Hosea 2:21
This promise is a parable in miniature, and has been much admired for its poetic beauty. It completes the prophetic picture of Israel's restoration in the Messianic era. Doubtless, also, it refers in its fullness of meaning, not merely to Israel after the flesh, but to the entire Christian Church during the time of the latter-day glory.

I. JEHOVAH IS THE FIRST CAUSE OF ALL THINGS. "I will hear, saith the Lord." According to Scripture, from its opening utterance (Genesis 1:1) onwards, the all-pervading power of God is the mainspring of the universe, and his all-controlling superintendence is its balance-wheel. Jehovah is the First Cause:

1. In the world of nature. He gives "the corn, and the wine, and the oil" (Psalm 104:13-15). The order of the year is in his hand. No sunbeam glances, no raindrop falls, but at his bidding. Therefore he says with emphasis and iteration, "I wilt hear, I will hear the heavens." From this we should learn the sacredness of nature. The heavens are holy: they are "the work of God's fingers." The sea is holy he" hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand." The flowers are holy: each of them "shows some touch of his unrivalled pencil."

2. In the world of grace. Jehovah is the ultimate Author of all spiritual blessing. He gives the "corn" of Bible truth, and the "wine" of gospel joy, and the "oil" of spiritual influence. When the foundation-stone of a place of worship is laid, sometimes corn and wine and oil are sprinkled upon it - a beautiful expression of the great truth, that "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." It is Jehovah alone who has "built up mercy forever," and who sustains the fabric of redemption. The Lord, in the Trinity of his sacred Persons, is the First Cause of our salvation (Titus 3:4-6).

II. ATTACHED TO HIS THRONE HANGS A CHAIN OF SECOND CAUSES. These are represented here by the "heavens," and the "earth," and the "corn and wine and oil," and by "Jezreel." The second causes have a real efficiency of their own: we live under "the reign of law." Yet they are at most only second causes - instrumentalities controlled by the will of the First Cause. There can be no such reign of taw as makes Jehovah a subject or an alien in his own world. Law reigns, but God governs. He was, before any second causes began to operate. He used none when he created the universe, when he originated life upon the earth, when he instituted the laws of matter and of mind. And, when be pleases, be may still work without them, both in nature and grace. Usually, however, God does not dispense with second causes. In his ordinary providence everything requires everything.

All are needed by each one;
Nothing is fair or good alone."


(Emerson.) Second causes combine:

1. In the world of nature. Indeed, there is scarcely any physical effect which we can ascribe to the operation of any one natural force alone. When God wills that it should rain, or that we should have sunshine, he wills that all the physical causes which produce these effects respectively should come into operation. And, moreover, there are many other powers engaged in the management of the world besides what we call physical laws. There are, e.g., the power of animal instinct; the power of human thought and sentiment; the power of love and sympathy; the power of conscience; the power of free-will. There is the power of master-minds, wielded sometimes by direct communications, and oftener by subtle influence. Some men are "world-controllers," and leave their impress upon millions.

2. In the world of grace. In this region we call the subordinate causes "means of grace." Of these, some are inward, such as faith and repentance. Some are outward - the Word, the sacraments, and prayer. Among the means of grace, we must also reckon those influences in providence which operate in the formation of a godly character - education, early training, parental example, youthful companionships, disappointments, and afflictions. And these various kinds of means act in combination. They are a "sacred chain that binds the earth to heaven above." "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28).

III. PRAYER LINKS ITSELF ON TO THE ENTIRE CHAIN OF CAUSATION. It is represented here as the last link of the chain; and it is in the hands of Jezreel. But who is "Jezreel"? She is "the seed of God," whom he has "sown unto himself in the earth" (ver. 23); i.e. the spiritual Israel, the Christian Church in the latter days. Just as the valley of Esdraelon, in this beautiful parable, is conceived of as praying to "the corn, and the wine, and the oil," so the supplications of God's chosen seed have their place among the second causes of things. Believing prayer is, of course, addressed directly only to Jehovah, the First Cause. According to the teaching of Scripture and the testimony of experience, it is the condition which God himself has attached to the enjoyment of his mercies, and especially of all spiritual blessings (Ezekiel 36:37; Matthew 7:7, 8).

"For so the whole round world is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."


