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Hosea 12:1. Feed] To eat or graze. Wind] What is empty and vain; to hunt after nothing, labour in vain. East] A fierce and destructive wind, oppressive and violent (Job 27:21); figurative of that destruction which sinners bring upon themselves. Increaseth] i.e. continually, multiplies lies and violence by their sins (ch. Hosea 4:2), by which the kingdom is desolated. To this they add gifts, to win alliance with Assyria and Egypt, but all in vain. God will visit both kingdoms.
Hosea 12:2. Jud.] Whose guilt was not open apostasy. Jacob] The ten tribes or chief part of Israel. God will punish, will visit according to their deeds. The original indicates a purpose to visit. If God spares not the favoured, how shall the deserving escape?
FEEDING UPON THE WIND.—Hosea 12:1
God has still complaints to make against his people. They turn from him, seek satisfaction in idolatry and in creature confidence. This is to feed upon the wind and to chase after the east wind. A course most unprofitable and most injurious.
I. This conduct is most unprofitable. In every department of business men look for profit. “What shall I gain by this?” is an all-important question. In a course of sin, in seeking safety and felicity from the creature instead of the Creator, there is no gain whatever.
1. It is labour without satisfaction. The wind will not satisfy the hungry man. Pleasure and mirth, worldly honours and religious formalities, are empty husks. Men can only feed upon bread. Grass for cattle, straw for swine, but “food for man.” Sensitive joys gratify the passions, intensify the eagerness and increase the speed with which men seek pleasure; but it is only spending money for that which is not bread, and labour for that which satisfieth not.
2. It is labour in vain. The sinner delights in vain things, and pursues, hunts after emptiness and vanity. He spends his strength for nought, bestows the gifts of body and mind upon those who cannot help him, and seeks to support himself in things worthless and unsubstantial. His appetite is strengthened, not satisfied; his capacities enlarged, not filled; “an aching void,” a blank, is left behind which the world cannot fill. The wisest man took an inventory of pleasures and the best things in the world, and gives the sum total as “vanity of vanities.”
The world’s all title-page, without contents.
II. This conduct is most injurious. It is not only feeding upon wind, but following after what is most pernicious, “the east wind,” the most destructive of all.
1. It increases injury by increasing lies. “He daily increaseth lies.” Men lie in false speech, false dealing, and false worship. They lie to themselves and to others by declaring the sufficiency of human help, and making covenant with man in forgetfulness of God. All things which prop up the false notions and the false systems of men are lies and delusion. The house built upon this foundation will fall, and great will be the fall of it.
2. It brings ruin instead of shelter. He daily increaseth “desolation.” The Cretians were always liars, and must be rebuked sharply (Titus 1:13). Multiplying lies will multiply sorrows and punishments. (a) This ruin is certain. “He that speaketh lies shall not escape” (Proverbs 19:5). Not escape by devices of his own, nor “covenant with the Assyrians.” Egypt withheld its aid, and Assyria was turned against Ephraim—everything false is a broken reed, a rotten support. (b) The ruin is great. “He that speaketh lies shall perish” (Proverbs 19:9). God is faithful and true; repeats denunciations against lies and deceit, and warns all of their danger. “I will be a swift witness against false swearers, and them that fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts.” What folly, therefore, to expect from the world what it cannot give, what is not in it. What infatuation to be willing to be deceived with the very shadow of profit. In labour like this there is no happiness “under the sun.” “I have no comfort,” said one, “in all this, because I meet death in every walk.” As a punishment for this perversity God says, “Behold, it is not of the Lord of Hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
1. Men are so naturally averse to God that they fly to any source for help. Israel sometimes went to Egypt and sometimes to Assyria; to one or both according to their need.
2. Human helps will be of no avail in the day of trouble. Israel’s allies could not ward off the judgments of God.
3. Men who deal falsely with God will deal falsely with their fellow-men. If the covenant of God be despised, the contracts with man will not be treated with sanctity. A man’s word will not always be his bond.
4. Men who forsake God will find their own ways expensive and ruinous. They get nothing whatever but “wind,” and they bring upon themselves the tempestuous and stormy wind (Jonah and Job 15:2). Oil and labour are lost, solemn leagues and covenants are broken, and the more they increase lies the further they run from their own mercies. “An empty body meeting with tempests will have much ado to bear up. If Ephraim first feed upon the wind, and then fall under the east wind, it must needs go hard with him.”
