Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Hosea 1. the prophet has Fainted a "vigorous fresco" (Ewald) illustrative of his domestic sorrows. And now he presents an explanation of the sad picture in its prophetic meaning. The supreme thought of the Book of Hosea is that of Jehovah's conjugal love for Israel, which she by her unfaithfulness had so foully dishonored. Here, in Hosea 2., accordingly, we have an allegory suggested by the prophet's symbolic marriage with Gomer; which depicts the deep sorrow of Jehovah on account of Israel's fall, and his long-suffering tenderness towards her. The first strophe (vers. 2-7) is occupied chiefly with words of solemn condemnation.
I. THE DIVINE, REPROACH. Jehovah charges Israel with:
1. Spiritual adultery. (Vers. 2, 4, 5.) He was himself the rightful Husband of the nation, but she had slighted and rejected his love. With infatuated determination she kept saying, "I will go after my lovers." There was the calf-worship; and the calves were simply idols (Hosea 13:2). There was the Baal-worship, with its shameful impurities. There was the infidelity which had shown itself in separation from the dynasty of David. These were spurious, carnal loves; and the people who cherished them were guilty of spiritual harlotry.
2. Ascribing her material prosperity to their idols. (Ver. 5.) Jeroboam I. had done so: "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up cut of the land of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28). Jeroboam II. was still doing so; during these gala-days of his reign Israel trusted in her own might, and boasted of her military glory. The calf-worship meant virtually the deification of nature. The Baal-worship was the idolatry of mere power, apart altogether from righteousness. Among Hosea's fellow-countrymen, as by so many in our own days, the worship of the living God was neglected amidst the deification of the popular will, reverence for physical law, and the idolatry of worldly success. These were the powers - Israel judged in her blindness - that made her land prosperous.
3. The guilt of an outrage upon the Divine honor. (Ver. 2.) In degrading herself, Israel had foully dishonored her rightful Husband. For two centuries now her infidelity had been one long agony to Jehovah's heart. And how often, since the days of Hosea, has God been similarly grieved! He was so with Judah before her captivity (Jeremiah 3:8-11), and with the Jewish Church in the time of our Lord. Of how many Christian communities also has the Lord been constrained to say, "She is not my wife" - e.g., the Churches at Ephesus and Thyatira (Revelation 2:4, 20); the Church of the dark ages before the Reformation; every Church that remains in Erastian bondage; every one that is grossly impure in doctrine or communion.
II. THE DIVINE THREATENING. The word "lest" was fitted to remind Israel that, guilty and fallen though she was, it was still possible for her, by timely repentance, to avert the impending judgments. Should she, however, stop her ears to the Lord's reproaches:
1. He will take away her temporal prosperity. (Ver. 3.) At the time of her birth as a nation, Israel was in a low condition indeed. In Egypt she had to struggle for life, like a castaway child. The very continuance of her existence seemed a miracle (Ezekiel 16:3-6). But God now threatens to chastise her for her faithlessness by making her again a castaway. He will strip her of her material resources, bring to the ground her national pride, and cause her to become like a parched and desolate desert. The Almighty will touch with his finger her choicest possessions, and consign to destruction everything which has become tainted with the Baal-spirit.
2. He will involve in this distress the individual children of the nation. (Ver. 4.) The ten tribes had been unanimous in their apostasy. Each citizen had brought his own contribution to the universal guilt. There was meantime no godly remnant who could be thought of with comfort as still the Lord's people. So all must suffer in one common punishment. And what a dreadful doom to become "Lo-ruhamah" - to be shut out even from the very "mercy" of God!
III. THE DIVINE DISCIPLINE. The condemnation is not, after all, with a view to "a bill of divorcement;" rather it is the first step of a course of gracious discipline. The discipline consists of:
1. Restraining words. (Ver. 2.) Jehovah's heart is so full of relenting towards Ephraim that he summons individual citizens, who may have become themselves penitent, to reason with the nation at large about its sin. The children are to share in the mother's punishment; and it is right that they should expostulate with her regarding her manifold idolatry.
2. Restraining providences. (Vers. 6, 7.) God will effect a forcible separation between Israel and her idols. The seventy years' captivity of Judah would be as it were a "hedge" of "thorns." The perpetual exile of Ephraim would be a solid wall interposed between the northern tribes and their "Baalim." Such methods of restraint God had often employed heretofore. The Book of Judges tells us of no fewer than six thorn-fences which God planted in succession, to break off the seductive alliances formed from time to time with the idolatrous Canaanites. The long drought during Ahab's reign was a wail thrown up between him and his Baal-worship. But none of these obstructions had been permanently effectual. Only the Assyrian and Babylonish captivities were so. By their long exile the Jews were at length forever weaned from all gross idolatry. They could not forget that their false gods had given them no aid against the thundering advance of the Assyrian, or during the last agonies of Samaria and Jerusalem.
3. Restraining grace. (Ver. 7.) It is here predicted that the distresses of the protracted exile shall induce repentance, and awaken a longing desire to return to Jehovah. By the moral discipline of sorrow he will operate upon the hearts of his erring people, and sweetly draw them back to himself. As the "mighty famine" became the means of convincing the prodigal that he had wandered from his true well-being in leaving his father's house (Luke 15:14-19); so Israel, in her days of sad adversity, shall resolve to return to the home of her Divine Husband, to whom she has for so long been unfaithful. This glorious consummation is still future. We think of it as belonging to "the last things." But it shall most surely be accomplished. There will be a national conversion of the Jews to the Christian faith. Israel shall "go and return to her first Husband;" "for the Lord delighteth in her, and her land shall be married" (Isaiah 62:4).
1. The exceeding sinfulness of sin. It is whoredom and adultery. How it debases and brutifies man's noble nature! It also blinds the mind to the true source of blessing (ver. 5). And what an agony it must be to the pure and loving heart of God!
2. The unprofitableness of a sinful life. Even from the sinner's point of view, such a life never pays. What expenditure of time and toil, of health and substance, a career of vice entails I How precarious, too, are all merely temporal blessings, and how utterly unsatisfying to those who choose them as their soul's portion!
3. The goodness of God in the restraints which he imposes upon the sinner. He has many "hedges" and "wails" - public opinion, conscience, temporal loss, personal sickness, family bereavement, etc. These become inestimable blessings to a man when they hinder him in a course of sin, and constrain him, not only to confess his folly (ver. 7), but to turn from it to the Lord. - C.J.
her. Consider -
I. ISRAEL'S SHAMELESS PROFLIGACY. (Vers. 2, 5.) The sin charged against Israel is that of adultery, in her relations with Jehovah. Owing to the peculiarity of these relations, the sin was of a specially aggravated kind.
1. The people had withdrawn from Jehovah that undivided allegiance which, as the one living and true God, he demanded of them.
2. They had set up idol images (the calves), and had changed God in their thoughts to a mere nature-deity, like the heathen Baals.
3. They had gone after the heathen Baals as well. In form, the worship of Jehovah was kept up; in reality, idolatry had the sole dominion. This was their adultery. It was public and unblushing. Even in the eyes of the heathen, Israel was guilty of great wantonness, for the heathen were not wont thus lightly to change their gods (Jeremiah 2:11). The crime for which Israel is indicted, however, is not peculiar to that nation. In a deeper regard, it is the fundamental sin of the race. The soul made by God for himself has left him, and gone after other lovers. It has turned to the creature. It lusts for illicit satisfactions. Its dispositions are "evil and adulterous" (Matthew 12:39). Especially is this sin committed by those who, entering into a new covenant with God by grace, afterwards go back to the world.
II. HER CERTAIN PUNISHMENT. (Vers. 3, 4.) Israel's adultery dissolved de facto the marriage relation between the nation and Jehovah. Ver. 2 is the Divine deed of separation. Separation is followed by punishment. Under the Law, adultery was punished by death. This doom also, as respects corporate existence, was about to overtake Israel. But the figure in the text alludes rather to the withdrawal of God's good gifts - the gifts bestowed on Israel in her relation of spouse - with its result in the reduction of the nation to a condition of utter wretchedness and want. The "slaying with thirst" (ver. 3) is not absolute, since recovery is predicted (ver. 7), but denotes a state of extreme anguish, in which multitudes would actually perish (Deuteronomy 28:33, 34, 48, 65-68). There is here:
1. A reminder of the source of natural blessings. God could take away, because it was he who at first gave. It was he who gave Israel all she had. Hence the destitution to which the withdrawal of his gifts reduced her. "If God withdraws his gifts, the consequences are infinitely awful, because, altogether unlike the natural husband, he has everything in his possession; if he does not give anything to drink, he then slays by thirst" (Hengstenberg).
2. A correspondence between sin and punishment. What Israel possessed, she received in virtue of the marriage covenant. At first she had nothing. God had given her all. Answerably to this, she is punished by being reduced to her original destitute condition. Marriage unfaithfulness leads to the withdrawal of the marriage gifts. "The eternal and universal truth which, in the verse before us, is expressed with a special reference to Israel, is, that all the gifts of God are bestowed on individuals as well as upon whole nations, only in order to lead them to the communion of life with him, or because this communion already exists. If we fail to see that the gifts of God have this object, if they be not received and enjoyed as the gifts of God, if the spiritual marriage be refused, or if, having been already entered into, it be broken, sooner or later the gifts will be withdrawn" (Hengstenberg).
3. A picture of the state of the soul from which God has withdrawn himself. The outward is the image of the inward. The soul which has forsaken God - which God has forsaken - is solitary and desolate, burnt with hunger, parched with intolerable thirst, a desert. God's design in withdrawing the outward gifts is that the soul may be led to feel the deeper misery and disgrace within.
III. THE ONE WAY OF ESCAPE. (Ver. 2.) Repentance-turning from the evil courses. God is unwilling to proceed to extremities, though, if the sin be persisted in, he must. He gives here a final warning, a last opportunity. There is thus a limit to the Divine forbearance. The last appeal will come some day. Often, by the time it comes, we are so sunk in sin as to be past attending to it, While, however, mercy lasts, the moat abandoned may return.
IV. THE DUTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL. "Plead with your mother, plead' (ver. 2). Individuals are implicated in the guilt of the community. They have a stake in the general well-being (ver. 4). They have, accordingly, a responsibility in connection with national backslidings. It is their duty
(1) to separate themselves from the prevailing wickedness;
(2) to testify against it;
(3) to use every means to try to bring about repentance and reformation. - J.O.
