Hosea 2:21, 22
And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, said the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth;…
This promise is a parable in miniature, and has been much admired for its poetic beauty. It completes the prophetic picture of Israel's restoration in the Messianic era. Doubtless, also, it refers in its fullness of meaning, not merely to Israel after the flesh, but to the entire Christian Church during the time of the latter-day glory.
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;
Nothing is fair or good alone."
(Emerson.) Second causes combine:
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
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."
(Tennyson.) But true prayer takes hold also of the second causes, "They shall hear Jezreel." It does so:
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;
The earth doth rest, heaven move, and fountains flow.
Nothing we see, but means our good,
As our delight, or as our treasure:
The whole is either our cupboard of food,
Or cabinet of pleasure.
"More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of....
O mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him." But, in the golden age that is coming, man's sovereignty over nature shall be complete; and nature's sympathy with man shall be perfect (Isaiah 11:6-9).
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth;