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Hosea 11:1.] The prophet shows how Israel had repaid God’s love in the past with ingratitude and unfaithfulness. Child] “First-born son” (Exodus 4:22), the infancy in Egypt and the wilderness; son by election. Called] Brought safely out, typical of Christ’s call (Matthew 2:15), and of redemption through him.
Hosea 11:2. They] Moses, Aaron, and prophets; many calls, but Israel drew back from them, went after gods.
Hosea 11:3. I taught] Lit. set Ephraim on his feet (cf. Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:5; Nehemiah 9:21; Isaiah 63:9). God supported them as a nurse her child, gently taught them to walk, and carried them when tired (Numbers 11:12. See Acts 13:18, marg.). Knew] Ignored God’s kindness, perceived not God’s design to restore them (Exodus 15:26).
Hosea 11:4. Cords of a man] Par. to “bands of love,” “cords with which men are led, more especially children that are weak upon their feet, in contrast with ropes, with which men control wild, unmanageable beasts (Psalms 32:9), are a figurative representation of the paternal humane guidance of Israel” [Keil]. Take off] Heb. lift up, i.e. push the yoke higher up, to relieve oxen, that they might eat with comfort and ease. Pusey gives, “I was regarded by them as putting the yoke on, ever placing some new yoke or constraint upon them,” but the words indicate God’s continued goodness. Laid meat] Gave means of grace and manifestations of mercy in abundance; manna in the desert.
GOD’S PATERNAL CARE AND MAN’S UNGRATEFUL RETURN.—Hosea 11:1-4
There is a wonderful cluster of blessings in these verses, every one of which is significant, and the whole especially puts men under deep obligation.
I. God’s great kindness. God loved, trained, and treated his people with the greatest care, though they sinned and rebelled against him. This kindness is displayed—
1. In the love of a parent towards a son. “When Israel was a child then I loved him.” (a) This love is free. God loved them not because they were better and more numerous than others. He loved them of his own free will, and chose them because he loved them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). (b) This love is undeserved. “When a child,” wayward and self-willed, foolish and disobedient. We love children because they are like us, or because they please us. But God loves men that are unlike him in character and helpless in condition (Romans 5:6). This love is sovereign and undeserved; “for we were by nature children of wrath, even as others.” When forlorn and outcast, God loves men and adopts them into his family.
2. In the power of a redeemer to a captive. “And called my son out of Egypt.” God not only called by the voice of his servants, but gave power to obey the call. Men are called for years, but do not, are unwilling and unable to come to God. The Spirit makes us willing in the day of God’s power; reluctance is overcome; we rise and obey the call. Power in a redeemer is a necessity. We cannot trust a Saviour who cannot deliver us. But in Christ omnipotence is linked with love, power is employed for the ends of mercy and the salvation of man. Redemption from Egypt is a type of deliverance from sin, death, and hell. “For he shall save his people from their sins.”
3. In the tenderness of a nurse for a child. “I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms.” Like a mother or nurse, training a child in leading-strings, God carries men when young, upholds them when weak, and teaches them gradually and gently to walk in his commands. He takes them by their arms, lifts them up from dust and despair, and teaches them “to go” in pursuit of better things. It is the privilege of God’s people not only to be loved and delivered, but taught and guided. When weak and weary, in paths rough and dark, God is with them, leading them about, and instructing them and keeping them as the apple of his eye (Deuteronomy 32:10). “In the wilderness where thou hast seen how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place” (Deuteronomy 1:31; Acts 13:18).
4. In the skill of a physician towards the sick. “I healed them.” God’s people are not only cared for, but cured in sickness and sorrow. Sin is self-injury, but God is our happiness and health. Men inflict wounds upon heart and mind, destroy themselves, but in God is their help (Hosea 13:9). God cures their sicknesses and pardons their sins, aids their infirmities and heals their diseases (Psalms 103:3). No other physician can close our wounds and putrefying sores, no earthly ointment can mollify our bruises. “I am the Lord that healeth thee.”
