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Hosea 13:1. Eph.] formerly enjoyed great distinction in Israel. Men listened with fear and trembling to him (Job 29:21); he exalted himself, secured the rule among the tribes, and then seceded and established a separate kingdom. By the introduction of the worship of Baal and the custom of calf-worship he offended and died. Two conditions of Eph. are contrasted, prosperity and destruction.
Hosea 13:2. Sin] Add sin to sin, i.e. continue in former transgressions. “This seems to be a third stage in sin. First, under Jeroboam, was the worship of the calves. Then, under Ahab, the worship of Baal. Thirdly, the multiplying of other idols (2 Kings 17:9-10), penetrating and pervading the private life, even of their less wealthy people” [Pusey]. Say of them] Such things as these mentioned. Kiss] An act of adoration (Psalms 2:2; Psalms 106:20).
Hosea 13:3. Therefore] punishment shall be swift. Their goodness is fleeting as the dew, and the morning cloud; their prosperity worthless is the chaff or the smoke.
SELF-ESTIMATION THE MEASURE OF RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE.—Hosea 13:1-3
God raised Ephraim to chief power, and Judah was afraid of him. Through God’s goodness he was respected; but when he sinned, he lost his reputation and honour. When he exalted himself, he offended and died. When we walk humbly before God we prosper; but when we are proud and forsake him we die.
I. Humility exalts. “When Ephraim spake” all reverently feared him. “Princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth.” Men whom God blesses have mighty influence.
1. Humility exalts before God. God looks upon the contrite, and dwells with the humble. The world counts nothing great without display. The “honour that cometh from God only” is despised. Men like Job, Isaiah, and Paul, who abhor themselves in dust and ashes, are considered weak-minded. Humility is not a heathen, but a Christian, virtue. Conscious dependence upon God, as the animating principle of life in all its relations and duties, is opposed to the self-esteem and self-confidence of modern philosophy. True humility will lead to dependence upon God, and those who trust most in God will be the strongest and most honoured by God. Such “the king delighteth to honour.”
2. Humility exalts before men. Self-conceit will lower men in the estimation of others; but a true spirit and noble life will gain real worth. The dogmatical opinion, the fancied superiority, the over-weening pride of men will clothe them with shame (Proverbs 26:12; Proverbs 29:20). We lost our position through pride, and must recover it by humility. He that would build a lasting fame must begin low. David was as distinguished in retirement as in the court of Saul. Washington as a private citizen was admired as much as Washington the commander of an army. Some become great by elevation, others by condescension. We stoop to conquer, and “before honour is humility.” When God exalts and magnifies men, they are formidable, as Joshua and Moses. When crowned with virtues, and strong in faith, they are greater than Alexander and Cæsar. “It is an uncontroverted truth,” said Swift, “that no man ever made an ill figure who understood his own talents, nor a good one who mistook them.” “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
II. Self-exaltation destroys. The proud and insolent fall into danger. “A man’s pride shall bring him low; but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.”
1. Self-exaltation tends to idolatry. Man unduly values himself, and raises himself to lofty heights only to fall from them. Men are proud of rank, talent, and success. They adore their gold and silver, and make idols of vanities. Disaffected toward God, they run to excess, unchecked by Divine goodness, and emboldened by human flattery. They lean “to their own understanding,” and reject the word of God. They cut out and carve images of their own, multiply and deify gods with their own fancies, and worship them. “Go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands.”
2. Self-exaltation tends to self-degradation. “Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.” What a degradation for king and counsellors, priests and people, to fall down to calves! What do we see now? The objects may be changed, but the same spirit is displayed. We have rivals of the Living God in the forms of human device. Potentates and princes kiss the feet of the Pope. Rich and poor adore the consecrated wafer, and fall before the golden crucifix. In the Christian Church, we have “craftsmen,” and gods that oppose and exalt themselves “above all that is called God.” Mortals sitting “as God in the temple of God,” and demanding the homage and service which are due to God. God has made us for himself, and to kiss any idol is to degrade our mental and moral nature. “Stand up; I myself also am a man.”
3. Self-exaltation tends to self-destruction. “When he offended in Baal, he died” by the judgments of God, which he brought upon himself.
(1) It increases sin. “They sin more and more.” They added one sin to another, until it became habitual and universal. Sin is essentially cumulative in its nature and consequences. One sin contains and brings on another. The perversion of religion leads to more ungodliness. To the guilt of idolatry is added obstinate persistence in evil courses. Under the pretence of ignorance and infirmity, idolators pursue their malicious designs.
2. It brings destruction. “He died.” Death, spiritual and eternal, is the penalty of sin. Israel died as a kingdom and nation. God is the fountain of all life, and departure from him is real death. “The wages of sin is death.” All prosperity and reputation based on wickedness, will violently and swiftly pass away like the morning cloud and the early dew. Every fleeting object in nature preaches the vanity of idolatry, and the transient hopes built upon it. Judgments upon the proud and impenitent will bring utter desolation. “As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more; but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Hosea 13:1. Natural conscience cannot but stoop to the image of God in whomsoever found. When Ephraim was first in the throne he became formidable; but when he fell openly from God he grew feeble; first he was a terror and then a scorn [Trapp].
