Hosea 14:1
The long and terrible storm of denunciation is now at last over; the wrath-clouds roll away, and the sunshine of the Divine love bursts forth with healing in its wings. Beyond all the hurly-burly of the tempest sent as the punishment of sin, the prophet discerns the paternal tenderness and the loving patience of the God of Israel. So he begins this closing chapter of his book with a last tender entreaty to return to him who "sitteth upon the flood," and who "will bless his people with peace." How changed the prophet's style, in this final strophe, from what it is in most of the preceding! When denouncing Ephraim's sin and doom Hoses is obscure, abrupt, rugged, and volcanic; but in Hosea 14. all is pellucid and restful and full of beauty. The whirlwind and the earthquake and the fire have given place to the still small voice. The subject in these opening verses is - The beginnings of spiritual revival. In its rise there are three stages.

I. THE LORD BESEECHING. (Ver. 1.) As applied to Israel, the exhortation has for its background all the judgments which have been threatened throughout the Book. And since these words were written Israel "has fallen" indeed. The ten tribes were soon carried into Assyria; Judah was by-and-by driven away to weep beside the rivers of Babylon; regained Jerusalem was at length fiercely overthrown by the Romans; and for eighteen centuries now the Jews have been dispersed over the wide world, and exposed to reproach and persecution and cruelty. All this has been the punishment of Israel's own "iniquity" - the political schism, the calf-worship, the Baalism, the godless pride, the unblushing immorality, and at last the rejection and murder of the Son of God. Jehovah could not avoid punishing; he could not but allow the apostate nation to lie under its doom during centuries and millenniums; but all the while the Divine heart is saying, "O Israel, return!" How wonderful that the eternal God should condescend to entreat men to repent! But "the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations" (Psalm 100:5). If, however, there is to be salvation, there must be repentance, and all true repentance takes its rise in the call of God's Spirit. The Lord seeks the sinner with his grace before the sinner can seek him. And thus "Return unto the Lord" is the burden of the entire revelation of the Bible; it is the key-note of all Hebrew prophecy, as of all New Testament gospel. Not only so, but in this passage God also condescends to direct the people as to the thoughts and words" with which they may acceptably approach him in complying with his urgent entreaty (vers. 2, 8). How different all this from "the manner of man"!

II. THE PENITENT PRAYING. (Ver. 2.) This verse and ver. 3 form a sort of "Lord's Prayer" for backsliders. God desires no longer the animal sacrifices of the Law; indeed, the twelve tribes cannot in their exile offer any, for the temple-worship has now ceased. But he requires "words which shall be the evidence of a broken and a contrite heart." Even these, however, he here provides for his penitent children. "What need God words? He knows our hearts before we speak unto him. It is true, God needs no words; but we do, to stir up our hearts and affections" (Sibbes). Although the Lord does not now demand sacrifices, the kind of" words" which he asks recalls to our minds the three principal forms of sacrifice ordained by the Levitical Law, viz. the propitiatory, the dedicatory, and the eucharistic, represented respectively by the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering. In a true return to God there will be:

1. Words of confession. "Take away all iniquity." A child who has done wrong recovers his father's favor so soon as he confesses his fault; so Jehovah's children, who have made themselves "fatherless' by their apostasy, take the first step in the direction of" finding mercy ' when they "return up to" (ver. 1) him with words of repentance. The penitent draws near with the leper's confession, "Unclean! Unclean!" and with the publican's prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner." His first and deepest need is pardon; he wants mercy for the past, and grace to help for the future. He prays to be delivered from the power of evil; and pleads, in doing so, the merit of Jesus Christ as his Sin Offering.

2. Words of dedication. "Receive us graciously;" literally, "receive good." The barrier of sin being removed through faith in the atonement, the next step in revival is the presentation of the person "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God" (Romans 12:1). It is true that of ourselves we have no good which we can offer; but we are to give to the Lord of his own. The grace which he bestows upon us we are to employ in his service and for his glory. The Christian dedicates his renewed humanity, in body and soul, to his Redeemer (Micah 6:6-8).

3. Words of thanksgiving. "So will we render the calves of our lips," i.e. we shall offer our lips as a peace offering, instead of calves. The praise of a redeemed heart is an acceptable sacrifice, and "shall please the Lord better than a bullock that hath horns and hoots" (Psalm 69:31). The soul that has been forgiven much loves much, and should therefore overflow with thanksgiving and praise (Hebrews 13:15). Such are the three sorts of "words" which God expects from all who "return" to him. He wants words of confession like those of Psalm 51.; of self-dedication, like those of Psalm 116.; of thanksgiving, like those of Psalm 103. And, now that Christ has come, these are "the sacrifices of God," alike for the sons of Israel and for sinners of the Gentiles.

III. THE PENITENT RENOUNCING CREATURE-CONFIDENCES. (Ver. 3.) After the threefold word-sacrifice, comes the promise of practical amendment and reformation. Israel resolves to forsake his great national sins, viz. his habit of looking for help to Assyria, his reliance upon the cavalry of Egypt or other warlike strength, and his idolatry of Baal and the calves. The people will show the sincerity of their conversion by endeavors after new obedience. They will realize that away from God they are helpless orphans; and, in all their approaches to him, appeal to his "mercy "as the "Father of the fatherless," This is just what every sinner must do in returning to the Lord. We all have Asshurs and horses and idols which we must abjure. If we will "return quite up to Jehovah our God" (ver. 1) we must put away confidence in every creature-help, and in any defense which is our own handiwork. We may have been "glued to idols" (Hosea 4:17); but we must at any cost tear them out of our hearts, even although the soul should seem to be rent asunder in the process. For true conversion implies perfect union to the Lord Jesus Christ, perpetual communion with the Holy Spirit, and persevering progress in the ways of holiness. We obey "the first and great commandment," and fulfill the chief end of our being, when we choose Jehovah as the Portion of our souls, and give him our supreme and constant and most tender love.

LESSONS.

1. The mercy of God to sinners is untiring and indestructible (ver. 1).

2. Now that Christ has died as our Sin Offering, we plead his atonement as the ground on which we ask the Lord to "take away all iniquity" (ver. 2).

3. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit," and contrition always manifests itself in prayer (ver. 2).

4. To obey is better than sacrifice" (ver. 3).

5. The penitent sinner and the backsliding believer have this assuring motive to induce them to return to God, that, however they may be scorned by their fellow-men, they are sure of a warm welcome from him who is the "Father of the fatherless." - C.J.







O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God.
While the freeness of God's mercy is the leading idea suggested by the text, it is not the only one: the condition of our nature is accurately expressed, as is the mode by which alone it can be ameliorated.

I. THE STATE INTO WHICH MAN HAS BROUGHT HIMSELF. There are few things more important than the fastening on the sinner all the blame of his sin. Adam might have obeyed the simple injunction, and, holding on his probation, might have won for himself and his descendants a hereafter fenced up against the spoiler. God foreknew that Adam would transgress, and prepared for the contingency. We can see that if there had been no ruin there could have been no restoration. The work of redemption takes, of course, for granted the apostasy of our race. On Adam must be fastened all the blame of his transgression. There was no extenuating plea which the offender could in justice have urged. The blame of the fall belongs individually to man. Thou hast not fallen through an inherent inability to stand; He has so constituted thee that thou mightest have stood. Thou hast not fallen through the ground being slippery, and thick-set with snares. He placed thee where thy footing was firm, and thy pathway direct. So that upon man himself comes home wholly all the effect of the fall. We argue from this the unqualified gratuitousness of God's interposition on man's behalf. In whatever degree there may be a necessity of sinning, in no degree is there a necessity of perishing. God places no man in such a moral condition that our falling into perdition is unavoidable. Let a man have once heard of Christ, and from that moment forward salvation is within arm's length of this man. Man can have no right to take off the burthen of responsibilities and cast it on the secret decrees of his Maker.

II. THE MODE OF MAN'S DELIVERANCE. "Return unto the Lord thy God." It comes not within our power to destroy or diminish God's title to our service. The fall did not do away with God's claim on man. Some teach that God proportions His demands to our impaired capacities, and will be satisfied with the honest endeavour, seeing that we cannot come up to the thorough performance. But this is making God answerable for the apostasy of man. We may, however, gather an inference of consolation as well as one of admonition. There is the groundwork of hope, that God will yet look mercifully upon us, and restore us, seeing that, notwithstanding our alienation, He is still our God. Man of himself hath no power to turn unto God; but since God invites, He surely enables. He bestows all requisite assistance, and a clear pathway has been made.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

In the history of the children of Israel we see the perverseness and ingratitude of man, and the forbearance and goodness of God. Israel's sins were peculiarly aggravated by their having been committed after repeated and wonderful deliverances, after signal chastisements and mercies. At the period of Hosea's prophecy Israel's continued rebellion against God had nearly exhausted His patience toward that people. Though these words were primarily addressed to Israel, we shall consider them —

I. AS CONVEYING A GRACIOUS EXHORTATION TO ALL SINNERS TO "RETURN UNTO THE LORD."

1. We must "return unto the Lord" with consideration. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways."

2. With weeping and supplication. A proper review of our past follies and perverse wanderings, and of God's mercies and patience towards us, will produce sorrow of heart, will cause tears of compunction to flow.

3. With humility. Our lofty imaginations and high opinion of ourselves must be brought low.

4. Through the Mediator. We cannot expect to find mercy unless, we seek mercy through Christ. Of this righteousness, not our own, we must make mention.

5. Without delay. This may be urged from the shortness and uncertainty of life, and from the greatness of the work which we have to do.

II. AS DECLARING THE REASONABLENESS OF THE EXHORTATION. "For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." The text is applicable to the case of backsliders who have fallen from their steadfastness. But all mankind have fallen from God. Adam fell, and in him fell all his posterity.

1. Man is fallen from the favour of God, and is under the displeasure of God.

2. Man is fallen under the dominion of sin and the curse of the law.

3. Man is fallen into the snares and power of the devil.

4. Man, if not recovered by Divine grace, will at last fall into the bottomless pit.Apply to those who are still in their fallen state, and are wandering from God.

1. Yield to the solemn and affecting truth that you have fallen by your iniquity, and let this truth stir you up to inquire with solicitude, "What must I do to be saved?"

2. Listen to God's gracious invitation, and believe His willingness to receive you.

3. Contemplate what has been done to accomplish the great work of your redemption.

4. Consider the awful doom of the finally impenitent transgressor.

(E. Edwards.)

The Divine love is content with nothing less than return. And nothing less and nothing else will give safety. There must not only be a cessation of the present journey, but a definite and conclusive retracement of the steps. What the prophet sighs for, and what his God so earnestly commands, is not the mere inactive terror of proceeding onwards when the fiery abyss stretches to the view, nor the attempt, while that terror lasts, to breathe a hasty vow or utter a disordered prayer. What the Divine love insists on is a decided and complete retreat, such as when, conscious of peril and aware of only one refuge, and that in God, he eagerly seeks Him with the whole heart. "I will arise and go to my Father" is his earnest and practical resolution.

(John Eadie, D. D. , LL. D.)

I. THE LORD'S ADDRESS UNTO HIS BACKSLIDING ONES. "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God." God glorifies His sanctifying grace in some, and His pardoning grace in others. Let the children of God be in what state they may, as it respects their acts of grace or sin, this makes no alteration in the Lord's love unto them. As they have the body of sin and death dwelling within them, there is a continual propensity in their fallen natures, to slide into themselves, and to backslide from the Lord Jesus Christ. Israel's case was extreme. Be could not return unto the Lord by any strength of his own. He must be fallen by his iniquity into a state and kind of desperation. This was the fruit of his iniquity. It is the Lord Himself who here speaks. He does so in the language of commiseration. From these words what an infinity of grace and blessed encouragement may be derived, so as to encourage the people of the Lord to trust and hope in Him. None but backsliders know and feel the sorrows which arise from the same.

II. ONE SUBSTANTIAL REASON FOR THE RETURN OF BACKSLIDING ISRAEL TO GOD. "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God." It lies in their relation to Him, and His relation to them. All sin is the effect of unbelief. Every act of departure from the Lord is the fruit of it; let it be mental, or let it be open and manifest. Backsliders need great encouragement, even from the Lord Himself, to return to Him. He is pleased to give it them. The interest the Lord God hath in His people can never be broken in upon, neither can their interest in Him ever be impaired or cease. It is always the same on both sides. The intercourse between the Lord and His people may be interrupted. But God is immutable in His love and mercy.

III. THE REASON MADE USE OF TO HASTEN GOD'S PEOPLE'S RETURN TO HIM. "Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." The mercy of God in Christ Jesus exceeds the very uttermost of our minds to receive any adequate ideas of. Guilt in the conscience produces fear in the heart; so long as we indulge the same it weakens our faith and keeps us from Christ.

(Samuel Eyles Pierce.)

In Hosea's days idolatry was first universally set up and countenanced by regal power. Here we have —

I. AN EXHORTATION TO REPENTANCE, WITH THE MOTIVES ENFORCING THE SAME. Every word hath its weight, and in a manner is an argument to enforce this returning. "Israel" is a word of covenant. Return unto the "Lord Jehovah," who is the chief good, the fountain of all good. "Thy" God in covenant, who will make good His gracious covenant unto thee. Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity; thine own inventions have brought these miseries upon thee, and none but God can help thee out of these miseries. God comes not as a sudden storm upon His people, but gives them warning before He smites them. He is a God of long-suffering, and has a special regard to His own children. Another point —

II. THE BEST PROVISION FOR PREVENTING OF DESTRUCTION IS SPIRITUAL MEANS. Of all spiritual means the best is, to return to the Lord. In this returning there must be a stop. To make this stop there must be examination and consideration, humiliation and displeasure against ourselves, judging and taking revenge of ourselves, for our ways and courses. There must be a resolution to overcome impediments. In the original it is a very emphatic, "Return even to Jehovah." Do not only begin to return, but so return as you never cease coming till you come to Jehovah. Where there is a falling into sin there will be a falling into misery and judgment. The cause of every man's misery is his own sin. Then take heed of sin. Pray to God to make our way plain before us, and not to lead us into temptation. "Take with you words." They who would have help and comfort against all sins and sorrows must come to God with words of prayer. Barrenness and want of words to go unto God are blameworthy. This is for consolation: if they can take words, and can pray well, they shall speed well.

( Sibbes, Richard, D. D.)

You may sometimes see in the ocean a pile of rock rising steeply to a considerable height, and having on it here and there, where a patch of soil covers it, the remains of what was once a luxuriant vegetation. If you examine it, and also the mainland a few furlongs off, you will come to the conclusion that they were at one time, now long gone by, united together. They have become separated by the action of the sea. At first there was but a small inlet, scarcely large enough for a single boat to anchor in; this was gradually enlarged by the incessant beating of the surf until it became a broad bay, and at last the sea, striking with more and more force upon the cliffs every year, cut its way completely through, and now what was once part of the mainland is but a solitary and desolate isle. One of the most direct and appalling effects of sin is the breach which it makes between the human heart and God. Man is made in the likeness of God; he is an offspring of the Divine thought and love; he is endowed with the same moral and spiritual capacities as those which God Himself possesses; but let sin be suffered to find an entrance into his heart, and, like the gnawing, devouring, destructive sea, it will eat away all the holy and sacred ties which bind his:heart to God, and cut him off from God, and leave him inwardly lonely and desolate.

(B. Wilkinson, F. G. S.)

As long as the bright summer sun shines into the forest glades the fungus has no chance to flourish; but when the sunshine wanes, in the months of autumn, the woods are filled with these strange products of decay. It is because we drift from God that our lives are the prey to numberless and nameless ills. Make the best of all new starts, and returning to the more earnest habits of earlier days, or beginning them from now, give yourself to God, believing that He will receive and welcome you, without a word of remonstrance or a moment of interval. Form habits of morning and evening prayer; especially in the morning get time for deep communion with God, waiting at His footstool, or in the perusal of the Bible, till He speaks to you. Take up again your habits of attendance at the house of God: in the morning and the evening go with the multitude that, with the voice of praise, keeps holy-day, and in the afternoon find some niche of the Christian service, in your home or elsewhere. Then, inasmuch as you do not wish to be a slip-carriage, which, when the couplings are unfastened, runs for a little behind the express, but gets slower and slower till it comes to a stand, ask the grace of the Holy Spirit to confirm these holy desires, keeping you true to them, causing you to be steadfast, immovable, and set on maintaining life on a higher level.

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

Bianconi, the introducer of the car system in Ireland, on leaving his home in Italy, found his most trying leave-taking in separating from his mother. She fainted as he left her. Her last words were words which he never forgot: "When you remember me, think" of me as waiting at this window watching for your return." We may think of God in the same way if we have departed from Him at all. In spite of all our faults, all our sins, He is always watching for our return, for "His mercy endureth for ever."

For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity
The sight of fallen greatness is exceedingly affecting to the mind of a thoughtful man, and excites inquiries concerning the cause or causes of it. The prophet looked on the kingdom of Israel fallen from its past strength and honour, and declares the cause of the fall to be — iniquity.

I. THE FALL BY SIN IS THE MOST GRIEVOUS IN HUMAN EXPERIENCE.

1. The fall by sin is from the highest relationships the soul can enjoy. No relationships, how distinguished and valued soever, can equal those of God, There are none so essential to the soul's good and safety. Without holiness no true relationship with Him can be sustained.

2. The fall by sin is from life's great purpose. Short as life is, it has a great mission to fulfil. Eternal life has to be secured. The world's truest good has to be promoted. Sin causes a lamentable failure.

3. The fall by sin is a loss of truest power. A right life wields a great influence. No power can be compared with that of a holy character. This power is lost by sin.

4. The fall by sin is from truest content of soul. The hallowed quiet and peace depart. Painful misgivings and pangs of remorse tear the breast. The consciousness of guilt prevents the light and joy of hope.

II. THIS FALL IS THE INEVITABLE RESULT OF SIN. The course of sin is the act of man's free will. But if he choose the path he cannot escape the ruin.

1. The path of sin leads to ruin.

(1)The pleasures of the way cannot avert the consequences.

(2)The fall may be delayed, but it will come.

2. None can pursue the path of sin and escape the ruin. The individual cannot; the Church cannot; the nation cannot.

III. FOR THIS FALL MAN HIMSELF IS RESPONSIBLE. He falls by his own iniquity,

1. None can compel another to sin.

2. As none can compel another to sin, so none can compel his fall.Apply —

1. Sin with such power and consequences should have our intensest hate, and should be guarded against.

2. He who is fallen should forsake his sin, and seek mercy and grace from God. God's mercy can cover the past, and His grace can sanctify and secure the future.

(Rombeth.)

So the admonition of Hosea has ended, and the note of destruction has been sounded. It only remains to look for a remnant out of the fallen nation, which by repentance and faithfulness may plead with God for their own rescue if not for the nation's restoration. Hope, unwilling to be quenched in the pious patriarch's breast, suggests words of returning to God, to relinquishment of human politics, and reliance on His faithfulness. To such a remnant, be it small or great, the everlasting mercy of God offers out of the jaws of ruin, as out of death and the grave, the possibility of return to Him who is not afar from every one of us. If there are any that will understand, let them not charge their Maker with folly. He has dealt justly by sinful Israel, and will deal mercifully with all men repentant.

(Rowland Williams, D. D.)

God seems to find an argument in the very fact of our fall. He is moved with compassion at the spectacle. He sees from what a height to what a depth man has fallen.

1. The call to return implies that we had wandered away. Our fall has indeed been occasioned by our wandering. All sin originates in the apostasy of the human heart from God. Sin would never have entered human hearts, and defiled the lives of men, if man had been true to his primal relations with God. As with the race, so with the individual. Moral deterioration and corruption naturally and necessarily ensue from the apostasy of the soul from God. Evil works naturally flow from the corrupt condition. The fallen soul not only loses contact and fellowship with God, but comes under the influence of a certain feeling of aversion, and almost of antipathy, towards God which leads him to shrink from the very thought of God. The apostate man is fallen not only in position, but in character. Innocence has been forfeited instead of being developed, and sin reigns where moral beauty should be crowned. Man needs no revelation to convince him of his fall. He alone of all the animals fails to live up to his own proper ideal, and violates in many cases systematically the laws of his own nature. Fallen in position and character, he is fallen in conduct also. Then the first thing needful for the fallen and falling is to return to God. He who invites us wants us to come back to Him.

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

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