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Hosea 3:1.] The significant pair is introduced again with a fresh application. In a second symbolic marriage, the faithful, chastening love of God is set forth to adulterous Israel. Love] Not take, as ch. Hosea 1:2. Woman] Many think another person, not his former wife; others, that she was his former wife, but unfaithful and living with another man, an adulteress. This love greater, higher than the former. One proved disturbed relation, and the other restoration to God. Friend] Heb. neighbour, and husband (Jeremiah 3:20; Song of Solomon 5:16); the prophet himself intended. Accord] Hos. must frame his life to represent the ingratitude of men and the wonderful love of God. Who look] Lit. they are looking; a continuous act and a contemporary circumstance. God was loving them while they were looking to idols. Flagons of wine] Lit. of grapes, used in idolatry (Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:19); or drunkenness and vice sanctioned by it—a figurative representation of service, which appeals to sense, gratifies carnal desire and sensual indulgence (cf. Job 20:12).
Hosea 3:2. Bought her] with money and grain. Money half the price of a common slave (Exodus 21:32); the grain of the coarsest kind, not wheat, but barley, the food of animals, and the offering of one accused of idolatry, an expression of worthlessness and degradation.
Hosea 3:3. Abide for me] Lit. “many days wilt thou sit for me;” in a state of solitude and widowhood, debarred from intercourse with any man, and detained until restored to God himself (Deuteronomy 21:13). Now God will have no more conjugal intercourse with Israel than any other people. He will cut off idolatry and suspend his relation to them for an indefinite time.
Hosea 3:4. Without a king] Without civil polity. Sao.] Without national worship and religion. Image] Lit. monument, consecrated to Baal (Exodus 23:24); pillars forbidden to be reared (Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 16:22); widely spread in Israel (2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 17:10) and in Judah (1 Kings 14:23; 2 Chronicles 16:2). Ephod] Shoulder-dress of the high priest, to which the Urim and Thummim were attached, and the medium of revelation between God and his people. Teraphim] Penates worshipped as the givers of earthly prosperity and revealers of future events. This threat fulfilled in the ten tribes, in Assyrian captivity, and in the present time they are without monarchy, priesthood, and the worship of Jehovah. Judah after her captivity had a government, but not an independent king; she rejected Christ, and then she was doomed to the judgment of God, and efforts to restore her have yet failed.
Hosea 3:5. Seek] Heb. a diligent, intensive search, a religious search used in regard to God [Pusey]. David their king] i.e. the Seed, the Son of D., the Messiah (Ezekiel 34:23; Amos 9:11). Fear the Lord] Lit. “will tremble towards Jehovah and towards his goodness;” stronger than seeking one upon whom they depend. Tremble with distress and anguish, conscious of guilt and unworthiness, and utterly unable to help themselves. Goodness] In gifts of which they had been deprived. This fulfilled in the gathering round David’s greater Son, and in the universal conversion of Israel to God.
THE WONDROUS LOVE.—Hosea 3:1-28.3.5
In this chapter God’s grace is marvellously set forth to his ancient people. Though fallen and unfaithful, the prophet is commanded to love. “Go yet,” give them line upon line, precept upon precept, sign after sign, and act after act, to remind them of this truth. Not only must the disposition exist to love, but an attestation of it. Hosea must again represent the conduct of God in displaying his love and urging to penitence. Men are repeatedly urged to believe the gospel and welcome the Saviour. God multiplies mercies when judgments are richly deserved. The grand truth of these verses is the lesson which John taught so affectionately afterwards, “God is love.”
I. Love in its highest form. Israel had fallen into idolatry, and was guilty of adultery. Lust and sensuality were mixed with illicit worship. God, their chief good, was forsaken and lovers trusted.
1. Love to the guilty sinner. Men have gone astray from God, and live having no hope, and without God in the world. Alienated from God by wicked works, they do not seek nor serve God. God is not in all their thoughts. They are given to pleasure, gratification, and shame. Some men are not even moral. They are corrupted by their worldly, selfish principles. Loving sin, and rendering homage to improper, unholy objects, they have become like the gods they worship. Man is lost, spiritually lost; lost to God and to his highest interests—unholy in character, helpless in condition, and unlike God in everything. “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone (aside) out of the way,” apostatized from God, from his laws, and from principles of truth and right; “they are together become (filthy) unprofitable,” in their conduct and practice. They are depraved in heart and defiled in life (Psalms 14:2-19.14.3; cf. Romans 3:12-45.3.13). Yet man thus lost and depraved is the object of Christ’s care. God loves us, even in our weakness and worldliness, in our “crimes and carnality.” “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Christ seeks to bring us back to God, to deliver us from our sins, to correct the sinful and selfish principles of our nature, and to make us sons of God. The most distant and degraded, the most wretched and licentious, all who are conscious of their lost and ruined condition, may come to God. Poor Joseph, with a parcel of yarn hanging over his shoulders, heard the message of joy from the text: “This is a faithful,” &c. John Newton in preaching to the prisoners at Newgate wept, and they wept with him, as he enlarged on “this faithful saying.” “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners.”
2. Love to the unfaithful professor. God’s love is not simply to the wretched and perishing. To love the distressed is comparatively easy; but to love the unfaithful and the adulteress, those who add guilt to unworthiness, idolatry to apostasy, and provocation to ingratitude, is more than humanity can do. Men respect the just and love the good; but God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners. We may even love when immorality is allied to woe, and hatred to personal offensiveness; but love in its purest, freest form, love in God, passes over demerit and offence, withstands provocation and insult, and blesses those that curse. The unworthy servant is sent away from our employ. The unfaithful friend is forsaken and condemned. But what shall we say of unfaithful Israel? What shall be done to those who have loved and forsaken their love, sworn allegiance, yet broken off and are guilty of fornication? “Go yet, love a woman” most guilty and most unworthy; love with a definite and Divine love, “according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel;” a love without a parallel and beyond expression. “I know that the mercy of God is infinite,” said a brother of Whitfield, the great preacher, to Lady Huntingdon; “but, my lady, there is no mercy for me, a backslider, a wretch, entirely lost.” “I am glad to hear it, Mr Whitfield,” said she. “I am glad that you are a lost man.” “What! glad that I am a lost man, my lady!” “Yes, truly glad; for Jesus came into the world to save the lost.” He blessed God for his love, and the same evening died in peace. God still yearns over those who have fallen a second time. The backslider and unfaithful professor may yet return. God remembers his covenant and will ever fulfil his word. “Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep mine anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God.”
II. Love in its active operation. All feeling, all emotion in the heart demands and seeks an outward expression. Feeling will not slumber in the soul any more than ignited gunpowder will smoulder away without explosion. Man is not a mere block, to move and be moved by attraction and force. Nor is he a mere physical structure; but a being of sympathy and emotion. Love is one of the strongest passions, and on whatever object it is fixed, will lead to intense energy and activity. There may be pity without help; benevolence which merely wishes good to be done. We may feel for the sufferer and not interpose; retain our sentiment and say, “Be ye warmed, be ye clothed,” without giving “the things needful for the body.” Love is deeds, not desires, nor words. Its objects are out of itself, and according to its strength and opportunity it reaches others. “God so loved the world,” that “he gave” something, he did something. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us.” “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” Measure the love by the gift and the deed. Things may represent feeling and value, desire and delight, but persons are the greatest sacrifice. In giving a person, God gave the greatest of all persons—“his only begotten Son.” Christ shed his precious blood to redeem men from sin and death. Damon had great affection for his friend Pythias. When Shelley gave Leigh Hunt a thousand pounds to liberate him, the act was a proof of no common friendship, and showed that he valued his friend more than his gold. God’s love excels all other, seeks to restore the fallen and most degraded to himself. He is not satisfied with anything less than complete restoration, complete salvation. The prophet bought the “woman beloved,” redeemed her from slavery and idolatry, and eventually took her to himself. Life must be supported, a bridal gift bestowed, and she must be re-instated in his heart and home. “If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?”