Hosea 13:2. Idolatry. I. Its origin. A human creation. “God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Discontent with God, they have invented a new mode of happiness. The first invention was the parent of many, all marked by the same folly and lies. Craftsmen now make their own deities, and worship creatures inferior to themselves.
1. An idol is the conception of man. It was the device of the human mind. It represents what the mind has imagined, and is no better, no higher than its creator. “Idols according to their own understanding.”
2. An idol is the work of man. “All of it the work of the craftsmen,” who completed with their hands what they conceived with their minds. Diana was said to have come from Jupiter (Acts 19:35); but men stamp their names upon and give their hearts to their own workmanship (Isaiah 44:9). The scene at Sinai is often repeated in history and experience. “These be thy Gods, O Israel.” II. Its expense. “Molten images of their silver.” Wood and stone were not good enough. Gold and silver were thought to honour and exalt the gods. Wealth is often lavished on selfish ends, and men spare no expense to decorate and support their own idols. They tax their minds and spend their silver in the service of sin. What a blessing if men would devote as much time and energy in the service of God as in the because of idolatry! III. Its degradation. “Men kiss the calves.”
1. It degrades human nature. When we exclude spiritual interests, inferior matters become great, and the same energy of mind that might be employed for good will be expended in evil. The mind contracts its dimensions, impairs its powers, by devoting itself to objects below itself, and lowers itself to the level of those objects. But applied to higher objects, it is expanded, elevated, and strengthened. God’s service dignifies human nature by giving it useful activity, wise direction, and Divine influence.
2. It degrades the Divine nature. The conceptions and ideas of a corrupt mind are in harmony with that mind. Its worship is “according to the flesh.” As man cannot rise to God, God is brought down to the level of sinful man. “And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” IV. Its guilt. “They add sin to sin.” Idolatry is not a mere mistake, nor infirmity, but a guilty departure from God.
1. Men sin by forgetting God. We never forget anything in which we take great interest. The carnal mind takes no interest in God, is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God. God is excluded from the thoughts and life of the wicked.
2. Men sin by substituting idols for God. Men will worship something. If the true God is forsaken, they make gods of their own. This provokes God to anger, and brings misery upon them. Impenitence after Divine chastisement, perseverance in known sin after Divine warning, will aggravate human guilt, and result in “fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversary.” “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way.”
Hosea 13:3. The prosperity of the wicked. I. It is of short duration. It may flourish and make a fair show for a while; but it vanishes away. It is evanescent “as the early dew,” which glistens only to pass away. It is deceptive “as the morning cloud.” You admire its beauty and changing hues. But its existence is short; it is only a temporary substance, and like men’s goodness, “it goeth away” (ch. Hosea 6:4). II. It is worthless in its nature. If it continues long it does not satisfy. Like chaff, it is light and unsubstantial; lifted up, the sport of every wind, and carried along to be seen no more. “As smoke out of the chimney,” empty, baseless, and inflated, it disappears for ever. Such the prosperity of Ephraim, and such the prosperity built on any wickedness. The wicked may seem to live and flourish; but they sin, die, and perish eternally. “Virtue makes man upright and stable; vice, empty and unstable,” says an author. “They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away” (Job 21:18; Psalms 1:4; Psalms 35:5; Proverbs 14:32).
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 13
Hosea 13:1-3. Humility. The more God honoureth men, the more they should humble themselves. The more bounty God shows, the more humility he requires. Humility teaches us in our works to draw strength from God, not from ourselves; in our graces to ascribe their goodness to God, and their weakness to ourselves [Reynolds]. Praise is a comely garment. But though thyself doth wear it, another must put it on, or else it will never sit well on thee. Praise is sweet music, but it is never tuneable in thine own mouth. If it cometh from the mouth of another it soundeth most tuneably in the ears of all that hear it [Jermin].
When people once fall into the habit of admiring and encouraging ability as such, without reference to moral character, they are on the highway to all sorts of degradation.
Kiss. Read the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and see if there is one exaggerating touch. That chapter is a terrible but true picture of the lower strata of humanity. What were the deities in heathen times? Jupiter was a monster, Mercury a thief, Mars a sort of cannibal, who drank the blood of his victims. Such the gods of the heathen; and like gods like people.
Hosea 13:4. Yet] Another contrast between the idolatry of Israel and the mercy of God to them (cf. Hosea 12:10).
GOD THE ONLY SAVIOUR.—Hosea 13:4
The people may be worthless, and driven away like smoke, but God is the same as of old. None else should be their Saviour. They should know and worship no other but Jehovah.
I. This character of God is declared in his word. Since we cannot know God but by revelation, how precious is that volume in which all manifestations of him are embodied. We are constantly reminded of his attributes and relations. The knowledge of them is of supreme consequence, and repeatedly set before us, that we may not forget. “There is one God; and there is none other god but he.” “I am the Lord, and there is none else: there is no god beside me.” “Thou shalt have none other gods but me.” “Is there a god besides me? Yea, there is no god; I know not any.” “I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another; neither my praise to graven images.”
