The Message from Home
Hosea 2:14, 15
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her.…

There will be but little difficulty in the exposition of this passage if we remember that two distinct figures are blended by the prophet. On the one hand he recalls the early history of Israel. He remembers their degradation in Egypt, and traces the moral effects upon them of the wilderness-life which transformed a horde of slaves into a nation; binding each man to his fellow, and all to God. To the prophet, as a moral teacher, the wilderness appears the place for the cure of idolatry, for the reception of the Law, for the appointment of Divine worship, and for the gathering of national and moral strength. Glancing from the wilderness across the Jordan, he sees, next, the disaster at Ai which ensued on sin, and notes the way in which, in the valley of Achor, the iniquity was purged, so that the people were ready for new victories and the possession of the land of promise. After recalling these incidents, Hoses says to the Israel of his own day, "These experiences shall be repeated in all their essential features. You shall be taken from the Egypt of idolatry, you shall be led into the wilderness of exile, you shall pass through the valley of trouble, and there, your sin being discovered and removed, you shall go on to a nobler future and have the fulfillment of the promises." But with this figure is blended another, which pervades the first three chapters, in which Israel is represented as a disloyal wife, whose husband loves her still, and seeks by the gentlest means to draw her again to himself. God's condescension and wisdom are shown in these attempts to set forth Divine responsibilities and privileges by analogies drawn from human relationships. The human is sanctified, and the Divine is made natural by such a method. Here God is represented as the Husband of the Church, bearing with her waywardness and sin, taking upon himself her sorrows and cares, purging her from all evil, that at last she may appear radiant in the sheen of her white robes, and crowned with light in his presence. (Text.)

I. CONSIDER THE ENTICEMENT OF SIN LEADING TO ESTRANGEMENT which is set before us in the earlier part of this chapter. The ideal condition of Israel, and therefore of every soul, is that of one betrothed to the Lord, yearning for his society, mourning his absence, cheered by his smile, and waiting for the marriage. Nothing satisfies the soul but God. In the imperfection of our friends, in the mistakes we make about each other, in the spurning of our love, in the loss of dear ones by removal or death, we are disquieted by the ordinance of God, so that, like Augustine, we may say, "Cor nostrum inquietum est, donec in te requiescat." As Israel said, "I will go after my lovers," so one says, "I will go after pleasure;" and another, "I will go after wealth," as if the highest good could be found there. And this sin is aggravated, because (as ver. 8 implies) all that is used or enjoyed in this vain pursuit is given to us by the Cod we forget; as the prodigal wasted in the far country what his father had given to him. In order to bring us to thought and penitence, wandering from God is made difficult to us, and often the words have been fulfilled, "I will hedge up thy way with thorns." He thwarts our plans and disappoints our hopes. The idolized friend proves false, the adored child is torn from our embrace, the hoarded wealth is swept away. The fruit has its bitter kernel, and the rose its thorn. Nor is it only in what is outward that we recognize a hedge planted by God to turn us back from evil. When one is about to sin, he is checked by the thought of dishonor to his father's name, or by the reproaches of conscience, or by the memories of old teaching, or by the tears of a mother. He can say, as Augustine did in the review of his sinful life, "I escaped not thy scourges, for what mortal can? For thou wert even with me mercifully rigorous, and besprinkling with most bitter alloy all my unlawful pleasures, that I might seek pleasures without alloy. But where to find such I could not discover save in thee, O Lord, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us to heal, and killest us lest we die from thee."

II. LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF LOVE CALLING TO THE WILDERNESS. "Therefore I will allure her." It is the last inference we should expect. Sin and forgetfulness are not inducements to mercy. If trouble is the obvious result of extreme wickedness which is still unreported, the father would say of the child, the husband of the wife, "It is right she should suffer, and till she returns she cannot expect blessing from me." So long as lawful authority is set at defiance, human law knows no mercy. God does not deal with us, however, as we deal with others. He did not cast Israel off at once, nor did he summon her to his feet by the thunders of Sinai or the terrors of hell, but says, "I will allure her;" speaking gently as Christ did by his Word and life, so that the sin-stained felt that, though no other mercy could be had, it might be found at the feet of the Friend of sinners. "I will draw her into the wilderness," the place of silence and of solitude. The Divine voice is seldom heard amidst a multitude. God severs the individual from his fellows when he would give him a message far himself or for others. He spoke to Jacob, not in the family, but in the desert, where only the quiet stars wore watching; to Moses, not in the crowded camp, but high above it, on Sinai; to Samuel, not amid the worshippers, but in the silent chamber where the child slept alone; to Elijah, not in the tumult of Carmel's victory, but in the silence of the cave at Horeb. So Israel had been taught, not in Egypt, but in the wilderness; and thus, said the prophet, it shall be again, and there "I wilt speak comfortably unto her" - literally, "I will speak upon her heart" - that henceforth my Law and my love may be graven on it. Such has been the experience of the Christian. Convinced of sin, the world seemed dreary as a desert to him, till hope was infused into his heart that pardon and reconciliation were not far from him. Believing that God was near, he lifted up his trembling heart in prayer, and in Christ, the crucified and risen Savior, he saw God reconciled to him; and the glimpse of his infinite beauty, of his unspeakable love, won his heart forever. Then the very place of grief became the place where the fruits of joy were growing, and in the wilderness of repentance the promise was fulfilled, "I will give thee vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope."

III. LOOK FOR THE DOOR OF HOPE IN THE VALLEY OF TROUBLE. "The valley of Achor," or of troubling, on the north of Gilgal and Jericho, was the place in which Israel was gathered after the repulse at Ai; when the sin of Achan was discovered with such terrible exactitude, and removed by dreadful expiation (see Joshua 6.). But, though it seemed a valley of despair, it was really a place of hope, because the camp was purged from the curse and. the people made ready for Canaan. So, in the coming exile of which Hosea spoke, some even in Israel would cast off their sin and turn to the Lord, and that valley of Achor would be a door of hope. The principle of using the most unlikely means for deliverance and blessing has often been exemplified, by him who brought water out of the rock, and made the cross the means of the world's salvation, and death the entrance to heaven. Most conspicuously is it seen in our redemption.

1. The door of hope was opened for the world in the valley of trouble, through which Christ walked on our behalf. We are raised to heaven because he came down to earth; we have the life eternal because he submitted to death. But for his obedience in humiliation, God's Law would not have been vindicated in its righteousness and beauty; but for his sorrows, we should have had no almighty Intercessor whose sympathy is perfect; but for his crucifixion, the handwriting against us would never have been nailed to the cross; and but for his death, and burial, and resurrection, and ascension, we should not have seen the kingdom of heaven opened to all believers.

2. The door of hope was opened for the Jews, as a nation, in the valley of trouble. Egyptian bondage prepared for liberty, wilderness wandering was the means of moral culture, defeat led to the putting away of sin, the captivity in Babylon tore up idolatry by its roots. After the coming of Christ, the destruction of Jerusalem amidst tears and blood was the opening of a new door of hope, for by it the noblest of the race began to look for the heavenly Jerusalem, to understand the spirituality of worship, and to find in Christ the one Center round which the true Israel would gather. Thus every nation may look for a door of hope in its valley of trouble? When called to pass through commercial depression, military disasters, diplomatic defeats, there is hope of finding purification from immorality, extravagance, and self-indulgence, and a new and loftier sense of responsibility to others and to God.

3. The door of hope is opened for sinners in the valley of trouble. Trouble is not itself and of necessity a good. The wind, which wafts one vessel to the haven, may drive another on the rocks. The fiver, which today gives fertility to the fields, may to-morrow bring desolation to the works and to the homes of men. Trouble may injure us, yet it is meant to bless us; and this is specially true of the inward sorrow represented here. If one is convinced of sin, so that the old enjoyment of pleasures is gone, and paradise becomes a wilderness, his penitential grief is the true beginning of the joy the publican had, who went down to his house justified because he cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner." If we are in the sadder condition of one who has, like Israel, forsaken her first love, and are compelled to say, "Then was it better with me than now," our hope is found in going out, like Peter, weeping bitterly. And in the valley of the shadow of death, which seems to mortal eyes so dark and strange, so sad and fearsome, that it may well be called the valley of Arbor, we shall find in it the door of hope - ay, the door of heaven - and, like others, we shall sing in it as in the days of our youth, "Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory." - A.R.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.

WEB: "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.

The Loving Discipline of God
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