Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.
I. A SUMMARY OF THE PROPHET'S TEACHING. This is given in the second half of the verse. The Book of Hosea is full of precious instruction:
1. About God. That "the ways of Jehovah are right" is the sum of its theology. God's "ways are to be understood to mean his dealings with men as the supreme moral Governor. And the prophet's aim in these pages is akin to that which Milton announces in the beginning of his great epic, viz. to assert eternal Providence, and justify the ways of God to men."
(1) His ways in judgment are right. "These things" cannot but include all the lamentations and chidings and announcements of punishment with which the book is so largely occupied. Ephraim had sinned against the voice of God's Law, against the assurances of his love, and even against the pleadings of his mercy; so the Lord could not be "unrighteous in taking vengeance," however dreadful and prolonged that vengeance might be. Hosea's message, on its side of sternness, announced that "righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne." God's ways are right in his dealings with every ungodly nation, despite all the difficulty and mystery which may gather round them. And his ways are right in his dealings with each individual transgressor, albeit that the reasons of his procedure may be "past finding out." The rectitude of the Divine ways is attested by experience; for, although they prove stumbling-blocks to the ungodly, "the just walk in them," and by-and-by arrive at "a city of habitation." To his own people Jehovah is "just," and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
(2) His ways in mercy are right. If there be any book of Old Testament Scripture which exhibits the Divine grace and compassion, that book is Hosea. The strain of it is not ethical alone; it is evangelical also. The prophet represents the love of God as the fundamental ground of God's relations to his ancient people. Hosea conceives of Jehovah as Israel's Husband (Hosea 2.) and Father (Hosea 11.). But, as the prophet was persuaded that it was not wrong for himself to continue to love Gomer, his adulterous wife, and to yearn for the well-being of her children, when they followed in her evil ways, - so Goal's dealings in mercy towards apostate Israel, and towards sinners of the Gentiles, are right also. "Oar book is, therefore, truly a classic for the right understanding of the Old Testament conception of God with its interaction of love and wrath, and of the nature of the Old Testament revelation concerning God. Only such a God who can be so angry and so loving, who in all his love so displays anger, and in all his anger so displays love, could give up his only begotten Son to the accursed death for the deliverance of rebellious man" (Lange). But the Book of Hosea is also full of teaching:
2. About men. It separates them into two classes, - "the just" or righteous, and "the transgressors;" those who "walk in" the Lord's ways, and those who "stumble thereon." In other words, this book deals with the great theme of spiritual apostasy and revival.
(1) Spiritual apostasy. There are always many "transgressors," who, like Ephraim, stumble and fall in the right ways of the Lord. And this book is written to warn men against becoming such. Hosea points out the earliest symptoms of backsliding; e.g. the "morning-cloud goodness" (Hosea 6:4); the "grey hairs" (Hosea 7:9); the "removing of the bound" (Hosea 5:10); the "forgetting of one's Maker" (Hosea 8:14); the "hiring of lovers" (Hosea 8:9), etc. He indicates its further manifestations; e.g. "counting God's Law a strange thing" (Hosea 8:12); "mixing among the people; "being like "a cake not turned" (Hosea 7:8); becoming "an empty vine" (Hosea 10:1); "sowing the wind" (Hosea 8:7); "sinning more and more" (Hosea 13:2), etc. And he warns against ultimate results; e.g. idols "broken in pieces" (Hosea 8:6); "the land mourning" (Hosea 4:3); "reaping the whirlwind" (Hosea 8:7); "joined to idols" (Hosea 4:17); "cast away by God" (Hosea 9:17), etc.
(2) Spiritual revival. The prophet deals with this more pleasant side of his message in Hosea 2:14-23, 6:1-3, and especially in Hosea 14. (For an outline of his teaching regarding the rise, progress, and fruits of revival, see the three preceding homilies.)