II. This character of God is displayed in his providence. “The Lord thy God from the land of Egypt.” Israel are not only reminded of God’s revelations previously given, but of his character displayed in his providence towards them. The events of their history are briefly stated, and their own experience testifies to the truth of God’s word. He had guided and provided for them unceasingly, and saved when there was no strange God among them. Men have abundant proofs in their own lives that God alone can save. In sickness and distress, in domestic and national history, the goodness of God has been displayed. The sinner and the saint have been delivered from dangers, and can declare this. “Ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me?”
III. In proportion as we know this character of God are we obligated to him. “Thou shalt know no God but me.” It is not enough to acknowledge God as a Saviour. His claims and glory must not be shared with another. He has natural and moral rights over us. We owe duties and homage to him. We must evince our belief, and express our regard, by constant obedience to his law, studious efforts to do and delight in his will, in enjoyments and sufferings, and recognizing his presence in his word, providence, and grace. We are forbidden to indulge in atheism, polytheism, and idolatry. We must know and fear God only. We must love and serve him, with all our heart, soul, and strength.
NO SAVIOUR BESIDE GOD.—Hosea 13:4
There is no Saviour beside me.
I. What the words imply. That God is—
1. A powerful Saviour, proved from the nature of redemption and the events of providence. No sins can limit his grace, no enemy baffle his skill. Save to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).
2. A constant Saviour. Present with Israel in Egypt, the wilderness, and the land of Canaan. Present with us in every time of need.
3. An only Saviour. No other could do what he did for Israel. No other can pardon our sins, renew our hearts, and save our souls. There is salvation in none other, “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
II. What the words forbid. They forbid—
1. The worship of images. We are not to make any likeness of things in heaven above, earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. God is the object of supreme worship and affection; incapable of representation to the senses, like false deities of men.
2. The worship of God by images. We dishonour God when we attempt to worship him “in gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:29).
3. All hypocrisy and formality in worship. Excessive use of forms and ceremonies is forbidden. God is a spirit, and all worship must be in spirit and in truth. Is he the only Saviour? Then let us thank him and trust him more. In private and in public, let us earnestly and constantly look to him. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 13
Hosea 13:4. Thy God. The claims of God are enforced by reference to that particular event by which the Hebrews were separated from the nations, to remind them, and the world by them, that the character of God is displayed in the agency of his providence, and that in proportion to our knowledge of that character are our obligations to him. Each individual is here addressed, that each may feel that he has means of knowing, and constantly surrounded with motives for personally loving God.
Hosea 13:5. Know] i.e. cared for them, and loved them as his own (Psalms 144:3; Amos 3:2).
Hosea 13:6.] A reproof from cattle growing wanton in abundant pasture; the very thing against which they were warned (Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 32:15).
Hosea 13:7. Therefore] Israel, the flock in the field, shall be devoured by wild beasts, fierce as a lion, swift as a leopard, and savage as a bear robbed of her whelps (1 Samuel 17:34; 2 Samuel 17:8).
HELP IN THE EXIGENCIES OF LIFE.—Hosea 13:5
God loved and provided for his people in the wilderness. “In the land of great drought” and danger he never forsook them. Hence they should know and follow him. God is with his children now in the exigencies of life.
I. Our sinful condition is a wilderness. A barren and unfruitful land, where no water is. Without God the sinner is destitute of happiness and hope. He can neither quench his thirst nor satisfy his desires in sin. But God leads his people from sin to Christ. He knows the anguish and despair of the penitent, and gives joy and peace in believing.
II. Our outward circumstances are a wilderness. What uncertainty and change! What disappointment and sorrows! We are often led into solitude and distress, and have to cry unto God. We are often thrown into danger and surrounded by enemies. “They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way: they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.”
III. Our inward experience is a wilderness. We are not self-sufficient. We do not carry our own resources within us. We have neither power to defend nor wisdom to guide us. Day by day we depend upon God, and have to live by faith, hope, and obedience. But God knows our emptiness, and sends manna from heaven. His presence is continually with us, and he provides a table in the wilderness. We are brought safely “through a land of deserts and of pits; through a land of drought and of the shadow of death; through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt.” “Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved of the Lord?” God’s goodness forms a marked contrast to the conduct of our fellow-creatures. We should show pity to one another. But, alas! we scarcely know a friend in trouble! God’s goodness should lead us to know and love him. Does God know that we are weaned from the world—in love with the means of grace, and ready to follow and seek him at all times?
DIVINE GOODNESS TURNED INTO DIVINE WRATH.—Hosea 13:5-8
God knew and loved Israel in the wilderness, commended them in their low estate, but complained of them in their prosperity. When they were delivered from the privations and hardships of the desert, fixed in the land of vineyards and fig-trees, they forgot God in prosperity and pride, and brought upon them righteous displeasure.
I. Goodness displayed to the helpless. “I did know thee in the wilderness.” When Israel were a helpless and dependent people, they often cried to God in distress, and he heard and helped them. Their situation yielded no supplies, but God permitted them to want no good thing. He gave them water from the rock and bread from heaven; suffered not their raiment to wax old upon them, nor their foot to swell in travelling; sent them his Holy Spirit to instruct, and ordinances to bless them. “He hath not dealt so with any nation.” We are under the immediate care of God, who provides for us and defends us. Some one says, “Life is a great want, and therefore should be one continual prayer.”