Hosea 12:2. A controversy with Judah. J. adhered to the house of David and priesthood of Aaron—did not publicly commit idolatry, and was not so guilty as Israel; yet God blamed them and would punish them. Professors may have true forms and sound creeds, but ungodly lives. Men may glory in titles and descent, as Israel gloried in Jacob—be commended for some things, and sadly guilty in others. But God is impartial, and will not spare any sins, but measure out judgment according to the degree and obstinacy of guilt. He admonishes Judah, and indicates his purpose to visit Israel “according to his doings.” “The justice of God falls more severely on those who degenerate from a holy parent than on those who have no incitement to good from the piety of their home.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Hosea 12:1. Wind. Plants can feed upon ashes, the worm upon earth, but man’s spiritual appetite requires higher and more nutritious food. Wind will not nourish. To chase after worldly pleasure, and depend upon worldly aid in time of distress, will disappoint and toss the soul in disquietude and misery. The sinner’s labours are a great nothing. “My life is wind.”
Hosea 12:2. Recompense. God would have us read our sins in our judgments, that we might both repent of our sins and give glory to his justice [Bp Hall].
Hosea 12:3.] Jacob was their forefather; they should imitate his good, not his bad qualities. They are descendants, but their ways contrast with his (Micah 2:7). He secured the birth-right and the blessing with it; wrestled with God and prevailed in prayer. He wrestled in the womb, and as an adult he wrestled with man and with God. Took] To hold the heel (Genesis 25:26). Strength] In his manly vigour he behaved himself princely with God (Genesis 32:24-1.32.29), and acquired the name of prince. This strength given in conscious weakness.
Hosea 12:4. Angel] In human form God wrestled, put Jacob’s thigh out of joint, but did not prevail. Jacob could no longer stand. Wept] and poured out intense desires in supplication, and though wounded, was not overcome in conflict, but found God and talked with him at Bethel. There] he speaks to us by Jacob, girt with his spirit and might we may prevail.
IMITATING THE EXAMPLES OF PROGENITORS.—Hosea 12:3-28.12.4
The Jews boasted of their relation to Jacob, but did not walk in his steps. Their trusting in man was a contrast to his believing in God. The prophet reproves them for their apostasy, shows how justly they were accused, and urges them to imitate the virtues, not the faults of their ancestor. We must not live under the shadow, but walk after the example of good men.
I. In Jacob we have an example of anxiety for God’s blessing. He was eager to secure the birthright and the blessing connected with it.
1. In the womb, “he took his brother by the heel” (Genesis 25:26). He was to have precedence over the first-born by nature, and there was unconscious striving for Divine favour in store for him. Early indications of piety are encouraging. Some are chosen from the womb, and preserved from sins of youth and riper age. Potential development of children demands reverence and care in parents and teachers. Luther’s schoolmaster took off his hat and bowed to his scholars when he entered the school-room and thought of their destiny. The solemn possibilities of the future should stimulate parents to train up children in the fear of God and the love of truth. “Even a child is known by his doings.”
2. In after years “he had power with God.” In the womb he seized the heel; in manhood he cherished the same spirit, and became a prince with God. One struggle was the beginning of the other. The possession of God’s promise was the object of both. Having striven for it in secret, he secured it in public. What he sought in childhood he gained in manhood. Early impressions are the elementary tissue out of which mature life and conduct are developed and organized. In this instance “the child is father of the man.” Strength with God and power among men are the result of prayer and providential discipline. Those who are filled with true ambition, who seek to be great by following the example and serving the God of their forefathers, shall have the precedency. But profane persons like Esau, worldly-minded in their desires, and leagued with sin in their pursuits, will forfeit their birthrights and blessings. “The elder shall serve the younger.”
II. In Jacob we have an example of power with God. “By his strength he had power with God.”
1. Power through prayer. In great fear and distress, he was no match for the armed force of his angry brother. He could neither resist nor flee. He found succour and strength in God. He acted princely, was strong in faith, and prevailed over man. In prayer our own strength is increased, and more is given to us by God. We are strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16). The nature of this prayer is briefly described.
(1) Supplicating prayer. He “made supplication unto him.” Supplication is earnest, constant prayer, and often accompanied with crying (Psalms 28:2; Jeremiah 3:21).
(2) Wrestling prayer. “There wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” The word indicates a twisting of bodily limbs; intense energy and exertion to prevail. Jacob’s prayer was a struggle with the angel, physically and spiritually, in faith and determination.
(3) Prevailing prayer. “He had power over the angel and prevailed.” He conquered, received a new name, “for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men” (Genesis 32:28). Luther on one occasion had wrestled hard with God, and came leaping out of his closet, shouting, “Vicimus, vicimus. We have conquered, we have conquered!”
