We have here a most interesting Chapter, describing the Lord's gracious dealings with his people, in bringing them from a state of sin to salvation.
I beg the Reader to observe, how soon the change is made from the foregoing Chapter. The Lo, the not is taken off; and the Lord calls his people again Ammi, and Ruhamah, beloved. And Reader! pray observe the cause. They are called Brethren. Yes! Jesus is not ashamed to call them so. Hebrews 2:11. And the Church glories in it. Song of Solomon 8:1. Oh! how gracious!
But yet remember how the Lord pleads with his people under their rebellions. Here the whole Church is represented as our mother; and called in to hear of her backslidings; that when Christ was married to her she should run after her lovers. There is somewhat uncommonly gracious, and blessed, in this view of Jesus marrying our nature, by uniting that nature to the Godhead. And of all subjects of endearment, surely this is the highest, and the best. Reader! I know not what your feelings are on this subject; but to my view, I know of no encouragements to lead my poor sinful soul to the mercy seat of God in Christ, amidst all my unworthiness, equal to this; that Christ hath taken my nature up with him to the highest glory; and in that nature, that there is one in the throne whom the Father heareth alway. I feel a thousand blessings in this one consideration, that poor, and wretched, and polluted, as I am, in this body of sin and death, which I carry about with me; yet in that pure, and holy part of my nature, in the Person of Christ Jesus, Jehovah's law hath been magnified, and made honorable; so that a gracious acceptation is given to all his people, in Him, the beloved. When I think of this, and what the Church is in Jehovah's sight, as beheld and accepted in Christ Jesus, I am content to be stript and become naked, as in the day I was born, that I may be washed in Jesus's blood, and clothed in Jesus's righteousness.
We have here, if I mistake not, the process of grace, when the Lord is about to work upon the hearts of his people. They are, as Israel is here described, speaking confidently, and with an high hand; resolving to seek in herself and her own attainments, comfort like the oil and the corn; that is, taking refuge in creature enjoyments, and making to herself cisterns, yea, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13. This is in scripture language, playing the harlot, and doing shamefully. But see in what follows, what comes next, and how the Lord works.
The Lord raiseth perplexities in the soul, to embarrass and entangle the poor sinner in the wild and mad career the sinner is pursuing. And as thorns and briars, which were in the curse pronounced on sin at the first, are suited to this purpose, the Lord will hedge up the sinner's way with them. Reader! do not overlook here how Jesus bore this eminently in his own sacred person, when he became the sinner's surety. You and I have found many a thorny path to our feet in our pilgrimage; but none but the ever blessed Jesus was crowned with thorns, as if to intimate that He should be pre-eminent in suffering, as He is pre-eminent in grace and glory. John 19:1-5. Well then, the Lord (we are told here) will make a hedge of thorns, to stop the sinner's way; and if this will not keep him back, he will make a wall also. For when the Lord is working by the sovereignty of his grace, to deter the soul he is bringing to himself, if one process will not accomplish the purpose, another shall. Reader! pause, and enquire what you know in your own heart of these things. Depend upon it, that it is by these things you live, and in this is the life of the soul.
Here we have the beautiful consequence of God's gracious dealings with his people. Though the Lord's people have done, and do commit spiritual adultery with the Mammon of this world, and the Church is continually running after her idols; yet, meeting with nothing but sorrow, disappointment, and vexation of spirit, the Lord mercifully tinging all her pursuits with bitterness and vanity; and by the secret inclinations the Lord works in the heart, working grace, at length issues a cry from the soul, I will go and return to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now. Reader! I pray you not to overlook the blessed soul-rejoicing, soul-comforting doctrine here taught the Church. Jesus was, and is, and ever will be, the first, and constant, and last, and only husband of his Church. For whatever idols our poor souls, in the fallen state of an unregenerated, unrenewed nature, through the temptation of hell, may go after, still the Lord Jesus loseth not his right in us, neither we our interest in him. Oh! what a thought is here! Oh! what unknown, unexplored, and endless mercies, are found in it, for every redeemed soul to rejoice in! Christ, as Mediator, received his Church, his bride, his spouse, from the hand and gift of God the Father, before all worlds. True, he was to redeem it in time; but this he had bargained for from all eternity. The lapsed state in Adam, like what is said here of the Church, left our whole nature naked, and as in the day in which we were born, children of whoredoms, and deserving wrath. But Jesus claims his right, and recovers his redeemed, the purchase of his blood, by the sovereignty of his Almighty arm. And having undertaken for her debt, he undertook for her duty also, and therefore makes her willing in the day of his power.
These are so many blessed expressions, to show how graciously the Lord is dealing with his people, in the bounties both of providence and grace; while our proud, unhumbled nature, overlooking the Lord's free gifts, is always apt to ascribe every blessing to our own . attainment. Moses admonished Israel to be aware of this, and learn to give God the sole glory. Deuteronomy 8:10 to the end. We may make application of what is here said to spiritual privileges, as well as temporal mercies. The New Moons and Sabbaths, in the Jewish Church, with their feast days, bear a just correspondence to the several means of grace and ordinances in the Christian. And how often do they become unprofitable in their use from our unthinking, forgetful, and ungracious minds.
