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Ephraim is still under reproof in this Chapter. But grace still triumphs in the Lord's victory for Ephraim, over death, hell, and the grave.
Here is a striking representation made in the character of Ephraim, and which suits all backsliders like Ephraim. First, departures are made with trembling: After falls are in more confidence. Hence the Apostle's kind caution. Hebrews 3:12-13 .
All these figures are strong and expressive, to show the transiency and emptiness of all things in man's strength, or man's attainment.
Whoever reads the history of Israel, and observes the Lord's kindness, and carefulness over that people, will enter into the beauty and grace here described, of the Lord's covenant faithfulness. See Deuteronomy 32:7-14 . But, Reader! who that reads that history with an eye to Christ; and considers the whole of Israel's eventful pilgrimage as a type and shadow of the Lord Jesus watching over his redeemed, in leading them from the Egypt of sin, to the Canaan of redemption and glory; but must forget everything of Israel after the flesh, to look with wonder and amazement to the Israel of God after the Spirit! And, Reader! to advance one step higher in the subject of meditation, who that is enabled by the divine teaching of God the Holy Ghost, and by his regenerating grace on the soul, to read the mysterious subject, and discover his own personal interest in it, as it concerns himself; but must feel his soul overwhelmed in the contemplation, and feel constrained to cry out with the astonished disciple; Lord! how is it that thou hast manifested thyself unto me, and not unto the world? John 14:22 . David, under the impression of distinguishing grace, cried out; I am as a wonder unto me! And every child of God feels that he is a world of wonders in himself!
I do not presume to interpret those verses as with an eye to mercy only; no doubt they contain under several similitudes, tokens of the Lord's heavy judgments. But to the Ephraims of the Lord, those whom as the Lord had just before said, he knew in the wilderness, is there not reason to hope his judgments are in mercy? The Holy Ghost, though the Comforter, is no less a spirit of judgment, and a spirit of burning. Isaiah 4:4 . Rending the caul of the heart is not unsimilar to taking away the heart of stone, and giving an heart of flesh. Reader! remember I do not presume to determine this point. But, when I read the whole of Hosea's prophecy together, yea, when I go on to the next verse only, and hear what is there said, methinks I behold such loving-kindness in the Lord, and such gracious expressions from Him, that I feel disposed to cry out with the Prophet, Who is a God like unto thee, etc. See Micah 7:18-20 . Pray turn to Ezekiel before you turn from those verses, Ezekiel 36:16 to the end.
Oh, what a verse is here! Could it be possible to give a fuller account of the blessed gospel of the ever blessed God in a more comprehensive manner! Israel hath destroyed himself. Yea, so hath every son and daughter of Adam. All men have done so. Every sinner hath done so, and is a soul murderer. Then comes in the remedy, the only remedy; In me is thy help. And who is it that thus speaks but the Lord Jesus Christ. See, Reader! how the whole of salvation is brought into a little compass. Here is the great ruin; and here the great relief. Destruction is of ourselves: Salvation is alone in Christ. Oh! for grace to know it, and to find the saving truth to the soul's joy!
All that is here said may be considered as the natural effect of sin, which self-destroyers bring upon themselves. Here is an allusion perhaps to Israel's history, in the case of Saul, king of Israel, whom the Lord appointed, and also rejected. See 1 Samuel 15:23 . But the subject is general, and by no means limited to any age or period. The idea of a travailing woman, and the breaking forth of children, may probably have a reference to the soul travail under conviction of sin. The holy scriptures make use of this figure upon several occasions. Isaiah 26:18 ; John 16:21 .
We can have no difficulty in discovering the blessed sense of this glorious verse; neither of the Almighty Speaker of it; since the Apostle Paul was taught it by God the Holy Ghost, to instruct the Church. 1 Corinthians 15:55 . And while we behold the Lord Jesus thus speaking by his servant the Prophet to this purport, so many hundred years before his incarnation, and accomplishing the whole by his resurrection and triumph over death, hell, and the grave; surely we cannot but take part in the glorious tidings to our nature, convinced that both in his victories for his people, and his conquests in his people; never will he recall his mercies, nor repent in the salvation of his redeemed, and the everlasting destruction of his foes.
Some have thought that it is the Lord Jesus Christ that is spoken of as fruitful among his brethren. And no doubt Christ is abundantly fruitful; as Jacob prophesied of him, as a fruitful bough whose branches run over the wall. Genesis 49:22 . But this cannot be spoken of Christ, because it follows that his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up. And as Samaria, which was the chief city of Ephraim, is also said to be desolate, it should seem to be rather a reference to Ephraim, who was fruitful among Israel's children; see Genesis 48:17-19 .
AMIDST numberless beauties which this Chapter furnisheth for the most blessed improvements under grace; methinks I would attend to what my Lord hath said concerning his ransom of his people from the power of the grave, as eminently important; and indeed as including all blessings in one. For if Jesus hath indeed in his own glorious person, conquered both sin, and death, and hell! (as that he hath most assuredly,) in that victory all his people are implicated, and interested in all his triumphs. And as under the Holy Ghost's teachings, every believing soul is led to see the truth of what the Lord hath said in this Chapter; O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; it must be blessed indeed to be equally convinced of what the Lord saith, in me is thine help. Look up then my soul, look up Reader, and hear thy Redeemer's well known voice, when he declares that he hath ransomed his people from the power of the grave, and redeemed them from death. And hath he not most completely and most effectually done it, by the assumption of our nature, and in that nature vanquished death by his own death, and subdued the dominion of the grave in arising from the grave in the triumphs of his cross? Hath he not done all this, as the head of his body the Church, and in our nature opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers? He hath paid our ransom with his blood. He hath answered the whole demands of divine justice by his righteousness. He hath shown the satisfaction wrought out, and made to all the Father's perfections. And as it was impossible that the grave should detain such a prisoner, so is it impossible that any of his seed, for whom he hath purchased redemption, should remain in the prison of the grave; for he hath said, because I live, ye shall live also. Hail! thou glorious Lord! thou art indeed the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in thee, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in thee shall never die. Well may every faithful child of God cry out in the triumphant voice of the Apostle, thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Hosea 13". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25