2. Power through human tears. “He wept and made supplication.” Vehement desires and earnest prayers often find vent in tears. Hence “to implore means to ask with tears,” says one. His tears were not mere signs of weakness, but of strength; not the relief of nature, but the expression of spirit. Esau wept in anger and disappointment; Jacob in prayer and penitence. The tears of one were music to God; the cry of the other, complaint to men. He was a type of Christ, “who in the days of his flesh offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.”
3. Power through Divine aid. Jacob’s purpose was strong, and his natural power great; but power to prevail was the gift of God. His physical strength was impaired; but though thrown in the contest, he would not give up. “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.” The blessing was all, the injured thigh was nothing to him. From night till break of day he wrestled with human tears and Divine energy. His spirit and perseverance put to shame his degenerate sons. It is folly boasting of ancestral glory without possessing ancestral virtues. Let us imitate the life and remember the prayers of our fathers. They were girt with the might of faith, and victorious over the Lord of hosts. “Out of weakness” they were “made strong,” and “waxed valiant in fight” with evil. Their glory is not the glory of the warrior, but the splendour of princes with God. Their new name supersedes the old, as the sun exceeds the stars. “For by it the elders obtained a good report.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Hosea 12:3-28.12.4. The wonderful combat. I The combatants. Jacob a man, and the angel, “the angel of the covenant.” II. The object of the combat. “Bless me.” In the night of sorrow and in the weakness of nature “turn to him that smiteth.” The blessing of the Lord maketh rich. III. The issue of the combat. “Power over the angel and prevailed.” Persevering, wrestling prayer will always prevail. “The father in wrestling with his child is willing enough for his child’s comfortand encouragement to take a fall now and then; so it was between the angel and Jacob. In this blessed story, as in a crystal glass, we see the great power and prevalency of private prayer; it conquers the conqueror; it is so omnipotent, that it overcomes an omnipotent God” [Brooks]. Jacob was knighted on the field. He had two names, and both of them were gained by wrestling; the one by wrestling with his brother in the womb, the other by wrestling with the angel at Peniel. Jacob signifies a supplanter; Israel means a prince with God—and the reason of the new name was, that he had “power with God and with men, and had prevailed” [Jay].
Hosea 12:4. Bethel. Revelations of God to men.
1. God reveals himself by his word. “He spake.”
2. The revelations of one age are designed for the instruction of another. “Spake with us.” Most important lessons from this place.
Bethel in Jacob’s time and Bethel in Israel’s time; or Bethel in its ruin and Bethel in its royalty.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Hosea 12:3-28.12.4. Power. We might be like Bartholomew, who is said to have had a hundred prayers for the morning, and as many for the evening, and all be of no avail. “Fervency of spirit” is that which avails much [Bp Hall]. He that has never prayed, can never conceive; and he that has prayed as he ought, can never forget how much is to be gained by prayer [Dr Young].
Prayer ardent opens heaven, lets down a stream
Of glory on the consecrated hour
Of man, in audience with Deity.
Hosea 12:5. Lord] A name which implies constancy, by which God is distinguished and ever remembered (Exodus 3:15; Psalms 135:13).
THE MEMORIAL NAME.—Hosea 12:5
When Jacob felt the power of his antagonist he asked, “Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.” To those who neglect what is plain and useful, and pry into things which do not concern them, the revelation is withheld; but to the earnest petitioner God gives blessings and encouragement. Here the name is unfolded in significance and splendour.
I. The name in its absolute perfection. “The Lord.” Jehovah, the true and living God, distinguished from idols, and deserving the homage of his creatures.
1. Lord by creation. Greater proprietary right over us than we have over one another. The Lord our Maker.
2. Lord by redemption. This is a greater claim than creation. He had only to speak to make us; he suffered, gave his Son, to redeem us. “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price.”
3. Lord by choice. His people do not resist his claims, nor serve other gods. They willingly submit to him as their “Master and Lord.”
II. The name in its universal relation. “God of Hosts.” Of all things visible and invisible, of angels and heavenly spirits, of all creation, “the host of heaven and earth” (Genesis 2:1). This indicates—
1. Supreme government. He has all power, directs and sustains all creatures, and rules all things by his own will.
2. Supreme order. “Order is heaven’s first law.” He keeps all things in subordination, and by him all things consist or stand together.
3. Constant obedience. He leads his people, his armies, organized and equipped, like Israel leaving Egypt. He reigns over them, enthroned in affection, and renders their service natural, pleasant, and delightful. “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master” (Malachi 1:6).
