I. THE FOLLY OF CARNAL CONFIDENCES. (Ver. 6.) The ten tribes had followed "their own counsels," but these were the result of wicked infatuation. The calves which the men of Israel kissed led to the national ruin. Egypt would afford the tribes no asylum; there was no hope of relief from her as an auxiliary against Assyria. It was indeed strange that the people should think of returning to Egypt, the land of their ancient bondage. Now, however, they are to endure a more dreadful tyranny than their fathers had suffered there. The devouring sword of the Assyrian is to make the round of the cities of Israel. The northern kingdom, with its rich territory and its sacred places - Shiloh, Shechem, Ebal and Gerizim, Sharon, Carmel, and the valley of Jezreel - is to pass into the possession of the heathen. Such was only the natural result of Israel's wickedness, and it stands in history as an affecting warning against ungodly counsels. "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord" (Jeremiah 17:5-8). "My brethren, it is a great mercy of God to be so wholly taken from all carnal props, from all vain shifts and hopes, as to be thoroughly convinced that there is no help in any thing, or in any creature, in heaven and earth, but only in turning to God, and casting the soul down before mercy; if that saves me not, I am undone forever" (Jeremiah Burroughs, in loc.).
II. THE POWER OF SIN TO HOLD FAST THE SOUL. (Ver. 7.) Israel was "bent on backsliding" from Jehovah. They were "fastened to defection" (Calvin); or, "impaled upon apostasy as upon a stake" (Keil). The prophets "called and exhorted the people, but in vain. They refused to raise themselves, in order to return to the Most High. Such is the effect of sin when long persisted in. All of us have by nature this fixed aversion to God and Divine things, unless he interpose in his grace to wean us from our idols. Even while the Word is calling us to rise, the flesh persistently drags us downwards, and with a dead weight which only the might of the Spirit of God can overcome. Many professors of religion suddenly fall away, because, the good work" never having been begun in them, they cannot restrain themselves from at last following visibly the "bent" of nature. And how hard it is, even for the Lord's true people, to escape from the entanglement of old habits of sin! During the process the soul may be often convulsed, if not almost torn asunder. A good man will sometimes continue throughout life to follow a trade or profession about the moral lawfulness of which his conscience is continually uneasy. Only by steadfastly looking to Christ, and allowing his love to flow into the heart, can we be set free from the dangers of backsliding. Clothed with his strength, the believer, instead of being "impaled upon apostasy," shall daily "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts." Once more, this passage reminds us that -
III. TO "REFUSE TO RETURN" TO JEHOVAH IS THE SIN OF SINS. (Ver. 5.) Ephraim had done more and worse than to reject the Lord as the chief good. He had, besides, scorned the Divine grace and mercy which had so long and lovingly "called" him to "return," and promised to "heal his backsliding." For such foul and shocking ingratitude the ruin of the northern kingdom was a. righteous retribution. And so now, in these gospel times, the denial of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior is the crowning sin of man. To reject him is to "refuse to return" to Jehovah. It is to oppose the clearest light, and to despise the dearest love. It is to elect to serve Satan rather than God. This sin of sins does not render it necessary that sentence be pronounced against those who are guilty of it: the sinner's unbelief is of itself his sentence. "He that believeth not hath been judged already" (John 3:18). If we neglect the great salvation, there can be no escape for us from eternal shame and ruin. Sins against law do not exclude the possibility of the exercise of mercy, but the persistent rejection of mercy must close the door of hope against the soul forever (Proverbs 1:24-33). - C.J.
I drew them with cords of a man.I. GOD IN THE ACTION OF GREAT SOLICITUDE. "I drew them." There are two ways by which this thought is confirmed —
1. By Scripture.
2. By experience.God is represented in the Song of Solomon as drawing us with the odour of a great ointment.
II. GOD DRAWING MAN THROUGH THE PRINCIPLE OF HUMAN AGENCY — "Cords of a man."
1. God did this in the use of the prophets.
2. God did this in the Person of Christ.
3. God is now doing this in the Christian ministry.
III. GOD DRAWING MAN THROUGH THE PRINCIPLE OF SPIRITUAL CONDITIONS: "With hands of love."
1. There is the voice of the inner life, — telling of wrong, and pointing to right and duty.
2. There is the agency of the Holy Spirit, — pointing to holy decisions. Dr. Doddridge once said to his daughter, "My dear, how is it that everybody seems to love you?" She answered, "I do not know, papa, — unless it is that I love everybody." Jesus loves us. Shall we not love Him?