III. Love in its necessary discipline. According to Scripture, all suffering under God’s administration has a moral end, and must not be viewed by itself, without any reference to results. In some cases it is judicial, penal, and exemplary in solemn terms. But in its bearing upon God’s people, it is corrective, given for a gracious purpose and a blessed experience, progressive sanctification and final perfection. “God chastens us not for his pleasure, but for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” This design should help us to bear it even most frequent and severe. “My son, thank God for me,” said Dr Arnold on his death-bed. “Thank God, Tom, for giving me this pain. I have suffered so little pain in my life, that I feel it is very good for me now God has given it me, and I do so thank him for it.” That man should be capable of Divine holiness and fellowship with God, proves the capacity of his mental and the dignity of his moral nature. Affliction is chosen as a suitable and sovereign remedy to cure our evils. We are estranged from God and given to the creature. Our attachments to wealth, power, and ambition, to pleasure and sensual indulgence, are not easily broken. God’s method of weaning from the world, and breaking up unhallowed and degrading attachment to sin, is by removing the object from us, visiting us with sickness, or smiting with a curse, what we love instead of him. Israel, like a captive woman remaining in the house, separated from her master, bewailing her captivity, was to sit for many days in solitary discipline (Deuteronomy 21:13; Exodus 24:14; Jeremiah 3:2); weaned or free from idolatry, yet not immediately received into friendship and favour with God. They were also to abide many days without prince or priest, temple or sacrifice. Hence—
1. Love disciplines by solitude. “Thou shalt abide (remain quiet) for me many days.” God often withdraws us from scenes of pleasure and mirth, deprives us of friends and means of grace, and confines us to beds of sickness and solitude. Sequestered from the excitements of life, cut off from the objects of our love, we should “be still and know that I am God.” Murmur not, nor complain; but submit in patience and hope. “So will I also be for thee.” Our deepest experience, our spiritual discipline, must be in solitude. We must suffer alone, and get wisdom alone. We must learn the evil of our ways and God’s displeasure against sin, not in the friction of society, but in the lonely chamber and the closet. This is the experience of all good men. Our affections are kindled, our resolutions fortified, and our hearts prepared, in solitude. Christ began public life with forty days in the wilderness, was made perfect through suffering, and had to tread the wine-press alone. Solitude and suffering alone are means of education; designed by God to chasten and refine, to awaken, convert, and restore the sinner and the backslider to himself. Afflictions are not messengers of his avenging wrath, but tokens of parental love; and in sending them he acts not as an angry judge, but a kind and forgiving father; correcting in love, and designing to bring forth “the peaceable fruit of righteousness in them which are exercised thereby.”
2. Love disciplines by deprivation. First, By depriving of the supports of life. “Without a king and without a prince.” A king was Israel’s special choice, and a king was Israel’s support. The court of Solomon was the glory of Israel, and Solomon’s son was the favourite king. Kings and princes were commanders and leaders of the people. When these were slain, when civil governments were overturned, they were left without support and defence. God not only gives, but takes away. Kings, princes, magistrates, and judges, are ordained of God, and are often taken away by his providence for the sins of the people. Individuals are often bereft of bread, friendship, and support, and families of honour and prosperity, that they may know that Jehovah alone can deliver and save. Second, By depriving of the enjoyments of life. “And without sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod.” Sacrifice was the distinctive feature in the Jewish religion. To take away sacrifice was to rob them of their prestige and religion, their enjoyments and freedom. They had no legal priesthood, no liberty of public worship, and no oracle to guide them in duty and distress. To be deprived of religious teachers and religious ordinances is sad indeed. But comforts die, riches fly away, friends forsake us, and our enjoyments often decay. Our lovers disappoint us, and we are compelled to “return and seek the Lord our God,” who afflicts in mercy and draws in love.
IV. Love in its blessed results. After a time of Divine chastisement and discipline, Israel will “turn and seek Jehovah their God, and David their king, and will go trembling to Jehovah and to his goodness.” Jehovah will be found of them that seek him with solicitude. He is our only hope and dependence. If we abandon idols and turn to him, we shall again taste his goodness and rejoice in the light of his countenance.
