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We have here a very sorrowful Chapter. A picture is drawn of the people's transgressions; and the Lord's threatened punishment follows.
Here is an awful account of sin in some of the deadly branches of it. But the most awful part of it is, that it is Israel, the Israel of God, that is here spoken of. Sin is sin in any nation, and the crimes here enumerated are horrible wherever they are found. But when God's people are the first in the transgression, this makes sin exceeding sinful. Reader! do not overlook this; it is a sad proof which the whole world daily affords of our fallen nature, in the mass of corruption everywhere abounding. But Moses speaks of the peculiar offence of sin which the Lord saw, because of the provoking of his sons and daughters, Deuteronomy 32:9-29 .
Here the Lord follows the sins of his people with his threatened punishments. And it is not the smallest in the account, that the priest and Prophet shall have no weight with the people. Where the Lord gives not the understanding heart, the labours of both are but in vain. Psalms 127:1-2 .
Observe Reader! how tenderly in the midst of judgment the Lord seems to mourn over the perishing circumstances of his people. And is it not now to the same cause in our ignorance of Jesus, that all our miseries and the sins of our nature arise. Did we but know Jesus, surely every blessing in love and obedience would follow. Hence Paul's prayer: and in which I beg of you to observe, the great and leading petition is not that we may love him, but that we may know his love to us in all its bearings. See Ephesians 3:14-19 .
The first verse in this paragraph is a very striking scripture. In some of our old Bibles the margin hath it in yet stronger terms; they eat up the excrement of my people, meaning that which is most to be abhorred, is most delighted in by the enemies of God. And it should seem, that this is what most defines the character of the seed of the serpent. Say what men will, yet the fact returns with double strength and violence, there is an everlasting line drawn between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; between the Cains and the Abels, the Esaus and the Jacobs of every generation. The children of the bond-woman will mock and manifest their hatred to the children of the free. Neither can they ever join, either in the life that now is, or in that which is to come. Reader! consult some few of the scriptures in confirmation. John 8:42-44 ; Galatians 4:22 to the end 1 John 3:7-12 .
I beg the Reader to observe, for I think it is very observable, and very blessed it is in the observance, what sweet minglings of grace is here amidst the solemn and awful account the Lord gives of his people. Witness the tender watchings over Judah, and the Lord's charge not to follow Israel. As also, the gracious promise of the Lord's feeding them, as a lamb in a large place. I would not determine that it is so: but methinks there is here no small reference to the person and work of the Lord Jesus. I cannot help remarking also, what the Lord saith of Israel's backsliding, in that it is likened to a backsliding heifer. Now it is well known, that the heifer when sliding on slippery ground, is still with her head upward to the place where she aims to go, and hath not turned her back through falling down. So the Lord's people in their backslidings have not relinquished the Lord, though they fall, and make no progress in the divine life. In themselves they are nothing, yea, worse than nothing. But in the Lord they have an interest, however unconscious to their own hearts. Sweet is that scripture to this amount, Hosea 14:0 throughout. I cannot but think also, that the other expressions here made use of are more in mercy than judgment. Let Ephraim alone: he is joined to idols! Some have thought that this is spoken of in the most awful manner: as if by letting him alone, his everlasting ruin would follow: Revelation 22:11 . And so it would indeed, if the sentence was uttered by the Lord in this way, for none could ever recover himself from the idols of his own heart, if the Lord's grace did not first enter that heart. And had this been the case with our whole nature after the fall, for what purpose did the Son of God come? I rather think the sentence is spoken in great grace and mercy. Ephraim is joined to his idols: let him alone. For what? To see and feel the wretchedness of such an union; until when like the prodigal, he comes to himself by my making his idols bitter to him, and hedging up his way with thorns, and my secretly inclining his heart to consider my love and his baseness, he is brought back with the cry of grace in his heart, God be merciful to me a sinner! See a sweet representation similar to this, and given by the Lord himself, Jeremiah 31:18-20 . I do not presume to determine this point. But I venture to think it more in agreement with the whole tenor of scripture. If I err, the Lord pardon. If my views are from God the Holy Ghost's teaching, the Lord's hand be acknowledged in it, and may he make it profitable both to Writer and Reader.
BLESSED Lord! cause my soul to read this solemn Chapter with an eye to what thou hast said, that thou hast declared in it that thou hast a controversy with thy people. Oh! gracious Lord God! And what do all thy controversies lead to, but to bring back thy people? Wherefore doth Jesus in his adorable grace, and love, and mercy, send forth his ambassadors, but that they should pray his people, as though God did beseech them in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God. Surely the Church hath reason to be humbled in the dust before thee, when she calls to remembrance, that the land mourns for the sins of it; and that the great and crying sins are the transgressions of the Lord's people. And if the Lord in the days of the Prophet, declared that his people were destroyed for lack of knowledge, what shall be said of the present hour, but that it is a Christ-despising generation, who know not the Lord. Lord, take to thyself thy great name, and come forth for thine own cause, arid turn back the captivity of Jacob!
Oh! ye deluded sons and daughters of Adam! ye who take pleasure in the infirmities of God's people, and eat up their sin. Jesus will plead for his redeemed, when he seeth that their power is gone. He will revive his chosen; he will take up their cause; he will yet make them a name and a praise among the people of the earth, to whom they have been a reproach, in the day when he bindeth up their breach and healeth their wound: even in the day of his great power. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Hosea 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26