I. THE UNGODLY ATTRIBUTE THEIR ADVANTAGES AND ENJOYMENTS TO OTHERS THAN TO GOD. It is not only professed idolaters who act thus. Whoever they may be who turn aside from the Lord, they are one in this - they all assign to inferior beings or principles the credit and honor which are properly due to God alone. For example, men deify their own created and limited powers of body and of mind. "They give me my bread and my water," etc. Or they attribute all prosperity and happiness to society, to the political authority under which they live, to human kindred or patrons. God is not in all their thoughts. The agents they see, but him who is above all they see not and will not see.
II. THE UNGODLY CONSEQUENTLY ENCOURAGE THEMSELVES IN DEVOTION TO OTHERS THAN GOD. The unfaithful wife perseveres in the adulterous connections she has formed, because she persuades herself that her happiness and welfare are dependent upon others than her lawful spouse. "I will go after my lovers," etc. Thus men first forget God, and give themselves to the pleasures and the service of sin, and then, fancying themselves to be under obligation to the gods they have made, they addict themselves the more zealously to the debasing worship in which they have engaged.
III. THE UNGODLY MUST BE CONFRONTED WITH THE SHAMEFULNESS AND VILENESS OF THEIR COURSES. The language of the prophet is frank and unsparing; had it been otherwise it would have been unfaithful. The case is one that does not admit of nice language, or of gentle tones and bated breath. The spiritual harlotry of ungodliness must be exposed and rebuked; otherwise there is no prospect of repentance and of reformation. - T.
I. THE DELUSION UNDERLYING ISRAEL'S DEVOTION TO THE IDOLS. (Vers. 5, 8, 12.)
1. The nature of the delusion. The root of it was the notion that her prosperity was attributable to the assiduity of her service of the idols. It was they, she thought, who had given her her corn and wine and oil, her bread and water, her wool and flax. She ignored the real Giver. The delusion is not uncommon. Men put natural laws, second causes, their own skill and power, or the skill and power of others, in place of the living God. They forget him.
2. The sources of the delusion.
(2) Corrupt propensities. The state of the heart pointed out the way for the devotions. The heathen idols were more congenial objects of worship than the spiritual, holy God.
3. The effects of the delusion. The prosperity which the people enjoyed confirmed them in their adhesion to the Baals. It led them to redouble their assiduity in serving them (ver. 5). It led them increasingly to disregard the true Giver. Hence the necessity for breaking up the delusion by withdrawing the gifts.
II. THE DIVINE DEALING AS DIRECTED TO THE BREAKING UP OF THIS DELUSION. (Vers. 6, 7, 9.) God declares that he will:
1. Block up Israel's way in pursuit of her idols. "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns," etc. (ver. 6). That is, he would put bars and difficulties in the way of the service of the idol-gods, he would interrupt and suspend their worship. He would break up the sense of fellowship with them. He would do this by means of afflictions. The effect would be to shatter the dreams of the worshippers. They would find to their discomfiture that the service of the idols was not all bliss. They would be led to consider de novo what they should do. Unexpected checks in the pursuit of favorite objects are among God's means of inciting us to reflection.
2. Take away from her the blessings which are the chief support of her delusion. (Ver. 9.) The removal of the corn and wine and oil, in fulfillment of the threatening, would show that these blessings were from Jehovah, and were not the gift of the idols. They must be his, else he could not thus take them away. Conversely, the inability of the idols to prevent this deprivation, or to restore the gifts, or to help their devotees in the time of need, would demonstrate the futility of putting trust in gods that were no gods. The removal of earthly blessings is intended in this way to work for our good. God seeks by it to break up false confidences. He would dispel our illusions. He would teach us dependence. He would lead us to recognize in him the only Giver of our good.
III. THE BEHAVIOR OF ISRAEL UNDER THIS DIVINE DISCIPLINE. (Ver. 7.)
1. A first effect would be to make Israel more earnest than ever in pursuit of her idol-gods. "O Baal, hear us!" (2 Kings 18:26). Dawning conviction has often this result. The heart is slow to believe that it has been so utterly befooled. It tries hard to defeat God.
2. The second effect - when she had had full experience of the inability of the idol-gods to help her - would be to lead her to bethink herself of returning to Jehovah. "I will go and return to my first husband," etc. She sees now, like the prodigal (Luke 15:17, 18), the folly of her past conduct; she realizes its wickedness; she feels that it was better with her formerly than now, and that "the way of transgressors is hard" (Proverbs 13:15). So, cured of her delusions, she returns to her Lord. He, in turn, is ready to receive her. This was the end to which the whole discipline pointed. God is equally willing to receive every sinner who returns to him (Isaiah 55:6, 7). The experience of the bitterness of the fruits of sin is designed to lead to repentance. Well for the transgressor when chastisement produces in him the result here described! - J.O.
I. DIVINE PROVIDENCE SOMETIMES HEDGES UP THE SINNER'S PATH. It does sometimes seem as if the ungodly were left to go their way unchecked; as if there were nothing to restrain their headlong race upon the downward path; as if sentence against an evil work were not executed speedily. But how often is it observed that Providence does interpose to restrain the mad career of iniquity and folly! To change the figure, it is as though the voice addressed the aging sea, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."
II. VERY VARIOUS ARE THE HEDGES AND WALLS ENCOUNTERED IN THE WAY OF SIN. Sometimes sickness and infirmity render the sinner incapable of pursuing his evil ways; sometimes temptation is signally removed from his path; sometimes disappointment and sorrow produce revulsion and even disgust; sometimes conscience is awakened, and sternly forbids indulgence in the pleasures of sin.
III. SUCH HEDGES AND WALLS AROUSE A HASTY AND VEHEMENT RESENTMENT. The bird strikes her wings against the iron bars of the cage in which she is confined; the ox kicks against the goad by which the driver urges him. And the first impulse of the sinner who encounters a hedge upon his sinful path, is to resent, to resist, to displace it. This is human nature; and only calm reflection and Divine grace can effect that it shall be otherwise.
IV. NEVERTHELESS, THE INTENTIONS OF DIVINE MERCY MAY IN TIME BE RECOGNIZED. The disappointed adulteress, finding that her unlawful lovers are indifferent to her, and have forsaken her, comes to a better mind, and compares with their treatment of her the conduct of her just and rightful spouse. The sinner, learning by bitter experience that the way of transgressors is hard, comes to see that this is a provision of heavenly tore and pity; acknowledges that it was not intended that the pursuits of worldliness and selfishness should satisfy man's immortal soul; and thus is led to seek forgiveness and reconciliation from a justly offended God.
V. THE HEDGING UP OF THE WAY THUS APPEARS TO THE PENITENT SINNER S BLESSING 1N DISGUISE. He says within himself, "Had the road been open, and my course unimpeded, perhaps I should never have paused until I had rushed into ruin and destruction. How does it become me to adore and to bless the very mercy which I hated and despised, to which I owe it that my mad career was checked, and that my wandering feet have at last been led into the way of peace!" - T.
Isaiah 5:5, where God threatens that he will take away the hedge from his vineyard, that is, he will take away his protection; and it is said of Job, that God had hedged him about. But the hedge here meant is the hedge of affliction. I will hedge up thy way, that is, I will bring sere and heavy afflictions upon you, but yet in a way of mercy: these afflictions shall be but as a hedge to keep you from evil, they shall not do evil to you or bring evil upon you." God puts restraints on the sinner here.
I. THESE RESTRAINTS ARE MANIFOLD. "I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall." The first metaphor is taken from a husbandman who, to prevent the cattle from breaking away from the field, plants a prickly hedge. The other figure is taken from architecture - "a wall." If the thorns are insufficient, high and massive walls must be built. What are the restraints?
1. There is the restraint of affliction. When the wicked purpose some great crime, affliction comes, breaks their plans, and strikes them down.
2. There is the restraint of public sentiment. Public opinion, as it gets enlightened and strong, is a tremendous check to the wicked. The most daring cower before the public voice.
3. There is the restraint of conscience. Conscience is a Divine officer holding the sinner in.
II. THESE RESTRAINTS ARE NECESSARY. It is necessary that God should plant thorny hedges and build massive walls around the sinner.
1. It is necessary for the sinner himself. Were it not for these he would go galloping to perdition. "O unhappy men," says Luther," when God leaves them to themselves and does not resist them in their lusts! You bless yourselves many times that in the way of sin you find no difficulty. Bless thyself! Thou hast cause to howl and wring thy hands; thou hast the curse of God on thee. A dreadful curse to make pleasant the way of sin!"
2. It is necessary for the world. What would become of the world if the wicked were not reined in? Were it not for restraints, the Caesars, the Alexanders, and the Napoleons would soon turn it into a Pandemonium.
3. It is necessary for the Church. Had wicked men their full fling, how long would the Church last! The flames of martyrdom would soon blaze to heaven and consume Zion to ashes. Thank God for thorny hedges and massive walls - for all the restraints he puts on sinful men. - D.T.
I. PROSPERITY PLENTIFULLY BESTOWED. (Vers. 8, 9.) The time of Jeroboam II., to which this part of the prophecy refers, was to Israel one of unexampled national wealth. The kingdom seemed as rich and powerful at that period as it had been even in the days of Solomon. The ten northern cantons, we must remember, included the fairest and most fertile districts of Palestine. They possessed "the glory of Lebanon, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon," the fruitful meadows of Bashan, and the green pasture-lands of Gilead. So Ephraim was rich in "corn and wine and oil," in "wool and flax," in "silver and gold." But has not God bestowed vastly greater gifts upon our own country? The climate of our island is damp, and its soil only moderately fertile; yet how much wealth there is amongst us! God has exalted Great Britain to heaven. The English nation is colonizing the world. And for what purpose does the Lord confer temporal prosperity? It is with the same design for which he lends us spiritual blessings - that we may learn to know him, and love him, and serve him.
II. PROSPERITY SHAMEFULLY ABUSED. Israel's prosperity was only in material things. Although imposing, it was external and hollow. It was not the wealth of well-being; for:
1. The Giver was ignored. (Ver. 8.) "She did not know," means that she was not willing to know. Her material prosperity begat pride, and pride engendered forgetfulness of God. But Israel was without excuse. For she had been taught by Moses (Deuteronomy 8.). She had been warned by Elijah (1 Kings 17.). Every page of her marvelous history spoke of the Divine bounty. The offering of the first-fruits - the three great Hebrew festivals - and especially the Feast of Pentecost, were all just so many solemn thanksgivings to Jehovah for the blessings of his providence. It was true that the men of Ephraim still formally observed these institutions, but the living spirit of them had ebbed away; God was no longer remembered as the Giver of all good. And are there not multitudes still, even in Christian lands, who make no grateful acknowledgment of the Divine mercies? They ascribe their successes entirely to their good luck; or, at best, to their skill, or enterprise, or industry (Habakkuk 1:16), without recognizing the smile of a benignant Providence upon their efforts.
2. The prosperity itself was deified. (Vers. 8, 12, 13.) Ephraim prostituted it to the worship of the powers of physical nature. The people became "lotus-eaters;" they were enervated with sensuous pleasure. They regarded their harvests as the gifts of the Baalim - the "lovers' wages" which they received from their idols (ver. 12). They employed their silver and gold in the manufacture of images of Baal and Ashtaroth (ver. 8), as well as in the adornment of their persons for the celebration of the idolatrous festivals (ver. 13). But are not similar evils rampant just now amongst ourselves? The air is still full of the spirit of Baalism - the deification of force, the worship of success. We meet with this spirit:
(1) In politics. "Witness the French saying: ' God is always on the side of the heavy battalions.' Witness Prince Bismarck's motto: 'Beati possidentes.' Witness the modern English phrase: ' British interests,' as used to express a rule of diplomacy which some regard as even more binding than the moral Law."
(2) In economics. There can be only one true system of political economy; but in times of trade-disputes the capitalist and the laborer often adhere to diverse systems. The strike and the lock-out are an appeal to physical force - a virtual offering of the prayer, "O Baal, hear us!"
(3) In philosophy. How many of our modern scientists deify nature under the name of" law"! They repudiate Providence, and recognize only force. They ignore the living God, and substitute in his room some blind impersonal power. They exalt proud reason to the place which should be occupied by a childlike faith. They ask us to accept a reading of the universe which leaves out the fact of sin, and the soul's hunger for immortality.
(4) In literature. How many of our great authors - poet historians, and even moralists - have dedicated their golden intellectual gifts to the service of materialism!
(5) In social life. The immense increase of wealth in our time tends to foster ostentatious and luxurious habits. What multitudes "bow the knee" to the Baal of commercial success! With many life consists not in being, but only in having. But" the word of the Lord by Hosea" reminds us that the love of the world is moral harlotry, and that deference to its spirit is Baalism.
III. PROSPERITY MISERABLY BLIGHTED. Israel shall suffer:
1. Deprivation. (Ver. 9.) She has refused to remember God, therefore he win compel her to think of him. He is the real Proprietor of the corn and wine, of the wool and flax. Israel was only his steward, and yet she has claimed these precious gifts as if they were altogether within her own power. So the Lord will suddenly withdraw them. He will send the foreign foe, or the simoom, or the locusts. He will blast the ears of corn when they are just ready for the sickle. He will destroy the vine-clusters in the very hour of the vintage. He will take away his material gifts from those who worship only a God of corn and wine, forgetting that the true God is "righteous," and "loveth righteousness." It is a simple matter for Divine Providence to pauperize the man who is making his own prosperity an idol. He may do it by means of business losses, or family bereavement, or personal affliction, or by giving power to the monitions of conscience.
2. Chastisement. God can and will "curse our blessings" (Malachi 2:2) if we persistently misuse them. So in store for poor Israel there shall be:
(1) Shame. (Ver. 10.) The Lord will dishonor her before her idols themselves by withdrawing his gifts, and exposing Israel's folly in placing her trust in material things.
(2) Mourning. (Ver. 11.) The people's sinfulness and their light-hearted mirth, which they had unnaturally wedded to each other, shall be divorced. What though Israel still professed to observe joyfully the Mosaic festivals? She could have no true gladness in Jehovah, so long as she refused to recognize his supremacy in providence. Her mirth was "the laughter of the fool," and God would turn it into mourning.
(3) Exile. (Ver. 12.) The vineyards and the fig orchards shall become "a forest" (Psalm 107:33, 34). The ravaging Assyrian shall come, like "the boar out of the wood," and root up the vine which was at first brought out of Egypt. Ephraim shall disappear forever from among the nations.
CONCLUSION. We should cherish gratitude to the Hebrew prophets for the great lesson which they constantly teach, viz., that national sin is certain, in the course of providence, to be followed by national calamity.
"In them is plainest taught and easiest learnt
I. GIFTS MAY BE RECEIVED AND THE GIVER UNRECOGNIZED. The produce of the soil - corn, wine, and oil; the mineral wealth of earth - silver and gold, - are all the provision of Divine bounty. But, whilst God opens his hands, multitudes, like Israel, take the gifts but give no thought to the Divine Benefactor. The powers of body and of mind which we possess are provided by Divine wisdom and goodness. Yet how often men use them as if they were absolutely their own, and involved no responsibility!
II. THE GIFTS OF GOD ARE SOMETIMES TRACED, NOT TO GOD, BUT TO HIS FOES. To take from Jehovah, and then to offer thanks and praise to Baal - such was the base and brutish proceeding of Israel. And now men praise themselves, or they praise fortune, or they praise the sinful arrangements of society, for the gifts they owe to Heaven. They "do not know," even as Israel "did not know." It is blamable, inexcusable ignorance, and only Divine forbearance could endure it.
III. THE GIFTS OF GOD MAY EVEN BE TURNED AGAINST HIM AS WEAPONS OF REBELLION. Israel took Jehovah's gold and made of it images of Baal. How often do men employ the wealth which God has enabled them to get, against the Giver, and in the promotion of the cause of error and of vice! How often do they prostitute the faculties and influence which they owe to God, to the service of Satan! The state, the Church, are from God; yet both have too often been made instruments of evil. Only infinite long-suffering could permit such an abuse of what was provided and intended for man's highest good.
APPLICATION. Ingratitude should be succeeded by repentance; and the abuse of God's sifts should be laid aside, and followed by lowly consecration. - T.
I. SIN ENDS IN THE FULL REVELATION OF ITS HIDEOUSNESS. (Ver. 10.) At first its true nature is concealed. It comes with fair appearances; it decks itself in festal garments (ver. 13); it makes large promises. Only at a later period is the mask stripped off, and it appears in its full hideousness. Such a day of revelation will come for every sinner. He will find himself put to shame even in the eyes of those whom he sought to serve. How loathsome even the body can become when sin has wrought its work in it (the drunkard, the harlot)! How much more the soul! Every rag of deceptive appearance will yet be stripped off, and the foul, abhorrent spectacle of depravity exposed to the whole universe.
II. SIN ENDS IN THE DYING OUT OF JOY. "I will also cause all her mirth to cease" (ver. 11). This is literally true, even in the present life. After a time, sin ceases to yield the pleasures which at first were found in it. The very capacity for joy dies out. The debauchee, the fortune-hunter, the slaves of fashion, the victims of ambition, know this well.
III. SIN ENDS IN THE WITHDRAWAL OF ABUSED PRIVILEGES. (Ver. 11.) The feast days, new moons, sabbaths, and other festivals, which Israel had turned into days of unholy carnival, would be taken from her. They were given her for different ends, and she had abused them. We cannot hope to reject God and yet retain unimpaired our religious liberties, opportunities, and blessings; e.g. our sabbaths. These will vanish with our regard for the Giver of them.
IV. SIN ENDS IN THE REMOVAL OF NATURAL BLESSINGS. (Ver. 12.) Failing in the due acknowledgment of God in the reception of them, we may look for the withdrawal of these also.
V. SIN ENDS IN POIGNANT MEMORIES OF AN EVIL PAST. "The days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself," etc. (ver. 13). The memory of past follies is no small part of the sinner's misery. "Son, remember" (Luke 16:25). - J.O.
I. THAT THE CONJUNCTION IS COMMON. The notes of jollity and fun are heard everywhere through society. At theatres, taverns, divans, and social festivities it flares and rattles. The drunkard has his mirth, the liar his mirth, the debauchee his mirth, the blasphemer his mirth, the sabbath-breaker his mirth. The union of sin and mirth is, alas! very common. We meet it everywhere, in the dance and in the song, in the joke and in the gibe.
II. THAT THE CONJUNCTION IS INCONGRUOUS. Gaiety and laughter in a sinner are most revolting when rightly regarded. The condition of a sinner is one of awful solemnity; a condition upon which God and his holy universe look with deepest seriousness. The sighs of moral anguish and tears of bitter remorse become the sinner. Fun and laughter are more unbeseeming to him than jests and jollities in a dying chamber. "Mirth," says Dr. Young, "at a funeral is scarce more indecent or unnatural than a perpetual flight of gaiety and burst of exultation in a world like this is a world which may seem a paradise to fools, but is a hospital with the wise."
"The ground is hollow in the path of mirth;
III. THAT THE CONJUNCTION IS TEMPORARY. Amos, who was contemporary with Hoses, and like him was a prophet of the ten tribes, describes the conjunction well and indicates the necessity of the separation: "Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed."
1. The separation is certain. There is no mirth for the sinner either in moral conviction, death, the judgment-day, or in the scenes of final retribution. "If you will not take away sin from your mirth," says an old writer, "God will take away your mirth from your sin."
2. The separation will be solemn. It is said that Pope Adrian exclaimed when he was dying, "O my soul, where art thou going? Thou shalt never be merry any more." "I will cause all her mirth to cease," says God.
CONCLUSION. Confound not mirth with happiness! The brightest gleams of mirth are but the rays of rushlights; only visible in the dark, and that must go out. Happiness is a quenchless sunbeam; it streams from the eternal Father of lights. Happiness will follow holiness forever; mirth will only, like the ignis fatuus, flare about sin for a short time at most, then go out, and there is pitch darkness. - D.T.
I. As PROSPERING IN THE WORLD. "I will destroy her [i.e. idolatrous Israel] vines and. her fig trees." Vines and fig trees stand for prosperity. There is a synecdoche here: vines and fig trees mean all outward prosperity. Wicked men are allowed to prosper on this earth; they are often more successful in worldly enterprises than the righteous. They live for the world and to the world, and they have their reward. Their ground becomes fruitful, their trade prosperous, their profession remunerative.
II. AS ASCRIBING THEIR PROSPERITY TO WRONG CAUSES. "These are my rewards that my lovers have given me." Israel ascribed its prosperity to its idols, here called its "lovers." The wicked ascribe their success sometimes to fortune, sometimes to chance, sometimes to their own industry, and sometimes to their rogueries. They don't trace it to the true Source, the great God.