1. Love draws the penitent. When the sinner discovers his folly, and repents of his sin; when he feels his helplessness, and cries for mercy; he needs some encouragement and hope. The Bible reveals a God of love. God in Christ upholds the law in love, atones for sin, and loves the sinner. Mercy invites, and the weary and heavy laden come and find rest in Jesus. Hope beams upon the soul. The love of God warms and breaks up the heart, like the spring breaking up frozen waters. This love reaches and draws the contrite sinner, and he resolves to return to his home and his rest. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”
2. Love turns the backslider. Professing Christians are often unfaithful to their vows and their God. They fall into error and backslide from God. “Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer.” “My people are bent to backslide from me.” But God still watches over them, seeks to chastise and correct them, and restore them to his favour. Peter denied his Master, but was overcome by the look of love, and went out and wept bitterly. He felt his guilt and was despairing of mercy, but the message of joy encouraged him—“Go and tell Peter.” The description of the world without God, is the personal experience, the humble confession, of God’s people—“All we, like sheep, have gone astray.” They are led away by open sins or “secret faults;” by sense, fancy, or appetite; and are found in crooked paths of sin and shame. Strange tendency to wander from a God so good, and privileges so great! What can induce men to turn their backs upon their best friend, and sin against the most precious love that was ever known? There is no enjoyment in distance from God. The child of God cannot be happy separated from God, and will not entirely lose remembrance of forsaken blessing. God seeks his own. Christ, the good shepherd, goes after that which is lost, until he finds and restores it. “I have gone astray like a lost sheep: seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandment.”
3. Love begets loyalty. Israel shall not only seek the Lord their God, but “David their king.” A prince shall rule over them again, and they shall be a loving, loyal people. Love subdues the haughtiest, brings back the most distant, and wins all favours. Love overcomes apathy and antipathy. Severity creates hatred; mercy, love, kindness; “a kiss for a blow” will ever be found the best antidote to crime. Enmity to God is the nature, the very essence, of the carnal mind. Destroy its enmity, and you destroy its life and power. God destroys by his love, disarms all opposition, and begets love in return. “Truth is light, but love is life.” “Love is power.” Knowledge does not impart power to obey. Nothing but love, an appreciation of the Divine character and goodness, can beget true loyalty in the heart. We have the manifestation and method of love in the gospel. New life is quickened within us, and God speaks with power to our hearts. New affections expel meaner ones; moral activity is guided by faith. We love and labour most earnestly for God, who has blessed us. “We love him because he first loved us.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Truly the prophet in two respects has set forth great things. For, in the first place, he could not describe sin as being more dreadful than he here pictures it in the sin of the adulteress. And, again, he extols highly the love of God by this image, when he says that he is animated by love toward the adulteress [Luther].
Looking unto other gods. Placing our affections and confidence in other things—preference for the creature instead of the Creator, who is infinite in goodness and resources.
Flagons of wine.
1. A type of sin—sweet, sensual, and unwholesome food.
2. An image of idol worship—fleshly in its nature, poor in its consequences. “The solemn and strict religion of Jehovah is plain but wholesome food; whereas idolatry is relaxing food, which is only sought after by epicures and men of depraved tastes” [Hengstenberg]. Compare Job 20:12, where sin is figuratively described as food which is sweet as new honey in the mouth, but turns into gall in the belly.
Hosea 3:4. In this condition Jews have ever since remained: free from idolatry, and in a state of waiting for God, yet looking in vain for a Messiah, since they had not and would not receive him who came unto them; praying to God, yet without sacrifice for sin; not owned by God, yet kept distinct and apart by his providence, for a future yet to be revealed. God has been towards them. He has preserved them from mingling with idolaters and Mohammedans. Oppression has not extinguished them, favour has not bribed them. He has kept them from abandoning their mangled worship, or the Scriptures which they understand not, and whose true meaning they believe not; they have fed on the raisin-husks of a barren ritual and unspiritual legalism, since the Holy Spirit they have grieved away. Yet they exist still, a monument to us of God’s abiding wrath on sin, as Lot’s wife was to them, encrusted, stiff, lifeless, only that we know that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live [Pusey].
1. Cutting short of outward mercies, should cut off from sin and humble us that we may be ripe for mercy; and whatever our frame and carriage may be, yet by affliction God will cut short occasions of sin, as the adulteress is shut up and dieted, is secluded from her lovers.
2. The Lord may intend much good to them whom he brings into contempt, and to a low condition; for he sequesters and shuts up Israel with an eye to marry her [Hutcheson].