II. Goodness displayed to the ungrateful. “Therefore have they forgotten me” (Hosea 13:6). Their luxury, sensuality, and pride, made them insolent and secure. Worldly prosperity often feeds men’s pride, and makes them forget the giver of it. They remember God in want and sickness, but forsake him in plenty and ease. “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked” (Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18). Men seek pasture, self-gratification, and not God. They abuse every gift, because their hearts are exalted against him. Prosperity, which ought to draw them to him, alienates them from him. They are ungrateful in proportion as they should love and praise him. Thus selfishness ever tends to hardness of heart and ingratitude. “If a man lacks gratitude,” says Pitt, “when there is infinite obligations to excite and quicken it, he will be likely to want all other virtues towards his fellow-creatures, whose utmost gifts are poor compared with those he daily receives from his never-failing Almighty Friend.” “Then beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
III. Goodness turned to wrath. “Therefore I will be unto them as a lion,” &c. Those who forget God in the gifts of his providence, wax fat and get proud in their prosperity, only prepare themselves a prey to retribution. Ingratitude at all times is most base. Capt. Speke found in the natives of central Africa the belief that “ingratitude, or neglecting to thank a person for a benefit conferred, is punishable.” If ingratitude from man to man be odious, in the sight of God it is without excuse and despicable. Its guilt is increased in a fourfold proportion, and must be estimated by the greatness of the giver, the unworthiness of the receiver, and by the number and excellency of the blessings bestowed. The ungrateful are “a generation of vipers,” who sting the bosom in which they have been nursed. How “sharper than a serpent’s tooth” is an ungrateful child!
1. Wrath most severe. “I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps.” God is not overcome and carried away by passion as men. He is not vindictive in feeling, and unjust in his proceedings. But these figures set forth his determined opposition to wickedness, and the righteous visitation of judgment upon those who turn mercy into wrath. His anger will be fierce as a leopard watching by the way to seize upon travellers; furious as a bear enraged by the loss of her young; strong as a lion, the most terrible beast of the forest.
2. Wrath most destructive. The very vitals are destroyed. “Rend the caul,” devour them “and tear them.” The indignation, the punishment, seems almost beyond description. God can torture the soul, and cause his anger to burn against the sinner. “Who knoweth the power of his wrath?” He should be feared according to his anger, and praised for his goodness (Psalms 90:11). His mercy should lead us to repentance and gratitude. Those who despise “the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering,” treasure up unto themselves “wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Hosea 13:6. Therefore have they forgotten me. Ingratitude.
1. A common sin.
2. Most unnatural.
3. Most unreasonable.
4. Most dangerous. “How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I fed them to the full they committed adultery” (Jeremiah 5:7). Forgotten me. Forgotten their dependence upon me; their relationship to me; their duties to me. If not theoretically, men practically forget God (Psalms 10:4). Sins often connected with ingratitude, pride, hard-heartedness, selfishness, and idolatry. If men take gifts and feed upon them, in forgetfulness of the Giver, it need not be thought strange if God withholds them. Prosperity abused will be taken away. “When God gives thee prosperity, do thou enjoy it with a cheerful and thankful heart,” says Bp Reynolds. “In all time of our wealth, good Lord, deliver us,” is a prayer never out of season in times of ease and plenty.
First—Selfish indulgence. “According to their pasture, so were they filled.” God “giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” But the enjoyment of Christians differs from the excess of the sensual. We are not to feast without fear; to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Many mistake and suppose everything their own. They are only stewards. The first lesson in the school of Christ is self-denial. Where does this appear in the lives of some? Temperance is one of the graces of the spirit. This consists not only in avoiding drunkenness and gluttony, but in not “filling ourselves according to our pasture.”
Secondly—Pride. “They were filled, and their heart was exalted.” Hezekiah rendered not according to the benefits received; for “his heart was lifted up.” The apostle charges them that are rich in the world not “to trust in uncertain riches,” and shows the tendency there always is in worldly success to gender vanity and false confidence. Hence it is said, “Pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.” They think highly of their understanding, as if wisdom grew with wealth. They speak with authority, and answer roughly.
Thirdly—Unmindfulness of God. “Therefore have they forgotten me.” How common for men in the midst of their sufficiency to lose the sense of their obligations to God, dependence upon and need of him! Hence the prayer of Agar against being rich, “Lest I should be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord?” Hence the caution to the Jews when they entered Canaan, “Lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt.” The admonition was unavailable. This gives us a very humbling view of human nature. View it, not in the dregs of society, but as seen in common and reputable life. It will not appear so innocent, so amiable so noble as some represent it to be. Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him? Let the fact arouse us to caution and circumspection, if Providence smiles upon us, and we are placed in easy and comfortable circumstances. Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. Seek grace which only can help to manage a full estate properly, so as to elude its snares and discharge its duties. It was said of Vespasian, that he was even a better man for being an emperor. So the prosperity of some, instead of destroying them, displays and increases their excellency; they are rich, not only in temporal things, but in faith and good works [Jay].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 13
Hosea 13:5. Know thee. This cannot mean a mere acquaintance with their condition and circumstances; for what can be hid from him whose understanding is infinite? But it intends two things. First: He knew them so as to provide for them. Secondly: He knew them so as to approve of them and acknowledge them. The word know has this meaning often. “The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous” [Jay].
Hosea 13:6. Pastures. A curious instance of a change of instinct is mentioned by Darwin. The bees carried to Barbadoes and the Western Islands ceased to lay up honey after the first year. They found the weather so fine, and the materials for honey so plentiful, that they became exceedingly profligate, and ate up their capital, worked no more, and amused themselves by flying about the sugar-houses and stinging the negroes [Bib. Treasury].
Hosea 13:8. Bear. When the female is robbed of her whelps she is said to be more fierce than any other animal; hence many sayings refer to her rage, and are applied to the fury of violent men. “I will tear thee to pieces as a bear which has cubbed;” “Begone, or I will jump upon thee as a bear.” When a termagant goes with her children to scold, it is said, “There goes the she-bear and her whelps” [Roberts]
Hosea 13:9.] This destruction is entirely their own. Against God, men are against their own help and welfare.
MORAL SUICIDE AND DIVINE HELP.—Hosea 13:9
The prophet once more refers to the cause of their sorrow, and declares God to be their only help when they were ruined and undone.
I. Moral suicide. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.” Many moral as well as physical evils may be traced to want of well-trained spiritual power, well exercised self-control, and to absence of life in the soul. Solomon contrasts the influence of sin with the health of a true heart. “A sound heart is the life of the flesh; but envy is the rottenness of the bones” (Proverbs 14:30; Proverbs 17:22). Sin is madness, and not medicine; death, and not life.
1. All sin is destructive. It is essentially death. It ruins the soul. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” It often destroys reputation and character. It always destroys liberty, peace, and happiness. It is contrary to the constitution and health of the soul; hence the misery which is ever felt. It wounds the conscience, impairs the judgment, and brings disease and manifold deaths. He who forsakes God and worships idols “destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get” (Proverbs 6:32-33; Proverbs 5:22-23).
2. Voluntary sin is voluntary destruction. “Thou hast destroyed thyself.” The sinner commits moral suicide, and has no one to blame but himself. Circumstances do not force him to sin. Fate, admitting such a thing, does not compel him. God destroys him not; for he is not willing that any should perish, but that all men should be saved (Jeremiah 27:13; Ezekiel 18:31). Men are the authors of their own destruction. They may blame whom they like, but the guilt rests upon their own head. Every bait to sin is the temptation to suicide—to self-murder. Sinners die because they will die and not live. They are inexcusable, and make their doom more intolerable, because they choose death rather than life. “He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul; all they that hate me love death.”
II. Divine help. “In me is thine help.” A wise man will call the best medical help he can find in times of sickness and danger. This disease defies the skill of man. There is a consumption of the body which no man can cure; and there is a consumption of the soul more deadly in its nature. Man may destroy himself, but God only can restore him.
1. Help the most free. We might have been left to perish in our sin, but God loved us and saved us in our blood (Ezekiel 16:6). God was not desired, not constrained to do anything. Desert there was none. “According to his mercy he saved us.” “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”
2. Help the most suitable. As the beauties of nature are adapted to the senses, and food to the taste, so the gospel is suited to our wants and woes, our weakness and danger.
3. Help the most efficient. Nothing less than an Almighty Saviour would do for mankind. The wounds are sore and the breach is great, who can heal thee? (Lamentations 2:13). “I am the Lord that healeth thee.” The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. The grace of God subdues the proudest rebel and upholds the weakest believer. God is mighty to save. “I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me.”
4. Help the most extensive. God can not only help beyond desert, but save to the uttermost all that come unto him. None are excluded, except those who exclude themselves from his help. Everywhere the invitations of Scripture are full, free, and universal. “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.” “Let him take hold of my strength.”
I know the grace is only thine,
The gift of faith is all Divine;
But if on thee we call.
Thou wilt the benefit bestow,
And give us hearts to feel and know,
That thou hast died for all.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
The malady is of no ordinary character. It is not a mere slight indisposition—a trifling attack—a little derangement of the system, but a sickness unto death—an incurable disease.
The physician is able, kind, and free. “Without money and without price” cures are given. Others heal the hurt slightly (Jeremiah 6:14), or physicians of no value; but God heals, and we are healed (Jeremiah 17:14). We hear much of “the cure of souls,” let us not forget to care for them. God has healed and will heal by his word, Spirit, and grace. “Lord, be merciful unto me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.”
First, Sin, self-destruction. It destroys the health and moral beauty of the soul; disables from duty, and ends in death.
Secondly, God, the sole restorer, working in us perfect soundness, saving us and granting us help in time of need.
Nothing can destroy us before God but sin, the only real evil; and sin is wholly from us, God can have no part in it. But every aid to withdraw us from sin, or to hinder us from falling into it, comes from God alone, the sole source of our salvation. The soul, then, must ever bless God, in its ills and its good; in its ills, by confessing that itself is the only cause of its suffering; in its good, owning that, when altogether unworthy of it, God prevented it by his grace, and preserves it each instant by his Almighty goodness [St Bernard].
