Indeed, they sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. There is no standing grain; what sprouts fails to yield flour. Even if it should produce, the foreigners would swallow it up.
I. IDOLATERS. It is of such that the prophet is more immediately speaking. The people of the ten tribes were "sowing the wind" when they prayed to the golden calves for abundant harvests; and they would presently "reap the whirlwind" in the three years' siege of Samaria by Shalmaneser, in the successive deportations into exile, and in the final ruin of the nationality of Ephraim. The generation that came out of Egypt seven centuries before had reaped a sad harvest from the calf-worship at Horeb. "There fell of the people that day about three thousand men" (Exodus 32:28). And ever since that time the idolatries of Israel had been a standing grief to Jehovah their Redeemer (Psalm 81:8-16); until at length there was nothing for it but the two hurricanes of captivity, which respectively swept the ten tribes into Assyria, and the remaining two into Babylon. All heathendom, moreover, "reaps the whirlwind' still as the fruit of its idolatries - a harvest (as Paul tells us in Romans 1:18-32) of moral corruption and vileness, overhung by the storm-cloud of the Divine wrath.
II. DESPOTS. The tyrant makes an idol of his own evil will, and "sows the wind" of ambition, and pride, and vain-glory, and disregard of the rights of others. Universal history teems with illustrations of the fact that those kings and grandees of the earth who will not give God the glory are doomed to reap a harvest of whirlwind. Take, e.g., from sacred history such cases as Pharaoh, Ahab and Jezebel, Sennacherib, Haman, Herod. Or, from profane history, such illustrations as the Stuart kings of England, the Bourbon kings of France, and the fate of the two Napoleons, Some tyrants have foreseen the harvest before it began to be gathered in; like Louis XV., when he said to his courtiers, "After me, the deluge."
III. CARELESS PARENTS. All who neglect the godly upbringing of their children "sow the wind." There are well-meaning heads of households who fail to maintain a firm and resolute as well as kindly family government. They allow their young people to cherish self-will, or to follow pleasure as if it were the business of life, and neglect to exercise due restraint over them. This was the sin of Eli (1 Samuel 3:13); and he soaped the tornado in the disgrace which was thus brought upon the priesthood, together with the destruction of his own house. There are parents, also, who in their own personal character fail to set a consistent godly example before their sons and daughters. David's great sin entailed evil upon his family like a whirlwind; some of his sons became arrows in his heart, instead of "arrows in his hand." The historian shows us the poor king reaping his dismal harvest in the pathetic scene in which he bewailed the fate of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:33),
IV. Vicious MEN. The young man who "wastes his substance with riotous living" has his career described in our text. In following the impulse of his wild hot passions he "sows the wind." The sensualist, the drunkard, the gambler, - how profitless all their sowing "to their own flesh"! And what a harvest of torment and terror and shame they are compelled to reap! It has been so even with men of the most brilliant genius, as e.g. the poets Byron and Burns. A career of sinful pleasure produces the whirlwind as its natural harvest. It undermines the foundations of morality within the soul (Hosea 4:11). The appropriate epitaph for such a life is, on the one side of the tombstone, "Vanity of vanities;" and on the other, "Vexation of spirit."
V. ALL UNBELIEVERS. For even the man of good moral character "sows the wind," if he neglects the salvation of Jesus Christ. Every one who lives without God is without hope. He who believes that the only real life is a life of sense, and who therefore shuts his eyes to the world of the unseen, shall one day be fully undeceived. Should no whirlwind arise within his conscience during the present life, he shall find himself, when he passes into eternity, at once involved in tremendous wreaths of storm. He "shall eat of the fruit of his own way," and his "destruction shall come as a whirlwind" (Proverbs 1:24-33). What a dreadful tempest is "the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:12-17). Yet the ungodly shall be exposed to all its fury. They shall "reap the whirlwind;" or, rather, the whirlwind shall reap them; they are "like the chaff which the wind driveth away" (Psalm 1:4).
1. This life is the seed-time of eternity, and all are sowers.
2. The harvest depends upon the seed; hence the importance of sowing good seed.
3. To sow sin is a policy of wretched infatuation; it is like "sowing wind."
4. The harvest of sin is not only profitless, but terrific and destructive; it is "the whirlwind."
5. All men have "sown the wind," for all are sinners; but there is "a Man" who is able to shelter us from the whirlwind (Isaiah 32:2). - C.J.
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.
Sketches of Sermons.Misery is attached to sin as its inevitable consequence; but the connection does not always appear to a superficial observer. Transgression sometimes appears to be productive of happiness, and obedience to be a source of much affliction and trouble. But the wicked are not really happy now, and they have no reasonable expectation of happiness in the eternal world.
I. WHO MAY BE SAID TO SOW THE WIND? To "sow the wind" is a proverbial expression for labouring in vain. It may be applied to all who seek happiness in the way of sin.
1. To sensualists, who yield themselves up to the gratifications of sense. See confession of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:1, 10, 11).
2. To worldlings. The lovers of this present world hope to obtain, not a momentary gratification, but solid and lasting benefits. But riches are proverbially uncertain. Our cares are generally multiplied by means of them.
3. To formalists. The performance of religious duties seems more calculated to make us happy. No one can be happy who disregards them. But a mere round of services can never satisfy the conscience. Some delude themselves with an idea that it will secure the Divine favour. Under that delusion they may be filled with self-complacency. A sight of sin will speedily dissipate these self-righteous hopes.
4. To false professors. There are many who wish to be thought religious when they are destitute of spiritual life. They may be jealous about doctrines and their own particular form of Church government, but they are not solicitous to live nigh to God in holy duties.
II. WHAT THEY MAY EXPECT TO REAP. A "whirlwind" is a figure to represent extraordinary calamities. Their calamities will be —
1. Sudden. They receive warnings, but are taken by surprise at last.
2. Irresistible. Illustrate by a whirlwind.
3. Tremendous. See desolation wrought by a whirlwind. Infers
(1) (2) (Sketches of Sermons.)
(2) (Sketches of Sermons.)
(Sketches of Sermons.)
1. Many do nothing all their lifetime but sow the wind; they labour and toil, but what comes of it? It is no good account to give to God of our time, to say that we have taken a great deal of pains; we may take pains and yet "sow the wind." Who are those that sow the wind?(1) Some students: men that spend their thoughts and strength about things in no way profitable to themselves or others, such sow the wind: with a great deal of earnestness they do just nothing.(2) Idolaters. All those who take pains and are at great cost in superstitious worship, all their intentions that they have to honour God, come to nothing, it is but a sowing the wind.(3) Formalists. Such as content themselves in the outward part of God's worship, having no power nor life of godliness in the services they perform.(4) The vainglorious. They who do all that they do out of vainglory, who, to set up themselves among others, spend a long time in prayer, and an ostentatiously scrupulous observance of all rites and ceremonies, a principle of vainglory actuating them throughout. Men of public gifts, who do abundance of good in the Church of God and in the commonwealth, but are moved thereto by a principle of self and vainglory, these lose all, they sow but to the wind.(5) Such as serve themselves of sin; such as seek to shift for themselves by sinful means when they are in any straits, and forsake lawful courses to help themselves out of trouble. "They reap the whirlwind." The Hebrew word has a syllable more than usual added to it to increase its signification. It is not only a whirlwind, but a most terrible whirlwind. There is more in the harvest than in the seed. Sow a little sinful pleasure, and a great deal of misery is the fruit.
I. WE ARE CONTINUALLY FORMING HABITS.
II. THE TENDENCY OF HABITS ONCE FORMED IS TO INCREASE IN STRENGTH. "Wind — whirlwind."
III. HABITS INCREASE IN THE DIRECTION OF ORIGINAL TENDENCY. Same in kind, though vastly different in intensity and force.
IV. THE TENDENCY OF HABITS IS TO INCREASE IN STRENGTH TILL THEY PASS BEYOND CONTROL. The whirlwind desolates the land and strews the sea with wrecks. Habit is something like appetite: we are led by it, just as a hungry man makes his way towards home. It cannot be explained how it is that actions become easier by being repeated, but that it is so everybody must admit. If we do anything a certain number of times, the doing has an effect upon us, and that effect we call "habit." We should therefore be very careful what we accustom ourselves to do, lest we should acquire the appetite or habit of doing things that are hurtful and wrong. Habit is the result of repeated acts, and it is wonderful how soon a little child acquires a habit. The doing of a thing once or twice is sufficient to lead the child to do it again —
"All habits gather, by unseen degrees,
As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas."
(A. Hampden Lee.)
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