(Tennyson.) But true prayer takes hold also of the second causes, "They shall hear Jezreel." It does so:

1. In the world of nature. How does man pray to "the corn, and the wine, and the oil'? He does so by tilling the ground, sowing the seed, planting the vines, and tending the olives. He uses the fixed laws of nature - directing their action so as to make them subservient to his will. The pious farmer's motto is, "Ors et labors." And so with all other pursuits of men. If I pray rightly that I may prosper in some plan or enterprise, I use also the other practical means of attention, arrangement, and diligence, else the larger number o! second causes will make for the failure of my prayer. There must be a settled harmony between my plans of working and the petitions which I offer.

2. In the world of grace. Here prayer is not merely one of the means of grace, co-ordinate with the others; it is an indispensable condition to the successful use of any other. Prayer is not an intermediate link in the chain. It is at the one end; the throne and will of Jehovah being at the other end. But, while it is necessary that we pray for spiritual blessings, we must at the same time see that all the other second causes combine harmoniously with our petitions. E.g. our salvation is of grace alone, and vet the moral influences which go to shape character operate all the same. The revelation of Jesus Christ has not repealed the ethical precepts of the Book of Proverbs. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians to teach that sinners are saved and that saints are sanctified by grace alone; and yet in that same Epistle he solemnly insists that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Prayer is one second cause; but there is a whole chain of them to which it must join itself. It is not enough to pray for one's own growth in grace, or for the conversion of one's children, or to observe family worship; we must take care that the other influences at our command shall harmonize with our petitions, and conspire to obtain the answer which we plead for.

IV. UNIVERSAL PRAYERFULNESS ON THE PART OF MAN SHALL BRING WITH IT THE RESTORATION OF NATURE. This text asserts the deep sympathy of nature with the cause of righteousness. We know that as soon as Adam in Paradise renounced his allegiance to God, the earth renounced its allegiance to him (Genesis 3:17, 18). But, on the other hand, so soon as Jehovah shall be at peace with Israel, and the people of the world shall have become "the seed of God" in the day of the Redeemer's power, all things shall become theirs, and Paradise shall be restored (Psalm 67:5-7). Already, it is true, man possesses a wide sovereignty in the kingdom of nature. As holy George Herbert says, in his poem on 'Man' - a poem which is Miltonic in the majesty of its conceptions -

"For us the winds do blow;
The earth doth rest, heaven move, and fountains flow.
Nothing we see, but means our good,
As our delight, or as our treasure:
The whole is either our cupboard of food,
Or cabinet of pleasure.

"More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of....
O mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him." But, in the golden age that is coming, man's sovereignty over nature shall be complete; and nature's sympathy with man shall be perfect (Isaiah 11:6-9).

LESSONS. - Let us:

1. Recognize our absolute dependence upon God, the great First Cause.

2. Earnestly seek his presence and aid, both in the discharge of daily duty and for the furtherance of our spiritual life.

3. Accompany our prayers with assiduous practical effort.

4. Rejoice in the hope of the ultimate restitution of all things. - C.J.







I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel
Jezreel (seed of God) was a city in the tribe of Issachar. The valley in which it stood was remarkable for its fertility. Jezreel, in the text, may be either the valley which bore the corn, wine, and oil, or the obedient part of the nation, restored to the country from which they had been carried away. One of the characteristics of the Book of Hosea is the frequent transition from the most distressful to the most delightful annunciations of futurity. Amid all that was adapted to alarm the disobedient many, there was a tender regard for the consolations and hopes of the pious few. The text is a passage of this description. It practically, Net philosophically, depicts the harmony of universal nature, operating under the benignant direction of Providence for the good of man. One seems to feel the piety of the sentiment more for this circuitous tracing of man's enjoyment to his Maker's bounty. We find that all second causes, tarry in them as long as we will, and multiply them as we may, yet must terminate in a great first cause. The Deity cannot be excluded from His own universe. The prophet's description is, in the true spirit of poetry, the selection of a particular instance which is adorned with all the beauty of imagery, and then put forward as the illustration of a principle.

1. It is the fact that there is such a connection as the prophet has intimated, not only in that particular case, but in all the regions of matter and mind, blending them together, and making them one.

2. The influence of this fact upon our feelings and conduct, its righteous tendency or unrighteous application, its gloom or gladness, must arise from the notions of the Divine character with which it is associated in our convictions. There is not merely a community of properties, but a reciprocity of influence, from the minutest to the mightiest substances, from the nearest to the most remote, from the grain to the mass, from the mass to the mountain, from the mountain to the island or continent, from that to the solid globe, from our globe to the solar system, from that system to other systems, having their relative positions and combined movements, until it expands beyond our sense or imagination in the multiplicity of worlds, and the boundlessness of space. This connection applies to time as well as to space. In the mind and life of man it wilt be seen that the thoughts of the one and the events of the other have a similar connection, and are under similar influences. No idea springs up in the mind spontaneously, without something to introduce it, something which stands to it in the relation of a cause, itself the effect of something which preceded. The universe may be regarded as a great machine, but everything depends on our believing, or not, that this machine has a Mover and Maker, and on the notions we entertain of His dispositions and designs. Some blend this fact with the denial of God. Others blend the fact with the admission of a God, an Almighty Creator, but not a God whose love is the same to all the rational beings whom the system brings into existence — a God who is partly benevolent and partly malignant. It is the glory of our faith to blend with this fact the deepest conviction of the universal love of the Creator. All things lead us back to God, the infinite goodness. Learn —

1. A lesson of humility and of gratitude.

2. A lesson of caution.

3. Let our devotion be universal as the presence and influence of our God. Let it pervade our lives.

(J. R. Beard.)Second causes: —

1. God is wont to work good for His people by second causes. He sends not things immediately from heaven, but the heavens hear the earth, and the earth hears the corn and the wine. We must look to second causes, but take heed of resting on them. Though God sometimes works beyond means, and even contrary to them, ordinarily He uses second causes.

2. There is a concatenation in second causes, and not merely a use. Every one in their order ministers to the other. If we could see the comely order of the creatures, we should see them all linked together by a golden chain.

3. Nothing can be done by any link of the chain of second causes, but by God's being at the uppermost link.

4. It is most comely, and a great blessing, when the right order and chain of second causes hold; as in nature, so in any society, when all preserve their due subordination. When they are out of order, it is a great misery to a city or kingdom.

(Jeremiah Burroughs.)

By this very elaborate and poetically ingenious figure the prophet appears to be giving a contrived representation of the fact, that when God brings m the promised day of His universal reign on the earth, there will be a grand convergency of causes to prepare it, and, like so many concurrent prayers, to make common suit for it before Him. Thus he figures the world as being the beautiful valley called Jezreel, which is the garden, so to speak, of the land. And it is to be as when the people of Jezreel get their harvest, by having everything in a train of concurrent agency to prepare it — they make petition by their careful tillage to the corn, the grapes, and olives, that they will grow apace; these in turn make suit to the earth to give them nutriment; this again hears them, and lifts its petition to the heavens, asking rain and dew; whereupon, last of all, the heavens hand up the prayers to God, to furnish them water, and let them shed it down; which petition He graciously hears, and the harvest follows. So he conceives it will be as the harvest of the world approaches. It will be as if all things were put striving together, and a prayer were going up for it through all the concurrent circles of providence. God's counsel and kingdom are constructing always a perfect harmony, by their convergence on His perfect end. Then, as the perfect end is neared, and the harmony with it grows complete, it will be as if more things were concurring in it, and asking for it, and prayer, falling in as a cause among causes, will have them all praying with it, or handing up its request. In which we may see what holds good of all prayer, and how or by what law it prevails. In one view the whole future is prayed in by the whole present, being such a future as the whole present demands. The more things therefore prayer can get into harmony with itself in its request, the more likely it is to prevail; and the more alone it is, and the more things it has opposite to it, in the field of causes, the less likely it is to prevail — even as Adam had less hope of success in praying for Cain, that the blood of Abel was crying to God against him from the ground. All prayer being under this general condition, family prayer will be, of course. I handle the subject in this form, in the conviction that the prayers of families are so often defeated by the want of any such concert in the aims, plans, tempers, works, and aspirations of the house, as are necessary to a common suit before God; in other words, because the prayers, commonly so called, are defeated by the suit of so many causes contrary to them. I drop out of notice family worship as observance, and speak of it only as the open state of prayer and communion with God in the house.