4. Continual triumph. The hosts of the Lord are in a state of martial discipline, to contend for the cause and fight the battles of their captain. The cause of truth is a warfare. Christian life is “fighting the good fight of faith.” The world is a foe to the believer, and sin is deadly opposed to holiness. But the Lord God of hosts has omnipotent power and infinite resources. He will rule until all enemies are put under his feet.
III. The name in its continual manifestation. “The Lord is his memorial.” The name Jehovah expresses his nature, and will ever be what it has been, a memorial to men. God is ever to be remembered in his merciful and unchanging attributes (Exodus 3:15). We need no images nor unlawful helps to remind us of God. His works and ways declare his wisdom, truth, and love. He will be to us what he was to Jacob and Moses, and all his people the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. In this name lies a fulness and sufficiency which the exigencies of life will reveal. How little have we known of it in prayer and practical life! Seek to know more, and get hope, strength, and success in Christian work. “Thy name, O Lord, endureth for ever, and thy memorial, O Lord, throughout all generations.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Hosea 12:5. God. When holy Augustine walked by the sea-side, wrapt in the meditation of God and of his ways, he heard a voice which bade him lade the ocean with a cockle-shell. We may sooner drain the ocean with such a shell, or with a spoon, than the perfections of God with our largest understandings [Caryl]. A king is there where his court is, where his train and retinue are; so God the Lord of Hosts is there specially present where the heavenly guard, the blessed angels, keep their station and rendezvous [Mede].
TRUE CONVERSION TO GOD.—Hosea 12:6
Hosea 12:6. Turn] Lit. thou shalt turn, so turn as to enter into vital fellowship with God (Isaiah 10:22). Thou] who wishest to be a true descendant, pray and act as Jacob.
“Therefore” to this God, who rules heaven and earth, Israel had only to turn in truth, and they would find in him what Jacob found. God offers himself to his apostate people, and all may claim a covenant right in him if they sincerely return to him. This return or conversion to God is described.
I. Induced by the revelation of God’s character. “Therefore,” if God is good, and able to save, they need not seek help from any other source.
1. Revelations in his word. “Thy God.” We may disown, but can never cast off, our relationship to God as dependent, guilty creatures. He claims us in our sin, and does not reject us when we return to him. He is a God of love, not revengeful and unmerciful. The revelations of his word are suited to quicken our hearts, to destroy our “enmity with God,” and draw us to him in penitence and faith. We clothe God in attributes of vengeance and thunder. But a persuasion of personal love wrought in the soul will induce the sinner to return. “He hath loved me.” This is “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” and revealed only in him.
2. Revelations of his mercy to others. What God has done for others he can do for us. Paul obtained mercy for a pattern to others. Bunyan and Newton were sinners saved by grace. Men in every age and in every degree of guilt have been monuments of God’s mercy, and living examples of the power of God’s word. “To show in the ages to come the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us by Christ Jesus.”
II. Evidenced by the practical duties of life. When the sinner turns to God, he will bring forth fruits meet for repentance (Matthew 3:8). His life will not be empty profession, but filled with fruits of righteousness to God and man.
1. Duties to man. The duties of the second table, the weightier matters of the law, must not be overlooked. For if we disregard man, whatever professions we make before God, our religion is vain. “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (a) Mercy. Men are weak and miserable, and need sympathy and compassion. We must not treat them with cruelty and injustice. Mercy wins and “blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” On one occasion the ministers of Alphonsus, king of Naples, complained that his lenity did not become a prince. “What, then,” said he, “would you have lions and tigers reign over you? Know you not that cruelty is the attribute of wild beasts—clemency that of man?” “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (b) Judgment. Justice, by which we give to all men their due. It is opposed to dishonesty, fraud, and unfairness of any kind. “A just man,” says Jeremy Taylor, “does justice to every man and to every thing; and then, if he be also wise, he knows there is a debt of mercy and compassion due to the infirmities of man’s nature, and that is to be paid, and he that is cruel and ungentle to a sinning person, and does the worst to him, dies in his debt and is unjust.” “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them, for this is the law and the prophets.”
2. Duties to God. To cherish and keep up the fruits of conversion, we must “wait,” in communion with God. He only who begins can perfect the good work. Our sufficiency in every duty can only come from God. Hence, “wait on thy God continually.” (a) Wait in dependence upon God. Such as turn to God truly will be careful to keep closely to God, and will feel their need of God daily. In him we live, and move, and have our being naturally and spiritually. Dependence is essential to spiritual life. Just as human wants promote human efforts and energies, so trust in God will prompt to love and duty. (b) Wait with hope in God. Waiting implies hoping. The longer we wait the more we prove that our expectation is not crushed. The hopeless will be a lifeless soul; but hope kindles desire, and makes “expectation rise.” “If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” (c) Wait continually upon God. There must be no cessation, no interruption of this duty. The greatest joy destroys not our dependence; the greatest failure should not drive us to despair. Sad desertions and apparent rejections do not warrant us to give up. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Hosea 12:6. Judgment. The one thing constantly reiterated by our master; the order of all others that is given oftenest, “Do justice and judgment.” That’s your Bible order; that’s the “service of God,” not praying or psalm-singing. Unless we perform Divine service in every willing act of life we never perform it at all. The one Divine work—the one ordered sacrifice—is to do justice; and it is the last we are ever inclined to do [Ruskin].
Hosea 12:7. Merchant] Marg. a Canaanite, a heathen, unlike Israel, to whom Canaanites were a reproach (Ezekiel 16:3). Oppress] Lit. deceive. Men whose trade is deceit, whose balances are unjust, cannot love mercy and do judgment.
Hosea 12:8. Eph. said, in a spirit of disregard to the prophets, and in self-justification, “I am become rich, God prospers me; this is a proof that he is not displeased, and that there is no iniquity in me.” But these riches were not enjoyed on account of sin. Their attitude towards God and man was the very opposite of right.
Hosea 12:9. I] God meets their delusion by reminding them that he had been their guide, defence, and source of prosperity, from wandering in the wilderness, and to settlement in tents now. Others take this as a threat to reduce them to their ancient helpless condition.
PROSPERITY UNLAWFULLY GAINED AND ABUSED WILL BE TAKEN AWAY BY GOD.—Hosea 12:7-28.12.9
Israel was not like Jacob, who wrestled with God, but like a merchant who sought to become rich by fraud and oppression. Instead of keeping judgment and mercy (Hosea 12:6), Ephraim prided himself in deceit, and justified his wickedness by its success. But God threatens to punish by stripping them of wealth, and throwing them into privation and distress.
I. Prosperity acquired by unlawful means. When men make haste to be rich, they rush into danger, and care nothing for the means, so that they accomplish the end. Trade is lawful, necessary, and advantageous. Prosperity is a cause for gratitude; but how many have become Canaanites in their character and conduct.
1. Deceit. “The balances of deceit are in his hand.” Fraud is sadly too common now. Short weight and short measure, trickery and false dealing, evading legal duties, taking advantage of the unwary, are a flagrant breach of the golden rule, and an abomination to the God of truth (Proverbs 20:10). “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter.”
2. Oppression. “He loveth to oppress.” Oppression assumes many forms. When artisans are compelled to buy at a loss at their master’s premises, when their lawful wages are withheld, or their proper rights trampled upon, there is oppression. In all abuse of power and insolent treatment of others we see oppressive conduct. A bargain is sometimes unmerciful as a robbery, and wealth gained by oppression is of little value. “Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without right.”
II. Prosperity considered to justify wicked conduct. “Ephraim said, Yet I am rich.” I have succeeded; I must be right. If God prospers me, it is a proof that I am innocent, and that he is not displeased with me. Men have pleas for their sins, and excuses to ward off conviction from the word. Here we have—
1. Prosperity defended in pride. “I am rich.” Wealthy men are apt to be proud, to forget God, and claim honour and reverence from their fellow-men. Oppressors are esteemed great by the world; but men are to be judged by God’s rule, not by man’s rule. “Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.”
2. Prosperity defended in self-righteousness. “They shall find none iniquity in me.” They protest their innocence, and declare none can find any sin in their buying and selling. None suspect themselves less than the self-righteous and the proud. They see fraud and deceit in other traders, but not in themselves. They glorify themselves, build up their fortunes, defend them by wickedness, and deceive their own souls. “Thou sayest I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
III. Prosperity abused will be taken away by God. God reminds them of forgotten mercy. In all their history he never left himself without witness of his goodness.
1. Past prosperity was the gift of God. In one brief sentence he reviews the past and comprehends the present. “I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt.” They were in bondage and slavery, and God delivered them. They depended upon him for food, clothing, and guidance in the wilderness. And they were grateful to God once, commemorated his goodness in feasts of tabernacles; but now these mercies are all forgotten. They boasted in their wealth, and sought it independently of God. God will therefore teach them dependence upon him.
2. Present prosperity is the gift of God. From Egypt up to the present time have “I the Lord thy God” taken an interest in thee. Israel’s possession of the land and deliverance from enemies, all their glory and wealth, had come from God. We have nothing that we have not received, and we should not boast as if we had not received it. Our skill and fortunes are from God, on whom we all depended. If we attribute all to self, and nothing to him, he will claim his own, and rob us of our enjoyments.
