Hosea 14:5, 6
I will be as the dew to Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.…
This is a description of the condition of a Church which has received the fulfillment of the promise, "I will be as the dew unto Israel." Its blessedness is so full and so varied in its manifestations that no one emblem would suffice to represent it. Hence the text is crowded with imagery. The bedewed Church has these characteristics.
I. GROWTH. "He shall grow as the lily."
1. This presupposes life. A lifeless log would not grow, however rich the soil, favorable the season, abundant the sunshine and dew; but if these conditions be given to a lily bulb, though it be unsightly in appearance and deeply buried in the earth, it must grow, because it lives. No Church can expect the blessedness described in the text unless it is living, consisting of those who have more than a name to live, whose consciousness of God's presence and devotion to his service prove that they have passed from death unto life.
2. This indicates multiplication. A lily multiplies itself, and so foot by foot conquers the soil about it. Similar extension is a sign of vitality in a Church; for if the life of Christ be in it, it will never be self-absorbed, content with enjoyment, or even with self-culture, but will propagate itself in the waste places around.
3. It implies variety. The lily genus contains an unusual variety of species. Sometimes a single scale will produce a new plant. Some lilies are stately, others lowly; some grow in heat, others spread their broad leaves over the surface of a quiet pool. Far greater varieties are seen in the forms in which Divine life displays itself to the world. Some Churches are ornate in their acts of worship, others stern in their simplicity; some lay stress on accurate definitions of theology, others on the human side of their mission, etc. Yet all these but imperfectly represent the fullness of Divine life which was in Christ. These are not antagonistic forms of life, but imperfect developments of the one life.
4. It suggests purity. All Churches are agreed in seeking this which the lily so often represents. "The pure in heart shall see God," and "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Happy is it for men that "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin."
II. STABILITY. "He shall...cast forth his roots as Lebanon." The lily grows fast, but is fragile; indeed, stability is seldom reached rapidly in nature. The succulent plant, which swiftly reaches maturity, is killed by the first frost; but the oak, which wrestles with the wind and laughs at the storm, is the growth of years or centuries. In the spiritual sphere, however, God can create a Church swiftly, whose beauty is not transient: "It grows as the lily, but cast forth its roots as Lebanon." The allusion is, not to the cedars of Lebanon, but to Lebanon itself. Standing on the summit of that mountain range, you see below you blooming flowers, solemn cedars, here a patch of waving corn and there a terraced vineyard, here a quiet dell and there a busy village. These change, but Lebanon abides; for it sends out its rocky ridges, like giant roots, down deep beneath the distant sea. That is Hosea's emblem of the stability of the Church, of which Christ said, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The outward forms of Christian life may change, but Christ the Son of God, the one Hope of humanity, the one true King of the world, is rooted deep in the hearts of men, and the purpose of God and "his kingdom is that which shall never be destroyed."
III. EXTENSION. "His branches shall spread." No man can be good without doing good. If he has high moral tone, intense spiritual earnestness, strong, deep-rooted convictions, an attractive Christ-like character, his influence will spread in spite of himself - over his home and business relationships. This power is quite distinct from social or intellectual influence, and may exist without it. Hence it is that the rough-handed fishermen of a despised country are swaying the destinies of the world. "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me." Show how far-reaching is the quiet influence of a Christian mother, whose only sphere of activity is her own home. Note: Influence is not less because it is morally bad. Not only do the branches of the cedar spread, but also the branches of the upas tree, whose shadow is deadly. God forbid that the extension of our influence should prove the extension of our evildoing, and therefore of our retribution.
IV. BEAUTY. "His beauty shall be as the olive tree." No tree in Palestine was more valuable than the olive. Its oil was used as food, was poured on sacrifices, was employed in the coronation of the king, and afforded sustenance for light. No wonder it is so often used in Scripture as an emblem of prosperity. Here, probably, the reference is to the abiding beauty of the character created by God's Spirit - the olive being evergreen, as beautiful in winter as in summer. In natural disposition we often see gaiety and pleasantness supplanted by moroseness and irritability, when the experience of life has been bitter. But we have seen Christians whose luxurious home has been exchanged for straitened circumstances, whose vigorous health has failed, whose family circle has been broken up; and yet, in thankfulness for what is left, in serenity of spirit, in trustfulness for the future, we see the unfading beauty of the olive. "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither."
V. ATTRACTIVENESS. "His smell as Lebanon." In the valley between the two ranges of Lebanon, aromatic plants abound; myrtle and lavender and sweet-smelling reeds send forth delicious fragrance, and every passing breeze is perfumed and carries over the world a message concerning the tender mercy of God. It was with some thought of this that the Church is represented as praying, "Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; and blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out." Doubtless the graces of the Spirit are signified in that verse and in this, but the reference is chiefly to the diffusive influence of love, the greatest yet the quietest moral power we know. There is, unhappily, in the spiritual world, as in the physical, a beauty that is cold and almost repellant. There are Churches and Christians whose intellectual culture and social respectability none would dispute, but they are the last in the world to whom the troubled, the sinful, the skeptical, would turn for sympathy. They are deep-rooted as Lebanon, pure as the lily, but they have none of the smell of Lebanon, and do not bewray themselves and attract others by their sweetness. We cannot do Christ's work without his Spirit, without revealing sympathy and love like his. If we are to have any power for him, it must be spiritual power. If we are to lay hold of men and save them, it must be by the arms of brotherly love. "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it!" - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.