5. In the kindness of a master towards his servants.
1. Kindness in drawing men into his service. They are alienated and distant from God, naturally ill disposed and unable to come to him. All who come are drawn, “Draw me and I will run after thee.” Compulsory piety tends to infidelity. Lord Bolingbroke was compelled to peruse volumes of controversial Divinity when far too young to understand them. This perhaps implanted in his mind seeds of aversion to the truths of the Bible. (a) This drawing is by love, “with bands of love.” Love only can draw, cruelty drives. God uses no violence nor force, never tries harsh when gentle means will do. The law affects us like frost the stream; it hardens and stagnates the soul: but the love of God, like the shining sun and the gentle shower, melts the cold and breaks the heart into gushing streams. Teachers who rule with a rod, and parents who govern with a frown, will not win affection and obedience. God draws by loving-kindness, and wins to his service by love. “I treat my enemies so well that I compel them to be my friends,” said Alexander the Great. “No cord or cable,” says Burton, “can draw so forcibly, or bind so fast, as love can do with only a silken thread.” (b) This drawing is in harmony with our moral nature. “With cords of a man.” Men are not used like dumb driven cattle, but treated as responsible and rational creatures. In the promises of the gospel, the work of the Spirit, and the character of Christ, we are looked upon as men, and not machines nor brutes. All God’s dealings are in harmony with our mental and moral constitution. “The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 John 4:19).
2. Kindness in refreshing men in his service. (a) God relieves in distress. “I was to them as they that take off the yoke.” Like a merciful man who regardeth the life of his beast, he eased them of their burdens, and helped them in distress. Christ delivers from the yoke of bondage, and from the hands of our enemies (Leviticus 26:13). (b) God provides in want. “And I laid meat unto them.” Manna from heaven, water from the rock, and “food convenient for them,” were provided for his ancient people. In Christ there is no starvation nor stint. Blessings in abundance are given through him. Pardon, peace, and joy; relief from harassing care, and rest in perfect security. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
II. Man’s ungrateful return. God has put men under deep obligations by his goodness. If the kind deeds of men bind us to think of them and love them, how much do we owe to God, to whose ceaseless bounty we owe every comfort of life? What he bestows upon us in kindness and constant care should be given back in sacrifice, incense, and devotion. “How unsuitable it is,” says Edwards, “for us who live only by kindness to be unkind.”
I’ve heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
With coldness still returning;
Alas! the gratitude of men
Hath oftener left me mourning.
1. They reject Divine teaching. “As they called them, so they went from them.” Moses and Aaron, prophets and apostles, were unheeded. The more they were admonished the more careless they grew; the more pressing the teacher the more refractory the taught. Foolishness is bound in the hearts of children. When they are taught to go, they go from God into ways of sin. Divine instruction is needful and constantly given, yet many turn away in contempt. Christ is preached and the gospel offered, but men go to their merchandise and their farms. “Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?”
2. They despise Divine favours. “They knew not that I healed them.” They look to men as the source of blessings, as though by their own power and goodness they procure them. Ourselves and others are thanked, and God forgotten. We do not see the end of Divine chastisement, nor acknowledge Divine goodness in our prosperity. God is constantly ignored, and wilful ignorance leads to base ingratitude. “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”
3. They cling to their wicked course. “They sacrificed unto Baalam,” went from one god to another, “and burned incense to graven images.” When men forsake the true God, they cut, and grave, and adore idols of their own. This is self-abasement and self-destruction; a just ground of complaint with God, and a sad perversion in man. “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.”
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Hosea 11:1. The chap. begins with love; ancient, sovereign, electing love. The next sweet word is sonship. We see immediately after in the same verse, calling, salvation, deliverance. “I called my son out of Egypt” [Spurgeon].
Hosea 11:1; Hosea 11:3-4. God’s children young to be cared for; weak to be strengthened; ignorant to be taught; needy to be fed; tired to be refreshed.
1. To teach dependence.
2. To sustain the steps.
3. To regulate the walk. God keeps from falling, lifts up when down, gently, kindly, and gradually leads along in the path of virtue. What love and care! Be not afraid to trust in God, he may chide, but will never forsake you. He keepeth the feet of his saints (1 Samuel 2:9). He guideth their feet in the way of peace (Luke 1:79).
Hosea 11:4. Christian life a drawing from sin and the world to God, greater faith and attainments, to more intimate fellowship on earth, and heaven at length. “He did not say lead, but draw him. This violence is done to the heart, not to the body. Why marvel? Believe, and thou comest; love, and thou art drawn. Think it not a rough and uneasy violence: it is sweet, alluring; the sweetness draws thee” [Augustine]. “All the methods and parts of God’s government are twined together as twisted cords of love from God, so ordered that they ought to draw man with all his heart to love him again.”
God’s love in his word and in his providence lays us under strong obligation to duty. How thankful should we be that all things are prepared and provided for us day after day. But how aggravating that guilt which despises such love. “To sin against mercy is to sin against humanity; and as no surfeit is more dangerous than that of bread, so no judgment is more terrible than that which grows out of love felt and slighted” [Trapp].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11
Hosea 11:1; Hosea 11:4. Drew them. No being ever yet drew another to him by a display of authority and terror. God himself never drew one soul to him by the law, which is only a system of authority and terror; but by the gospel, which is his scheme of mercy and grace. The whole of Christianity may be considered an infinite expediency, devised by the only wise God, to dispossess our minds of bad and unworthy thoughts, to fix in our trembling bosoms confidence, and thus to cause us to return to him. When we wish to influence a man we reason with him, inform his mind—we argue and persuade. This is precisely the method in which God deals with us. “He works in us to will and to do of his good pleasure” [Jay].
By force, hath overcome but half his foe. [Milton].
Hosea 11:5. Shall not] An apparent contradiction to Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3; but Egypt there is a type of bondage, here the hope of relief against Assyria. They would no longer go to Egypt for help, but be taken captive to Assyria.
Hosea 11:6. Abide] Lit. to whirl round, turn in a circle, indicating the violence and extent of punishment, often the sense of falling and staying until the mission is fulfilled (Jeremiah 23:19; Jeremiah 30:23; Lamentations 4:6; 2 Samuel 3:29). Branches] Some, villages which are branches, dependencies upon cities; mighty men, others. Baddim] Sig. poles (Exodus 25:13), made of branches, firmness derived from being woven together; bars or bolts by which gates were fastened together (Job 17:16).
THE SHORT-SIGHTED POLICY OF SINNERS.—Hosea 11:5-6
Israel were rebelling against Assyria, and looking to Egypt for help. They had forsaken God and desired to escape his judgments. But they should have what they did not wish, and be deprived of what they sought to have. There was no refuge nor retiring place; Assyria would take them captive, and the sword would perpetually rest on their cities and people. This punishment would be the result of their own short-sighted policy.
I. In refusing Divine and following their own counsels. “They refused to return” to God and his ways, and were defeated by adopting their own plans. God’s counsel is continually given to guide and correct us, and to reject this counsel is folly in the extreme.
1. It is the only safe counsel. Human guides may err. The wisest only guess. We require certainty and security. Many stumble, but in God “shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.”
2. It is the only firm counsel. Man’s instructions change, and his purpose can be frustrated. He may adjust circumstances and take precautions, yet not escape. God has knowledge to foresee and power to overcome opposition. “The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”
3. It is the only rational counsel. It is the only probable way to succeed according to our desire. The wisdom of the fool is conceit and self-delusion. He wanders into danger, and wrongs his own soul. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”
II. In bringing destruction upon them when they expected safety. They were trusting to Egypt, and depending upon their mighty men and fortified cities, but the sword would devour them.
1. The destruction was violent. The sword fell, whirled down upon them in all its weight, like “a whirlwind of the Lord gone forth in fury, a grievous whirlwind which fell grievously upon the head of the wicked” (Jeremiah 23:19).
2. The destruction was extensive. It “shall abide on his cities and shall consume his branches, and devour them” like flames of fire. Whether branches mean mighty men, villages, or bars of the cities, it is all one. Power could not defend the mighty, and defenced places were levelled to the ground. Princes and people, storehouses of wealth and palaces of splendour, fall through the sins of the nation.
3. The destruction was lasting. The sword abode upon them as long as they continued their rebellion against God. Israel’s kings were inaugurated by blood, and by God’s appointment they should reap just retribution. “Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from thy house.”
III. In rushing into the bondage from which they seek to escape. They sought to avoid Assyria by flying to Egypt, but this was the very means to bring them into bondage. We cannot escape God’s presence, nor shun the consequences of broken law. What appears the nearest refuge is often the remotest hope and the swiftest punishment. Persons to whom we fly for help are often the weakest to defend, and rushing from one danger the surest way to fall into another. Men fall by their own counsel and are taken in their own craftiness. They mistake if they think to avoid the judgments of God by cunning artifice and deceit, to promote their true interests by refusing to follow Divine counsel (Job 5:13; Job 18:7). “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11
Hosea 11:5-6. Shall consume. Guilt and punishment are bound together. One should act as a warning to the other. The threat of punishment is a merciful declaration to some, though a terror to others. If there are rocks and shoals in the ocean of life, it is not cruelty to chart them down; it is an eminent and great mercy [Beecher].
Hosea 11:7. Bent] Lit. hung suspended on backsliding, “impaled or fastened upon apostasy as upon a stake, so that it cannot get loose” [Keil]. None] Lit. together they exalted not, they were all bent downwards, and did not rise, lift themselves upwards to exalt and love God.
Hosea 11:8. Ad. and Zeb.] Two cities destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah (Deuteronomy 29:23). Turned] Heb. upon me (1 Samuel 25:36; Jeremiah 8:18). Repentings] My strong compassions are excited, glow with love and heat. Joseph’s bowels (were hot), did yearn (Genesis 43:30; Luke 24:32; 1 Kings 3:26). In all three places the same word found.
Hosea 11:9. Execute] As fierce conquerors often do; after destroying cities, he will abate his anger and show mercy. For I am God] I do not change my purpose like man (1 Samuel 15:29; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6). The holy, the pure and perfect one, and known to be such in the midst of thee.
BENT ON BACKSLIDING.—Hosea 11:7
In all men there is a tendency to sin. The principle of evil is within us. But sad must it be for the Christian Church, for those who profess to own God, to refuse allegiance to him, and dethrone him in their hearts. How grieving to God for his own chosen people to backslide from him, and to be bent, given up entirely, to this fixed course of aversion from God.
I. They were constant in backsliding. Prophets and teachers continually “called them,” but they did not forsake their ways. God calls men by his word and by his servants, but they turn away from him. They may halt betimes, veer round in a circle of duties, but their continual thoughts and daily life are departure from God.
II. They were unanimous in backsliding. “None at all would exalt him,” all together they apostatized. They refused as one man to return. Evil majorities and idolatrous customs influence in the wrong direction. The lower learn from the higher classes, and the country’s creed becomes the prevalent practice. When all ranks patronize evils, they are established by general consent. Those who corrupt the faith or taint the morals of the community may commit an injury or spread a disease which will ruin generations to come.
III. They were obstinate in backsliding. “They would not.” They were obstinate as an ox, which refused to be driven out of the wrong into the right path. When the will is bent in sin, the current of life follows, overturning all obstacles and defying all counsels. “Ever weaker” the will “grows through acted crime,” until men get stubborn and insensible, unable and unwilling to repent. “Ye will not come.” Well might Edward VI. pray, “Order my living, so that I may do that which thou requirest of me, and give me grace that I may know it, and have will and power to do it.”
IV. They were fixed in backsliding. By continual practice it had become a settled habit. Their whole life was centred and fastened in this course. They were fixed and immoveable in adherence to their sins. The sinner may habituate himself to evil until he is impaled on it, unable to resist and overcome it. It may so absolutely possess a man that he cannot break its dominion, nor free himself from its power. The condition of men is the consequence of life, and the cords of sin the result of evil habits. “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.”
DIVINE JUSTICE AND DIVINE MERCY IN APPARENT CONFLICT FOR THE SINNER.—Hosea 11:8-9
This passage is one of the most mysterious and interesting in the Bible. There actually seems a struggle between one attribute and another. Justice and mercy are in conflict; righteousness and peace kiss each other for the good of the sinner. God is represented after the manner of men, as kindling in compassion, yearning to bless, while anxious to show justice; and at length, though punishing in measure, determining to mitigate the sentence. “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?”
I. Justice is deserved. They deserved to be treated like Admah and the other cities of the plain.
1. They had forgotten God. Favoured with sensible manifestations and unspeakable privileges, they ignored his presence and disregarded his works. The memory of God’s mercies is soon effaced, written in water, not on marble, and one generation after another needs renewal of the blessings. “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.”
2. They had ill requited God. They repaid with the mouth, not with the heart. There was no depth in their penitence, nor firmness in their conduct, “for their heart was not right with him.” They changed from reverence to apostasy, from fair profession to base ingratitude. The favours of men touch us, but the love of God kindles no fire upon the altar within. Love free, abundant, and precious is the only friendship for which men make no returns. This seems a miracle, a monster of stupidity, if we argued against experience. “Annihilate not the mercies of God by the oblivion of ingratitude.”
II. Mercy prompts to save. Mercy exists with justice in the purpose, and one attribute does not destroy another in the work of God.
1. God is merciful. If God were just, and dealt with us after our sins, mercy would be unknown. Justice might sweep the earth, or rear its monuments of vengeance.
When we slip a little
Out of the way of virtue, are we lost?
Is there no medicine called sweet mercy?
Yes, God is more compassionate than a tender father. “My heart is turned within me,” with deep compassion. Give up? No, how can I do that? I delight in mercy. “My repentings are kindled together,” I have punished enough. “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.”
2. God’s mercy shall be seen. “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger.” Mercy prevails over the rigour of justice. God will not “destroy Ephraim,” as soldiers that return a second time to pillage a city they have wasted. God’s mercy is seen—(a) In Christ, who came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. (b) In Christian experience, in the forgiveness of sin, the bestowment of grace, and the gift of glory. Mercy now in proclaimed to all. God is just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth. “For I will not contend for ever with my people, neither will I be always wroth: for the human spirit would fail, be crushed before me” (Isaiah 57:16).
III. God determines to exercise mercy and not justice. “I will not execute,” &c. The reasons for this choice are given.
1. God is unchangeable in his covenant mercy. “For I am God, and not man.” Man is fitful and swayed by human passion. “Man punishes, to destroy; God smites, to amend,” says Jerome. Men are angry, vindictive, and cruel one to another; implacable, unmerciful (Romans 1:31); but God is compassionate and forgiving. Men are mutable, the truest friends are uncertain; but God is not man. “I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
2. God is revealed among men to be a God of mercy. “The Holy One in the midst of thee.” Hence his procedure does not contradict his known character. God is holy and just, true and faithful, and that might be considered a reason for rejecting a rebellious people. But how can this happen? How can justice be reconciled with mercy, and the providence proclaim the love of God? The difficulty is solved in Jesus Christ. In him. God is “faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” His holiness is the defence of his people, and an argument for a consecrated life. In a corrupt Church and a degenerate age let us “give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Mercy interposeth her four several “hows” (in the original only two, but the other two necessarily understood, and by interpreters fitly supplied) for such pathetical interrogations as the like are not to be found in the whole book of God, and not to be answered by any but God himself; as he doth to each particular in the following words: “My heart is turned within me,” that is the first answer; the second, “My repentings are kindled together;” the third, “I will not execute the fierceness of my wrath;” the fourth, “I will not return to destroy Ephraim.” And why? First, “I am God and not man;” secondly, the “Holy One in the midst of thee” [Trapp].
1. Springs from himself. “Repentings kindled together.”
2. Contrasted with men’s conduct. “I am God and not man.”
3. Overcoming God’s justice. “I will not execute.”
4. Supplying man’s need. “Greater is the mercy of God than the misery of all men,” says Augustine.
I am God, &c. God unchangeable.
1. An encouragement to the penitent.
2. A warning to the sinner. As God is in mercy, so in power. Let all be thankful that while man’s pity is soon exhausted God’s pity is great, and displayed to those who carefully seek it with tears.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11
Hosea 11:7. Backsliding. It is not one of the least miseries of a backsliding state, that every state of departure from God disposes the soul to a greater degree of alienation. As it is said of a sheep, that having once wandered from the fold, it never thinks of returning, but “wanders on still more and more astray;” so it may be affirmed of the wanderer, that in most cases his backslidings are multiplied, until frequent disappointments and direct extremities force him to retrace his steps, or the strong hand of the Good Shepherd brings him back.
Hosea 11:8-9. The perfections of God afford a refuge for the sinner. God is just. Nothing that he does can be unjust, arbitrary, or hard. But naked justice affords no comfort. It may fix the sword to keep the gate of Eden, send the surging sea over Sodom, Gomorrah, and Zeboim, and smite the shepherd and not the sheep with the sword, but it exacts full and perfect obedience to the law, and punishment for every sin. Where, then, can we look? Justice no longer appals when satisfied in Christ. It is the love, the mercy of God, which is our citadel. And God will never cease to be merciful to his Church. He is perpetually and gloriously displaying his mercy to men. To destroy them would frustrate the Divine plan and rob them of hope and consolation. The Eternal One is ever the same. No centuries, no sidereal cycles, measure him whose name is I am that I am. Our lives vanish every moment; not so with God. His mercy is everlasting—his mercy endureth for ever [J. W. Alexander].
Hosea 11:10. They] A remnant should walk after the Lord. Roar] in judgments on the foe (Isaiah 31:4; Jeremiah 25:26-30). Tremble] Hasten, like birds in rapid flight from western parts called the sea (Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 24:14; Zechariah 8:7).
Hosea 11:11. As a dove] Ch. Hosea 7:11; Isaiah 60:8. Houses] from whence they will not be driven again (Ezekiel 28:26). The idea is this:—when God shall call, like the roaring of a lion, in loud and far-reaching tones, Israel will hear, return, walk with God, and remain faithful to him.
THE PENITENT’S RETURN TO GOD.—Hosea 11:10-11
God will pity his people once more. They shall hasten to him in fear and trembling, be recalled from exile and bondage, and restored to their inheritance and their God.
I. It is a return from great distance. Man wilfully departed from God, lives now without desire to return, and is alienated from God in life and affection. Distance from God is the moral condition, the natural law, and the penal consequence of sin. “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord?”
II. It is a return in deep penitence. “They shall tremble as a bird.” The contrite heart trembles in fear. The sinner almost despairs in remembrance of his desert, and the holiness of God; or if moved by fear, he is conscious of guilt, greatly mourns his sin, and returns to confess to God and cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
III. It is a return in swift obedience. “As a dove out of the land of Assyria,” remarkable for its swift flight, its rapid and constant speed when flying to its cot. The sinner makes haste from his danger to his rest. There is no time, no reason for delay. God draws, and he runs. Like the prodigal, he resolves and executes. “I will arise and go.” No sooner said than done. Like the manslayer of old, he has “fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”
IV. It is a return through severe discipline. The inward experiences and the outward conditions of the penitent have been most bitter and distressing. But many have been brought through severe trials and strange providences to God. Pain and sufferings have punished them for their sins. God has not only roared, but torn them to the astonishment of others. The call has been loud and the impressions deep. In fear and trembling, they have returned to “the lion of the tribe of Judah.”
V. It is a return to intimate friendship with God. “They shall walk after the Lord.” Walking with God includes friendship with God; for how can two walk together except there be agreement between them? It includes obedience, love, and constant activity in God’s service. Some turn away and flee from God. They are not near in thought nor deed. But the humbled penitents wish to please God and walk with him. They desire the abiding presence, and seek to dwell in “the everlasting habitations” of God. They follow after him with intense thirst and determined pursuit. The will, the word, and the character of God are their constant rule and delight. Many nations shall say, We will walk in his paths (Micah 4:2).
ISRAEL’S RETURN TO GOD PREDICTED
God would not destroy all Israel, a remnant should be preserved and walk after him. Hence many take the words as a prediction of the future restoration and return of God’s people.
I. They shall be gathered from distant places. “From the west,” “out of Egypt,” and “out of the land of Assyria.” No distance destroys God’s love, no bondage limits his power, and no enemy can keep his people when he calls them to himself. Many shall come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God (Matthew 8:11).
II. They shall be joined together in great numbers. “As a dove out of the land of Egypt.” Doves not only fly swiftly, but flock together. The sympathy of numbers is great in every undertaking, but especially in the service of God, where that sympathy is purified and rightly directed. “Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows” (Isaiah 60:8)? are words which describe the future converts to God.
III. They shall be restored to great privileges.
1. Fellowship with God. “They shall walk after the Lord.” They would be many days without leaders and sacrifices, but afterward should return and seek the Lord God and David their king (ch. Hosea 3:4-5). They would live in loyal obedience to Jehovah, their lawful sovereign, and walk with him in sweet friendship and joy.
2. Security in their own habitations. “I will place them in their houses.” They would dwell securely, not in defenced cities, but in their homes, under their own vines and fig-trees (Micah 4:4). Man, like a bird, needs a shelter. Security and peace are only found in God. He can place them in Christ, in the Christian Church, and in his eternal kingdom. “In my Father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11
Hosea 11:10-11. Repentance.
At length corrected by the filial rod
Of his offended, but his gracious God,
And lashed from sins to sighs; and by degrees
From sighs to vows, from vows to bended knees;
From bended knees to a true pensive breast;
From thence to torments not to be expressed;
Returns, and (from his sinful self exiled)
Finds a glad Father, he a welcome child. [Quarles.]
Hosea 11:12. Ephraim] is charged with lying and deceit again. Jud. ruleth] not without God, as Ephraim, but by a legitimate succession of kings and priests, and was outwardly faithful by maintaining the worship of God. Saints] The priests and Levites, fathers and prophets, who kept the worship of God pure and holy: others, with God, the Most Holy One. God will never be without witnesses in the direst age and the darkest nation.
THE TRUE AND THE FALSE WORSHIPPER.—Hosea 11:12
The prophet makes another charge against Israel. Lying and deceit are applied to their idolatrous worship and hypocritical pretences. Ephraim compassed, surrounded God with lies; but Judah maintained the worship of God, and walked after the example of godly priests and forefathers. The words distinguish the true from the false worshipper.
I. The false worshipper. He draws near to God with his people, and honours God with the lip, but his worship is all pretence and hypocrisy.
1. He lies to God in worship. Israel lied in setting up and honouring the golden calves. All their prayers, repentance, and sacrifices were lies. When the heart is not right with God, when worship is mere formality and custom, then all prayers, offerings, and professions are lies and deceit. All half-heartedness and unbelief, all counterfeits in religion, are falsehoods to besiege God and deceive men.
2. He lies to God in daily life. He surrounds God in manifold, not isolated acts. Lying is a general custom with him. He keeps up religious forms and assumptions, lives a moral life outwardly, and “fills up some radical defect with some shallow pretence.” But he professes and does not practise; has the form without the power of godliness; and “seems a saint, when most he plays the devil.” All his life is a disguise. He is darkness disguised in garments of light; the devil’s servant dressed in Christ’s livery; falsehood practised “under saintly show.” Thus men worship God in lies, transact business and deceive their fellow-men with fair promises and pretences.
O hypocrite, thy boldness strikes at heaven,
And makes its fervid saints appear impostors.
II. The true worshipper.
1. He is acceptable to God. God looks for attachment and fidelity in his people. He is their true and rightful Lord, and will bless all who honour him. Some are accused by conscience, and condemned by God for deceit and hypocrisy; others are commended and blessed in their approaches to him. Their prayers are heard, their gifts accepted, and their sacrifices are well-pleasing to God.
2. He walks in the steps of good men. Judah was “faithful with the saints.” If we take the margin, he was faithful with God, the Holy One; far from false and fraudulent dealings by which Ephraim circumvented God. Or take saints as describing the priests and Levites, the fathers and prophets, who handed down and defended the pure worship of God. They did not set at nought, but followed good examples. We should be loyal to the kings and faithful to the priests whom God has appointed to rule over us. We should hold to the principles and walk in the steps of God’s people, the good old way in which our forefathers walked before us. “Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”
3. He is dignified by ruling with God. “Judah yet ruleth with God.” Obedience to God’s people is co-operation with God’s work. Ephraim sought to rule without God, and cast off the worship of God. But to submit to God is to conquer; to serve God is to reign over sin and the world, the flesh and the devil. In persevering prayer we have power with God; in holy, consistent life we prevail with men; and in God’s service we have true liberty, real dignity, and everlasting dominion. “The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11
Hosea 11:12. The hypocrite.
His virtues being overdone, his face
Too grave, his prayers too long, his charities
Too pompously attended, and his speech
Larded too frequently, and out of time,
With serious phraseology—were rents
That in his garments opened in spite of him,
Through which the well-accustomed eye could see
The rottenness of his heart [Pollok].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/