3. God who gives prosperity can easily take it away. He “will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles as in the days” of old. What a helpless people Israel were, when kings and nobles, rich and poor, left their palaces to dwell in booths! How unsettled their residence, and how slight the tenure of their worldly wealth which they held at the command of God! In God alone is power and stability, true riches and happiness. If we indulge in oppression, pride, and deceit—defend acts of injustice, and trust to unlawful gains, God will reduce us to poverty and want. “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished.” Revenues without right can never be kept. When the judgment of God falls upon dishonest trades there will be no shelter. “Riches profit not in the day of wrath.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Hosea 12:8. The shadow taken for the substance. “I have found substance.”
1. It is folly to take wealth and worldly honours as substance, for they are emptiness and vanity, things that are not (Proverbs 23:5; Proverbs 27:4).
2. It is wrong to think that we gain substance and prosperity by our own industry and skill. “I have found it.” We say concerning our houses and fortunes, Look what “I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty.”
3. It is selfish to think that all our substance is given for our own use merely. “I have found me out substance.” Wealth, time, talents, and all are given in trust, to be employed for the good of others and the glory of God.
4. It is deceptive to think that wealth sinfully acquired will increase our happiness and protect our souls. The love of ease and oppression, pride and dishonesty, ripen for destruction. “The prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” “In all time of our wealth, good Lord, deliver us.”
“Find none iniquity in me.” Characters innocent before men ungodly in the sight of God. Men considered successful, remarkable for business tact, and held up as examples, condemned and punished by God.
Honesty is the best policy.
1. As a matter of policy.
2. As a matter of principle. Character is property. A man may not be rich in this world, yet be rich towards God and in the general good will of men. “As a man can never be truly honest unless he be religious, so, on the other hand, whatever show of religion he may make, he cannot be truly religious in God’s judgment unless he is honest in his conversation towards his neighbour” [Bp Mant].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Hosea 12:7-28.12.8. Rich. Endeavour to be honestly rich, or contentedly poor; but be sure that your riches be justly got, or you spoil all [Izaak Walton]. He that resteth upon gains certain, shall hardly grow to great riches; and he that puts all upon adventures, doth oftentimes break and come to poverty. It is good, therefore, to guard adventures with certainties that may uphold losses [Bacon].
Hosea 12:10. By prophets] who left no means untried, speaking in metaphors and methods adapted to rouse the attention (Numbers 12:6; Numbers 12:8; Joel 2:28).
GOD’S METHOD OF TEACHING THE PEOPLE.—Hosea 12:10
Hosea 12:10 expands Hosea 12:9, and further proves that the people had no excuse for their ignorance and sin. God had taught them from the first, “at sundry times and in divers manners,” by the prophets. Prophet succeeded prophet, and precept upon precept, line upon line, were given to impress Israel, and wean them from their sin. God speaks to men now by his word and providence.
I. The ministry of the prophets. “I have also spoken by the prophets.” Israel at Sinai requested that God would speak to them through human messengers, and from Moses to Malachi they had proofs of mercy and condescension The ministry of the gospel is a singular mercy (Isaiah 30:20), and suffers us not to walk in our own ways as other nations do (Acts 14:16). The prophets were “holy men of God,” exalted to dignity and consecrated to office. They had Divine teaching and Divine authority in their message. To reject them was to despise God. The eminence of their position and the solemnity of their words, aggravate the guilt of sinners. God reveals his will and speaks to us in his word, and by his servants now. Time after time, by minister after minister, does he urge men to repent and turn to him. Fearful will be the punishment of those who disobey his voice. “The Lord hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.”
II. Visions of the night. The prophets were seers, highly privileged, and favoured with visions and dreams of the night, “when deep sleep falleth upon men” (Job 4:13). These visions were—
1. Continual. “I have repeatedly and continually” instructed them by visions. Ezekiel and Daniel, Paul and John, had wonderful visions. “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6-4.12.8).
2. Multiplied. “I have multiplied visions.” No age was left without its vision of the future. There were manifold dreams, and often a repetition of the same. If men disregard, God speaks once, yea twice, that he may bless them with light and truth. Such communications prove the dignity of our nature, the weakness of our fallen condition, and the connection of our souls with the invisible world. They are only given in secret, and require special strength and preparation to receive them (Daniel 10:7-27.10.8; Daniel 10:17-27.10.19).
III. Similitudes of nature. “And used similitudes.” All nature is a similitude or parable. Christ directs our attention to the grass of the field and the face of the sky, the earthly and heavenly sides of creation. God himself employed them (Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 5:1), and taught the prophets to use them. Christ taught by parables, and his servants cannot do better than imitate him. The manner as well as the matter of preaching must commend itself to the people. Material signs symbolize spiritual truths. “Things take the signature of thought,” and we may find theology “wrought in each flower, inscribed on every tree.”
Tongues in trees; books in the running brooks;
Sermons in stones; and good in everything.
This method is simple and attractive, impressive and successful. The great teacher sanctions and commends it, and “the common people heard him gladly.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
The frequency and continuance of a ministry indicate God’s care and kindness to a people. But the more means of grace we have, the more earnest and powerful the sermons we hear, the greater our account if we persist in sin. “Ministers must turn themselves into all forms and shapes, both of spirit and speech, for the reaching of their hearer’s hearts; they must come unto them in the most wooing, winning, and convincing way that may be. Only in using of similes, they must—
1. Bring them from things known and familiar, things that their hearers are most acquainted with and accustomed to.
2. Similes must be very natural, plain, and proper.
3. They must not be too far urged [Trapp].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Hosea 12:10. Similitudes. I remember well, how once God preached to me by a similitude in the depth of winter. The earth had been black, and there was scarcely a green thing or flower to be seen. There was nothing but blackness as you looked around—bare hedges, leafless trees, and black, black earth wherever you looked. On a sudden God spake and unlocked the treasures of snow, and white flakes descended, until there was no blackness to be seen, all was one sheet of dazzling whiteness. I was seeking the Saviour, and it was then I found him. I remember well that sermon. “Come now and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be whiter than wool” [Spurgeon].
Hosea 12:11. Vanity] The question strengthens the affirmation. All was to no purpose. Warnings unheeded, altars as numerous as heaps of stones gathered out of the field, and scenes of solemn history were corrupted and ruined.
Hosea 12:12. Jacob] was a fugitive and a servant, in a low condition (Genesis 30:31; 1 Samuel 17:20); did not marry an idolatress: his honest poverty reproves your ungodly gains, and his faith in God your idolatry and unbelief.
Hosea 12:13. Israel] as represented in Jacob, the individual, and in the nation in Egypt, has been preserved (Numbers 12:6; Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18), kept by God, as Israel kept his flock (Psalms 80:1; Isaiah 63:11).
Hosea 12:14. Anger] Lit. with bitterness, instead of gratitude and praise, hence punishment. Blood] Blood-guiltiness a grave crime (Leviticus 20:9). Leave] The opposite of taking away or forgiving. Return] Dishonour to God repayed to Eph. His] For God does not give up his rights, though men set aside his dominion.
SINS REPROVED BY THE VIRTUES OF PROGENITORS, AND PUNISHED BY THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD.—Hosea 12:11-28.12.14
Israel did not permit themselves to be warned and taught, gave themselves up to idolatry and superstition. Conduct which contrasted greatly with Jacob their ancestor. He had become rich by God’s blessing on honest toil, but they were given to wicked customs, which provoked God to anger, destroyed the nation, and banished the people out of the land.
I. Sins reproved by ancestral virtues. Jacob is again referred to that they might learn his humiliation and servitude.
1. Jacob’s conduct reproves them. His faith reproved their unbelief, and his devotion to God their idolatry. He fled from an angry brother, and served a covetous uncle for a wife, rather than marry an idolatress (Genesis 28:5). He laboured with diligence, endured injustice, and trusted in God. But they were dishonest in their trade, and insolent in their behaviour. Honest poverty is better than dishonestly-gotten wealth. “I have searched carefully through all the traditions of our family,” said Livingstone’s ancestor to his children round his death-bed, “and I never could discover that there was a dishonest man among our forefathers. If, therefore, any of you should take to dishonest ways, it will not be because it was in our blood. I leave this precept with you—Be honest.”
2. Jacob’s blessing reproves them. He set out with his staff alone, and became two bands (Genesis 32:10). The Syrian ready to perish became a mighty nation (Deuteronomy 26:19). God preserved the fugitive and exalted him to honour. But Israel, forsaking God and enriching himself, would be dishonoured and driven into exile. God alone is the source of wealth, and honest toil the spring of national prosperity. “Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom,” says Carlyle. “A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 28:22-20.28.23; Proverbs 10:22).
