The days of punishment have come; the days of retribution have arrived--let Israel know it. The prophet is called a fool, and the inspired man insane, because of the greatness of your iniquity and hostility.
I. THE TRUE AND THE FALSE PROPHET ARE OFTEN CONTEMPORARIES. One of Satan's favorite methods for the support of his kingdom seems in all ages to have been to caricature the works of the Almighty, and to induce men to accept the counterfeit and reject the real. Whenever, accordingly, the Lord raised up a true prophet, Satan at the same time sent forth false prophets. Thus Moses, at the beginning of his career, had to contend with" the magicians of Egypt;" and, towards the close of it, against the influence of Balaam, who, although constrained to utter true predictions, was all the while the Anti-Moses. In like manner, Elijah confronted at Carmel four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal; and Micaiah at Samaria other four hundred (1 Kings 22:6-28). Elisha also lived contemporaneously with false prophets (2 Kings 3:11-13; 2 Kings 10:19). Hosea, as he himself testifies both here and elsewhere (Hosea 4:5), was impeded and thwarted in his life-work by many impostors. And at last, when God incarnated himself in Jesus Christ as the supreme Prophet of the Church, the devil took care to send into the world "false Christs and false prophets." After nearly nineteen centuries of the gospel, Mohammedanism yet lives as the religion of "the false prophet," and in our day there are still pretenders to the dignity of" the Mahdi," or Moslem Messiah. In "the last time" there have already been "many antichrists;" and, before the Christian dispensation of truth shall close, the Antichrist par excellence must yet be revealed (1 John 2:18).
II. THE WORK OF THE TRUE PROPHET. (Ver. 8.) It is that of a spiritual "watchman," stationed on the watch-tower of faith and prayer. He stands there, concentrating his gaze upon the unseen, that he may obtain Divine revelations of mercy or judgment, and report such to the people (Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:7; Habakkuk 2:1). God sent many such watchmen to the chosen nation. He sent some even to the ten tribes - the two writing prophets Hosed and Amos; such great prophets of action as Elijah and Elisha; besides also Ahijah, Micaiah, Jonah, etc. These "watchmen of Ephraim' were "with God," in the sense of being:
1. Serif by God. His Spirit called them to their office, put his words into their mouth, and even caused them sometimes to feel as if their own consciousness were absorbed into that of God.
2. Helped by God. He infused into their hearts the courage and strength which they needed boldly to speak his Word to a "gainsaying people," who hated them for their faithfulness.
3. Responsible to God. For the prophets would have to give account to him of the manner in which they had announced the revelations vouchsafed to them for the nation's guidance. Moses had been "with God," for "the Lord knew him face to face" (Deuteronomy 34:10). Elijah had been "with God," for he spoke of him as Jehovah, "before whom I stand" (1 Kings 17:1). Elisha was called "a holy man of God" (2 Kings 4:9). Hosea's name means salvation; and the name reflected the substance of his ultimate message, that of the redeeming love of Jehovah. And similarly still, under the gospel dispensation, the minister of Jesus Christ is to stand among men as a witness for "the things which are not seen," a watchman whose eye searches the invisible, and who points with his finger towards eternity and God. Every preacher should deliver his message as David Hume, the infidel, remarked that John Brown of Haddington did: "That old man preaches as if Christ were at his elbow."
III. THE CHARACTER OF THE FALSE PROPHET. The northern kingdom abounded in such persons in the time of Hosea. They professed to be prophets, i.e. for-speakers; but they did not really speak for God. They called themselves "spiritual men" - men of the spirit; but the spirit which possessed them was an evil and a lying spirit. Their pretended prophecies were soothing and flattering, all the while that the land reeked with idolatry and unmentionable vices. The false prophets "prophesied out of their own hearts," and "saw nothing" of the vision of the Lord (Ezekiel 13:2, 3). At the very hour when the sword was about to come upon the land, and the throne was tottering to its fall, they derided the earnest warnings of the true prophets, and hoodwinked the people into the persuasion that all would yet be well. Thus the fake prophet, so far from being in any good sense a "watchman." was to the people; "snare of a fowler in all their ways;" and, with many a specious and plausible pretext, he allured the poor silly people to their ruin. When, at length, that ruin rushed upon them, it was demonstrated that the prophet who had misled them with the expectation of prosperity was a "fool" and "mad." Amid the horrors of their captivity in Assyria they would have leisure to reflect upon the folly of the impostors whom they had allowed to delude them. In these latter times, also, there are false prophets enough who are as "a snare of a fowler," and whom ever and again events prove to be "fools" and "mad." What mischief, e.g., was wrought in Europe by the infidel writings of Voltaire and Rousseau! What a snare, to a certain class of minds, has Comte been! How many unwary souls have been beguiled by Strauss and Renan! How sadly is the welfare of the Lord's flock put in jeopardy by the revival of sacerdotalism in Churches professedly Protestant! Who can estimate the harm that is done to the cause of God by the baleful influence of ungodly and unfaithful ministers? Such, wherever found, are "a snare" to the people. Their example tends to drive souls away from God, and to drag them down to perdition.
IV. HOW THE TRUE PROPHET IS TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE FALSE.
1. The false prophet, when the times are evil, "speaks smooth things." He justifies the people's misdeeds, and fails to rebuke prevailing sins. He is a blind watchman; a dumb dog that cannot bark - loving to slumber; and a greedy dog, which can never have enough. So he flatters the people, promises them peace, and tries to make matters pleasant all round. The true prophet, on the other hand, without thinking of his safety or of his means of subsistence, always "prophesies right things;" and in an evil time "cries aloud, spares not, lifts up his voice like a trumpet, and shows the people their transgressions.
2. The false prophet comes "before, Christ (John 10:8); i.e. he aims at intercepting men's view of him as the one Mediator, and does his work in opposition to the will and cause of Christ. The true prophet, on the other hand, never forgets that it is Christ who has sent him, and that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
3. The false prophet attracts ungodly men to his teaching, and attaches them as his followers; "but the sheep will not hear him." His impostures are detected by those who enjoy the teaching of the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:1-6). The true prophet, on the other hand, gathers around him those who are spiritually minded, and suffers persecution from the ungodly (e.g. Amos 7:10, 11).
4. The false prophet shall be finally branded as an impostor when "the days of recompense" shall have come (ver. 7). Thus the field of Ramoth-gilead decided whether Micaiah or the four hundred prophets of Ahab had prophesied truly. And on the day of judgment the Lord Jesus shall say to many who have professed to prophesy in his Name, "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:22, 23). The true prophet, on the other hand, "shah rest, and stand in his lot at the end of the days" (Daniel 12:13).
"Ere long thy feet shall stand
The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come.
(W. Robertson Smith, LL. D.)
The prophet is a fool, and the spiritual man is mad
Homilist.What the prophet means is this. When the predicted retribution had come, Israel would learn that the prosperity which some of the prophets had predicted (Ezekiel 13:10) proved them infatuated fools. This charge against religious ministers is — SOMETIMES TOO TRUE.
1. There are men of weak minds; utterly incapable of taking a harmonious view of truth, or even forming a clear and complete conception of any great principle.
2. There are men of irrational theologies. They propound theological dogmas which are utterly incongruous with human reason, and therefore un-Biblical and un-Divine.
3. There are men of silly rituals.
II. OFTEN A SCOFFING CALUMNY. The ideal preacher is the wisest and most philosophical man of his age.
1. He aims at the highest end.
2. He works in the right direction.
3. He employs the best means. The best is not legislation, art, poetry, rhetoric, but love. This is the Cross, the power of God unto salvation.
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
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