II. THE MORAL QUALIFICATION NECESSARY IF WE WOULD PROFIT BY THIS TEACHING. The student of Hosea, who desires to get at the mind of the Spirit contained in these oracles, must be "wise" and "prudent." The "just" or pious man "walks in the Lord's ways;" and these ways require to be walked in to be understood. The "wisdom" which the prophet desiderates is not to be confounded with intellectual acuteness; it is a moral qualification. Here, as in the Book of Proverbs, and indeed throughout all Scripture, the "wise" are they whose souls have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and who have been brought into a right moral state in relation to Divine truth. The profound theology of Hosea, accordingly, will not be grasped by the man of merely intellectual discernment, or by any one who has only accumulated stores of human learning. Moral preparation is necessary in order to the reception and assimilation of spiritual truth. As the psalmist has it, "Light is sown for the righteous" (Psalm 97:11). Or, as the Lord Jesus expressed the same thought," If any man is willing to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God" (John 7:17). This experimental qualification is within every one's reach. The possession of it makes the simple-minded shepherd really wiser than the "undevout astronomer." Cowper's "cottager, who weaves at her own door," has it to the full; while "the brilliant Frenchman never knew" it. Only the right-hearted man will be habitually persuaded of the equity of the Divine government, both as regards judgment and mercy. Such a one has learned to "taste and see that the Lord is good." Correctness of conduct promotes correctness of creed, and helps to the proper understanding of God's ways. A man thinks rightly just to the extent of his living purely (Psalm 111:10). In our day, accordingly, one must be a believer in Christ and a follower of him if he would profit by the study of Hosea.
1. What a commentary upon this verse is the whole history, of the Hebrew nation, from the beginning until now!
2. Hosea's last word, like Holy Scripture everywhere, draws a sharp contrast between the righteous and the wicked.
3. Every man must make choice either of "walking in God's ways," or of "stumbling thereon."
4. The believer should derive comfort from this text in presence of the mysteries of Providence.
5. This final exhortation should come home to us with still greater power than it was fitted to do to Hosea's contemporaries; for, since he lived, the four great world-empires have successively fallen, the Jews remain scattered among the cities of the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ has been lifted up on the cross as an atonement for sin, and his gospel has been preached among the nations. - C.J.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSONS WHO WOULD GIVE HEED TO THE WORDS OF THIS PROPHECY, AND TO THESE DOCTRINES.
Who is wise, and he shall understand these things?
1. The just shall walk in them. They are just who give to every one their due, and give God His due. They are such as have respect unto all God s commandments. They do things to a good end, even the glory of God and the good of man. They desire to grow in grace and they love the brethren. In the worst times, God will have always a people that shall justify wisdom. Men must have spiritual life, and be just, before they can walk. For our encouragement to walk in God's ways, know that they are the most safe ways of all; they are the most pleasant, and they are the cleanest and holiest. "The transgressors shall fall therein." The same word which is a word of life and salvation to the godly is an occasion of sin and perdition unto the wicked.
( Sibbes, Richard.)
1. What does the Spirit mean by "wise"? Wisdom is described in the Book of Proverbs. In it wisdom calls, reproves, and has a spirit to pour out, actions and attributes which belong only to the very and eternal God. In it wisdom is said to be the source of royal and judicial authority. It is described as eternal. It is said to have a temple and sacrifices.. It promises to do that which the Almighty alone can do. It threatens to execute judgment upon those who refuse to accept the proffered mercy. Then who else can wisdom be but the Lord of Hosts? "Wise" must mean those who make the knowledge of God their chief study and pursuit. They are wise whose heart, mind, and soul are pervaded by wisdom.
2. What does the Spirit mean by prudent? The original means, an "understanding one," or "a sound reasoner." So the real meaning of the expression differs considerably from the apparent one. The Spirit means an individual who, by diligent searching and study of God's dispensations and providential visitations, arrives at accurate conclusions with reference to the Almighty's promises and threats; to the consequences of obedience and disobedience; to the effects of impenitence and repentance. A prudent man, in Scripture, but especially in this place, means a knowing individual in the deep mysteries of God's holy Word.
II. THE NATURE OF THE DOCTRINES TAUGHT. "The ways of the Lord are right." This is an expression for true religion which binds and knits man to God. True religion is irresistible. What can be more "reasonable" than that He who made all things for Himself should demand us to Himself? The ways of the Lord "are right," with regard to their conformity to the holy nature and will of God, with regard to the peace which they confer.
III. THE DOUBLE USE MADE OF THE WAYS OF THE LORD BY DIFFERENT PARTIES. "The just shall walk in them: the transgressors shall fall therein." We never make the Word of the Lord our rule of life whereby to walk, until we are made righteous; until the sun of righteousness hath shone in our hearts, and illumined our souls. But how fearful is the doom of those who have despised the wisdom and prudence which the prophet recommended for their knowledge and understanding. The same Being who helps forward the just on their way, and removes every impediment from their path, becomes the insurmountable obstruction in the way of transgressors. Many are the things in the Word of God at which corrupt hearts are apt to stumble. The profoundness and incomprehensibleness of some of its mysterious doctrines, instead of humbling the finite mind and bringing it into subjection to the infinite, puffs up with pride and arrogance the depraved and scanty reason, and makes it exalt itself against Him who is exalted above all. The sanctity and strictness of God's ways make many an unholy temper and disposition revolt against making those ways their choice.
(Moses Margoliouth, B. A.)
I. THE IMPORT OF THIS QUESTION OF APPEAL.
1. Vain men would fain be wise. The question implies that the number of the wise and intelligent on these subjects was but small. And those who did not understand such things as the prophet had delivered did not deserve the name of wise and intelligent, however they might assume it to themselves.
I. THE IMPORTANT DECLARATION. "The ways of the Lord are right." Need not prove this. It is a first principle in religion. It is now before us as matter of reflection.
III. THE DIFFERENT VIEWS OF THE WAYS OF GOD WHICH ARE ENTERTAINED, AND THE DIFFERENT EFFECTS PRODUCED THEREBY. The righteous, being taught of God, have a proper and spiritual discernment of things. Transgressors, blinded by the god of the world, discern no spiritual objects in their proper colours.
(S. Knight, M. A.)
I. WHO ARE THE WISE?
1. They are willing hearers of God's truth. Like Cornelius of old.
2. Humble receivers of truth. Like the jailer at Philippi.
3. They are careful thinkers. Like Mary, who pondered things in her heart. No others but these can really be spoken of as wise.
II. GOD'S RIGHT WAYS. He has a right to demand obedience on our part to whatever He may please to lay down. If we walk in His ways we shall have grace to support us, and supply our various wants, we shall have guidance in the hour of difficulty, we shall have our hearts prepared for the enjoyment of those pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore. He will give us strength for the day, and grace unto the end. The ways of the just shall be increasingly clear. "The wicked shall fall therein." The ways are the same, but men receive them and walk in them differently. That which is really good for those who are anxious to serve God, we are told here, is turned into evil in the case of the wicked.
(H. Montagu Villiers, M. A.)
1. Men must have spiritual life, and be just, before they can walk. Walking is an action of life; there must be life before there can be walking. Unless there is first spiritual life in the inward man there will not be a harmony and correspondency betwixt a man and his ways.
2. Because a just man is also a prudent and wise man, he walks in God's ways. Spiritual wisdom and prudence lead to walking in obedience.What things doth this walking in the ways of God imply?
1. Perspicuity. Those who walk in the ways of God discern those ways to be God's ways, and discern them aright.
2. Resolution to go on in those ways till he come to the end, though there be never so much opposition.How shall we know whether we go on in this way or not?
1. When earthly profits and pleasures seem little, and heaven and heavenly things seem near.
2. It implies a uniform course of life.
3. He who would walk in God's ways must be resolute against all opposition whatsoever.The use of this teaching may be —
1. Reprehension unto those who can talk, but not walk; that have tongues, but not feet.
2. It is for instruction, to stir us up to walk in God's ways.
3. It is for consolation. If this be our walk, then God will walk with us, and the angels of God shall have charge of us, to keep us in all our ways.
( Sibbes, Richard, D. D.)
(J. Monro Gibson, D. D.).
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