Because of reversal of former rejection. No longer Lo-ammi, but Ammi - "my people;" no longer Lo-ruhamah, but Ruhamah - "pitied." This joy will be universal. Will fill all hearts, will occupy all lips. Each will greet, rejoice with, and congratulate the other. - J.O.
Hosea 2:22, 23). These words embody a rich Messianic promise which has already been partially fulfilled, but the complete realization of which is yet in the future. The import of this oracle was not exhausted by the return from Babylon; we may reasonably apply it still to every "high day" in the history of the Church. Some of these "days of Jezreel" are as follows: -
I. THE DAY OF THE INCARNATION. On that day Jesus Christ was sown in the earth, "the Seed of the woman." He fell into the soil of our humanity, that he might make it bring forth and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. The manifestation of God in the flesh has cut history in twain. Behind the Incarnation lies a moral wilderness; before it stretches the summer and harvest of the world.
II. THE DAY OF THE PASSION. Then the "corn of wheat fell into the ground and died," that it might "bring forth much fruit." And has not the Lord's death been fruitful indeed? It possesses healing virtue for every sin-wounded son. It is the spring of all right thinking and of all noble living among men. Jesus "with his pierced hand has lifted empires off their hinges, has turned the stream of centuries out of its channel, and still governs the ages" (J. P. Richter).
III. THE DAY OF THE RESURRECTION. Christ is "the First-begotten of the dead," and "the Firstfruits of them that slept." Because he lives, his people shall live also. His resurrection both secures and illustrates the quickening of the souls and bodies of the saints. The weekly return of the Lord's day commemorates the great truth that His resurrection has brought with it the new creation of the world.
IV. THE DAY OF PENTECOST. That was the birthday of the New Testament Church. The events which took place on it presaged an illustrious career for the cause of the Redeemer. On that day the Holy Spirit descended in the fullness of his saving power; and the gospel seed which was then sown yielded an immediate and copious harvest, typical, too, of its destiny ultimately to cover the earth (Acts 2:9-11).
V. THE DAY OF SALVATION. This day has already lasted for eighteen centuries. We are living in the streaming noontide of it. "Now is the accepted time" (2 Corinthians 6:2), The day of grace embraces every occasion regarding which it may be said, "Behold, a sower went forth to sow." And, as the result of all, "a seed shall serve him." "He shall see his seed."
VI. THE DAY OF REVIVAL. Sometimes the Church loses its spiritual freshness. It becomes parched and barren and desolate. But God pours out upon it the plentiful rain of his Spirit; and soon conversions are multiplied, and the whole Church smiles again with the verdure of piety and righteousness, like a spiritual valley of Jezreel "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty," etc. (Isaiah 44:3, 4).
VII. THE DAY OF MISSIONARY TRIUMPH. It is the special function of the Church to bring the heathen nations to the knowledge of the truth. This work God will bless. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." The fruit of the "handful of corn" "shall shake like Lebanon." The spiritual wilderness "shall blossom abundantly;" and in our times we see the fields" white already to harvest."
VIII. THE DAY OF MILLENNIAL GLORY. The Church is to enjoy a lengthened period of prosperity in the latter days before Christ's second coming. While the millennium lasts, "the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in," and the Jews shall be reingrafted into their own olive tree. Over all the world "Not-my-people" shall become "My people," and "Not-beloved" shall become "Beloved." The whole earth shall be God-sown, and shall "yield her increase."
IX. THE DAY OF THE NEW CREATION. At the "great and notable day of the Lord" the Church will be conducted, through the final baptism of fire, to "the restitution of all things." There are to be "a new heaven and a new earth," adapted to the resurrection-bodies of the saints, and fitted for the habitation of the glorified Church. What a great day that shall be, when Paradise shall be restored, and the garden-city of the New Jerusalem shall come down out of heaven from God I
"There falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
CONCLUSION. This grand picture is only still beginning to be realized. But the work is God's, and so we are confident that no part of it shall fail. "Jezreel" is "God's sowing." The seed is his. He is also the Sower. He will bless the springing thereof. He will fill the face of the world with fruit, and at last gather the wheat into his garner. - C.J.
moral lesson of this text, and to come under the influence of this inspiring representation of spiritual felicity. Elements in true well-being are here strikingly combined.
I. UNITY. Judah and Israel were often at enmity, and always envious and discordant; their reconciliation was represented as a marvelous work, attesting Divine power and grace. The work of Christ was one of reconciliation; he harmonized Jews and Gentiles, "making of twain one new man." And the ultimate realization of his purposes of mercy shall be attained when there shall be "one flock and one Shepherd."
II. SUBJECTION TO ONE HEAD. From the day when Rehoboam and Jeroboam became kings of the two sections respectively into which the Hebrew people divided themselves, onwards for many generations that people was a disunited and discordant people. In Christ Jesus a disunion, a discordance, far more widespread and far-reaching, was abolished. He is the one Head, in subjection to whom the several and separate members realize their true and proper unity. History shows us the vanity of merely human principles and powers of unity. But there are signs that a Divine headship is destined by the supreme Ruler to be the means of reconciling those who are severed, and of preserving the unity of those who are as one.
III. A SPIRITUAL EXODUS LEADING TO ONE SPIRITUAL HOME. The chronicles of Israel revealed the fact that it was the Exodus which made the nation. When brought out from Egypt, Israel felt the pulses of national life. A symbol this of the effects of a spiritual deliverance; a promise this of a spiritual and eternal rest. The Church is led forth by her Savior, by him is guided through the wilderness, and by him will be gathered into the unity of the heavenly Canaan. - T.