Hosea 13:10. Where] thy king to save when Assyrians attack cities? Where thy judges who surround the king and help to administer right? God gave and God punished them through a king.
Hosea 13:12. Bound up] like money in a bag, and put in secret places (Job 14:17; 1 Samuel 25:29). The punishment preserved, kept in store, is certain to come (Job 21:19).
Hosea 13:13.] Pains and violent agony, sorrows like a woman in child-birth shall come (Jeremiah 30:6). Unwise] in not foreseeing and escaping the danger (Proverbs 22:3).
Hosea 13:14.] May be applied to Israel’s deliverance from Assyria, then to future times of restoration, which typify redemption in Christ and resurrection from death at last. Believers should never despair.
Hosea 13:15.] The name Eph. shall become a truth, and the blessings promised shall not be lost (Genesis 48:4; Genesis 48:20; Genesis 49:22), say some. But promises are only fulfilled when persons keep to the conditions. In Ephraim and in the Christian Church those only are saved who walk with God. Whatever be the appearance of the fruitful field, judgments will be like a fearful tempest which will destroy all before them (Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 19:12). He] The conqueror will plunder and destroy all costly vessels.
Hosea 13:16. Her God] An aggravation of guilt because against him who made himself her God. The destruction was complete. The living children dashed to pieces, and the unborn to he destroyed in their mother’s womb (2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 15:16; Amos 1:13). Not a memorial left of all the outward pomp and prosperity. When God is forsaken for the world, the choice will be regretted.
GOD THE ONLY KING.—Hosea 13:10-11
God shows again how he will help them. When their kings and princes—whom they sinfully sought, and whom God would take away in displeasure—could not save them even in one city, he would prove their King and Helper.
I. God is our lawful king. “I will be thy king,” &c. God proclaims himself the source of wisdom and counsel, of power and authority.
1. Man requires a king. Our moral constitution is a witness that we are under authority, made to obey laws, and are only happy in loyal obedience. To satisfy his wants, man has often gone to his fellow-men, trusting to them, because thought to be great, wise, and even divine. Hence nations and ages have had their heroes, poets, orators, and prophets. But man still cries for a king. No human person can satisfy the totality of his nature, remove his guilt and fear, and reconcile the conflict between conscience and heart. God alone is the rest and satisfaction of the soul. No code of laws, no idea of society, though pure and transcendant as that of Plato, can supply the want of a king. God in Christ reveals his claims, and demands our homage and obedience. He is our Divine lawgiver and sovereign Lord. “Behold your king!”
2. God alone should be our king. “We are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.” He feeds and guides us by his special providence, like a shepherd leading his flock. He has dominion over heaven and earth, therefore worship is due to him. He demands obedience, and to refuse is most unreasonable and most insulting. “For God is the king of all the earth.”
II. God is often rejected by the choice of an unlawful king. “Thou saidst, Give me a king and princes.” Israel rejected God and demanded Saul, and subsequently chose Jeroboam to free them from the taxes imposed by Rehoboam. They despised God, and looked to man for help. “Nay, but we will have a king over us, that we may also be like other nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.” God is often put in competition with others. Half-prayers and half-allegiance are given to him. Some other god is sought and served with him. God is sometimes rejected, and an idol set up to govern our hearts and lives. In distress and social pressure we flee to man. Pleasure, passions, and the world rule over us. God is dethroned, and our affections are centered on self, or an unlawful sovereign. The heart can only have one power supreme, one king enthroned at once. Whatever monarch that may be, it dictates to every faculty and every effort, saying, “Do this,” and it does it. Obedience is willingly and continually given. As the beginning, such will be the end; as the rule, such will be the result. “But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble; for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.”
III. When God is rejected and another king chosen the end will be misery. “Where is any other that will save thee in all thy cities?” God was against Israel and their kings. As they began by rejecting God, so they end in rejection by God. Civil commotions, anarchy and murder, were the repeated issue. Not one in all their cities could help them when God had forsaken them. Sinful rulers will be tyrants, and their rule will ever prove impotent and destructive.
1. Sometimes our supports are taken away. “I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.” What God gives or permits us to take to ourselves he can take away. By rejecting God we cannot defeat his purpose. We may have our wish granted, yet be disappointed in our choice. The gift and its loss will be a grief to us. What we inordinately desire, what we are determined to have in opposition to God’s will, whether granted, withheld, or taken away, will be the occasion of wrath and tribulation to our souls. “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, and then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you.”
2. If our supports are not taken away they are rendered impotent. “Where is any that may save thee?” Kings and princes may be shorn of power. Danger may threaten every city in the nation, and blessings unlawfully gained or ungratefully abused afford no shelter. All courses and carnal policies of men will not avail against God. If we forsake God disappointment will meet us in every condition, and a way which is cursed at the beginning will be more cursed at the end. In anger a king was given; in wrath was he taken away. There is no help but in God. “I will be thy king.”
INIQUITY RESERVED FOR FUTURE PUNISHMENT.—Hosea 13:12-13
The nation had accumulated wickedness from time to time. This sin, though spared, was not forgotten, but sealed up and reserved for future judgment. The affairs were coming to a crisis, like a woman in travail, and could not be avoided. Unless they rescued themselves from the danger, the result would be that individual citizens and political existence would entirely perish. Hence, they should not neglect the means, but earnestly seek God before it was too late.
I. Iniquity is treasured up by God. “The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up.” Men treasure or seal up what they want to keep. Sin is hid by a wonderful providence to be accounted for at a future time. “My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity.”
1. God does not forget iniquity. He numbers our steps, keeps a strict account of our actions, and brings sin to our remembrance. We are not to presume on God’s forbearance, and think because sin is not punished it is forgotten (Ecclesiastes 8:11). This is to ignore the future and treasure up “wrath against the day of wrath” (Romans 2:5).
2. God does not forgive iniquity without repentance. If sin is not confessed and forsaken, it is stored up. Unrepented sin is an ever-increasing store, hid from the sight of men, but of which God will lose nothing. Sinners may excuse and defend themselves in pride and self-righteousness, but a day of accounts will come. “Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? To me belongeth vengeance and recompense.”
II. Iniquity treasured up by God will be punished. “The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him.”
1. This punishment is certain, “shall come.” There is an order of sequence in moral as in physical law, and we inevitably suffer if we break that order. Results are fixed and certain. Punishment may be long delayed, but cannot be avoided. Delay does not diminish its certainty either here or hereafter. “Evil pursueth sinners.”
2. This punishment is distressing. Agony unexpected and inevitable. Sorrows often in this life, and in the life to come the full cup of bitterness. “Avenging deities are shod with wool,” but they never pause nor mitigate their judgments. We may doubt or deny the fact, but we see day by day that “the mill of God grinds late, but grinds to powder.” “Never sin went unpunished,” says one, “and the end of all sin, if it be not repentance, is hell.”
III. If men do not escape from iniquity treasured up they are foolish. “For he should not stay long in the place.” He that lingers between death and life, and vacillates between God and the world, “is an unwise son.” If we “stay long,” and delay in anything, we never bring forth results. Decision is necessary. Despatch is better than discourse. Men who halt are at the mercy of every temptation and fall before the foe. “I never defer till to-morrow what can be done to-day,” declared one. But when immortal interests are at stake, what folly to hesitate or resist. How fatally “unwise,” to put off repentance and return to God. Judgment is impending, to-morrow may be too late. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.”
Lose this day, loitering, ’twill be the same story
To-morrow, and the next more dilatory.
The indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.
Are you in earnest? seize this very minute!
What you can do, or think you can, begin it!
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated;
Begin it, and the work will be completed!
THE GREAT CONQUEST.—Hosea 13:14
To preserve his people from despair, God promises to help them. Though like dead men in the grave, he will redeem them, and they shall triumph over death and destruction. He will never repent of this purpose concerning them.
I. The mighty enemies.
1. We have death. “I will redeem them from death.” (a) Death as a spiritual condition. Sinners are dead in trespasses and sins. Senseless and helpless in their spiritual condition. But the Holy Spirit quickens, and Christ redeems them from their danger. The sentence against them is blotted out, the curse of sin removed, and they are delivered, raised to newness of life in Christ Jesus. (b) Death as a reigning power. Men live in captivity, are held in bondage, all their lifetime through the fear of death. It is a universal and resistless foe. It spares no rank and pauses for no request. It rends our hearts with grief, fills our homes with sorrow, and the grave with its victims. (c) Death as a mortal enemy. An enemy to Christ and his people. Till death is conquered, Christ cannot realize his hopes nor his people gain their inheritance. The mediatorial glory will never be acquired without this conquest. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
2. We have the grave. “The power of the grave.” Like death, the grave has a mighty power, and is a triumphant foe. “The king of terrors” makes this his palace. “The grave is my house” (Job 17:13); “crying, Give, give” (Proverbs 30:15). It has received its countless millions, and still craves and yawns for more. “Hell and destruction are never full.” (a) As a mighty terror, and (b) a final-resting place, it must be conquered to gain the crown and the kingdom.
II. The glorious conqueror. “I will ransom, I will redeem,” says God. None but God could deliver from such a state of misery and death. God in Christ conquers death and hell. “He will swallow up death in victory” (Isaiah 25:8). The Captain of our salvation has entered into the conflict for us, and come out victorious. “He hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light.” “He hath destroyed him that had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14), and his victory becomes ours by faith. “I am the resurrection and the life: whoso believeth in me shall never die.”
III. The wonderful method of conquest. “I will ransom.” “I will redeem.”
1. Christ has paid a price for our deliverance. He hath redeemed us by his blood. “Who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6; Matthew 20:28). He became near of kin, by taking our nature and suffering in our stead. The first and second death are overcome by him. He is the plague of death and the destruction of the grave. Death the curse is turned into a blessing; death an enemy is changed into a friend, and the grave is made the portal to glory. “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.”