“FEAR THE LORD AND HIS GOODNESS”
This is the drift of the discourse, the right and proper result of the goodness of God upon our hearts. I address myself first of all to God’s people; secondly, to such as are yet unreconciled to him.
I. First, to God’s people. You have received of this goodness two ways; the first and the higher is his spiritual goodness; the second form is the providential bounty of God toward you. First survey the spiritual goodness of God to you. It was no small goodness to choose you at first—no slight goodness which ordained a covenant on your behalf with Christ Jesus, and which fulfilled that covenant. Think of God’s goodness to you when unconverted: what long-suffering! what tenderness! You have been filled with joy and peace in believing; led first into one truth and then other, and God has outdone all you asked or thought. All this should constrain you to fear the Lord. First, there should be a fear of admiration. Saints who have tasted the Lord’s goodness should fear him with worshipful fear of adoration. The goodness of God to us should suggest aspiration. The greatness of it should suggest to us great service; the continuance of it should move us to persevere in honouring him; the disinterestedness of the love of God should make us ready for any self-denials; and above all, the singularity and speciality of his goodness should determine us to be singular and remarkable in our consecration to him. We should also fear the Lord and his goodness in the sense of affection. We must fear him with humiliation. The goodness of God ought to make us fear him with a sacred anxiety, an anxiety of a double character. Am I really his? or if I be his, and have such goodness bestowed upon me, am I rendering to him what he may expect? We should fear the Lord, lastly, with the fear of resignation. Now for the goodness of God in providential matters. Fear God much more than ever before, lest these temporals should become your god. Fear God, lest you should undervalue your responsibilities. Fear God and his goodness, lest he turn his hand and make you poor. You should fear the Lord now, especially while you have your children about you, and you are in health, because you will have to leave all these things very soon. Fear God and his goodness, because he is better than all his gifts of providence.
II. A few solemn words to such as are not God’s people, but enemies to God, careless and yet prosperous. You have provoked God, and if justice had been done, where would you have been? Will you not fear and serve him out of gratitude? Do you not feel ashamed that so good a God should be so ill repaid? Ought you not also to fear God out of hope? If he has dealt so mercifully with you in temporals, have you not every reason to expect that he will do as well for you in spirituals? Should you not fear the Lord and his goodness out of great admiration? for how well, how kindly, how strangely well has he dealt with you! Lastly, let me say you may well fear God out of apprehension concerning his goodness, for the goodness which he now renders to you will pass away ere long. There is trouble for you in store except you turn and repent; first one rod—sickness to the child; then others—such as loss in business, sickness to yourself, death to your wife, &c. Woe to that man whom neither goodness nor severity can move; whom neither loving-kindness can draw, nor justice drive. For such there remaineth nothing but cast away for ever, from God whom he would not love, from Christ whom he would not accept, from mercy which he despised, from love which he rejected [Spurgeon].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Affliction a discipline. This sorrow comes not from the ground, nor yet affliction from the dust. It has been beautifully said, that sorrow is the river of God’s love flowing through shaded scenery. In all sorrow there is a limit—namely, that fixed by considerations for our own good. God is encompassing our path with thorns, lest we should wander into regions that chill or scorch us to the death. By some high method he overrules our narrow wishes and petty aims, and subordinates them to his own vast and beneficent designs. Misfortunes have been angels’ visits unawares. Amid the changes and the chances of this mortal life let us walk humbly with God and fix our hearts and hopes in him.
The power of love. Is there not an invincible power in tenderness? The old fable tells us of the sun and the wind which strove to see which could first remove the traveller’s cloak. The wind blustered, but the traveller only wrapped his cloak more tightly about him, but when the sun shone warm and soft upon his head, the traveller speedily cast off his cloak. If God had dealt roughly with you, I should not have wondered if you had said—“I will not serve him;” but after his being so kind with you, off with that cloak of indifference and be his servant. Will not the warmth of God’s love thaw your soul? The chilling frost of threatenings might have hardened you into a rock of ice, but this sunshine of prosperity and love which the Lord has given you, will it not melt you, will it not bring you to Jesus? [Spurgeon].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent