Though I wrote for them the great things of My law, they regarded them as something strange.
I. GOD'S GREAT GIFT OF HOLY SCRIPTURE. "I have written to him the great things of my Law."
1. What is God's "Law."? The word is used in various senses. Sometimes it denotes the ten commandments alone; sometimes the five hooks of Moses as distinguished from the prophets; sometimes the Mosaic economy, in distinction from the gospel; and sometimes the whole will of God as published in Holy Writ to determine man's faith and to control his conduct. Hosea in this verse, without doubt, refers immediately to the Pentateuch; but, in applying the passage to ourselves, we must extend the application of the term "Law" so that it shall cover the whole Bible.
2. What are "the great things of God's Law? These can be nothing else than those matters which constitute the substance of revelation. The Bible discloses truths which are:
(1) Great in themselves. The Book is a revelation of God - his nature, his trinity in unity, his ways in providence, his love to sinners. It unveils to man his own origin and destiny; shows him the greatness of his nature, despite its ruins; supplies him with the perfect standard of moral purity; and satisfies his loftiest aspirations. The Book grapples with the problem of sin, and reveals the way of salvation, through the mediation of the Son of God, his incarnation, his obedience unto death, his resurrection and exaltation (1 Timothy 3:16), and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It anticipates the last things " - the universal triumph of the gospel, the find resurrection, the general judgment, and the blessedness of the heavenly kingdom.
(2) Great in their importance to man For the Bible tells man what he most needs to know, in order to his highest well-being. It answers to all the wants of his many-sided nature - his desire of knowledge, his admiration of what is noble, his yearning after sympathy, his need of inward rest, his hunger for immortality. Holy Scripture is a lamp unto his feet. It is the storehouse of his spiritual food. It is the fountain of life (see Psalm 19:7-11).
(3) Great in their comprehensiveness. Some read the clause thus: "I wrote to him the myriads [or, 'the fulnesses'] of my Law;" the reference being to the almost numberless individual ordinances connected with the Mosaic institutions. This thought may well remind us of the inexhaustible supplies of knowledge of all kinds - facts, doctrines, ethical principles, precepts, promises, predictions, etc. - which are stored up in Holy Scripture. The Book evinces its greatness in this respect, that it affords us sure rules and directions for out' life under all circumstances.
3. In what sense has God "written these great things? In the same sense, surely, in which a man reveals his thoughts through the medium of his writings. The Lord himself is the Author of the Bible. Its teachings rest upon his authority. Whatever is declared by inspired men to be part of Divine truth or of human duty, God declares to be such. Christians may and do differ regarding theories of inspiration, but every believer accepts the fact that the books of Scripture are the Word of God.
II. MAN'S SHAMEFUL NEGLECT OF THIS GIFT. But they were counted as a strange thing." The people of the ten tribes treated the precepts of the Pentateuch as if they were a matter which did not concern them. Holy Scripture is treated similarly still:
1. By worldly men. Some refuse to receive it as a Divine revelation. They reject the supernatural, ignore the whole realm of faith, and particularly dislike the distinctive doctrines of Christianity. Many more, however, have an orthodox intellectual) belief in the Bible as the Word of God; but their faith, such as it is, does not affect the conscience or the heart. When they read from the inspired volume, its words do not "come home to their business and bosoms." "They do not realize the grand evil which the Bible has come to cure, and they have not a heart to the blessings which it offers to bestow. The film of a fallen nature, self-maintained, is upon their eyes while they read" (Dr. John Ker). So, they neglect "the great things of God's Law" for the little matters of sense and worldly vanity. Many see no further grandeur in the Bible than its literary beauty. Others prize it simply as a book of moral culture, and nothing more. The baser sort profane Divine revelation by jesting with its holy subjects, and using its most sacred words as idle oaths.
2. By many professing Christians. Are there not such, to whom the Bible is "a strange thing," because the), very seldom sit down to read it? And of those who do regularly read "their chapter," how many do so merely to pacify conscience, and thus make little or no effort to understand the meaning of the passages read! Some sincere believers confine their attention to a few pet chapters which contain what they call "the simple gospel," and ignore the rest, although the Scriptures are full of "the manifold wisdom of God." This very prophecy of Hosea, as one has said, is "too often a deserted well;" but those, however, who come and draw from it find it full of living water. One of the wants of the age among professing Christians is a more adequate acquaintance with the contents of the Bible. The man who would enjoy robustness of spiritual life must study the Scriptures book by book, that he may discern the drift and scope of each book, apprehend its particular place in the scheme of truth, and at the same time appropriate and assimilate its teaching for the nourishment of his soul.
III. HOW WE OUGHT TO USE HOLY SCRIPTURE. (See Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 90.) If we would avoid incurring the censure of this text, we must:
1. Receive the Book with a believing and thankful heart; treat it with deep reverence as the Divine Word; and make what effort we can to circulate it throughout the world.
2. "Search the Scriptures with regularity and system, that our intellectual acquaint and with them may be both accurate and comprehensive.
3. Meditate upon Bible teaching with self-application in our leisure hours, that our minds may be imbued with its principles of truth and duty, and that conscience and affections and will may become subject to their power.
4. Keep" God's Word in our dally acts, and in the habits which we form, so that it may mould our character, and make us Christ-like. "My mother and my brethren are these which hear the Word of God, and do it" (Luke 8:21).
5. And in all our use of Scripture we must Tray /or the promised aid of the Holy Spirit, without which our best efforts will be in vain. - C.J.
I have written to him the great things of My law, but they were counted a strange thing.
I. THE TRUTHS OF REVELATION ARE OF THE HIGHEST CONCERN, If the dilemma of life is that we cannot attend to everything, only to things of pre-eminent importance, then we must attend to the great doctrines of revelation; for they are hound up with our highest interests. Take the doctrine of righteousness from the Old Testament. The righteousness of the law is essential to our worldly interests, to our characters, to our happiness, and to our final salvation. Take the doctrine of grace from the New Testament. Is not this great doctrine essential? Many pride themselves upon neglecting religion. They attend to their business, and have no time for religion. Religion is a fancy, a fashion, a luxury, g thing to be brought in if possible, to be left out if necessary. But it is the one thing needful.
II. THE TRUTHS OF REVELATION ARE OF ABIDING CONCERN. In Hosea's time the law had become irrevelant, obsolete. Many now regard the law of God in revelation as inadequate to the modern world. But do not these very objectors go back to the Greek for intellectual perfection; to Euclid to learn mathematics; to Demosthenes to learn eloquence; to Praxiteles to learn sculpture; to Homer for the ideal of poetry? As God gave the Hebrew the knowledge of righteousness, it is no reflection on us that we go back to Moses and Isaiah, to Job and Paul. Our text declares the abiding validity of the law. God keeps on writing the law; He is continually freshening it, and making it a living thing in the conscience of the world. Men speak of outgrowing Christianity when they have become dead to it through a life of materialism, worldliness, lust, selfishness. God's Word is not a strange thing. It is written for our admonition and salvation, upon whom the ends of the world have come. We need the precious truths of this Holy Book as much as ever.
III. THE TRUTHS OF REVELATION ARE OF UNIVERSAL CONCERN. There is often in men the feeling that the truths of religion may concern others, but are not applicable to them. But the weighty things of the law concern us all. We all need the mercy Of God in Christ
(W. L. Watkinson.)
I. THEIR AUTHOR. If we consider Scripture to be a cunningly devised fable, we shall treat it as a delusion. If we believe it to be the word of mall, We shall receive it as a human production. If we are convinced that it is indeed the Word of God, we shall feel it to be Divine, and it will work powerfully in us, as it does in those who believe. In favour of these writings we advance a Divine claim. Whoever was the penman, God was the author. Evidence comes from the prophecies; from kinness with the Book of Creation; from adaptation to the wants of man.
II. THEIR CONTENTS. We naturally judge of an author by his work, but there are cases in which we judge of a work by the author. As soon as we learn that God Himself is the author of this Book, we may approach it confidently, expecting to find in it a greatness becoming His glorious: name. We find great things.
