O Israel, you have destroyed yourself; but in me is your help.
Hosea more than once sought to bring this solemn truth home to the conscience of the people (Hosea 14:1, etc.). They saw that national disasters were impending, but attributed these to any other cause than their own sin; e.g. to the divided counsels of their leading statesmen, to neglect of the army, to the ambition of their rulers, to temporary reverse of fortune. The prophet says, in effect, "These would not be against you, if God were not; and he is no longer your Deliverer, because you have turned against him. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself!" This truth may be seen in the fall of other kingdoms - the Assyrian, Roman, etc. These were destroyed, not by an isolated detent, but by the moral deterioration preceding it, which had destroyed all recuperative power. If we should live to see England's decay - our land untilled, our docks empty, our mills and factories silent, our colonies torn away, our people crashed by a debt too heavy for them to bear - it will be due, not to this mistake of policy or to that unfortunate war, but to the fact that as a people we had forsaken righteousness and mercy. This deterioration will precede that desolation. It is true of individuals as of nations. If a man sinks into an abyss of despair or of vicious indulgence, it will be, not through the force of his circumstances, but through the worthlessness of his character. To such a one God says, "Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." In treating of self-destruction we will speak of
(1) its causes;
(2) its delusions; and
(3) its remedy.
I. ITS CAUSES. The importance of the subject is seen from the frequency with which its lamentable issues occur. "Wide is the gate, and broad is the road, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat."
1. Neglect of the means of grace. The Word which reveals God, the Son who declares him, etc. "This is life eternal, that they may know thee," etc. A man who denies himself food till he perishes of starvation, or refuses medicine till the disease proves fatal, practically "destroys himself."
2. Inward iniquity. The passions, the worldly spirit, the self-will, etc., which unfit for fellowship with God and prevent all desire for it, are the causes of spiritual ruin. These, and not death, are the true causes of destruction. When a dead tree is cut down as a cumberer of the ground, it is not the gleaming axe, which we can see and hear that destroys it. The tree is destroyed before the axe is laid at its root, and perhaps only after its fall will the cause of death be revealed.
3. Outward transgression. Show how sin committed leads to other sins, how the sense of shame dies out with the frequency of the act, how habits of evil doing grow till there seems no escape, and to all holy influence the man seems dead. Conscience says, "Thou hast destroyed thyself."
II. ITS DELUSIONS. Whatever, in a moment of despair, a man might do with his natural life, he would surely not destroy all hope of spiritual life unless the words were true, "The god of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not." Some justify their irreligiousness to their own consciences:
1. By referring to God's perfections; e.g. to his sovereignty ("If I am to be saved, I shall be"), or to his mercy ("God is too merciful to punish").
2. By referring to the condition of their fellow men. Of the godless, they urge they are so numerous that it is not credible that they should all be in the wrong; of Christians, they say that they are too scrupulous for ordinary society, or else that they are so inconsistent that religion cannot be of great worth.
3. By referring to their own state. If they are moral, they "thank God that they are not as other men are;" if licentious, they argue that they are "committed to do all these abominations;" if ignorant, they declare they are not scholarly enough to understand the teaching of the Church; if intellectual, they maintain that they require no spiritual illumination; if attentive to the externals of religion, their spirit is that of the Pharisee who said, "I fast twice in the week," etc.
III. ITS REMEDY. "In me is thine help." The Speaker is "the Lord Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength." He alone can save. When there was no eye to pity, he brought to men salvation. The remedy is to be found:
1. In the atonement Christ has made. "He was wounded for our transgressions," etc.; "The blood of Jesus Christ...cleanseth from all sin."
2. In the intercession he presents. "Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us."
3. In the grace he gives. When the Holy Spirit is come, "he wilt convince the world of sin," etc. The Spirit comes to cast out the strong man armed. By his grace he vivifies, purifies, sanctifies, until at last we shall stand faultless before God's throne. "Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name given under heaven whereby we can be saved."
CONCLUSION. In the text there are
(1) enlightenment for the ignorant;
(2) warning for the self-righteous;
(3) hope for the despondent; and
(4) a song for the redeemed. - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.