III. AS DEVOTING THEIR PROSPERITY TO WRONG OBJECTS. "And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them," etc. "Baalim" is the plural number, by which some suppose inferior gods are meant. Israel is here accused of burning incense to these deii minores. Wicked men devote their wealth, not to the improvement of their minds or to the true progress of mankind, but to their own selfish and superstitious ends. God is recognized in the use no more than in the pursuit of their wealth. "She went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith the Lord."
IV. AS DEPRIVED OF THEIR PROSPERITY BY THE GREAT GOD. "I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim." The threatening is, that God will not only destroy all their prosperity, "the vines and fig trees," but punish them for their idolatry. "I will visit upon her the days of Baalim."
CONCLUSION. "The tinsel glare upon a sinner is too apt to offend the weak eyes of a saint. Alas! why should he envy him a little light who is to be shrouded in everlasting darkness? Why should we throw bludgeons at boughs which are only laden with poisonous fruits?" - D.T.
I. THE METHODS OF ISRAEL'S RESTORATION. (Ver. 14.) We need not stay to speak of its Author, even although the first "I" (ver. 14) is emphatic. Only Jehovah himself has heart and power equal to this task. Only he who makes the summer of the year can produce that spiritual summer which is here described with such tender pathos. His methods are twofold.
1. The outward discipline of the wilderness. After Israel shall have endured the punishments denounced upon her, her national life is to begin anew. The generation that had come out of Egypt with Moses had needed the protracted discipline of the Arabian desert before God could "give them their vineyards;" and so would it be again. The nation must be taken apart, and be for a time alone with Croci. Similarly, the Lord removes the individual soul whom he designs to bless, into the wilderness of temporal loss, or sickness, or sorrow. When the aged Christian reviews his spiritual experience, he generally finds that the most marked spots in it have been connected with his times of sorrow.
2. The inward realization of the constancy and tenderness of the Divine love. The discipline must be spiritual also. Outward providences alone will not restore Israel. Neither will the truth of God presented only to her mind. In the wilderness the Divine Spirit must "speak to her heart." His purpose in carrying the nation into exile is that he may "allure" her, i.e. decoy her with tender words, persuade her by the persistent manifestation of his love. He will stoop to court her. He will outbid the Baals. His inextinguishable love will woo and win her soul. So, oftentimes, God "speaks to the heart" of the prodigal when he sits by the swine-troughs, in the time of the mighty famine. He "speaks to his heart," to soften it, comfort it, cleanse it, claim it, fill it. He has his ways of holy enticement for "alluring" sinners to receive and return his love.
II. THE BLESSED RESULTS OF THE RESTORATION. (Vers. 15-20.) These are described with exquisite beauty. The Divine promise is that in "the wilderness" Israel's national life shall begin afresh. God's nuptial covenant with her shall be renewed. She shall be enfeoffed again in the land of Canaan, the possession of which she had forfeited. The Lord "will give her her vineyards from thence." And the results shall be glorious.
1. Fresh hope. (Ver. 15.) The valley of Achor (i.e. trouble) was the door by which Israel had at first entered into possession of the highlands of Palestine. It had been the scene of a dreadful tragedy (Joshua 7.): the defeat before Ai, and Achan's sacrilege, conviction, and doom. But so soon as Israel purged herself of "the accursed thing," the valley of Achor had become to her "a door of hope." Now, however, she must again pass through a still more doleful Achor. The destruction of Samaria and the desolation of Jerusalem would mark a defeat greatly more disastrous than the repulse at Ai. But through "the valley of trouble" she shall come again to peace and rest. Does not the expression before us furnish a valuable watchword for the Christian? It reminds him that he must pass through "the great tribulation" (Revelation 7:1-2) before he can reach the heavenly Canaan. Every ungodly lust is an Achan in the camp of the soul, which must be convicted and stoned and burned.
2. Youthful joy. (Ver. 15.) Israel, n hen restored to the Divine favor, shall recover the sprightliness and joy of youth. "Site shall sing there, as in the days of her youth;" and in those days she could indeed sing. Is not the song of Moses a masterpiece both of poetry and praise? In conception it is sublime. In execution it must have been thrilling. That old Red Sea ads is the first song of redemption. But, in the days of her restoration, Israel shall resume it, and with a fuller appreciation of its meaning. For the song of salvation which returning penitents now sing is "the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (Revelation 15:3).
3. Renewed conjugal love. (Vers. 16, 17.) In the rapture of her recovered love, Israel shall call Jehovah "Ishi - my Husband." She shall no longer use the name "Baali." In itself, of course, "Baal" is a good enough word. In Hebrew it is a common noun, meaning "master," "possessor," "owner;" and it had been used as a designation of Jehovah. But, alas! the word had at length been prostituted to base purposes, and defiled by wicked associations. Its purity was now hopelessly gone. So, in the good time coming, it shall be used no more. God will not be called Baal, lest the word should tempt Israel to think of her old idols.
4. Paradisiacal peace. (Ver. 18.) The picture here suggests a return to the garden of Eden. The forces of nature, once so hostile (vers. 9, 12), shall be brought into harmony with Israel. Wars shall cease forever. The face of the world shall be changed. How different this picture from the state of matters that is still thought necessary in order to the preservation of the peace of Europe! The favorite maxim just now is that the best security for peace is to be well prepared for war. The Baal-spirit professes to see the basis of peace in our arsenals and ironclads; but Jehovah's plan is to "break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth."
5. An everlasting marriage union. (Vers. 19, 20.) The Lord will forget all Israel's past infidelity, and treat her again as if she were innocent and pure. He will espouse her, as if she were a chaste virgin, to himself. He will bestow upon her, as bridal gifts, every Divine and spiritual blessing - "righteousness," "judgment," "loving-kindness," "mercies, faithfulness." And the new marriage-covenant shall be "for eternity" (ver. 19). The former one, alas! had been sadly broken; but the renewal of the conjugal relationship shall be enduring as Jehovah's invincible, unchangeable love.
CONCLUSION. How important for the sinner to "know and believe the love that God hath to him"! The eternal love of God is a fact. Every pure human attachment is but a rill from the infinite fountain of the Divine tenderness. Love, no less than holiness and justice, lies at the root of the Divine wrath against sin. Jehovah our God is "a jealous God;" but he would not trouble himself to cherish holy jealousy about the affections of our poor hearts, if he did not love us with an ardent and a quenchless love. Oh for grace to love him in return as we ought! - C.J.
I. CONSIDER THE ENTICEMENT OF SIN LEADING TO ESTRANGEMENT which is set before us in the earlier part of this chapter. The ideal condition of Israel, and therefore of every soul, is that of one betrothed to the Lord, yearning for his society, mourning his absence, cheered by his smile, and waiting for the marriage. Nothing satisfies the soul but God. In the imperfection of our friends, in the mistakes we make about each other, in the spurning of our love, in the loss of dear ones by removal or death, we are disquieted by the ordinance of God, so that, like Augustine, we may say, "Cor nostrum inquietum est, donec in te requiescat." As Israel said, "I will go after my lovers," so one says, "I will go after pleasure;" and another, "I will go after wealth," as if the highest good could be found there. And this sin is aggravated, because (as ver. 8 implies) all that is used or enjoyed in this vain pursuit is given to us by the Cod we forget; as the prodigal wasted in the far country what his father had given to him. In order to bring us to thought and penitence, wandering from God is made difficult to us, and often the words have been fulfilled, "I will hedge up thy way with thorns." He thwarts our plans and disappoints our hopes. The idolized friend proves false, the adored child is torn from our embrace, the hoarded wealth is swept away. The fruit has its bitter kernel, and the rose its thorn. Nor is it only in what is outward that we recognize a hedge planted by God to turn us back from evil. When one is about to sin, he is checked by the thought of dishonor to his father's name, or by the reproaches of conscience, or by the memories of old teaching, or by the tears of a mother. He can say, as Augustine did in the review of his sinful life, "I escaped not thy scourges, for what mortal can? For thou wert even with me mercifully rigorous, and besprinkling with most bitter alloy all my unlawful pleasures, that I might seek pleasures without alloy. But where to find such I could not discover save in thee, O Lord, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us to heal, and killest us lest we die from thee."
II. LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF LOVE CALLING TO THE WILDERNESS. "Therefore I will allure her." It is the last inference we should expect. Sin and forgetfulness are not inducements to mercy. If trouble is the obvious result of extreme wickedness which is still unreported, the father would say of the child, the husband of the wife, "It is right she should suffer, and till she returns she cannot expect blessing from me." So long as lawful authority is set at defiance, human law knows no mercy. God does not deal with us, however, as we deal with others. He did not cast Israel off at once, nor did he summon her to his feet by the thunders of Sinai or the terrors of hell, but says, "I will allure her;" speaking gently as Christ did by his Word and life, so that the sin-stained felt that, though no other mercy could be had, it might be found at the feet of the Friend of sinners. "I will draw her into the wilderness," the place of silence and of solitude. The Divine voice is seldom heard amidst a multitude. God severs the individual from his fellows when he would give him a message far himself or for others. He spoke to Jacob, not in the family, but in the desert, where only the quiet stars wore watching; to Moses, not in the crowded camp, but high above it, on Sinai; to Samuel, not amid the worshippers, but in the silent chamber where the child slept alone; to Elijah, not in the tumult of Carmel's victory, but in the silence of the cave at Horeb. So Israel had been taught, not in Egypt, but in the wilderness; and thus, said the prophet, it shall be again, and there "I wilt speak comfortably unto her" - literally, "I will speak upon her heart" - that henceforth my Law and my love may be graven on it. Such has been the experience of the Christian. Convinced of sin, the world seemed dreary as a desert to him, till hope was infused into his heart that pardon and reconciliation were not far from him. Believing that God was near, he lifted up his trembling heart in prayer, and in Christ, the crucified and risen Savior, he saw God reconciled to him; and the glimpse of his infinite beauty, of his unspeakable love, won his heart forever. Then the very place of grief became the place where the fruits of joy were growing, and in the wilderness of repentance the promise was fulfilled, "I will give thee vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope."
III. LOOK FOR THE DOOR OF HOPE IN THE VALLEY OF TROUBLE. "The valley of Achor," or of troubling, on the north of Gilgal and Jericho, was the place in which Israel was gathered after the repulse at Ai; when the sin of Achan was discovered with such terrible exactitude, and removed by dreadful expiation (see Joshua 6.). But, though it seemed a valley of despair, it was really a place of hope, because the camp was purged from the curse and. the people made ready for Canaan. So, in the coming exile of which Hosea spoke, some even in Israel would cast off their sin and turn to the Lord, and that valley of Achor would be a door of hope. The principle of using the most unlikely means for deliverance and blessing has often been exemplified, by him who brought water out of the rock, and made the cross the means of the world's salvation, and death the entrance to heaven. Most conspicuously is it seen in our redemption.
1. The door of hope was opened for the world in the valley of trouble, through which Christ walked on our behalf. We are raised to heaven because he came down to earth; we have the life eternal because he submitted to death. But for his obedience in humiliation, God's Law would not have been vindicated in its righteousness and beauty; but for his sorrows, we should have had no almighty Intercessor whose sympathy is perfect; but for his crucifixion, the handwriting against us would never have been nailed to the cross; and but for his death, and burial, and resurrection, and ascension, we should not have seen the kingdom of heaven opened to all believers.
2. The door of hope was opened for the Jews, as a nation, in the valley of trouble. Egyptian bondage prepared for liberty, wilderness wandering was the means of moral culture, defeat led to the putting away of sin, the captivity in Babylon tore up idolatry by its roots. After the coming of Christ, the destruction of Jerusalem amidst tears and blood was the opening of a new door of hope, for by it the noblest of the race began to look for the heavenly Jerusalem, to understand the spirituality of worship, and to find in Christ the one Center round which the true Israel would gather. Thus every nation may look for a door of hope in its valley of trouble? When called to pass through commercial depression, military disasters, diplomatic defeats, there is hope of finding purification from immorality, extravagance, and self-indulgence, and a new and loftier sense of responsibility to others and to God.
3. The door of hope is opened for sinners in the valley of trouble. Trouble is not itself and of necessity a good. The wind, which wafts one vessel to the haven, may drive another on the rocks. The fiver, which today gives fertility to the fields, may to-morrow bring desolation to the works and to the homes of men. Trouble may injure us, yet it is meant to bless us; and this is specially true of the inward sorrow represented here. If one is convinced of sin, so that the old enjoyment of pleasures is gone, and paradise becomes a wilderness, his penitential grief is the true beginning of the joy the publican had, who went down to his house justified because he cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner." If we are in the sadder condition of one who has, like Israel, forsaken her first love, and are compelled to say, "Then was it better with me than now," our hope is found in going out, like Peter, weeping bitterly. And in the valley of the shadow of death, which seems to mortal eyes so dark and strange, so sad and fearsome, that it may well be called the valley of Arbor, we shall find in it the door of hope - ay, the door of heaven - and, like others, we shall sing in it as in the days of our youth, "Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory." - A.R.
I. MAN'S NEED OF COMFORTABLE WORDS. This may be said to arise from the fact that severe words had been uttered to the people's sorrow. God is faithful, and he never flatters, and never withholds the correction which is deserved and required. When the voice of God has threatened, and the voice of conscience has condemned, welcome are words of consolation expressive of Divine interest and favor.
II. THE IMPORT OF COMFORTABLE WORDS DIVINE.
1. They are words of forgiveness.
2. They are words expressive of favor.
3. They are words assuring of gracious help.
4. They are words faithful and certain to be exactly and entirely made good.
Unlike the well-meant comfortable words spoken by human lips, which often are nothing but words and are altogether vain, the gracious language of the Divine Deliverer is powerful to effect the purposes of the utterer, and to heal the sorrows and relieve the anxieties of those addressed.
III. THE EFFECT OF COMFORTABLE WORDS.
1. They reassure the timid and trembling.
2. They bring peace to the conscience-stricken and alarmed.
3. They soothe the anxious and distressed.
4. They banish the fears of the foreboding, and inspire with hope.
APPLICATION. The preachers of the gospel are commissioned to "speak comfortably to Jerusalem," to bind up the broken-hearted, to pour the balm of consolation into the spirit of the lowly and the contrite. - T.
soul-restoration, and they suggest two facts.
I. THAT THE STAGES IN SOUL-RESTORATION ARE GRADUAL. The reference throughout here is to the emancipation of the Jews from the Egyptian bondage, their Divine guidance in the wilderness, and their entrance into the promised land. And all this is here employed to illustrate spiritual restoration. We may remark, therefore:
1. That the first step to soul-restoration is froth bondage to liberty. "I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness." Into the wilderness from where? From Egyptian bondage. In Egypt the Israelites were slaves, in the wilderness they were free. All souls are in moral Egypt, and the first step to their restoration is their exodus into the moral Arabia.
2. The next step is from despondency to hope. The valley of Achor, which was situated to the north of Gilgal, is mentioned by the prophet with a manifest reference to Joshua 7. Through the sin of Achan Israel had incurred the displeasure of the Almighty, and its army against Ai was defeated. But through the prayers of Joshua and the elders, the Divine favor was again obtained, and Israel became triumphant, and the valley of Achor, where there was great trouble, radiated with "hope." The victory of Ai threw all Canaan into their hands (Joshua 7:8), and Achor, once the scene of great trouble, became to them "a door of hope." It was, indeed, the first place of which they took possession in Canaan; it was the entrance into the promised land. In spiritual restoration the soul passes from trouble into hope; in the "deep valley of affliction it finds a door of hope." Joseph in his prison, David in his persecutions, Saul in his manifold trials, - all found "a door of hope." Through much-tribulation we enter into kingdoms.
3. The next step is from sterility to fruitfulness. "I will give her her vineyards from thence." The wilderness was a barren desert, but Canaan was a land of vineyards; it abounded with fruit. In spiritual restoration the soul passes from the sterile into the fruitful; it leaves the desert for a paradise.
4. The next step is from sadness to exultation. "She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth." The reference here again is to the song which the Israelites sang after they had crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1). The song of the redeemed soul at last will be the song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:3). Such are the stages through which the soul in its restoration passes - from thraldom to liberty, despondency to hope, barrenness to fruitfulness, sadness to exultation.
II. THAT THE AGENCY IN SOUL-RESTORATION IS DIVINE. Who is it that effects this restoration? God. "I will allure her," etc.; "I will give her her vineyards," etc. No one but God can restore souls. Mark how he does it.
1. Morally. "I will allure her." It is not by force or violence, not by menace or might, but by the enticements of the moral beauty of his character and the charms of his love. God restores souls by manifesting all his tenderness, his goodness, his perfections to them through Christ. The power of the gospel is the power of allurement. If souls are to come out of their Egypt into the wilderness, God must allure them.
2. Lovingly. "Speak comfortably unto her." He declares he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner. He assures of his readiness to pardon and to bless. He says, "Come now, and let us reason together," etc.
3. Generously. "I will give her her vineyards from thence." He who gave Canaan to the Jews gives heaven to restored souls.
CONCLUSION. Brother, knowest thou aught of this soul-restoration? Have the allurements of Divine love drawn thee out of Egypt? In the midst of thy deep troubles hast thou found a "door of hope"? Is the wilderness within thee beginning to blossom as the rose, and do the fruitful vines refresh thee with their clusters? Has the song of Moses and the Lamb inspired thy heart and tuned thy voice? If so, "sing praises unto our God, sing praises." - D.T.
(1) it was not given to the prophet to know them (cf. Acts 1:7); and
(2) it lay with Israel itself, in some measure, to make the times and seasons.
1. The earliest phase of the predicted allurement is seen in the promises held out in connection with the return from the Babylonian captivity. These promises embraced Israel as well as Judah (Isaiah 40-66.; Ezekiel 37.; Zechariah 8., etc.). The result, however, showed that Israel was not yet in a fit condition to receive the fulfillment.
2. The second phase of the allurement was in the preaching of Christ's gospel. This, which was addressed to both Jews and Gentiles, tells of God's redeeming love, and prays, "Be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Many of the "house of Israel" listened - many still listen - to this allurement.
3. The final fulfillment will be reached in the day of Israel's national conversion. Then, as the result, perhaps, of great experience of trouble (ver. 15), God's words will come with new power to their hearts. Earnest penitence will ensue. "All Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:26). The fulfillment of these promises is connected in prophecy with the coming of a Redeemer and the gift of the Spirit. This supposes new dispensational arrangements. There is implied the bringing in of a new economy, which yet, from its nature, would have a wider scope than the economy which then existed. Israel participates in the blessings of the new covenant only as part of a larger "people of God." This is the principle which legitimizes the extension of these promises - so far as they are not plainly national - to the whole Church of believers. - J.O.
I. WILDERNESS PREPARATION. (Ver. 14.) Chastisement would prepare the way for mercy. Israel was to be taken out "into the wilderness." There, deprived of her idols, and stripped of her earthly blessings, she would bethink herself of the God from whom she had departed. It takes much discipline, oftentimes, to bring us into the state of mind in which we are willing to listen to God. Pride needs to be humbled; self-will needs to be broken; the heart built up in self-righteousness needs to be convinced of sin. To this end God employs trials, hardships, crosses, bereavements, sorrows of various kinds. He trains us by the wilderness.
II. DIVINE ALLUREMENT. (Ver. 15.) We are led here to study the operations of Divine love under the character of allurement. "I will allure her." Allurement is the art of reaching the heart by soft influences. It is not compulsion. It is not conviction by argument. It is a persuasive, drawing influence exerted on the affections and will. It is gentle, not violent; it is mild, not passionate. It conquers by the might of love. Some persons have more of this power of attraction, of fascination, than others. It is a gift - an influence, emanating from the personality. It cannot be communicated. The Divine Spirit is the great Allurer. His dealings with a soul are a secret between that soul and himself. God allures:
1. By solitude. "I will bring her into the wilderness." He takes the soul apart by itself, he isolates it, as he did Israel when he spoke with her at first (Exodus 19:3-5). We cannot hear God's voice amidst the busy hum of earth. Our own age stands much in need of more solitary communion.
2. By word. "I will speak comfortably unto her." The words of God are found in Scripture. How well fitted the Bible, with its gracious, tender, comforting, reassuring utterances, is for this purpose of allurement, we all know. It is shaped and adapted in every way to draw the soul to God.
3. By gift. "I will give her her vineyards from thence." The typical blessings shadow out the higher. God attests his love to us by gift as well as by word. He has given his Son (John 3:16). He gives himself. He gives all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). He gives eternity. Christ is "the unspeakable Gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15). "All things are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:21).
4. By chastisement. "And the valley of Achor for a door of hope." The valley of Achor lay at the entrance of Canaan. It was there that God "troubled" Israel for the sin of Achan (Joshua 7.). That sin barred the entrance to the land, and only when it was judged and removed could Israel proceed. The meaning is that, so often as sin bars the way to the possession of the inheritance, and brings down chastisement, so often will grace, working through judgment on the sin, bring good out of evil, and new hope out of the experience of sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). Israel, after the sin had been put away, received a pledge of the Divine presence with them for future victories. "In this relation the Lord here promises that the place of sanctified trial shall not only be a re, on of endurance, but a door of hope." Trouble becomes a means of spiritual profiting.
5. God's allurement begets joy. "She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth," etc. God puts a new song in the mouths of his people (Psalm 40:1, 2). It is, as in the triumph at the Red Sea, a song
(1) of deliverance;
III. HOLIER ESPOUSALS. (Vers. 16, 17.) Won by the Divine allurements, Israel ratifies a new marriage covenant with Jehovah. The new union is very different from the older one. It is a union marked:
1. By earnest affection. "Thou shalt call me Ishi" - "my Husband."
2. By purified feeling. "And shalt no mere call me Baali" - "my Baal." Israel's feelings towards Jehovah would be purged of all idolatrous associations.
3. By sincere abhorrence of the past. "I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth." So does the sinner shudder at the very thought of the things which formerly pleased him. They are hateful to him. He would count it a shame even to speak of those things in secret (Ephesians 5:12).
4. By jealous care for the future. "They shall no more be remembered by their name." Israel would guard, in her future relations with Jehovah, against the intrusion of even the thought of her former paramours. - J.O.
I. MERCIES FOR THE PRESENT.
1. The vineyards represent the possessions end privileges of God's people. They contrast with the dry and thirsty wilderness. They abound with proofs of God's care, with provision for man's wants. God gives his beloved all things richly to enjoy.
2. The songs are songs of deliverance, such as Israel sang upon the Red Sea shore; they are songs of rejoicing over enemies vanquished, safety experienced, fellowship in Divine favor.
II. PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE. It is well to enter at the open door; but the open door admits to the apartments of the house or palace. A guest does not enter by the door in order to remain standing in the hall; he is welcomed to the family hearth, and the society and enjoyments of the abode of his host. Thus, when God opens to his people a door, it, is a door of hope. What they are is a promise of what they shall be, and what they have is an earnest of what is provided for them in the future. Through the vale of Achor they enter into the land of promise; and its abundance is to them the assurance of an unfailing and perennial bounty. Hope extends to every stage of the earthly pilgrimage and warfare; there is progress and victory before the Lord's people. And hope stretches away to the infinite hereafter, which affords for its anticipations a boundless and immortal scope.
APPLICATION. The door of hope is by the gospel set open before every hearer of the gospel. What encouragement we have to enter in and to possess the land! - T.
I. THE SIGNS OF APOSTASY AND INFIDELITY. These are again set forth under the similitude of a loved and well cared for, yet unfaithful and adulterous wife.
1. Forgetfulness of the Lord, the Husband. if he had been remembered, honored, and loved, others would not have been permitted to be his rivals and successors. To forget God is to fling one's self in the way of temptation.
2. The quest of other objects of affection and intimacy. When faithless Israel went after strange gods, "lovers," or paramours, she furnished an example of human infidelity to God. Men, forgetting God, worship the works of their hands, make idols of their talents, their wealth, their influence, their position in life, etc.
3. Devotion to the service of God's rivals. As the abandoned woman adorns herself, and sets forth her charms in order to attract the attention and admiration of men, so idolaters consume their substance and waste their energies in superstitious observances; and so all who forsake God encompass the vain objects of their devotion and affection with much lavish display of zeal
II. THE AVENGING OF APOSTASY AND INFIDELITY. The language of Jehovah is simple, but vigorous: "I will visit upon her the days of Baalim."
1. God observes with indignation the unfaithfulness of those whom he created for his glory. He will not give his honor to another. He is not indifferent or unconcerned when his own depart from him.
2. God makes use of punitive means to assert his authority, and to arrest the downward progress of those who are unfaithful to him. In the previous verses are recounted the several "judgments" which the righteous Governor inflicts upon the disobedient. All affliction is designed to lead our thoughts to him who is the great Chastener.
3. Retribution is with a view to the repentance and reformation of the offender. The Lord does not cast off his people; he does not afflict them willingly; in the midst of wrath he remembers mercy. - T.
I. INFERIOR CREATURES MIGHT BE DIVINELY RESTRAINED FROM INJURING THEM. "In that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field," etc. There are creatures that have both the power and the inclination to devour man. Prowling beasts of the field, and ravenous fowls of the air, and creeping scorpions of the earth, have at once the power and passion to put an end to the human race. Who restrains them? God's hand is on them. He holds them hack. Sometimes he withdraws his hand and men are devoured. Will not a lion devour a saint as well as a sinner? It depends upon whether the saint has committed himself to the Divine protection, and has received into his own heart an assurance of Divine guardianship. Daniel was safe in the presence of the ravenous lions; and in modern times, instances have occurred where savage beasts have been restrained from inflicting injury on godly men. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder" (Psalm 91:13). I have an impression that were man to possess and manifest the moral majesty of goodness, the wildest and most savage creatures would stand in awe of him.
II. HUMAN ENEMIES MIGHT BE MADE TO SUBMIT TO THEM. "I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth." Those who trust in the Lord need not be afraid of war. The potsherds of the earth might strive with each other, but they would not harm the good. The man who would never strike a blow is not likely ever to be struck. The spirit of the good man is to overcome evil with good. Imagine an army drawn up to attack a body of truly Christly men - men who prayed for their enemies, and did good to them that despitefully used them, and who held no weapons in their hands, They would look calmly on their assailants while they were brandishing their swords and shouldering their bayonets. What would be the result? Why, a moral force would go forth from the unarmed multitude, which would break the" bow, the sword, and the battle." As a rule, bad as human nature is, it will not intentionally injure the unquestionably good and unoffending. It is the moral power of goodness that can alone break "the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth."
III. THEY MIGHT ENJOY A PERFECT SECURITY. "Will make them to lie down safely." Every man might have God as his Refuge and Strength, as his Shield and Buckler. "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous shall flee thereto and be safe." "Who shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" "If God be for us, who can be against us?" What is the true safety? Not the mere safety of the body. The body is not the man; it is his - not him. The body may be in safety when the soul is in peril, and it might be in danger when the soul is secure. Soul-safety is the safety of the man; and soul-safety means protection from all that is unholy in thought, impure in feeling, unrighteous in volition. Blessed is the man that feels his spirit safe!
IV. THEY MIGHT ENJOY VITAL UNION WITH THE EVERLASTING FOUNTAIN OF GOODNESS. "I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies." Here is a union! the closest union, one represented by that of a husband and wife; a union formed by immutable ties. Righteousness, judgment, loving-kindness, faithfulness, - who can break these bonds? "The mountains shall depart, the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed."
CONCLUSION. Learn the supreme importance of moral goodness to man. With godliness man has everything. All things are his, and he is Christ's, and Christ is God's. - D.T.
I. SECURITY AND PEACE IN THE NEW RELATION. (Ver. 18.)
1. The new covenant will be, not merely a covenant of God with man, but a covenant of God with nature on behalf of man. "I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven," etc. The idea here is that of security. The figure is common in the prophets (Leviticus 26:6; Isaiah 11:6-9; Ezekiel 34:25). Underlying the promise is the deep truth that redemption will involve a palingenesis of nature - of the earth. So bound together are man and nature that the dissolution of the tic between him and his God leads also to the loss of his dominion over the creatures. This will be restored. The animal world will stand in awe of him, will serve him, will be tame before him.
2. The new covenant will ensure peace. "I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth," etc. A promise like this can only be fulfilled on the basis of a universal regeneration of society, and therefore points to the bringing in of a covenant not limited in its scope to the literal Israel. On the peace tendency of the gospel, see Foster's two sermons on 'The Cessation of War an Effect of the Prevalence of Christianity.'
II. THE ENDURINGNESS OF THE NEW RELATION. (Vers. 19, 20.) The first covenant failed because of
(1) want of depth in Israel's knowledge of God;
(2) want of entire surrender of heart to him;
(3) want of spiritual powers, under the Law, adequate to renew the heart.
The new covenant was not to be like that old one. Compare with this passage Jeremiah 31:31-34, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers," etc.
1. The new covenant was to be formed after a discipline in which Israel had learned to know God thoroughly. "Thou shalt know the Lord" (ver. 20). Knowing God as she had come to do, Israel would be no longer under any temptation to wander from him.
2. The new covenant would be based on fuller manifestations of the character of God. "I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies" (ver. 19). The sin of Israel was the means of God's character becoming better known. His righteousness, judgment, loving-kindness, mercy, and faithfulness come to light in her history in many awful and affecting ways. It is with this fuller knowledge of the character of God that she now unites herself to him in love. The union is not one of impulse, of haste, of indiscretion. It is a true, sincere, heartfelt, and intelligent union, certain never to be repented of. Yet fuller knowledge of the character of God is derived from the manifestation of his attributes in the saving work of Christ. It is there, most of all, that we see displayed his hatred of sin, his determination to punish it, his exalted righteousness, his unspeakable goodness and love.
3. God engages his own attributes to secure the perpetuation of this new covenant. (Vers. 19, 20.) He had prepared the way for it; had laid the foundations of it deep; and he would now take the perpetuation of it into his own hands. He engages his righteousness, mercy, and faithfulness to accomplish this. "We are not under the Law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). The new covenant has powers at its disposal which the old covenant had not. It is based on renewal, on regeneration. God sees to it that his people, once spiritually quickened, do not utterly tall away again. He preserves his Church by judgment and mercy.
III. THE REVERSAL OF THE CURSE IS THE NEW RELATION. (Vers. 21, 22.) For Israel's sake the land had been cursed, and made barren (Deuteronomy 29:22-28). That curse was now to be recalled. So one effect of redemption will be the recall of the primal curse on the earth for man's sin (Genesis 3:17, 18).
1. Israel pleads for the removal of the curse. The end of the chain of prayer is Jezreel. "They shall hear Jezreel" (ver. 22). Till Israel became penitent, removal of the curse was impossible. The success of the earth's prayer depended on hers.
2. Nature pleads for the removal of the curse. All her departments hang together. Each depends on the other. The suffering of one is the suffering of all. The corn, wine, and oil entreat the earth; the earth entreats the heavens; the heavens entreat God (cf. Romans 8:19-22).
