I will be as the dew to Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.…
These are like the effects of the dew of heaven upon garden and landscape. They are, in fact, the results of the Divine influence which God the Holy Spirit bestows upon returning penitents. The imagery of the passage is borrowed from the vegetable kingdom, and reminds us of that of the Song of Solomon. The prophet employs a combination of emblems - the lily, the cedar, the olive, the corn-field, the vineyard, because it requires them all to furnish an adequate picture of the blessed outcome of religious revival. This representation shall yet be realized in the spiritual future of the Hebrew nation. "Ephraim," now so sadly blighted, shall be dowered with "double fruitfulness," and thus verify the presage of his ancient name (Genesis 41:52). The promise is fulfilled also, even now, in the case of every Christian Church, and of every gracious heart, which "returns unto Jehovah," and receives a fresh baptism of his Spirit. The rich and blessed results of revival are -
I. GROWTH. "He shall grow as the lily" (ver. 5). There are various plants of the lily species found in Palestine which are remarkable, not only for their beauty, but for their rapid and luxuriant growth. The tall lilies, to whose brilliant colors the Lord Jesus pointed his disciples (Matthew 6:28, 29), possess also much vitality and productiveness. So is it with the Church that has been watered with the copious dews of God's good Spirit. How rapidly the infant Church grew after the outpouring on the day of Pentecost! What multitudes turned to the Lord in the times of the Reformation! What numbers do still in every season of revival! And so also is it with the individual soul when the garden of its graces is daily wetted with the heavy heavenly dew. It makes rapid progress in its upward growth. Each of us may profitably ask himself, "Am I growing in grace? Are my Christian faith, and love, and patience, and diligence, and holy zeal larger than they were ten or twenty years ago?"
II. STRENGTH. He shall "strike his roots as Lebanon: his branches shall spread" (vers. 5, 6). The lily both grows and multiplies rapidly; but it is not an emblem of stability, for its stalk is frail and its root slender. To find an image of fixedness and forceful reserve, the prophet goes to the cedar of Lebanon. This tree is far-famed for its strength and stateliness. It is very deeply rooted; and from its main trunk numerous branches spread out horizontally, tier upon tier, until the diameter of the compass of ground which the tree covers is even greater than its height. In like manner, spiritual solidity and expansiveness are secured by striking our roots well down into the hidden life of faith, and prayer, and communion with God, and fidelity to conscience. The moral robustness which is proof against whatever "tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word" (Matthew 13:21) is always the result of a deep sense of sin, a thorough apprehension of the gospel, and a profound love to the Savior.
III. BEAUTY AND FRAGRANCE. "His beauty shall be as the olive tree" (ver. 6). There is doubtless a natural glory of its own in the slender grey-green foliage of the olive; but to the Oriental the attractiveness of this tree consists largely in its capacity of yielding that oily matter ("fatness," Judges 9:9) which is so essential to health in the dry and hot climate of the East. "His smell as Lebanon" (ver. 6); the reference being to the fresh breezes of the mountain, laden in early summer with the fragrance of the vines and the balsamic odor of the cedars and aromatic plants. "The scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon" (ver. 7), which was celebrated for its fine flavor and its rich aroma. These emblems are suggestive of the beauty of holiness, and the fragrance which proceeds from the renewed heart and life. The Divine dew is sent to make one nature bloom as the lily, and to clothe another with verdure like the ever-green olive. It should impart to every child of God some healthful fragrance or sweetness of disposition which shall lead others to "take knowledge of him, that he has been with Jesus" (Psalm 45:8). How many Christians, unhappily, lack this blessed aroma! How many are morose and moody, rather than sunny and joyful; thereby giving countenance to the impression that religion is a melancholy thing, instead of being "cheerful as the day"!
IV. FRUITFULNESS. This is the most important of the results, and Hosea's mind dwells on it in vers. 7 and 8 as the prevailing thought of the passage. Fruitfulness is the ultimate test and the final end of every revival In ver. 7 the restored Israelitish nation is spoken of as a wide spreading tree, under whose grateful shadow its people also shall be individually restored from their backslidings. The corn "falls into the ground and dies," and may seem to be killed a second time by the storms of winter; but when spring comes it revives, and at length yields an abundant harvest. The vine, when its fruit-bearing branches have been carefully pruned, sprouts again with new vigor and bears choicer fruit. So is it with a Church or with an individual believer at the close of a long winter of declension, and after experience of the pruning-knife of affliction. With the blessed consciousness of sin forgiven, and of the restored favor of God, and under the fertilizing influence of the dew of the Holy Spirit, the revived Church ripens like a waving harvest-field, and hangs with luscious clusters like a fragrant vineyard. The purpose of the gift of Divine grace is fruit-bearing. The dew of the Spirit is sent with a view to "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22, 23). The scheme of redemption is God's plan for the promotion of morality. The Savior says to his disciples, "I have chosen you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8, 16). It is true, of course, that in different lives spiritual fruitfulness varies in character. One believer has the beauty of the lily; another, the stability of the cedar; a third, the fatness of the olive. But in the communion of the saints, and even within each separate Christian congregation, all the forms of strength, beauty, and usefulness should meet. A revived Church, watered with the Divine dew, should be garden, orchard, vineyard, fruitful field, and forest, all in one.
CONCLUSION. In ver. 8., Jehovah joyfully anticipates the permanence of Ephraim's reformation. He "hears" him resolving to put away idols forever, and "observes" him bringing forth fruit meet for repentance. The backsliders have returned, and have repented from sin as well as for it. Those who were "joined to idols" are now joined to the Lord. And the Lord reminds them, in a closing word, that all their "springs ' are in himself. Jehovah is "like a green cypress tree; ' he is "the Tree of life," and the Giver of "fruit' to all who dwell under his shadow. May the good Lord incline our hearts also to abjure every idolatry, and to seek our "fruit" in himself only, that he may with joy address us as "Ephraim," because he finds in us "double fruitfulness"! - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.