I. THE MANNER IN WHICH PRAYERS OF ALL KINDS GET THEIR ANSWERS FROM GOD. Two things are wanted.

1. That the matter requested should agree with God's beneficent aims, or the ends of good to which His plans are built.

2. That the prayer should agree with as many other prayers and as many other circles of causes as possible: for God is working always towards the largest harmony, and will not favour therefore the prayer of words, when everything else in the life is demanding something else, but will rather have respect to what has the widest reach of things and persons making suit with it. See how it is in the great realm of nature. The Bible history, too, shows a grand convergency of all the matters included in it, and a mysterious concert weaves all its facts together, and keeps them working towards the same result. In the same way, descending to a lower field, every conversion to God takes place when some largest harmony demands it. If we come directly to the matter of prayer itself, we meet the promise, that "If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us," and "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them." By the whole economy of prayer God is working toward the largest, most inclusive harmony, and prayer is to be successful just according to the amount of concurrency there is in it. First, there is to be the completest possible concurrency with God; then a concurrency of one or two hundred, or, if so it may be, two hundred millions of petitioners in a common suit; and then all these are to be total in the suit, bringing all their lustings, affections, works, plans, properties, and self-sacrifices into the petition; whereupon the prayer will grow strong, just in proportion to the amount of agreement or concurrence there is in it.

II. CONDITIONS OF SUCCESSFUL FAMILY PRAYER. The great infirmity of family prayers, or of what is sometimes called family religion, is that it stands alone in the house, and has nothing put in agreement with it. It is a first point of religion itself, that by its very nature, it rules presidingly over everything desired, done, thought, planned for, and prayed for in the life. The mere observance kind of piety, that which prays in the family to keep up a reverent show, or acknowledgment of religion, is not enough. It leaves everything else in the life to be an open space for covetousness and all the gay lustings of worldly vanity. What is prayed for in the house by the father, is sometimes not prayed for by the mother in her family tastes and tempers. It is necessary that the practical ends, tastes, plans, aspirations, and works of the house should all come into the same circle of concert, and join their petition to reinforce the suit of the prayers. Here is the great lesson of family religion; it is that religion, being the supreme end and law of life, is to have everything put in the largest possible harmony with it.

(Horace Bushnell, D. D.)

The language of this text is poetical and highly figurative, but quite easy of comprehension. Jezreel, the seed of God, is the name used by this prophet to designate the people of God. We have, then, a picture of the whole process by which God answers His people when they pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." The passage is not only beautiful, but suggestive. Its range is very wide. It leads all along the chain of effect and cause, from man through nature up to God. Beginning at the lower extremity, we find ourselves first in the wide and busy domain of political economy, with its two branches of production and distribution. Stepping upwards, we reach the sphere of natural science, and the highest raises us to the lofty regions of theology. We begin, however, with the highest link.

1. However many links may seem to intervene in nature's chain, if followed up, it always leads to God at last. If the harvest came by some process of evolution, whence came the process of evolution? We may carry back the chain of second causes as far as we may, we shall always find the farthest link fastened to the throne of the Omnipotent.

2. It is God that hears, not only at the extremity of the chain, but through it all, between each separate link, however long it may be. Not only is God the First Cause, He is in all intermediate causes too. We speak of "laws," laws of nature. But who made the laws? And who enforces the laws? There must be power to do this. Where is it? What a remarkable thing is the regular proportion between what is produced and what is needed for consumption in a given year. The whole thing is left to individual choice, there must therefore be some power at work to preserve the necessary equilibrium. There is the law of supply and demand to regulate this. But this law, like all other laws, implies a lawgiver. It implies a power above ourselves.

3. Food is produced where population is scanty, it is wanted mainly where population is dense. Whately says, "Man's foresight often gets the credit for what is due to God's wisdom." All the foresight of man would fail for a work so stupendous as this. Many have the idea that the farmer is more dependent on the Divine power than the artisan and the manufacturer. It is a mistake. The chain along which we derive our manufactured goods from the Giver of all good may be longer than the other, but God is just as surely at the upper end of it, and in each intermediate link. No machine can produce power. All the force which is used in all our factories is ultimately traceable to the sun. It was the sun which, millions of years ago, poured its rays on the luxurious vegetation of the carboniferous era, and filled it full of a latent force, which, after the leaves and stems and roots containing it had been pressed and hardened and blackened underground, should be avail able to those who, in future ages, should dig it up as coal, and use it to heat their houses and drive their engines. Our manufactures as our agriculture are of God, and of Him only.