Reader! I beseech you to pause over every verse, and every part and portion of this most blessed Chapter. Was ever grace like thine, thou dear Redeemer? And when the milder methods of thy recovering mercy lose their effect, still thou wilt not relinquish thy people, nor give them up! A wilderness dispensation, under this blessing, shall accomplish that which a fulness of privileges could not induce. The valley of Achor itself shall open a door of hope, when thou art pleased to turn the heart; and songs of holy joy shall burst forth from the soul, which before had been given to idolatry. The Reader will recollect, I hope, what was recorded of Achan, in the wars of Joshua; and from hence see the allusion. As Achan troubled Israel, and from thence troubles arose; so from the very troubles of God's people, by the Lord's sanctifying blessing upon them, from thence blessings shall come. Joshua 7:1 to end. It is very blessed, very gracious, when by the overruling grace of God, our sorrows are made the means of joy; and our afflictions, from being instrumental to bring the heart to God, become like the spiced wine of the pomegranate.
I can never say enough on the blessedness contained in these words of the Lord Jesus. I say the Lord Jesus; for evidently they are his words. It was neither the person of the Father, nor of the Holy Ghost, that married our nature, by taking a portion of it into union with the Godhead; but it was Jesus: Hence he is emphatically called, the Husband of his people. And there is an uncommon degree of tenderness in the expression Ishi. And thankful I desire to be to the Lord, not only for his unparalleled condescension in calling himself by that name; but also for watching over the Church when the translators of our English Bible were mercifully raised up, and commissioned to translate the scriptures from the original Hebrew into our mother tongue, that they preserved the sweet word of Hebrew Ishi, in its own state, and gave it to us as it is in our Bibles. It is indeed a blessed word, when graciously spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ of himself, and hath a most sweet and loving signification. The word Ishi, and the word Baali, both may be translated Husband: and so the word Baali is rendered in Isaiah. Isaiah 54:5. Thy Maker is thine husband. But there is in Baali somewhat of a lordship, or authority, more than in Ishi. And we cannot with propriety say, Baali, my man; but rather it is my Lord. Whereas Ishi more particularly means, my man. As if Jesus would be known to his Church by that endeared name. And I venture to believe, that this injunction of our Lord Jesus to call him Ishi, had respect to the days of Christ's flesh, when he would in a yet more eminent and endeared manner be known unto his Church and people as the Ishi, that is, the man Christ Jesus. The Reader will forgive me, I hope, if I add one observation more upon this sweet word Ishi. It is well known, that the word of itself contains one of the letters of Jehovah. And this is the highest honor that can be given to any name; so much so, that when at any time (as in the case of Jeconiah, afterwards called Coniah) if the letter be withdrawn it became a decided evidence of divine displeasure. See Jeremiah 22:24. His name had been Jeconiah, but now he hath lost the first and distinguishing letter Jah, he is now only Coniah. So that Ishi, being formed with one of the letters which belongs to the incommunicable name of Jehovah, carried with it great dignity, and implied man's relation to Christ. It is no less certain that the feminine of the Woman in the original hath the same honor, and is a symbol of God's grace in her. So that when, as in the Lord's original appointment, the Man and Woman are united to each other in the Lord; both then having this character in their names, and both being by grace as well as nature united to Him and in Him, they are blessed in Him, and have all blessings from Him, to their mutual joy and comfort. But if their union be only in nature, and not in grace; not formed in Christ; and not from Christ; thus they lose this distinguishing letter in their name, and the word is no longer in the man or woman Ishi, but Esh, that is fire; consuming and destroying one another.
How precious these words! When the Lord is at peace with a redeemed soul in Christ; he maketh the whole creation to be at peace with him: that is, the Lord allows nothing to hurt him. Exercised and tried God's people may be; but hurt they - shall not be. So runs the charter of grace; No weapon formed against thee shall prosper (saith Jehovah, the Father to Christ Mediator, and to his people in him,) and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. Isaiah 54:17; Ephesians 1:3.