II. Sins punished by God’s providence. Israel’s ingratitude and corrupt practices brought severe judgment upon them.
1. The desert of their sins. (a) It was found in places of sacred note. In Gilead and Gilgal, sacred in history and beautiful by nature, “only man was vile.” Spots of signal blessing may become scenes of pollution and guilt. Home, the house of God and the closet, may be consecrated to idols. (b) It was prevalent as the stones in the field. In east and west, in palace and eottage, it abounded. Like a malignant disease, it spread around. (c) It was morally corrupting. Their altars were like heaps of dung-hills; their worship was vanity, and their sacrifices worthless. Endless gifts and innumerable altars only corrupted the morals, and cursed the people. Mere forms will not satisfy the conscience. Moral decay will bring physical decay, and worthlessness will be punished by vanity. (d) It provoked God to anger (Hosea 12:14). The provocations were most bitter and grievous. All sin is offensive to God, but sins against light and truth, sins in religious privileges and in Divine warnings, are exceeding sinful. (e) It was constantly committed. Committed against the goodness of God, in delivering them from bondage, guiding them like a shepherd, and teaching them with a prophet. God keeps and blesses men, but they despise his love, and bring condemnation upon themselves.
2. The punishment of their sins. “Therefore shall he leave his blood upon him.” (a) The penalty shall not be taken away. His blood shall rest upon his own head; for he is guilty and deserves death (Leviticus 20:9; Joshua 2:9; 2 Samuel 1:10). Blood had been shed profusely, and the guilt of his sin remained upon his soul, and punishment cannot be longer delayed. (b) The dishonour done to God shall be given to him. Idolatry is an insult to our Maker, robbing him of his glory, and giving it to the likeness of a man or a beast. Those who reproach God will be dishonoured themselves. For centuries shame and reproach have been the lot of God’s unbelieving people. What a warning to us! What an aggravation of misery to be inflicted by God who desired to bless! If “his Lord” turns against the sinner, who can deliver him? Shame and contempt on earth, “shame and everlasting contempt” hereafter! “Them that honour me, I will honour; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Hosea 12:10-28.12.14. Memorials of God’s goodness to a people. I. He raised them from meanness to honour. Jacob a poor fugitive, Israel a mighty nation. II. He raised them from bondage to liberty. “Brought Israel out of Egypt,” and gave them freedom to worship God. He thus acquires special gratitude and service. III. He taught them by his prophets. By Moses (Hosea 12:13) and by the ministry of others (Hosea 12:10). IV. He guided them by his providence. As Jacob kept sheep, so Israel was kept and preserved by God. Special care and kindness were displayed towards them as a flock (Psalms 80:1; Isaiah 63:11).
Hosea 12:11. Certain places and certain altars do not palliate guilt, but testify against it, and prove all forms to be vain and deceitful. Considering the meanness of our origin, we should magnify God’s grace in present prosperity. The Atheist expects riches from diligence alone; the slothful without it; but the true Christian from the blessing of God with it. “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.”
Hosea 12:12-28.12.13. Scripture narratives are useful to remind of sin, warn us of danger, and urge us to God. They were written for our learning (Romans 15:4).
Hosea 12:13. “By a prophet of the Lord.” God chooses the humblest instruments to do the mightiest works. “A prophet he is purposely called, and his name concealed:
1. To show that the work was done, not by might nor by power, but by God’s Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).
2. To show what God will do for his people by the prayers, and for the sake of his prophets, when they are most shiftless and hopeless.
3. To let this unworthy people see how much God had done for them once by a prophet, how little soever now they set by such.”
Heirs of grace may suffer humiliation and distress. In Christ the fullest measure was seen. His people must have their portion.
Hosea 12:14. “Let us remember if we will not have God for our God in service, we must have him in spite of ourselves as our Lord to judge and punish us. Let us rather prove his love than his avenging justice” [Fausset].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Hosea 12:11-28.12.14. Vanity. In his religion. His holiness is vain conceit; his natural light, Egyptian darkness; his religious forms, “a vain show in the flesh.” In outward circumstances. His rank, a bauble; his beauty, a fading flower; his wealth but glittering dust. “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Jacob’s life. No kind of studious entertainment doth so generally delight as history, or the tradition of remarkable examples: even those who have an abhorrency or indisposition toward other studies are yet often much taken with historical narrations. And such are those which present to us the lives and examples of holy men, abounding with wonders of providence and grace: no attempts so gallant, no exploits so illustrious as those which have been achieved by the faith and patience, by the prudence and courage of the ancient saints; they do far surpass the most famous achievements of pagan heroes. No triumphs are comparable to those of piety; no trophies are so magnificent and durable as those which victorious faith erecteth; that history therefore which reports the res gestœ, the acts and sufferings of most pious men, must in reason be esteemed, not only the most useful, but also the most pleasant [Barrow].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany