Hosea 13:14
This sublime promise of mercy is imbedded among threatenings of judgment. It reminds us, both as it occurs here and in the connection in which the Apostle Paul quotes it (1 Corinthians 15:55), that although in our world "sin hath reigned unto death," it is the prerogative of the Almighty to rescue from the grasp of the grave, and even to abolish death itself. We may profitably consider some of the spheres within which the Lord has chosen to exercise this prerogative. The promise of our text applies to -

I. THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL Ever since the two captivities Israel has been, as it were, a dead nation The Jews have been dispersed over the world, and have not yet been able either to recover their national independence or to maintain their national worship But Hosea here assures his countrymen of future restoration and blessing, notwithstanding the final ruin of the kingdom of Ephraim. "The only meaning that the promise had for the Israelites of the prophet's day was that the Lord possessed the power even to redeem from death, and raise Israel from destruction into newness of life; just as Ezekiel (37.) depicts the restoration of Israel as the giving of life to the dry bones that lay scattered about the field" (Keil). But the future thus expressly predicted for Ephraim is more blissful than even Hosea, to whom this oracle was given, could readily, or perhaps possibly, conceive. Israel's restoration shall be spiritual. The captive Hebrews, so far and so long estranged from God, shall return to his favor. The very people who at last crowned their sinful career by "crucifying the Lord of glory" - a sin still more heinous than all the wickedness for which Hosea rebukes them - shall be made the subjects of a glorious future. "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10), and at last accept him as the Messiah. They shall become zealous and successful missionaries of the cross, and shall contribute largely to the bringing in of the world's jubilee (Romans 11:15).

II. THE REDEMPTION-WORK OF CHRIST. Students of the New Testament find a larger and deeper meaning in this glowing promise than that which would limit it to the resuscitation of Israel. To our consciousness the Lord, who is "the Plague of death," is Jehovah-Jesus. "He became incarnate" that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14, 15). As the great Teacher, he proclaimed himself to be "the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25); and he sealed this testimony by rebuking disease of every kind, and even raising the dead. Most of all, he was himself "obedient unto death;" and by his own decease upon the cross he has "ransomed his people from the power of the grave." Divine justice had put a dart into death's hand to slay us therewith for our sins; but Jesus, in dying for us, satisfied that justice, made adequate atonement for guilt, and received authority to take the dart away. By coming himself under the power of the grave, the Lord Jesus has "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). Of this victory his own resurrection upon the third day is an infallible assurance. In emerging from the grave as the risen Savior, Jesus revealed himself as "the Plague of death," and as the Source of spiritual life and Author of eternal salvation to his people. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20).

III. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE. Jehovah-Jesus is the Savior of the soul, and of the body also.

1. He redeems the soul from death. Is not the world of mankind like a vast graveyard, where men are lying "dead in trespasses and sins"? Sinful man is naturally destitute of the Spirit of life, and insensible to the beauties of holiness. He is unable to raise himself from the unclean tomb of his own evil lusts and passions. But, so soon as the voice of the Son of God speaks the word, "I will ransom them," the same almighty energy which gave life to Jesus himself, when dead, breathes new spiritual vitality into those for whom he died (John 5:21-27). "Because he lives, they shall live also" (John 14:19).

2. He shall redeem the body from death. The final ruin of the soul is called in Scripture "the second death" (Revelation 21:8); and, if the Lord Jesus can deliver from that, it is no wonder that he is also the Savior of the body. The order of redemption is that he redeems from the "second death" first; and thus the abolition of temporal death at the end of the world shall really be the destruction of" the last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:26). All men naturally regard "the king of terrors "as the most formidable and cruel of foes. The grave seems to the eye of sense only a despoiler (Proverbs 27:20). But it is the glory of Christianity that the Redeemer has robbed death of its sting, lighted up the under-world with his love, and given us the sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection. Faith sees hanging at the girdle of the Son of man "the keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:18). The grave is to the saints only an underground pathway to heaven, and "death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

"Death, thou wast once an uncouth, hideous thing:
But since our Savior's death Has put some blood into thy face,
Thou hast grown sure a thing to be desired
And full of grace."


(George Herbert.) It is also a great joy to know that the Lord's promise to redeem his people from death is certain to be fulfilled. He has passed his word for it; and, as he here assures us, "repentance shall be hid from his eyes." Multitudes of believers die in perfect peace, and some even in triumph, for they are conscious that he is "with them."

LESSONS.

1. The harmony of the Old and New Testaments in teaching that "unto God the Lord belong the issues from death."

2. Christ Jesus is the Lord, who by his Spirit exercises this prerogative, both as regards nations and individuals.

3. The alienation of the soul from God is a state of death - the most awful condition possible to man; and from that state he can only escape by being "born again."

4. The dissolution of the body is not death to the believer, but simply a lulling asleep in Jesus.

5. The doctrine that Christ is "the Resurrection and the Life" brings solid comfort in the hour of bereavement. - C.J.







I will ransom them from the power of the grave.
For long ages,, it must. have almost seemed as if God had forgotten His challenge. Death reigned from Adam to Moses"; from Moses to David, who "died and was buried"; and from David to Christ. One of the earliest chapters of the Bible (Genesis 5.) is a cemetery of the old world; and in the case of each the monotonous announcement follows, "and he died." The generations of mankind spring smiling and beautiful on mother earth, like the clover crops of successive years, as if to defy or with their charms to fascinate the tyrant reaper. But all to no avail. There were only two exceptions to the dread monotony of death — the rapture of Enoch, and the ascension of Elijah; they were like the early crocus or aconite, which announces the coming of the spring. All the rest died. At last He came in human form who had been fore-announced as death's death, the destined fulfiller of the promise of paradise. At least He will not succumb. He will not see death! Or if they meet, before one glance of His eyes, "which are as a flame of fire," surely death will wane as the moon when smitten by sunlight! But contrary to all that we might have thought, it was not so. He, too, the Prince of Life, having entered the lists with the fell tyrant, allowed Himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter. And it might have seemed therefore that none, not even God, could break the thrall of death. Such was the appearance; but not the fact. We are reminded of the old Greek story that when the city of Athens was doomed to supply each year a tribute of youths and maidens to the monster of Crete, the here Theseus embarked with the crew, and accompanied the victims that he might beard the dreadful ogre in his den, sad slaying him, for ever free his native city from the burden under which it groaned. So Christ through death abolished death, and "destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and delivered those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Here was fulfilled the Divine announcement, "O death, I will be thy plagues." Nor is this all. In the last vision vouchsafed to man of the ascended Christ, the keys of death are said to hang at His girdle, and He has the power to shut so that none can open, and to open so that none can shut. Nor is even this all. The day is not far distant when all His saints "that are in their graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth"; then shall be fulfilled the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory." Nor is even this all. The world of men is to participate in the resurrection power of death's victor. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." They shall come from the ages before the flood; from the foot of the pyramids, where the slaves of the Pharaohs mingled their dust with the bricks they made; from the earliest scenes of life, and from the latest; from the most enlightened races of mankind, and the most degraded; from the most warlike and the most peaceful tribes; cathedral vaults shall split and give up their contents; Marathon, Austerlitz, and Waterloo shall add their contributions; the sea shall give return of the harvest sown through the centuries. Nor is this all. All enemies are to be put beneath His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed by Emmanuel shall be death itself. In what its destruction shall consist we do not know; except that in that world which the King who sits upon the throne shall create, we are told, "There shall be no more death." No funeral cortege shall wind its way over the golden pavement. How gloriously then will God realise the words that glisten before our eyes this Easter morning! Already in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead we see that the empire of death is doomed. But, in the meanwhile, is there no comfort for us who are compelled to live in the valley shadowed by death? There is, because He goes beside us; and the Psalmist, who had spoken of Him in the third person, addresses Him in the second as that shadow comes nearer: "He restoreth my soul; Thou art with me." And if this should not be the case, and we were doomed to go down, each alone, to die, yet even then we need not be without solace. Death is abolished! The wasp struck its sting into the Cross of the dying Lord, and lost it there, and is now stingless for ever. The poison fang of the viper has been extracted; Goliath beheaded by his own sword. The teeth of the lion have been drawn.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

These words of mercy are found amidst words of judgment. In wrath God remembers mercy. Ephraim had been sentenced to temporal ruin, but now God speaks of their eternal redemption. Who has not painful associations with the grave! Death is a reaper whose sickle leaves not one sheaf ungathered. How blessed the thought that the gracious Lord Jesus hath entered upon the scene, to become the champion of His trusting people, and the subduer of their enemies. The word "ransom" signifies to rescue by the payment of a price. To "redeem" denotes the right of the nearest kinsman to acquire a thing for himself by the payment of a price. Both words describe what the holy Jesus has done. How may Christ be said to be the plague of death?