Was there ever any compellation of words of tenderness like these. Everyone is literally and truly fulfilled, in that the Lord Jesus hath united himself to his Church and people, and given them union in himself. The covenant that the Lord hath made for his people, that none of the inferior creatures should hurt them, was nothing compared to what he here saith, of the covenant he had made with them. Betrothing, implies the marriage covenant, and this is not for a day, but forever; an union never to be dissolved. And Jesus hath done this in righteousness, because his righteousness is their righteousness in him, and this righteousness is forever. And this betrothing is in judgment also; for not only the whole is founded in divine justice and equity, but by virtue of the soul's union with Christ and acceptation in Christ, God's justice, and God's holiness, is as dear to the believer as his loving-kindness or his mercy. So that every redeemed soul beholds with delight, that Jehovah hath not relaxed a single atom of his demands of righteousness and judgment, but hath received a full, an ample equivalent, at the hands of the sinner's surety, for all sin and uncleanness. A just God, and Savior, are here happily blended. Isaiah 45:2. And the betrothing of the people by the Redeemer, not only is done in righteousness and judgment, but in loving kindness and in mercies. Sweet compassion, tenderness, and grace, shall go along with all his dispensations towards them; as the Husband over the wife of his bosom. Isaiah 54:4-6. And, as if all these assurances were not enough, the Lord Jesus sums up all with a blessed even so, in the faithfulness of his Almighty character, and that his people shall know it. Every jot, every tittle of the covenant shall be fulfilled, and his people shall subscribe to that solemn truth, God is faithful. Deuteronomy 7:9; 2 Timothy 2:13.
These are very sweet promises, both in a temporal, and in a spiritual sense; and all ratified, and confirmed, to the believer, in the charter of grace. When the Lord hath brought sinners into a state of salvation, all the nether spring blessings, and the upper spring mercies, both pour in upon the soul. The figure here made use of, in that of God's hearing the heavens, and they hearing the earth, is very beautiful. In times of drought and famine, the earth in vain looks to the heavens for their beneficial influences, if the Lord shuts them up. But when the Lord acts upon the heavens, and the heavens upon the earth; then there will be showers of blessings', the corn, and the wine, and the oil, shall abound, and the people of Jezreel shall be filled with plenty. The same holds good in grace. When the dry and famished souls of poor sinners are savingly brought acquainted with God's rich mercy in Christ, their heaven is no longer to them iron, and the earth brass, but, the Lord hears and answers the intercession of his dear Son; and while prayers are going up, blessings are coming down; and the Lord becomes gracious to his people. Such, and so great, is the wonderful change brought by sovereign, free, and unmerited grace!
This is that which in fact lies at the bottom of all our mercies, Jehovah's rich covenant in his threefold person of character, of redemption. The Lord's condescending to take Israel into covenant-relation with himself, in Christ, is the foundation, and the sum, and substance of the whole scheme of grace. Observe, it is God which saith, I will sow her into me in the earth. And it is God which first acknowledgeth Israel for his people, before that Israel acknowledgeth the Lord for his God. It all begins in God, and ends in God. Jesus is both the Alpha and the Omega, the Author and Finisher of our salvation. And it is most blessed, indeed, when the soul is brought to see, and as cheerfully to delight and acknowledge, that the whole of redemption from beginning to end is of Jehovah, rich, free, and sovereign grace. Then the redeemed can and do in heart and soul join the hymn of heaven, when addressing God and the Lamb, thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood. Revelation 5:9.
READER! ponder well the very many precious things contained in this blessed Chapter. It is all over gospel from one end to the other; and contains within its sacred bosom, that which always was, and always must be, the very, essence of gospel grace; namely, Jehovah's love to poor lost sinners, in the person, work, and righteousness of his dear Son, and their sure acceptance in him, through the infinite merits of his blood, and the covenant-faithfulness, of Jehovah.
Behold again and again, how all the mercies of salvation flows in and through this one most gracious channel, by our Lord Jesus Christ. Jehovah first calls, and calls most lovingly. Say ye to your brethren, Ammi, my people; and to your sisters, Ruhamah, beloved. Both sons and daughters are called upon: for Jehovah had promised in redemption-work, to call Christ's sons from far, and his daughters from the ends of the earth; therefore, here the Lord sends to call them, agreeably to his most sure promise. And observe yet further; though the Lord was about to plead with them, and to tell them of their transgression, and the house of Jacob of their sins; yet the original covenant of redemption, founded in Christ before the world began; and consequently, before their fallen state, was not destroyed. Jehovah's love to his Church in Christ Jesus, Was founded in the ancient settlements of eternity; so that her after-fall in Adam did not prevent God's original purpose and grace, given in Christ Jesus before the world began. Observe further, the gracious methods of divine love, in bringing his Israel unto him. The Lord hedges up the way with thorns, brings the soul into the wilderness; makes crosses spring out of our supposed comforts, and thus by the convictions of his Holy Spirit, compels the soul to return to her first Husband, because all else is vanity and vexation of Spirit. And when the Lord hath his infinite mercy accomplished the purposes of his grace; then the name of Jesus, husband, brother, friend, become sweet to the soul; and all the fulfillment of God's covenant engagements follow; the Lord acknowledges them for his people; and they acknowledge the Lord for their God.
Reader! doth your personal knowledge of these things make this scripture blessed to your own heart? Hath God so dealt by you? Hath he indeed taken away the names of Baalim out of your mouth? and is Jesus altogether precious to your soul in his person, work, and righteousness? Oh! how truly lovely is it, when God's Word corresponds to our experience; and while we read the sacred testimony; we are enabled to set to our seal that God is true!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Hosea 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany