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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Hosea 14

Verses 1-9

Chapter 14

Restoration And Blessing

The same yearning tenderness that led the rejected Messiah to weep over Jerusalem as He said, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!” is manifest throughout this final chapter of our prophet. It is one of the most touching yet faithful entreaties to be found in the Book of God, reminding us of the soul-stirring appeals uttered by the Holy Spirit through a later servant, Jeremiah. Not only does it give us the beseechings of Jehovah that His people heed His voice and return to Himself, but it sets forth clearly just how they should go about it, even putting into their lips the words which, if they came from their hearts, He would delight to hear. Abundant promises too are given of blessing to be poured out upon them when they should thus bow before Him in repentance and contrition of heart.

“O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity!” (ver. 1). How bitterly had they proven that “the way of transgressors is hard!” “Righteousness,” we are elsewhere told, “exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.” Had they followed in the paths of uprightness which their faithful, covenant-keeping God had marked out for them, theirs had been a very different history. But they refused to hearken, and turned away the shoulder. The result was failure and disaster from first to last. They had indeed fallen very low. Yet He, who had been so grievously sinned against, could lovingly entreat them still to return unto Him, who was their God from the land of Egypt.

Let us learn from their unhappy course both to avoid their sins and to know the exceeding grace of our God. The Church, as a testimony for an absent Lord, has failed as fully as Israel. But however dark the day, wherever a true heart turns back to God, judging itself for participation in the common sin of those so highly privileged, He who has been so grievously dishonored will still gladly receive such an one; yea, He waits but for open doors to come in and sup in communion, though the hour be late.

If the soul say, “But I have erred so seriously, I know not how to approach so holy a God after having dishonored Him to such an extent;” then He Himself will put a prayer into the lips of the returning one: thus assuring each seeking soul of His willingness to hear. “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips. Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy” (vers. 2, 3).

This prayer, indited by God Himself, will repay the most careful consideration. Let us take up its clauses one by one, weighing each in the presence of the Lord. “Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously,” cries the repentant soul. Having long been denied, till the conscience was almost calloused, the light of God has now shown things up as they really are. This produces an abhorrence of the waywardness so long tolerated as though it were a thing indifferent. Unconcern is succeeded by deep exercise. “Take away all iniquity!” is the soul’s longing. Sin becomes hateful the moment one gets into the presence of God. Then the need of grace is felt, and so the cry comes, “Receive us graciously.” What a mercy that it is to “the God of all grace” we are directed to come!

There can be no restoration so long as one sin is trifled with and remains unjudged; but the instant a full confession is made and all iniquity is honestly turned from, the Word assures us of instant forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is the principle that applies to a lost sinner seeking salvation, or an erring saint desiring restoration of soul. Sin judged is sin gone; and the soul may afresh enjoy the communion that has been interrupted from the moment evil was allowed upon the conscience. In the knowledge of this-a knowledge received, not by feelings, but resting on the testimony of Scripture- praise and worship once more spring up in the heart. “So shall we render the calves of our lips!”

Only when the life is right and the conscience pure from defilement can there be worship in spirit and in truth. Then the happy saint can without hindrance pour forth into the ear of God his grateful praises, and his worship, like incense, arise from the heart to which Christ is all. Israel shall enter into this, when, restored to their land after their disciplinary wanderings, they rejoice before Him who shall dwell in the midst of them, having first purged them with the spirit of burning from all that has hindered their full acknowledgment of His grace.

“Asshur shall not save us,” is the cry of a people who have learned to “cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils.” We have seen throughout this book how in the hour of their distress they turned, not to God against whom they had revolted, but to Assyria, the proud northern power, who was destined to be their ruin. Thus they learned that “vain is the help of man.” Therefore they will say in the day of Jehovah’s might, “Asshur shall not deliver us;”15 but in God alone will they find their Saviour.

Nor will they depend in that day upon their own armies, mounted like the cavalry of the nations. “We will not ride upon horses.” It is noticeable throughout this history that their strength for warfare consisted not in imitating the manners and customs of the nations, but in reliance upon God in the spirit of praise. When Judah (“praise”) led, they conquered, as they counted on the Lord alone for succor. When Jehoshaphat met the enemy, he put singers, not cavalrymen, in the van, and a great victory ensued. To this they shall return when humbled before God because of all their failure and sin. “A horse is a vain thing for safety,” though it seem to add wonderfully to human prowess. But better far is it to lean upon the arm of Jehovah, and remember that the battle is His, not ours.

Idolatry had been their undoing in the past. But then they shall cry, “Neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods!” Having learned the impotence of the “gods many and lords many” who have had dominion over them, the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. It is a lovely picture of a soul who has proven that no power, seen or unseen, can avail for deliverance, but the strength of “the mighty God of Jacob.” When everything is thus out in His presence, and no guile remains in their spirit, they can add with assurance, “For in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” Israel had been Jehovah’s son, whom He had called out of Egypt. But they had forgotten Him, and done despite to His Spirit of grace. Therefore He had pronounced the Lo-ammi and Lo-ruhamah sentences upon them, as we saw in the beginning of the prophecy. Thus, when they return, they come in on the ground of pure grace and mercy. They come as “the fatherless;” not to claim the rights of a child, but to be the subjects of that loving-kindness which is better than life. How suited to the lips of the Remnant of the last days will be the words of this prayer!

The gracious response of the Lord immediately follows: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for Mine anger is turned away from him” (ver. 4). It is as though His great heart of love had been full, nigh to bursting, but their sins had kept Him from expressing all that was there. Now every barrier is removed, and, like an irresistible torrent, His kindness flows forth, overleaping, or sweeping away, every obstruction that a timid faith might yet raise. Loving them freely, He will set them in paths of righteousness, healing their souls and turning them from all their backslidings. Everything of the dark past forgiven and gone, His wrath has vanished, and His grace knows no bounds.

No longer shall they be as a barren and desolate heath, but like a watered garden, tended and kept by Himself. “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon” (ver. 5). The dew ever, in Scripture, sets forth the refreshing influences of the Holy Spirit, ministering the truth in grace to the soul. The manna in the wilderness fell on the dew-type of Christ ministered in the power of the Holy Ghost. Gideon’s signs pictured in a marvelous way God’s varied dealings in this regard. At first the dew was on the fleece, while all the ground was dry. Again, the fleece was dry, but all the ground covered with dew. So had Israel been blessed with the Spirit’s testimony, while the world lay in ignorance and idolatry. But Israel rejected Messiah at His first coming, and now the chosen nation is dry and desolate, while the Spirit of God is working among the Gentiles. In the Millennium He will be poured out on all flesh; then fleece and ground shall alike be refreshed with the dew. In Psalms 133:0 “the dew of Hermon” sets forth the same quickening and revivifying power as here in Hosea. God Himself will be as the dew unto His restored people, giving new life and freshness, that they may evermore rejoice in Him. Under His kindly nurture, they shall put on the beauty of the lily, with the strength of the cedar of Lebanon. No fading glory shall again be theirs, but a beauty that shall endure, and a strength that can never fail.

Then “his branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon” (ver. 6). Towering up to heaven like a mighty cedar, Israel’s branches shall go out in majesty, and their fragrance shall be wafted in the air, that all may know that the Lord has taken them as His own. Nor is it only dignity and fragrance, but there shall be all the loveliness and fruitfulness of the olive tree-the oil tree, as the word might be rendered. This too speaks of the Holy Spirit, who will permeate the nation as the oil permeates the olive, making it a source of spiritual blessing to the whole earth.

“They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon” (ver. 7). Figure after figure is pressed into service to tell the joy of the Lord in His people, and their beauty and preciousness in His eyes. Jacob shall not only be regathered, but others shall find blessing through him, according to the promise to the fathers. Many shall “dwell under his shadow,” finding rest through the message committed to him. The corn and wine tell of strength and gladness. It shall no more be said, “Israel is an empty vine; he bring-eth forth fruit unto himself.” But, planted again in the land, the vine of the Lord shall flourish, and send forth its branches laden with choice clusters, to provide the wine of joy for the whole earth.

Then shall Ephraim say, “What have I to do any more with idols?” Dwelling in fellowship with God, and enjoying His matchless love and grace, the wretched follies of the past will be detested. The new affection will so possess the heart, that the vain idols at whose altars they once bowed will be hated and forgotten. In holy complacency the Lord looks down and says, “I have heard him, and observed him.”16 In joyous exultation, Israel answers, “I am like a green fir tree!”-not temporary verdure; but, like an evergreen, they will be perennially fresh and lovely in His eyes. But all their goodness is from Himself; so He replies, “From Me is thy fruit found.” Apart from Him, all would be barrenness once more, even as Jesus said, “Without Me, ye can do nothing.” But, abiding in the uninterrupted enjoyment of His love, their fruit shall never fail nor their freshness ever depart.

This closes the prophecy; but pointedly the Lord presses upon every reader the importance of weighing all in His presence. “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein” (ver. 9). The ways of the Lord has been the theme of the book. Happy shall we be if we are, through grace, numbered among the wise and prudent who know and understand, and the just who walk in them!

The Lord give efficacy to His Word for His name’s sake! Amen.

1 It is essential the reader should first read with care, in Scripture, the chapter under consideration in these “Notes.” To derive profit and blessing, the subject must be familiar.-[Ed.

2 This has been gone into at some length in the author’s “Notes on the Book of Esther,” to be had of the same publishers. Paper covers, 30 cts.; cloth, 75 cts.

3 It will be observed that, in justifying from Scripture the present work of God in showing mercy to the Gentiles, this is one of the passages to which the apostle Paul appeals in Romans 9:25; while his brother-apostle Peter applies the same words to the present remnant of Israel in 1 Peter 2:10. Both Jew and Gentile stand now on the same ground before God; therefore the same passage may well apply to both, for the salvation of either is on the ground, not of legal works, but of pure grace.

4 That is, the remnant of Israel: “Because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.” See Romans 9:27-29; Isaiah 10:20-23. The remnant then becomes the righteous seed for the millennial kingdom.-[Ed.

5 It is a sad and significant fact that the three words, “Condemn not thyself,” form an oft-repeated motto among so-called Christian Scientists of our day. Thus they lock against themselves the door to all true blessing; for God can only justify the one who condemns himself and his ways.

6 For a striking instance of what is here portrayed, see Jeremiah 44:15-23. There the remnant actually trace their temporal mercies back to their idolatrous rites.

7 I take “without money” to mean that they had no money to redeem themselves with-so had to be redeemed by another.

8 For a fuller opening-up of Israel’s past, present, and future see a book entitled “The Mysteries of God.” The same author and publishers. Paper, 3 cts.; cloth, 75 cts.

9 For a fuller consideration of this solemn theme, see chapter eight of “The Mysteries of God.” Same author and publishers. Paper covers, 30 cts.; cloth, 75 cts.

10 G. V. Wigram, a man of much devotedness-now with the Lord.

11 I understand verse 8 should read as follows: “The watchman of Ephraim was with God. [But] the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways! [Because of] hatred against the house of his God.”

12 Hypocrisy, therefore, developed especially in Judah- “This people honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mark 7:6; Isaiah 29:13). This is the danger where doctrine is right and outward form correct while the heart is away from God. Let every child of God beware of this. See Luke 12:1.-[Ed.

13 In so writing, I simply follow the marginal note. There is no positive proof that Hosea prophesied in the days of Hoshea, or that he is the king referred to.

14 This will take place when they shall be restored to the land of Palestine in unbelief, subsequent to the rapture of the Church, and previous to the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom. This has been gone into at length, both in the Author’s “Notes on Jeremiah” (chaps. 30 and 31), and in “The Mysteries of God,” to which attention has already been drawn.

15 It is usually God’s way to cause the very thing in which His people have dishonored Him to become their chastisement-thus to deliver the heart from the idol it has sought after.-[Ed.

16 There is good ground here to question the proper construction of this dialogue. I have followed J. N. Darby’s suggestion in “The Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.” We might understand Israel as saying, “What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard Him, and observed Him! I am like a green fir tree.” Then Jehovah’s answer, “From Me is thy fruit found.”

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Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hosea 14". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/hosea-14.html. 1914.