1. By the full discoveries He made concerning it.

2. In many of the miracles which He performed.

3. He is the death of death by His own death and resurrection. These were the chief means and instruments of His illustrious triumph.

4. By extending to His people all the benefits of His own death and resurrection. Neither in dying nor in living does He stand alone. He appears as the representative of others, and the fruits of His sufferings and sacrifice He imparts to every believer.

5. "By raising all His people from their graves. This is the first resurrection: blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection.

(A. Clayton Thiselton.)

O death, I will be thy plagues
By these words the prophet distinctly sets forth the power of God, and magnificently extols it, lest men should think that there is no way open to Him to save, when no hope according to the judgment of the flesh appears. Hence the prophet says, Though men are now dead, there is nothing to prevent God to quicken them. How so? For He is "the ruin of death, and the excision of the grave," — that is, "Though death should swallow up all men, though the grave should consume them, yet God is superior to both death and the grave, for He can slay death, for He can abolish the grave." We learn from this passage that when men perish God still continues like Himself, and that neither His power, by which He is mighty to save the world, is extinguished, nor His purpose changed, so as not to be always ready to help; but that the obstinacy of men rejects the grace which has been provided, and which God willingly and bountifully offers. This is one thing. We may secondly learn, that the power of God is not to be measured by our rule; were we lost a hundred times, let God be still regarded as a Saviour. Should, then, despair at any time so cast us down that we cannot lay hold on any of God's promises, let this passage come to our minds, which says that God is the excision of death and the destruction of the grave. "But death is nigh to us; what, then, can we hope for any more?" This is to say, that God is not superior to death; but when death claims so much power over men, how much more power has God over death itself? Let us then feel assured that God is the destruction of death, which means that death can no more destroy; that is, that death is deprived of that power by which men are naturally destroyed; and that though we may lie in the grave, God is yet the excision of the grave itself. Many interpreters, thinking this passage to be quoted by Paul, have explained what is here said of Christ, and have in many respects erred. They have said first, that God promises redemption here with out any condition; but we see that the design of the prophet was far different.

( John Calvin.)

There is no form of death more terrible than what is termed plague or pestilence, which are the names commonly given to any distemper that is peculiarly malignant and deadly in its character, and wide-spreading, or as the phrase is, epidemic in its progress. In the Hebrew language, destruction was another name for the grave, and is sometimes found joined with hell, when that word signifies the separate state of departed souls.

I. DEATH IS THE PLAGUE OF THE SINNER. A plague denotes anything that is troublesome and vexatious. The idea of death is to the sinner a perpetual source of uneasiness and pain. The sting of death is sin; and therefore the sting, the torment, the curse of a sinful life is death.

1. Contemplate death in connection with its forerunners. By which is meant everything of suffering and sorrow. These all tell us of death's approach.

2. View death in its attendants. What is death but just the grand unfathomed mystery of wonder and depth and fear which lies under life from its beginning to its close? The anticipated terror of death is dot its only attendant. It is accompanied with pain, the pain of separation and the pain of disease.

3. View death in its consequences. Its future and final consequences. (About which we say much, and know little.)

II. CHRIST IS THE PLAGUE OF DEATH. Where philosophy does nothing, and infidelity worse than nothing, Christianity steps in and does everything. The Lord Jesus has well earned to Himself this most expressive designation, "the pestilences of death."

1. Christ showed Himself the plague of death, by the full discoveries He made and the clear instructions He delivered regarding it. Until He appeared a thick cloud rested on the state of the dead. As the Sun of Righteousness, He dissipated the clouds which hung over the tomb, He poured a flood of light on the regions beyond it, He disclosed futurity in all its bliss and in all its woes.

2. Christ showed Himself the plague of death in many of the miracles He performed. Are disease and wretched ness "the concomitants of death"? It was His daily work of mercy to make distress vanish, and to chase away misery. But not satisfied with giving repeated checks to death's ministers, He trampled on the grim monster himself. See cases of raising the little maid, the widow's son, and Lazarus.

3. Christ showed Himself the plague of death by His own death and resurrection. These were the chief means and instruments of His illustrious triumph.

4. Christ has proved Himself, and will yet prove Himself, the plague of death, by extending to His people all the benefits of His own death and resurrection. Neither in dying nor in living does He stand alone; He appears as the representative of others, and the fruits of His every toil and suffering and sacrifice He imparts to His believing and beloved people.

(N. Morrew, A. M.)

Homilist.
Primarily, these words apply to God's restoration of Israel from Assyria — partially and in times yet future, fully from all the lands of their present long-continued dispersion and political death.

1. Here is the great conqueror called the "death and the grave." What a conqueror is death!

(1)Heartless, dead to all appeals.

(2)Resistless. Bulwarks, battalions, castles are nothing before him.

(3)Universal, his eyes fastened on the world.

(4)Ever active.

2. Here is the great conqueror of the world conquered. Who? "I am the resurrection and the life, whoso believeth in Me shall never die." How has He conquered death? Not by weakening his power or arresting his progress, for he is as mighty and active as ever, but by stripping him of his terror.

(Homilist.)

Our text is not all solemnity; it also Wakens within the mind emotions of deep and heartfelt joy.

I. THE TIME IS COMING WHEN THE RAVAGES OF DEATH SHALL BE FOR EVER ENDED. Death is always at work. He is never tired. And all alike are seized by him as his victims. The ravages of death! How the mind sinks in despondency as it contemplates what death has done! And the ravages are sometimes sudden. Then, how blessed is the assurance that the time is coming when the promise of the text shall be fulfilled.

II. THEN ALL THE DESIGN OF THE ATONEMENT WILL BE FULFILLED. When Adam sinned he flung over the sunshine and joy of God's world the shadow of the tomb. When Jesus entered the world He came to dissipate that shadow, and bring back sunshine and joy by bringing life and immortality to light. The design of the atonement is to be fulfilled; it is not altogether fulfilled yet.

III. THEN THE GLOOMY ASSOCIATIONS OF THE GRAVE WILL BE ALL FORGOTTEN. Now it is not possible to think of the grave without gloomy thoughts. But that grave shall one day be destroyed, and all its sad memories shall be blotted out.

IV. WHEN THESE WORDS ARE FULFILLED THE WHOLE FAMILY OF GOD WILL BE REUNITED FOR EVER. The family of God is scattered now. Part is triumphant in heaven, and part is still militant upon earth. We shall all meet again, where partings are for ever unknown.

(W. Meynell Whittemore, S. C. L.)

This is bold and striking language. Death has ever shown himself to be no respecter of persons. The wide extent of death's dominion is so universally admitted that it were a waste of time to adduce any argument in its proof. In order to the right understanding of this passage we must have regard to the early history of man. During the whole period of the Old Testament history intimations were given of a coming Saviour, and every promise, as well as every type, had reference to the blessings of His kingdom. There is something peculiarly striking in the language here employed. Never does death appear in a more terrific form than when, by plague or pestilence, thousands are swept away as in a moment. Under whatever aspect death is presented to our notice in the sacred Volume, it is associated with sin; it appears as its result: It is sin that arms death with all its poison, and renders it so truly dreadful, What is it that gives to sin its condemning power? "The strength of sin is the law." "Sin is the transgression of the law." Then, how has the Son of God achieved the victory predicted in our text? For the accomplishment of man's redemption the Son of God assumed the form of humanity, endured the Cross, and rose again from the dead. For us there is a bright and glorious prospect of final triumph over the darkness and desolation of the grave.

(E. Pizey, B. A.)

S. S. Chronicle.
There are mountain streams which, after flowing a little way in a broken current, are lost to sight. But far down the mountain they reappear, no longer tossed and restless, but peaceful as they flow toward the sea. So our restless lives roll in rocky channels but a little way on earth; but beyond the grave they too will reappear, realising all the peace and joy of Christ, and thus flow on for ever. For since Christ has risen again, all who believe in Him have the certainty of an endless life in His presence.

(S. S. Chronicle.)

Christian World.
An untaught Englishman, standing at Dover when a mist lies over the Channel, might think an endless ocean was before him. When it lifts a resident tells him that what he sees is not merely France, but Europe and Asia. The intervening sea, though lashed by storms, is but a little thing. There was a mist hanging over the Straits of Death, and people thought them a shoreless ocean; Jesus lifted the mist, and men saw there was a boundless continent on the other side.

(Christian World.)

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