(W. A. Perrins.)
Homilist.I. THE UNCOERCIVENESS OF HIS REDEMPTIVE AGENCY. He draws, not drives. This Divine mode of action implies two things —
1. That God respects the moral freedom of human nature. He has endowed us with moral agency. We have a consciousness of freedom which defies and spurns all the logic that would prove us slaves. The Holy Father treats us according to the natures He has given us. God neither condemns nor saves men contrary to their own will.
2. That God's moral power in the Gospel is extraordinarily great.(1) It is a power to draw souls. Brute force can only drive bodies. Mere might has no magnetism for the soul. There is a moral power, the power of anger, falsehood, disgusting immorality, that can drive souls away — repel them with disgust. But holy moral power alone can draw the entire soul.(2) It is a power to draw depraved souls. It is something therefore extraordinary — greater than the moral power of nature. It is the power of infinite love, embodied in the life of Christ.
II. THE HUMANITY OF GOD'S REDEMPTIVE AGENCY. It is by a man's intellect, heart, life, example, influence that he draws. God saves man by man.
1. The reasonable draws man. God appeals to our reason through man.
2. The merciful draws man. God appeals to our gratitude through man.
3. The excellent draws man.
4. The desirable draws man.
I. THE GOSPEL IS A REVELATION OF LOVE. Herein lies its power, the secret of its strength. It reveals the love of God. That God loves virtue, and will compensate and make up for the sufferings of the good, is a tenet which needs not a revelation. But that God loves all men, even the sinner, is that quite right? Must there not be something here not altogether sound in doctrine, because not altogether conducive to morality and good? The Gospel risks this perversion. It refers us to Christ. Did Christ's example, did Christ's life, encourage or favour sin? There is, in the immeasurable love of God, room for all His creatures. There is a yearning of soul over the scattered, dispersed, erring, and straying race. He loves, therefore He pleads. The whole secret of the drawing lies in the spontaneity of the love. Tell a man, — "Seek God, and He will be found of you," — and you waste words. Tell him — "God loves you as you are. God has come after you, with far-reaching endeavour." He will find there is strength in that which will not, cannot, be resisted.
II. THERE IS AN INVITATION OF LOVE. There is something always pathetic, to the unsophisticated ear, in the petition of love. The outcries of barren, thirsting affection waste themselves oftentimes upon the desert. And yet there was a love for them, would they but have had it, a love better than of son or daughter, better than of wife or husband, a love indestructible, satisfying, eternal. It is permitted to you to love God. Ought not that to be joy enough and privilege enough for any man? God makes it religion to do the thing which will make us happy; and therefore He turns the invitation into the injunction of love, and bids the fallen self-ruined creature just love and be happy — just love and be saved.
III. THERE IS A COMMUNICATION, OR TRANSMISSION, OF LOVE. He who has been loved, and therefore loves, is bidden by that love of God to love his brother also; and then, in that transmission, that handing on of the love, the whole of the Gospel — its precept as its comfort — is in deed and in truth perfected. Little, indeed, do they know of the power of the Gospel who think either that obedience will replace the love of God, or duty be a substitute for the love of man. Christ teaches us that both towards God and towards man love goes first and duty follows after. Not, indeed, that we are idly to wait for the feeling, and excuse the not doing on the plea of not loving. There is such a thing as worshipping because I desire to love. So there is such a thing as doing good to my brother, if so be I may love him; a setting myself to every office of patient and self-denying charity, if by any means it may at last become not a labour but a love to me. But how can we love the unlovely? Surely whosoever sees with the eye of Christ, can discern, if he will look for it, on the most tarnished, debased, defaced coin of humanity, that Divine image and superscription in which God created, and for the sake of which Christ thought it no waste to redeem. This is love's place in Christ's Gospel. Love revealed, love reciprocated, then love handed on.
(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
(Archbishop Temple.)I. I DEALT WITH THEM RATIONALLY, AS MEN, NOT AS BEASTS.
1. My statutes were according to right reason.
2. They were supported by many arguments.
3. And by persuasions, motives, and exhortations.
II. I DEALT WITH THEM GENTLY, NOT WITH RIGOUR AND VIOLENCE.
1. Suiting Myself to their dispositions.
2. Dealing with them when they were in their best temper.
3. Giving them time to consider.
III. I DEALT WITH THEM HONOURABLY, IN A MANNER SUITABLE TO THAT RESPECT WHICH IS DUE TO MAN.
1. My instructions ever exceeded My corrections.
2. Whatever spark of ingenuousness remained in them, I took care to preserve it.
3. I aimed at their good, as well as My own glory, in all things.
1. Some are drawn to Christ by seeing the happiness of true believers.
2. Another cord of love is the sense of the security of God's people, and a desire to be as secure as they.
3. Some will tell you they were first drawn to Christ by the holiness of godly relatives.
4. Not a few are brought to Christ by gratitude for mercies received.
5. Some have been caught by becoming convinced that the religion of Christ is the most reason. able religion in the world.
6. A far larger number, however, are attracted to Jesus by a sense of His exceeding great love.
7. The privileges which a Christian enjoys ought to draw some of you to Christ.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. ATTRACTION. "I drew them." God attracted the Jews to Himself as their Lord and portion by conviction and affection. The attraction is to Him as well as by Him. In pushing and driving you urge a thing from you; but in drawing it you bring it towards you. God's aim is to bring us to Himself. This aim regards the state that we are previously in — a state of distance and alienation from Him. As in this state we see his sin, so we equally see his misery, for with God is the fountain of life, and we can never be happy save as we are near Him. Look at the manner in which this attraction is accomplished. "With the cords of a man." That Is —
1. "Rationally. Hence religion is called a reasonable service."
2. Affectionately. Love is the supreme attraction. There are four heads of goodness which are peculiarly attractive and powerful.
(1) (2) (3) (4) II. PROVISION. "I laid meat unto them." Meat means food generally. To show the plenitude and riches of the Gospel provision it is represented in the Scriptures by a feast. The provision is found in the Scriptures. It is "laid unto you in the preaching of the Gospel." III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke? 1. The yoke of Judaism. 2. Of popery. 3. Of persecution. 4. Of bigotry. 5. Of ignorance. (William Jay.) (J. A. Gordon, D. D.)
(2) (3) (4) II. PROVISION. "I laid meat unto them." Meat means food generally. To show the plenitude and riches of the Gospel provision it is represented in the Scriptures by a feast. The provision is found in the Scriptures. It is "laid unto you in the preaching of the Gospel." III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke? 1. The yoke of Judaism. 2. Of popery. 3. Of persecution. 4. Of bigotry. 5. Of ignorance. (William Jay.) (J. A. Gordon, D. D.)
(3) (4) II. PROVISION. "I laid meat unto them." Meat means food generally. To show the plenitude and riches of the Gospel provision it is represented in the Scriptures by a feast. The provision is found in the Scriptures. It is "laid unto you in the preaching of the Gospel." III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke? 1. The yoke of Judaism. 2. Of popery. 3. Of persecution. 4. Of bigotry. 5. Of ignorance. (William Jay.) (J. A. Gordon, D. D.)
III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke? 1. The yoke of Judaism. 2. Of popery. 3. Of persecution. 4. Of bigotry. 5. Of ignorance. (William Jay.) (J. A. Gordon, D. D.)
III. EMANCIPATION. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke?
1. The yoke of Judaism.
2. Of popery.
3. Of persecution.
4. Of bigotry.
5. Of ignorance.
(J. A. Gordon, D. D.)