Hosea 14:4, 5
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for my anger is turned away from him.
So soon as Israel shall return to Jehovah and offer the foregoing words of self-condemning supplication (vers. 2, 3), they shall receive a glad welcome from him "who delighteth in mercy," and who will not "keep his anger for ever." The first clauses of this answer of blessing remind us that there are three results of religious revival which begin to be experienced at once. These are "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," in the form of healing; "the love of God," in the gift of positive and full salvation; "and the communion of the Holy Ghost," as manifested in the enjoyment of Divine influence. The answer corresponds to the prayer of the penitents, only that the blessings promised are even larger and richer than those which have been asked.
I. SPIRITUAL HEALING. "I will heal their backsliding" (ver. 4); or rather, "their falling away; ' "their apostasy." The Lord will remove the injuries which his people's apostasy has brought upon them, and will cure them of the malignant disease itself. This blessing of healing includes
(1) the forgiveness of sin;
(2) deliverance from its pollution;
(3) the cure of the tendency to backslide; and
(4) removal of the chastisements and sorrows which past guilt has entailed.
How does God heal all these wounds? He does so by the application of the blood of Christ. That blood is the one unfailing salve for the sinner's conscience and heart, and it procures also his redemption from all future evil. All men, Jew and Gentile alike, who accept the gospel message, receive such healing in our time; and in "the latter days" this gracious promise shall be completely fulfilled in the national conversion of Israel, as well as in the "coming in" of "the fullness of the Gentiles."
II. FULL SALVATION. "I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him" (ver. 4). Jehovah's wrath being gone, and his people's apostasy healed, his generous love is now free to go forth without restraint. He finds in his people themselves, it is true, no cause why he should love them. In himself the backsliding sinner is repulsive and unlovely; and the only acceptable gift which he can bring when he returns is merely feelings and "words (ver. 2). But, as a mother's love for her child is not based upon the child's character, or upon the return which he makes for her goodness, so also love is instinctive and natural to the Divine heart. He loves freely," or spontaneously, just because he himself "is love." The Lord heals his people's backslidings by discovering anew to their souls the greatness of his tender mercy towards them. His wonderful love leads him first to be the soul's Physician, and then to become its Husband. His free favor bestows upon the healed one the health of holiness, and continues to be the springing well-head of the believer's salvation.
III. DIVINE INFLUENCE. "I will be as the dew unto Israel" (ver. 5). This promise announces the reversal of the curse of barrenness recorded in Hosea 13:15. We think of Jehovah as being "the dew" in connection with the gracious operations of his Spirit. He rewards the prayer and the life of penitence, and evinces his free love to his people, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. There are many points of analogy between the descent of the dew and the work of the Spirit. The Divine dew, like the natural, is:
1. Mysterious and heavenly. It has its source high above us The falling of the dew is independent of man's skill and power (Micah 5:7; Job 38:28); much less are the workings of grace the result of any human process (John 3:3-8).
2. Gentle and silent. No one sees or hears the dew falling, and experience alone has taught man that it is really an important force of nature. Similarly the grace of the Spirit "cometh not with observation" (Luke 17:20). It works on in secrecy, and becomes visible only in its beneficent results upon character and life.
3. Abundant. In Palestine the dew is so copious as to compensate to some extent for the absence of rain. The Divine dew, in like manner, is often seen to be most abundant, especially in a time of religious revival. The work of the Spirit may influence for much good an entire Church, or even a whole nation, so as to enrich its life as a Christian community.
4. Penetrative. The dew pierces the soil, and insinuates itself into the fibers of every herb and plant; so the Holy Ghost, using the Divine Word, "pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit" (Hebrews 4:12), and searches through the whole nature of man, to purify and bless it.
5. Given daily. "The grace of God, like the dew, is not given once for all, but is day by day waited for, and day by day renewed. Yet doth it not pass away, like the fitful goodness of God's former people (Hosea 6:4), but turns into the growth and spiritual substance of those on whom it descends" (Pusey).
6. Refreshing and fertilizing. The dew produces verdure and fruitfulness. So the constant presence of the Holy Spirit within the soul and in the Church is essential to spiritual freshness and usefulness. The clauses that follow (vers. 5-8) show that this is the main point of the emblem as employed here, and trace with exceeding beauty of poetic diction the results of the Lord's gracious activity when he comes "as the dewy He shall so come in "the last days" - blessed be his Name! - "unto Israel," i.e. to his ancient people; and not to them only, but to the whole Israel of God, of every nation, who follow spiritually in the footsteps of Abraham.
1. Apostasy is a malignant soul-malady, which, if not arrested by the great Healer, will lead to final perdition. If we would be preserved from it, we must avoid habits of backsliding.
2. What a ground of hope to the penitent, and of comfort to the believer, is the "freeness" or spontaneity of the Divine love!
3. The absolute dependence of the individual and the Church upon the work of the Holy Spirit. - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.