3. God hears. He answers Nature's prayer. Nature becomes friendly. She showers her blessings on the restored people. The natural blessings are typical of the spiritual.
IV. FAITHFULNESS IN THE NEW RELATION. (Ver. 23.) Jezreel, in the sense of "I will scatter," is changed into Jezreel, in the sense of "I will sow." Lo-ruhamah becomes Ruhamah; and Lo-ammi becomes Ammi (ver. 1). God "sows" Israel in the earth, so that she becomes greatly multiplied. The spiritual seed is here included with the natural. The widening of the covenant to embrace the Gentiles gives the words, "I will have mercy on her that had not obtained mercy," etc., a greatly extended application (Romans 9:25; 1 Peter 2:9). - J.O.
I. THE BRIDEGROOM. Jehovah condescends to represent himself as sustaining this relationship. It implies on his part love and attachment, purposes of everlasting kindness, for the marriage cannot be broken, and a provision for all the wants of her whom he takes to himself.
II. THE BRIDE. Israel is here the type of the Church whom the Lord Jesus has purchased unto himself - the bride of the Lamb. She is indeed happy and honored in the choice of her Divine spouse. She is called to purity, to fidelity, to holy service.
III. THE COVENANT AND CONTRACT. On the side of the Lord all is of grace; and the undertakings of the Bridegroom are "for ever." On the side of his spouse, the Church, there is implied the spiritual marriage vow, with all which that involves.
IV. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THE UNION IS CONTRACTED. This is faithfulness, or the certainty of the fulfillment of the pledge voluntarily given. All God's promises are sure, for he is faithful.
V. THE CONDESCENDING PROMISE OF THE BRIDEGROOM TO THE BRIDE. "Thou shalt know the Lord." This knowledge shall be of all Jehovah's gracious attributes, and in itself it is eternal life. - T.
I. JEHOVAH IS THE FIRST CAUSE OF ALL THINGS. "I will hear, saith the Lord." According to Scripture, from its opening utterance (Genesis 1:1) onwards, the all-pervading power of God is the mainspring of the universe, and his all-controlling superintendence is its balance-wheel. Jehovah is the First Cause:
1. In the world of nature. He gives "the corn, and the wine, and the oil" (Psalm 104:13-15). The order of the year is in his hand. No sunbeam glances, no raindrop falls, but at his bidding. Therefore he says with emphasis and iteration, "I wilt hear, I will hear the heavens." From this we should learn the sacredness of nature. The heavens are holy: they are "the work of God's fingers." The sea is holy he" hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand." The flowers are holy: each of them "shows some touch of his unrivalled pencil."
2. In the world of grace. Jehovah is the ultimate Author of all spiritual blessing. He gives the "corn" of Bible truth, and the "wine" of gospel joy, and the "oil" of spiritual influence. When the foundation-stone of a place of worship is laid, sometimes corn and wine and oil are sprinkled upon it - a beautiful expression of the great truth, that "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." It is Jehovah alone who has "built up mercy forever," and who sustains the fabric of redemption. The Lord, in the Trinity of his sacred Persons, is the First Cause of our salvation (Titus 3:4-6).
II. ATTACHED TO HIS THRONE HANGS A CHAIN OF SECOND CAUSES. These are represented here by the "heavens," and the "earth," and the "corn and wine and oil," and by "Jezreel." The second causes have a real efficiency of their own: we live under "the reign of law." Yet they are at most only second causes - instrumentalities controlled by the will of the First Cause. There can be no such reign of taw as makes Jehovah a subject or an alien in his own world. Law reigns, but God governs. He was, before any second causes began to operate. He used none when he created the universe, when he originated life upon the earth, when he instituted the laws of matter and of mind. And, when be pleases, be may still work without them, both in nature and grace. Usually, however, God does not dispense with second causes. In his ordinary providence everything requires everything.
All are needed by each one;
1. In the world of nature. Indeed, there is scarcely any physical effect which we can ascribe to the operation of any one natural force alone. When God wills that it should rain, or that we should have sunshine, he wills that all the physical causes which produce these effects respectively should come into operation. And, moreover, there are many other powers engaged in the management of the world besides what we call physical laws. There are, e.g., the power of animal instinct; the power of human thought and sentiment; the power of love and sympathy; the power of conscience; the power of free-will. There is the power of master-minds, wielded sometimes by direct communications, and oftener by subtle influence. Some men are "world-controllers," and leave their impress upon millions. 2. In the world of grace. In this region we call the subordinate causes "means of grace." Of these, some are inward, such as faith and repentance. Some are outward - the Word, the sacraments, and prayer. Among the means of grace, we must also reckon those influences in providence which operate in the formation of a godly character - education, early training, parental example, youthful companionships, disappointments, and afflictions. And these various kinds of means act in combination. They are a "sacred chain that binds the earth to heaven above." "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). III. PRAYER LINKS ITSELF ON TO THE ENTIRE CHAIN OF CAUSATION. It is represented here as the last link of the chain; and it is in the hands of Jezreel. But who is "Jezreel"? She is "the seed of God," whom he has "sown unto himself in the earth" (ver. 23); i.e. the spiritual Israel, the Christian Church in the latter days. Just as the valley of Esdraelon, in this beautiful parable, is conceived of as praying to "the corn, and the wine, and the oil," so the supplications of God's chosen seed have their place among the second causes of things. Believing prayer is, of course, addressed directly only to Jehovah, the First Cause. According to the teaching of Scripture and the testimony of experience, it is the condition which God himself has attached to the enjoyment of his mercies, and especially of all spiritual blessings (Ezekiel 36:37; Matthew 7:7, 8). "For so the whole round world is every way 1. In the world of nature. How does man pray to "the corn, and the wine, and the oil'? He does so by tilling the ground, sowing the seed, planting the vines, and tending the olives. He uses the fixed laws of nature - directing their action so as to make them subservient to his will. The pious farmer's motto is, "Ors et labors." And so with all other pursuits of men. If I pray rightly that I may prosper in some plan or enterprise, I use also the other practical means of attention, arrangement, and diligence, else the larger number o! second causes will make for the failure of my prayer. There must be a settled harmony between my plans of working and the petitions which I offer. 2. In the world of grace. Here prayer is not merely one of the means of grace, co-ordinate with the others; it is an indispensable condition to the successful use of any other. Prayer is not an intermediate link in the chain. It is at the one end; the throne and will of Jehovah being at the other end. But, while it is necessary that we pray for spiritual blessings, we must at the same time see that all the other second causes combine harmoniously with our petitions. E.g. our salvation is of grace alone, and vet the moral influences which go to shape character operate all the same. The revelation of Jesus Christ has not repealed the ethical precepts of the Book of Proverbs. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians to teach that sinners are saved and that saints are sanctified by grace alone; and yet in that same Epistle he solemnly insists that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Prayer is one second cause; but there is a whole chain of them to which it must join itself. It is not enough to pray for one's own growth in grace, or for the conversion of one's children, or to observe family worship; we must take care that the other influences at our command shall harmonize with our petitions, and conspire to obtain the answer which we plead for. IV. UNIVERSAL PRAYERFULNESS ON THE PART OF MAN SHALL BRING WITH IT THE RESTORATION OF NATURE. This text asserts the deep sympathy of nature with the cause of righteousness. We know that as soon as Adam in Paradise renounced his allegiance to God, the earth renounced its allegiance to him (Genesis 3:17, 18). But, on the other hand, so soon as Jehovah shall be at peace with Israel, and the people of the world shall have become "the seed of God" in the day of the Redeemer's power, all things shall become theirs, and Paradise shall be restored (Psalm 67:5-7). Already, it is true, man possesses a wide sovereignty in the kingdom of nature. As holy George Herbert says, in his poem on 'Man' - a poem which is Miltonic in the majesty of its conceptions - "For us the winds do blow; "More servants wait on man LESSONS. - Let us: 1. Recognize our absolute dependence upon God, the great First Cause. 2. Earnestly seek his presence and aid, both in the discharge of daily duty and for the furtherance of our spiritual life. 3. Accompany our prayers with assiduous practical effort. 4. Rejoice in the hope of the ultimate restitution of all things. - C.J.
2. In the world of grace. In this region we call the subordinate causes "means of grace." Of these, some are inward, such as faith and repentance. Some are outward - the Word, the sacraments, and prayer. Among the means of grace, we must also reckon those influences in providence which operate in the formation of a godly character - education, early training, parental example, youthful companionships, disappointments, and afflictions. And these various kinds of means act in combination. They are a "sacred chain that binds the earth to heaven above." "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28).
III. PRAYER LINKS ITSELF ON TO THE ENTIRE CHAIN OF CAUSATION. It is represented here as the last link of the chain; and it is in the hands of Jezreel. But who is "Jezreel"? She is "the seed of God," whom he has "sown unto himself in the earth" (ver. 23); i.e. the spiritual Israel, the Christian Church in the latter days. Just as the valley of Esdraelon, in this beautiful parable, is conceived of as praying to "the corn, and the wine, and the oil," so the supplications of God's chosen seed have their place among the second causes of things. Believing prayer is, of course, addressed directly only to Jehovah, the First Cause. According to the teaching of Scripture and the testimony of experience, it is the condition which God himself has attached to the enjoyment of his mercies, and especially of all spiritual blessings (Ezekiel 36:37; Matthew 7:7, 8).
"For so the whole round world is every way
1. In the world of nature. How does man pray to "the corn, and the wine, and the oil'? He does so by tilling the ground, sowing the seed, planting the vines, and tending the olives. He uses the fixed laws of nature - directing their action so as to make them subservient to his will. The pious farmer's motto is, "Ors et labors." And so with all other pursuits of men. If I pray rightly that I may prosper in some plan or enterprise, I use also the other practical means of attention, arrangement, and diligence, else the larger number o! second causes will make for the failure of my prayer. There must be a settled harmony between my plans of working and the petitions which I offer.
2. In the world of grace. Here prayer is not merely one of the means of grace, co-ordinate with the others; it is an indispensable condition to the successful use of any other. Prayer is not an intermediate link in the chain. It is at the one end; the throne and will of Jehovah being at the other end. But, while it is necessary that we pray for spiritual blessings, we must at the same time see that all the other second causes combine harmoniously with our petitions. E.g. our salvation is of grace alone, and vet the moral influences which go to shape character operate all the same. The revelation of Jesus Christ has not repealed the ethical precepts of the Book of Proverbs. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians to teach that sinners are saved and that saints are sanctified by grace alone; and yet in that same Epistle he solemnly insists that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Prayer is one second cause; but there is a whole chain of them to which it must join itself. It is not enough to pray for one's own growth in grace, or for the conversion of one's children, or to observe family worship; we must take care that the other influences at our command shall harmonize with our petitions, and conspire to obtain the answer which we plead for.
IV. UNIVERSAL PRAYERFULNESS ON THE PART OF MAN SHALL BRING WITH IT THE RESTORATION OF NATURE. This text asserts the deep sympathy of nature with the cause of righteousness. We know that as soon as Adam in Paradise renounced his allegiance to God, the earth renounced its allegiance to him (Genesis 3:17, 18). But, on the other hand, so soon as Jehovah shall be at peace with Israel, and the people of the world shall have become "the seed of God" in the day of the Redeemer's power, all things shall become theirs, and Paradise shall be restored (Psalm 67:5-7). Already, it is true, man possesses a wide sovereignty in the kingdom of nature. As holy George Herbert says, in his poem on 'Man' - a poem which is Miltonic in the majesty of its conceptions -
"For us the winds do blow; "More servants wait on man LESSONS. - Let us: 1. Recognize our absolute dependence upon God, the great First Cause. 2. Earnestly seek his presence and aid, both in the discharge of daily duty and for the furtherance of our spiritual life. 3. Accompany our prayers with assiduous practical effort. 4. Rejoice in the hope of the ultimate restitution of all things. - C.J.
"More servants wait on man LESSONS. - Let us: 1. Recognize our absolute dependence upon God, the great First Cause. 2. Earnestly seek his presence and aid, both in the discharge of daily duty and for the furtherance of our spiritual life. 3. Accompany our prayers with assiduous practical effort. 4. Rejoice in the hope of the ultimate restitution of all things. - C.J.
LESSONS. - Let us:
1. Recognize our absolute dependence upon God, the great First Cause.
3. Accompany our prayers with assiduous practical effort.
4. Rejoice in the hope of the ultimate restitution of all things. - C.J.
I. THE PERSONALITY OF GOD'S RULE. "I will hear," etc.
1. All things ultimately dependent on him. This denied by many in Hosea's days and in ours. "Nature," with inanimate forces and partially investigated laws, so exalted that a personal God is declared to be needless. Hosea believed that the products of nature expressed God's thoughts and fulfilled his purpose, and that the cry of his people reached him and moved him through the series of forces represented by corn, earth, and heavens. Surrounding nations held that one god gave corn, another wine, etc. (illustrate from mythology); but Hosea ascribed all to one God, in whom all power centered, to whom all cries ultimately came. (Illustrate this re-echoed cry by the fires on the beacon hills telling from town to town that the Armada was in sight; or by the system of signaling in our army and navy, which makes known peril and want to him who commands in chief.)
2. All things mutually dependent on each other. Rain necessary to the earth, earth to seed, seed to bread, bread to man; so the withholding of rain, as in Elijah's time, brought home the sense of guilt to the sinful. Show intimacy of relation between man and earth, between moral and material prosperity, from history. Paul's "whole creation groaneth," etc. Complete reconciliation between man and man, between man and God, will bring about new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness will dwell. Still true "the eyes of all wait upon thee, and thou givest," etc.; "Thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest," etc.
II. THE MEDIATENESS OF GOD'S METHOD. Text reminds that all through the universe one force acts on another to effect the desired result, yet God is not the less working because his hand is unseen. As we do not pay the tool, but the workman whose skilful hand uses it, so we pay homage, not to" force" or to "law," but to God. The age wants what the prophets had - spiritual discernment. Ezekiel saw the "wheels," but also "the living one" within them. He noticed the "hand of the man," but above it "the wing of the cherubim." If possible to him, more so to disciples of Christ, who taught so distinctly the care of God even over birds and flowers. The Holy Spirit, moreover, was promised to bring all such truths to our remembrance. Show how God works through secondary menus.
1. Of our physical constitution this is true.
(1) The individual man is not created afresh from the dust. He has intimate relations with predecessors, is affected by their strength, weakness, prejudices, habits, etc. He is the result of complicated agencies working for centuries, yet it is "God that hath made us, not we ourselves."
(2) Man's support comes not directly from God (as in the manna, or Christ's feeding the multitude), but by process described in text, yet he gives us each day our dally bread.
(3) Man's life on earth is terminated, not by angel's touch, but by some chill, or infection, or developed germ of disease, which brings weakness, then death.
2. Of our spiritual life this is true.
(1) Pardon came through our hearing the truth, which by the power of the Spirit brought us to penitence and prayer.
(2) Reconciliation is possible to the world through the mediation of Christ.
(3) Others will be brought to God, not by the voice that spoke to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, and to Samuel in the tabernacle, but by pleading of parents, influence of teachers, etc. "He that rejecteth you rejecteth me;" "Ambassadors for Christ," etc.
1. How great the privilege of God's people! They shall hear Jezreel." Earth and heaven are to supply our wants. "Meek shall inherit the earth;" "All things are yours."
2. How splendid the destiny of God's people! "I will sow her unto me;" "A handful of corn in the earth... the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon." God's Church the germ of God's harvest. Perhaps like seed God's people must be scattered, sown, buried, forgotten; but the harvest is sure, and in it God will find his glory. Application: By his mercies God has said to you, "Thou art my people;" have you answered with loyal heart, "Thou art my God"? - A.R.
I. HUMAN WANTS ARE SUPPLIED BY PHYSICAL AGENCIES. Man, though a spiritual being, has a physical nature with corresponding necessities. As a servant of the Creator, he depends upon nature for the maintenance of bodily strength and the opportunity of pious service. To despise the material is to question the wisdom of the God of nature.
II. CREATION IS A SYSTEM ARRANGED TO SECURE THE GOOD OF GOD'S INTELLIGENT SUBJECTS. The body of man depends upon the fruits of the earth; the fruits of the earth depend upon the atmospheric influences. There is mutual dependence among all parts of the great system of which, through our corporeal nature, we form a part. And all things work together, and by Divine appointment, for the good of those who love God.
III. GOD IS HIMSELF THE CONSCIOUS AND BENEVOLENT MAINSPRING OF THE VAST MACHINE. "I," saith the Lord, "will hear the heavens." From this we gather that the Divine mind arranges and controls universal nature, and that the delight of the great Ruler is in the welfare of his dependent and intelligent creatures, for which all things terrestrial and celestial are fashioned to co-operate, to which all things concur. That there is physical law no thoughtful man will question; and those who are alike thoughtful and devout will recognize the Lawgiver who is behind the law, and will delight in the conviction that whilst the Divine mind is infinite wisdom, the Divine heart is infinite love. - T.
good in every age and land. Our subject is God and his universe, and the text contains three facts.
I. That the operations of the universe are UNDER THE WISE DIRECTION OF THE GREAT GOD. The universe is represented as in action. The "heaven," the "earth," the "wine," the" corn," and "Jezreel" are all acting. There is nothing stationary. Creation is like a flowing river, there is not a particle at rest. It is our happiness, however, to know that all its activities are presided over by God. It is not a self-acting machine; the great machinist is ever in it and with it. The fact of his superintendence serves several useful purposes.
1. To account for the unbroken order of nature. Why does not the ocean overflow its boundaries, or the massive globes swerve from their orbits? God is over all.
2. To impress us with the sanctity of nature. God is in all - the luster of the light, the beauty of the lovely, the majesty of the grand, the support of the feeble, the might of the strong.
3. To inspire with reverence for God's greatness. How great must he be, etc.!
II. That the operations of the universe are GENERALLY CONDUCTED UPON THE MEDIATORY PRINCIPLE. "I will hear the heavens," etc. One part of nature is here represented as acting upon another, in order to give a certain result. In the material as well as the spiritual world, God works out his plans by secondary instrumentalities. Look at this in relation to man.
1. In relation to him as a material being. Whence came these corporeal frames? how are they sustained? by what menus are they broken up? All through secondary means.
2. In relation to him as a spiritual being. How is he instructed, converted, sanctified? Not directly, but mediatively.
III. That the operations of the universe are MERCIFULLY SUBORDINATED TO THE INTERESTS OF THE GOOD. "Jezreel," the seed of God, i.e. good men, are spoken of as receiving three things.
1. The blessing sought. Jezreel prayed, and all nature is represented as conveying its prayers to God. The universe labors for the good.
2. The multiplication of their number. "I will say to them," etc. The strongest desire of the truly good is to make others good.
3. The heightening of the sympathy between them and their God. "I will say to them which were not my people," etc. What a privilege is this! - D.T.
Hosea 2:23Hosea 2:23. - (See homily above, on the curse reversed, Hosea 1:10, 11, and Hosea 2:1.) - C.J.
Jezreel had been applied by the Divine command to one of Hosea's sons, and thence to Israel, by way of marking God's displeasure with the rebellious people, whose capital has been marked by deeds of disobedience and of bloodshed. But the name itself was good, moaning "God will sow." And in this verse it is declared that God will indeed sow Israel unto himself, in mercy and for life and blessing. It is thus figuratively asserted that days of favor and of prosperity shall be accorded to repenting Israel.
I. MERCY COMES TO THOSE WHO BY REBELLION HAD PUT THEMSELVES BEYOND MERCY. In this respect the northern tribes are representative, not of the Hebrew people only, but of the human race. God has ever pitied those who have had no pity upon themselves. Had there been no sin, there would have been no room for mercy. This Divine attribute is manifested pre-eminently in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is incarnate compassion.
II. GOD CLAIMS AS HIS OWN PEOPLE THOSE WHO HAD THROWN OFF HIS AUTHORITY AND THEIR ALLEGIANCE. Israel was bound to Jehovah, both by the common ties of human creatureship and by the special ties of the covenant he had made with the fathers of the nation. It was especially discreditable in those who owed so much to God, to forsake his worship, to despise his ordinances, to break his laws, to defy his authority. Yet, even for those who had so sinned, there was, when they repented, reconciliation and restoration. His of right and his by covenant, Israel now became his by actual possession. The language of mutual appropriation here employed is very beautiful. "Thou art my people," says Jehovah. And Israel responds, "Thou art my God." When such language is sincere, the convictions it expresses may be regarded as the foundation of all good. Such a relationship involves unfailing favor from God and unfailing faithfulness from man.
1. Consider the light this passage casts upon the Divine disposition towards mankind.
2. Consider the urgency of our condition, and the consequent desirableness of taking advantage of this Divine disposition. - T.