1. Great in number.
2. In profundity.
3. In importance.
4. In their efficacy.The greatest thing we have upon earth is the Gospel.
III. THE RECEPTION WHICH THIS DIVINE COMMUNICATION MEETS WITH. "They were counted as a strange thing." That means a thing foreign to us; a matter of indifference. That men thus treat the Scriptures of truth is the charge here advanced.
1. It is a charge the most wonderful. We should naturally suppose that a book written by God Himself would engage attention. And people are naturally attracted to a work that regards themselves.
2. The most criminal. We often err in our estimate of things, especially those of a moral nature. We have frequently a wrong standard by which to judge of what is good; hence that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. In the same way we deceive ourselves with regard to what is evil. God takes into view the dishonour done to Himself. He weighs the state of the mind, the motives that determine us, the good we oppose and hinder;: the difficulties we have to overcome, the convictions we have to stifle, the reasons that render us inexcusable. By this rule, nothing can be more wicked than to treat with contempt or neglect the means God has provided for our everlasting welfare.
3. The most dreadful. Though God is most patient with you, His judgments must most surely fall.
4. The charge is very commonly deserved. Few pay a due regard to the blessed Word of God. Of those who hear the Word, how many are curious hearers, captious hearers, forgetful hearers, hearers only deceiving their own selves.
5. The charge is not universally true. There are many exceptions. Good men have always been attached to their Bibles. Let me urge upon you a still greater attention to the Word of God.
1. We should accept the volume gratefully as the gift of God. It is the message of our Divine Father to us; designed to instruct us in all the multiform duties of life — to guide us in the intricacies of our pilgrimage — to solace us in the seasons of our sadness — to be a companion to us in our hours of loneliness. It is fully adapted to all the necessities of our nature, and to all the vicissitudes of our surroundings. Let us treat it as we treat no other volume. Let there be no cessation to our thankfulness to God for a treasure so precious, a comfort so profound, a guide so unerring, a weapon so unfailing, a light so transcendent.
2. Our duty is to circulate it. The Book of books should be placed in the hands of every man. It is addressed to all, intended for all, adapted to all, and should not be confined to any clime or any class.
3. We owe the duty to God and ourselves, to study the volume for our own consolation and guidance.
(1) (2) (3) (J. Hiles Hitchens, D. D.)
(2) (3) (J. Hiles Hitchens, D. D.)
(3) (J. Hiles Hitchens, D. D.)
(J. Hiles Hitchens, D. D.)
Homiletic Magazine.I. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ARE GOD'S WRITING.
II. THE SUBJECTS OF WHICH THE HOLY SCRIPTURES TREAT ARE GREAT THINGS. The things written in the Scriptures may well be styled great things.
1. Because of their inherent grandeur. Can there possibly be any greater subject than God Himself in His character, in His infinite excellence, and in His relations to men, God as incarnated and revealed in the person of His Son Jesus Christ? Can any themes exceed in interest, atonement for sin, redemption, the indwelling Spirit, immortal life, resurrection, heaven?
2. Because of their supreme importance. They have been given mainly for the purpose of answering those great questions which had perplexed the minds of men from the beginning of human history, and which weighed heavily upon their hearts and consciences the more they thought about them.
3. Because of their great effects. They make all those great who lovingly receive them into their hearts. And much of what the Word of God does for individuals it also does for nations. It introduces into them the germs of solid prosperity and the elements of true greatness. It makes a people righteous, temperate, pure, unselfish, benevolent.
III. EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS A PERSONAL INTEREST IN THE CONTENTS OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. They have been written for all, in the sense of having been written for each individual in that all. I have written unto him. This "I have written" arms every part of the sacred Book with all the authority of God.
IV. AND YET, HOW MANY TREAT THE "GREAT THINGS" WHICH GOD HAS WRITTEN IN HIS WORD IN THE VERY MANNER WHICH IS HERE CONDEMNED! They were counted by them as a strange thing; that is, with indifference, with looks askance, as things with which they had no practical concern, perhaps even with positive aversion.
I. THE FREE USE OF GOD'S WORD.
1. The commendation of God's Word, by the plenty, abundance, and largeness of the matter that is in it; and by the price, excellency, and worth of the matter. All necessary points, either touching faith or manners, are abundantly contained and laid forth in the Scriptures. This fact condemns the common neglect and universal contempt of the rules and precepts of Holy Scripture. In matters of conversation, men prefer the examples and guides of the times, the course and practice of the multitude, before the principles of God's Spirit. The excellency of Scripture is seen in that the author of it is God; the matter of it is the mystery of godliness; the style of it, there is a fulness of majesty in simplicity of words; the end of it is to make men wise unto salvation.
II. THE MERCY OF GOD IN VOUCHSAFING HIS WORD TO US.
1. How can it be said that God hath written His Word?
2. Why was it meet to write it?
3. When the Word of God began first to be written, and how it was preserved for the Church's use all that time.
4. How we shall be assured that that which amongst us is now called the Scripture is the very same Word and precious will of God, which He hath written for the use and comfort of His people. Nothing is able to persuade a man's conscience that the Scripture is the Word of God, but only the Spirit of God. The best proofs are to be fetched out of Scripture itself. Its excellency is shown in the purity of the law of God by Moses: the quality of the matter in Scripture; the antiquity of the Scripture.
III. MAN'S MISUSE OF SCRIPTURE.
1. Shew the nature of the fault. They regarded Scripture as containing matter that did not pertain to them. This fault is compounded of three gross evils — disobedience, unthankfulness, neglect of their own private good, even the good of their souls. What judgment is due to this offence? In general it openeth the very floodgate of God's wrath. In particular, it makes all our prayers odious, and the torment of our souls. Seeing then that to account the great things of God's law as a strange thing, is a fault, a grievous fault, a fault liable to extreme punishment, our fault, there is no remedy but we must henceforth give all diligence, that the Word of God may be no more a stranger unto us, but a dweller with us, and familiar unto us.
(S. Hieron.)1. They are things that proclaim the greatness of the Law-maker; and things of great use and importance to us.
2. It is a great privilege to have the things of God's law written; thus they are reduced to a greater certainty, spread the further, and last the longer, with much less danger of being embezzled and corrupted than if they were transmitted by word of mouth only.
3. The things of God's law are of His own writing; for Moses and the prophets were His amanuenses.
4. It is the advantage of those that are members of the visible Church that these things are written to them, are intended for their direction, and so they must receive them.
( Matthew Henry.)
I. GOD HAS WRITTEN UNTO US THE GREAT THINGS OF HIS LAW. By the law of God understand the whole revelation which God has given of His will. Take brief survey of God's law, as written and delivered to us.
1. The declarations contained in it are great and important.
2. There are many promises which are exceeding great and precious.
3. There are great things written in the way of invitation and encouragement.
4. There are great and interesting precepts and instructions.
5. There are solemn threatenings against obstinate and impenitent offenders. We are certainly not less favoured than Israel was.
II. WHETHER AND IN WHAT DEGREE WE ARE CHARGEABLE WITH THEIR GUILT, in "counting the great things of God's law a strange thing."
1. They did not receive what God delivered to them as being of Divine authority, but as a kind of imposition to which they were under no obligation to submit. We may judge who among ourselves are in a similar state of guilt. All those who deny the Divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, and deem that invaluable treasury of great things to be nothing better than a cunningly devised fable.
2. They did not at all see or discern their own interest in those things. Are not similar views entertained among us? And is not similar conduct the consequence? Some consider the Bible and religion as adapted only to persons of a gloomy and melancholy cast of mind. Others think the study of them belongs only to divines.
3. They were apprehensive that a strict adherence to God's law would make their conduct appear strange and singular among their surrounding neighbours. We contract greater guilt when ever we are ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; when we are afraid to act up to its sacred rules. The mercy of God, in writing and committing to us the great things of His law, is such as cannot be sufficiently estimated. It calls for fervent and lasting gratitude. "To whom much is given, of him shall much be required."
(S. Knight, M. A.)
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
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