Hosea 14:4
So soon as Israel shall return to Jehovah and offer the foregoing words of self-condemning supplication (vers. 2, 3), they shall receive a glad welcome from him "who delighteth in mercy," and who will not "keep his anger for ever." The first clauses of this answer of blessing remind us that there are three results of religious revival which begin to be experienced at once. These are "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," in the form of healing; "the love of God," in the gift of positive and full salvation; "and the communion of the Holy Ghost," as manifested in the enjoyment of Divine influence. The answer corresponds to the prayer of the penitents, only that the blessings promised are even larger and richer than those which have been asked.

I. SPIRITUAL HEALING. "I will heal their backsliding" (ver. 4); or rather, "their falling away; ' "their apostasy." The Lord will remove the injuries which his people's apostasy has brought upon them, and will cure them of the malignant disease itself. This blessing of healing includes

(1) the forgiveness of sin;

(2) deliverance from its pollution;

(3) the cure of the tendency to backslide; and

(4) removal of the chastisements and sorrows which past guilt has entailed.

How does God heal all these wounds? He does so by the application of the blood of Christ. That blood is the one unfailing salve for the sinner's conscience and heart, and it procures also his redemption from all future evil. All men, Jew and Gentile alike, who accept the gospel message, receive such healing in our time; and in "the latter days" this gracious promise shall be completely fulfilled in the national conversion of Israel, as well as in the "coming in" of "the fullness of the Gentiles."

II. FULL SALVATION. "I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him" (ver. 4). Jehovah's wrath being gone, and his people's apostasy healed, his generous love is now free to go forth without restraint. He finds in his people themselves, it is true, no cause why he should love them. In himself the backsliding sinner is repulsive and unlovely; and the only acceptable gift which he can bring when he returns is merely feelings and "words (ver. 2). But, as a mother's love for her child is not based upon the child's character, or upon the return which he makes for her goodness, so also love is instinctive and natural to the Divine heart. He loves freely," or spontaneously, just because he himself "is love." The Lord heals his people's backslidings by discovering anew to their souls the greatness of his tender mercy towards them. His wonderful love leads him first to be the soul's Physician, and then to become its Husband. His free favor bestows upon the healed one the health of holiness, and continues to be the springing well-head of the believer's salvation.

III. DIVINE INFLUENCE. "I will be as the dew unto Israel" (ver. 5). This promise announces the reversal of the curse of barrenness recorded in Hosea 13:15. We think of Jehovah as being "the dew" in connection with the gracious operations of his Spirit. He rewards the prayer and the life of penitence, and evinces his free love to his people, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. There are many points of analogy between the descent of the dew and the work of the Spirit. The Divine dew, like the natural, is:

1. Mysterious and heavenly. It has its source high above us The falling of the dew is independent of man's skill and power (Micah 5:7; Job 38:28); much less are the workings of grace the result of any human process (John 3:3-8).

2. Gentle and silent. No one sees or hears the dew falling, and experience alone has taught man that it is really an important force of nature. Similarly the grace of the Spirit "cometh not with observation" (Luke 17:20). It works on in secrecy, and becomes visible only in its beneficent results upon character and life.

3. Abundant. In Palestine the dew is so copious as to compensate to some extent for the absence of rain. The Divine dew, in like manner, is often seen to be most abundant, especially in a time of religious revival. The work of the Spirit may influence for much good an entire Church, or even a whole nation, so as to enrich its life as a Christian community.

4. Penetrative. The dew pierces the soil, and insinuates itself into the fibers of every herb and plant; so the Holy Ghost, using the Divine Word, "pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit" (Hebrews 4:12), and searches through the whole nature of man, to purify and bless it.

5. Given daily. "The grace of God, like the dew, is not given once for all, but is day by day waited for, and day by day renewed. Yet doth it not pass away, like the fitful goodness of God's former people (Hosea 6:4), but turns into the growth and spiritual substance of those on whom it descends" (Pusey).

6. Refreshing and fertilizing. The dew produces verdure and fruitfulness. So the constant presence of the Holy Spirit within the soul and in the Church is essential to spiritual freshness and usefulness. The clauses that follow (vers. 5-8) show that this is the main point of the emblem as employed here, and trace with exceeding beauty of poetic diction the results of the Lord's gracious activity when he comes "as the dewy He shall so come in "the last days" - blessed be his Name! - "unto Israel," i.e. to his ancient people; and not to them only, but to the whole Israel of God, of every nation, who follow spiritually in the footsteps of Abraham.

LESSONS.

1. Apostasy is a malignant soul-malady, which, if not arrested by the great Healer, will lead to final perdition. If we would be preserved from it, we must avoid habits of backsliding.

2. What a ground of hope to the penitent, and of comfort to the believer, is the "freeness" or spontaneity of the Divine love!

3. The absolute dependence of the individual and the Church upon the work of the Holy Spirit. - C.J.







I will heal their backsliding.
In the history of the Israelites there is no feature more striking than their frequent rebellions and backslidings. It is amazing to think that a nation which had witnessed such signal interposition of the Divine power in their behalf could be found backsliding to such a degree. Oh, the unfathomable depths of Divine compassion! God has mercy to heal the backslidings of His people.

I. THE CASE OF THE BACKSLIDER. It is the most awful to be found within the pale of the professing Christian Church. There is a wide difference between his case and that of the unawakened and unconverted sinner. For a man to become an apostate; to relapse into deliberate sin; with all his light, knowledge, and advantages, to sin openly and wilfully, — what ingratitude is implied in this, what treachery and baseness! The most awful condition on this side hell is that of him whose once awakened conscience is now seared as with a hot iron; whose once melted heart is turned into worse than its original flintiness; whose once enlightened mind is given over to judicial blindness. Yet even such a case is not beyond the reach of Divine compassion. To human eyes it is indeed incurable. It is a cancer which spreads its fibres through the entire system, the disease which mocks at human cures. But God says, "I will heal their back. sliding."

II. THE MEANS GOD EMPLOYS IN HEALING THE BACKSLIDER. He is not limited in the selection or use of means; but He acts, generally speaking, by bringing the backslider into the wilderness of affliction, and by turning the idol which seduced him away from his God, into his scourge. It may be the idol of sensual pleasure, of fame, or of gold. By and by he will awaken to a full sense of his danger and misery. His God forsaken, his Saviour betrayed, his hopes of heaven blasted! He let go the substance to grasp at the shadow. The idol which led him from God has become his curse. As he journeys on in this wilder. ness, in despair and wretchedness, thinking he has turned his back for ever on happiness and peace, then it is that a new and unexpected prospect bursts upon his sight! An unthought of opening presents itself. Through the long vista he catches a glimpse of a bright and glorious expanse. God gives him his vineyards from these. "The valley of Achor becomes a door of hope." God brings the backslider to himself by another route than he ever thought of. Let us remember, for our own warning and heart-searching, that there may be many a backslider in heart, where there is no open and manifest defection from the ways of godliness.

(Denis Kelly, B. A.)

Their alienation was not only offensive to God, it was also hurtful to themselves. It had brought spiritual malady upon them. Jehovah assumes the function of healer, and He expects what He promises. The God whom they had offended does not suffer them to perish, nor spurn them away as loathsome; but He revives and quickens them. The gangrene disappears, and they return to soundness and health, with the assured prospect of coming at length to the fulness of the stature of perfect men.

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

In this verse is set down an answer to that prayer, repentance, and reformation which the Church made. Where God doth give a spirit of prayer, He will answer. God answers exactly unto all that is prayed for, beginning first with the ground of all comfort, the forgiveness of sins. Backsliding is an aggravation of sin. Sins rank thus —