2. Christ does now morally deliver us. The blessing is not a prospective one. It is enjoyed in the present time, as an earnest and foretaste. The Spirit enlightens and grace redeems from the power of sin and corruption. The people of God are free and live without fear of death. The weakest believer confronts his deadliest foe, answers every accusation by pointing to “the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us.” We are not merely conquerors, but triumphant, “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” The benefits of redemption have become “powers in the world to come,” and powers in the heart and life of a Christian. We have read and often seen the glorious victories over death and hell. “Is this dying? How have I dreaded as an enemy this smiling friend?” cried Dr Goodwin. “The battle’s fought,—the battle’s fought, and the victory is won,—the victory is won for ever!” said Dr Payson. “Victory! glory! hallelujah!” were the words of another. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
3. This proceeding of God will never be reversed. “Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” God is unchangeable in his nature and promise. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). He never revokes what he once gave to his people. Though they sin and fall into danger, he will love and deliver them still if they call upon him. “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips” (Psalms 89:34). Alterations and after-thoughts belong to us. God dwells upon his covenant, and repeats it continually, that we may love and obey it.
EARTHLY FOUNTAINS OF ENJOYMENTS FAIL.—Hosea 13:15-16
The prophet had spoken of the blessings of the righteous, now he pictures the desolations of the wicked. The pomp and luxuries of sin, the glory and vanity of the world, shall perish, and leave not a wreck behind. Its springs of joy shall be dried up, and its fruitful scenes made desolate as a ruined city.
I. Earthly prosperity is a fountain which fails. “Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come,” &c. Men may be planted in favourable circumstances, grow and flourish for awhile, but the “wind of the Lord” comes, and their leaves wither. Cities may be populous and powerful, but the enemy can destroy them. “Samaria shall become desolate.” All fair scenes and national fruitfulness can be laid waste as the wilderness. “The treasure of all pleasant vessels” can be taken away, and the infant of days, with the women of beauty, be “dashed to pieces” by deeds of barbarity.
II. Earthly pleasure is a fountain which fails. “His springs shall become dry.” The pleasures of the world are soon exhausted. They are shallow and deceitful; “as a stream of brooks they pass away” (Job 6:15). As rivers roll their hasty current to the sea; so the sum of sinful pleasures ends in endless sorrow and desolation.
III. Earthly joy is a fountain which fails. The joys which spring from domestic prosperity and success in business are soon cut up and withered at the root. “Joy hath passed me like a ship at sea,” said David Scott the painter. “Folly” is always “joy to him that is without wisdom.” “No joys are sweet and flourish long, but such as have self-approbation for their root, and the Divine favour for their shelter,” says an old divine. If our prosperity springs from Christ, and is rooted within us, nothing can destroy it. But if it is centered in the world, and enjoyed without God, then it will be cast up by the roots, and consumed by the blasts from heaven.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
1. Often the most outwardly prosperous, by abuse of prosperity, ripen most for the judgments of God. God may be preparing the wind “from the wilderness.”
2. When these judgments do fall upon them, they are the most destructive. A very great wind, “the wind of the Lord:” “an east wind shall come,” which is most terrible and tempestuous.
3. Nothing will be left to defend them. Adults shall “fall by the sword,” the beauty of the present, and the seed and hope of the next generation shall be cut off. Without fruitfulness in good works, springing from the Spirit of Christ, all other fruitfulness will be found as empty as the uncertain riches of the world; the wrath of God will wither its branches; the springs that watered it will become dry, and it shall be spoiled, and come to nothing. “In short, ‘tribulation and anguish’ belong to those who have rebelled against God, and are fixed immoveably on all who impenitently persist in rebellion; and their woes will be far more terrible than any that are experienced in that cruelty and carnage which sometimes attend the storming of populous cities. From such miseries and murders, and from sin, the fruitful parent of all sorrow, ‘Good Lord, we beseech thee to deliver us’ ” [Scott].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 13
Hosea 13:10-11. King. Edward the Black Prince, having conquered and taken prisoner King John of France, nobly condescended to wait on his royal captive the same night at supper. Christ having first subdued his people by his grace, waits on them afterwards to the end of their lives [Whitecross].
Under which king, Bezonian? speak or die.
King Henry IV.
Hosea 13:12. Bound up, as indictments drawn up and tied together against the day of trial; or as bills and bonds tied up that they may be ready against the day of account, when all must be paid [Poole].
Hosea 13:14. Triumph. In this world, he that is to-day conqueror may to-morrow himself be defeated. Pompey is eclipsed by Cæsar, and then falls by the hands of conspirators; Napoleon conquered nearly all Europe, and was then himself conquered. But the Christian’s conquest of death is absolute. The result is final. He has vanquished the last enemy, and has no more battles to fight [Foster]
Hosea 13:15-16. The world has delusive charms to flatter with a face of substantial bliss, when in reality it is a fleeting shadow [Wilson]. I am more and more convinced of this world’s tastelessness and treachery—that it is with God alone that any satisfying converse is to be had [Chalmers].
We should not stoop so greedily to swallow
The bubbles of the world so light and hollow;
To drink its frothy draughts, in lightsome mood,
And live upon such empty, airy food.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13