(J. Monro Gibson, D. D.)

1. While the Lord's people are within time, they may read their own frailty in needing so many things to uphold even their outward man.

2. Outward mercies do so far follow on the covenant as the confederate may be free of fear and anxiety about them. Albeit the Lord do not always see it meet to heap plenty of corn and wine and oil upon His people, yet they have as much as, with godliness and contentment, may suffice. When they seek the best things, other things will certainly be added.

3. God is so tender a respecter of necessities that He hath an ear to hear the dumb cries of very insensible creatures in their need.

4. God's reconciled people are to read, not only God's love in their plenty, but that all the creation do, in their kind, with a good will, concur to serve him who is now at peace with his Maker.

5. The Lord sets a mark of excellency upon man, and especially upon His Church, in that so many things concur to serve them and provide for them.

6. Whatever it be that one creature affords unto another, or may be in the course of nature expected from it, yet every creature in itself is empty, and must be supplied by God before it satisfy any.

7. As the Lord is not to be tempted, but waited on in His established order for anything, so we are not to rest on any such order or course of nature, but to see God's hand in it, who establisheth and blesseth it for such ends.

8. The Lord's former sad dispositions towards His people will not hinder Him to change His dealing; but He will make His kindness so much the sweeter.

(George Hutcheson.)

Homilist.
I. THE OPERATIONS OF THE UNIVERSE ARE UNDER THE INTELLIGENT DIRECTION OF THE GREAT GOD. The universe is here represented as in action. There is nothing stationary; all things are full of labour. The universe is not a self-acting machine, left to itself to work out. The great Machinist is ever with it, observing and directing every motion. This fact serves several important purposes.

1. To account for the unbroken order of nature.

2. To impress us with the sanctity of nature.

3. To inspire us with reverence towards the greatness of God.

II. THAT THE OPERATIONS OF THE UNIVERSE ARE GENERALLY CONDUCTED ON THE MEDIATORY PRINCIPLE. "I will hear the heavens," etc. Look at this mediatory principle in its relation to man —

1. As a material being. How did we receive these corporeal frames: how are they sustained; how are they broken up?

2. As a spiritual being. How does knowledge come to man? He has teachers.

III. THE OPERATIONS OF THE UNIVERSE ARE MERCIFULLY SUBORDINATED TO THE INTERESTS OF THE GOOD. Jezreel, or the children of God, receive from God three things.

1. The blessings they devoutly sought.

2. The multiplication of their number.

3. The heightening of the sympathy between them and God. "I will call them My people."

(Homilist.)

And they shall hear Jezreel
The prophet refers, under the symbolic title Jezreel, to God's own faithful people, the undefiled remnant of Israel; those who were brought back to their own land after the captivity in Babylon. In a larger sense we are to understand the passage as a prophecy of the blessings which such of the Jews as accept our Lord Christ, and those of the Gentiles who believe in Him, shall enjoy under the Gospel.

I. THE WAY IN WHICH GOD PROMISES TO BE GRACIOUS TO HIS PEOPLE AT THE LAST. He will deal with them through a chain of intermediate agencies.

I. Superficially the text is but a poetic way of saying that all the universe shall unite to help the people of God.

2. The deeper thought is, that in this mode of due order and proportion, having respect to the fitness of all things which He has made. God rules the universe, albeit for the sake of His people.

II. THE BROAD AND ALL-EMBRACING METHOD OF THE DIVINE OPERATION OUGHT TO BE A GREAT STRENGTH TO US IN TIMES OF DISCOURAGEMENT AND DOUBT. The tendency of modern life seems to be to make men pessimistic. It seems as if the enormous natural forces brought out into the light, and harnessed to work man's will for him, had somehow paralysed our human instincts. Human life seems to be becoming more and more but the life of a machine. God has promised to hear our prayers, but only on the condition that we approach Him in the way He has appointed.

(Catholic Champion.)

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