1. Sins of ignorance.

2. Sins of infirmity.

3. Sins against knowledge.

4. Sins against the Holy Ghost.In that God's promise is "I will heal," observe that sin is a wound and a disease. Sin, as disease, arises either from ourselves, as we have a seminary of them in our own hearts; or from the infection and contagion of others; or from Satan, who hath society with our spirits. In regard to its effects, sin is like a disease. Diseases neglected breed death; they become incurable. This is the end of sin, either to end in a good despair, or in a fruitless, barren despair. How may we know that we are sick of this sickness and disease of sin? If the soul be inflamed with revenge and anger, that soul is certainly diseased: the temper of the soul is according to the passions thereof. If a man cannot relish good diet, then we count him a sick man; so when a man cannot relish holy discourse, nor the ordinances of God. A man may know there is a deadly sickness upon the soul, when he is senseless of his wounds; and senseless of that which passeth from them. A man is desperately soul-sick when oaths, lies, and deceitful speeches pass from him, and yet he is senseless of them. Let us know and consider, that no man who lives in sins unrepented of and uncured is to be envied, be he never so great. Let there be no dallying with sin. God is the great physician of the soul. Healing implies taking away —

1. The guilt of sin, which is the venom of it, by justification.

2. The rage of sin, which is the spreading of it, by sanctification.

3. The removing of the judgment upon our estate.Sense of pardon only comes after sight, sense, weariness, and confession of sin. Let us remember this, lest we deceive our souls.

( Sibbes, Richard, D. D.)

This word imports a departing or a turning away again from God. It is quite contrary, in the formal nature of it, to faith and repentance, and implies that which the apostle calls a "repenting of repentance." For a man, having approved of God's ways, and entered into covenant with Him, after this to go from his word, and fling up his bargain, and start aside like a deceitful bow; of all other dispositions of the soul, this is one of the worst; to deal with our sins as Israel did with their servants, dismiss them and then take them again (Jeremiah 34:10, 11). It is the sad fruit of an evil and unbelieving heart. Yet God says, "I will heal their backslidings." To understand this aright, we are to know that there is a twofold apostasy.

1. An apostasy arising out of impotency of affection and prevalency of lust, drawing the heart to look toward the old pleasures thereof again: it is a recidivation or relapse into a former sinful condition out of forgetfulness and falseness of heart, for want of the fear of God to balance the conscience and to fix and unite the heart to Him. Though exceedingly dangerous, yet God is sometimes pleased to forgive and to heal this disease.

2. An apostasy which is proud and malicious, when, after they "have tasted the good Word of God," men set themselves to hate, oppose, and persecute godliness, to do "despite unto the Spirit of grace," to fling off the holy strictness of Christ's yoke. Observe

(1)We should beware of backsliding, above all other sins.

(2)We should not be so terrified by any sin, which our soul mourns and labours under, and our heart turns from, as thereby to be withheld from going to the Physician for pardon and healing.

(Jeremiah Burroughs.)

I will love them freely
We observe God's acknowledgment or consideration of all the three points embraced in the supplication of the truly penitent. God healeth in four different ways, and each mode embraces all the others.

1. By a gracious pardon.

2. By a spiritual and effectual reformation, by enabling, us to walk in newness of life, by making us holy, even as He is holy.

3. By removing judgments which sin brought upon the sufferer, whether nationally or individually.

4. By comforting. This mode of restoring health to the soul is one of Christ's principal works. The Lord is very minute and distinct in marking every article in the penitent's prayer. Ephraim not only besought mercy to have all his iniquity taken away, but also that He who took away all sin, should, at the same time, receive good gifts in his behalf. Jehovah, accordingly, does not only promise, "I will heal their backsliding," but proceeds to say moreover, "I will love them freely." This is the fundamental principle of Gospel truth. Ephraim gave a reason for his entire dependence, henceforth and for ever, upon the Lord, which was, "For in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy." We can do nothing on our part to obtain the mercy vouchsafed unto us; for God said, "I will love them freely." It is out of man's power to deserve God's love. Another consideration must be borne in mind, not to incur God's wrath again.

(Moses Margoliouth, B. A.)

Here the heart of our Heavenly Father is opened to us in the declarations of His free, royal, and incomprehensible mercy. This as far surpasses our sins and sinfulness as His self-existent Godhead does our creature capacities.

1. The Lord's free grace in healing the backsliding of His people.

2. The manner in which this is made known to them.

3. The way and means by which they receive the inward sense and benefit thereof.

(Samuel Eyles Pierce.)

St. Austin says, "Those that are to petition great persons, they will obtain some who are skilful to frame their petitions; lest by their unskilfulness they provoke anger, instead of carrying away the benefit desired." So it is here with God's people, being to deal with the great God, and not being able to frame their own petitions. God answers them graciously with the same mercies which He had suggested them to ask. His answer is full, "I will love them freely." This He does because —

1. It is His name and nature to be gracious.

2. No creature can deserve anything at God's hands.God did not then begin to love them, when He said, I will love them freely, but to discover that love which He carried unto them from all eternity. Whatsoever is in God (manifested in time) is eternal and everlasting in Him, without beginning or ending; for whatsoever is in God, is God. His love, discovered in time, must needs be from all eternity. This free love and favour of God is the cause of all other mercies and free favours, whereby He discovereth His love unto us.

1. It is the cause of election.

2. Of vocation.

3. Of forgiveness of sins.

4. Of the grace of love.

5. Of justification, sanctification, etc.

6. Of eternal life.If we would have God to manifest His free love to us, let us strive to be obedient to His commandments, and stir up our hearts by all means to love Him, who hath so freely loved us. The reason for the discovery of this love is thus given. "For Mine anger is turned away from him." There is anger in God against sin: because there is an antipathy between Him and sin. God's anger is the special thing in afflictions. Judgments are called God's anger. God will turn away His anger upon repentance. It is His nature to do so. Learn to observe God's truth in the performance of His gracious promises.

( Sibbes, Richard, D. D.)

The word means, impelled thereto by himself alone, and so (as used of God), moved by His own essential bountifulness, the exceeding greatness of His goodness. God loves us freely in loving us against our deserts, because He is love. He loves us freely, in that He became man, and having become man freely shed His blood for the remission of our sins, freely forgave our sins. He loves us freely, in giving us grace, according to the good pleasure of His will, to become pleasing to Him, and causing all good in us; He loves us freely in rewarding infinitely the cod which we have from Him. "More manifestly here speaketh the person of tee Saviour Himself, promising His own coming to the salvation of penitents, with sweetly sounding promise, with sweetness full of grace."

(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

I. I WILL HEAL THEIR BACKSLIDINGS. Sin is the malady, of the soul. Here is the assurance that it shall not be fatal. Healing denotes recovery from the disease. The condemnation shall be removed, and the dominion of sin subdued.

II. I WILL LOVE THEM FREELY. Which implies conferring upon them everything good and desirable.

III. I WILL BE AS THE DEW. God will visit the souls of His penitent people with His refreshing grace and sanctifying Spirit. In consequence they shall flourish and increase in know ledge and goodness, adorning their religious profession, and appearing before the world in the beauty of holiness.

1. Dew refreshes the face of nature.

2. Dew makes the ground fruitful.The soul shall become as a fair and fragrant garden, as a comely and flourishing plantation.

IV. HE SHALL GROW AS THE LILY, etc. All the excellences of the vegetable world are here collected to express the effects produced by the dew of God's grace on the penitent's soul; beauty, fragrancy, vigour (or strength), and fertility. The salutary influence of God's blessings should reach surrounding nations.

(S. Knight, M. A.)

Were it not then the wisest course to begin with making our peace, and then we may soon lead a happy life? It is said, he that gets out of debt grows rich; most sure it is, that the pardoned soul cannot be poor; for as soon as the peace is concluded, a free trade is opened between God, and the soul. If once pardoned, we may then sail to any port that lies in God s dominions, and be welcome; where all the promises stand open with their treasure, and say: Here, poor soul, take full lading in of all precious things, even as much as thy faith can bear and carry away.

(J. Spencer.)

The greatest sins do most and best set off the freeness and the riches of God's grace; there is nothing that makes heaven and earth to ring and sound out His praise so much as the fixing of His love upon those who are most unlovely and uncomely, the bestowing of Himself upon those who have given away themselves from Him.

( Thomas Brooks.)

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