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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Hosea 2

 

 

Verses 1-5

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Plead] Jehovah makes the demand, urges individual Israelites to reason with the mother, i.e. the nation viewed as one. The children were seduced, in danger of punishment, and as penitents must protest against her conduct. Wife] Forfeited all claims to my protection. Sight] Lit. from her face, the seat of modesty and shame (Jer 3:8; Jer 6:15). "The eyes are windows through which death, i.e. lawless desire, enters into the soul, and takes it captive" [Pusey].

Hos . Strip] Nudity, the ancient punishment of an adulteress (Eze 16:37). Set] Lit. fix her as a gazing-stock, in a state of helplessness and misery. Wilderness] Reduced to want; an outward type of inward distress (Jer 2:6).

Hos . Children] inherit the nature, and exposed to the judgment, of their mother. Many imagine because free from the guilt and stain of sin they will not share its punishment.

Hos . Done shamefully] Heb. to practise shame (2Sa 19:5). "She made shameful everything which she could make shameful—her acts, her children, and herself" [Pusey]. The reproach of the mother should rouse the sons from spiritual apathy. Lovers] Idols and idolatrous nations whose alliance they courted, and to whom they ascribed the gifts of life, bread and water (Jer 44:17); a picture of life estranged from God.

HOMILETICS

FILIAL EXPOSTULATION.—Hos

The mother is the representative of the nation, of the ungodly in all nations and families. The sons must plead with them. They are involved in judgments, left orphans, and without protection, by the conduct of their mother.

I. Charge her with dissolution of the Marriage Contract. "She is not my wife." A spiritual union was formed between God and his people, under terms of great endearment and oneness. But she was no longer united to God by faith and love, and God would own her no longer. Churches and individuals who give themselves to God must not decline in love. This will forfeit the honour, the protection of God, and his covenant relation; provoke him to anger, and lead to divorcement. How touching is the rebuke uttered by the complaint, Thou no longer lovest me! "She is not my wife, I am not her husband!" The history of the Church is a sad commentary upon these words. The Church at Ephesus was not wanting in purity of doctrine, nor in severity of discipline. The Lord disclosed the heart and published the fault. "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."

II. Urge her to put away Sin. The idolatry is described as whoredom and adultery; a breach of fidelity which Israel owed to God; an act of apostasy from God; more culpable than heathenish idolatry and superstitions.

1. A public sin. Israel, like a barefaced harlot, displayed her sins in public before men. Publicity tempts the weak, taints the innocent, and leads to ruin. Wickedness like this is the most dissolute, and its woe will be the most intense. Some sin secretly, but others proclaim their sin to the world—they glory in their shame.

2. A shameful sin. The face and the breasts are those parts of the body which display want of chastity, and depict boldness and shamelessness. Many neither shame nor blush at their vice. Boldness without confession of wrong, wickedness done with desire of recognition, impudence in sin, will lead to hardness of heart. Those who will not blush will soon be unable to blush. "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall."

III. Warn her of Danger. Sin always involves risk, and brings its consequences upon ourselves and others. Every one is in duty bound, in his house, among his friends and relations, and in his country, to labour for the happiness and good of all, to check the wickedness and ward off the dangers by which he is surrounded.

1. She will expose herself. "Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born," &c. (a) Expose herself to nakedness and helplessness. Israel taken when weak and few in number; trained, fed, and clothed by God like a little child; married to God, and adorned as a bride; should now be stripped, deprived of every ornament, as an adulterous wife; of all temporal and spiritual blessings as a people; and left naked and helpless, a gazing-stock to others. When God ceases to care and provide for a people, withholds the gifts of nature and of grace, they will become defiled by sin, cast out and loathsome. Like Adam and Eve, they will lose their innocence, and learn their nakedness. Divine judgments strip men of natural defence, family honour, and leave them "naked unto their shame amongst their enemies" (Exo ). (b) Expose herself to want and distress. "Make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land." Incursions and hostilities of the enemy could lay her waste as a wilderness; or put her in great straits and distress, as in the desert when they came out of Egypt. Idolatry desolates the land and brings the devouring sword. She would be like a dry land, destitute of food and the maintenance of life. Well-watered gardens become deserts through sin. The outward is a type of the inward. "Mind hath its deserts no less than Region," says Bacon. "Everything that I love," said Napoleon, "everything that belongs to me, is stricken. Heaven and mankind unite to afflict me." The soul of the sinner is desolate and unfruitful in the ways and works of God; devoid of God's presence and blessing; unrelieved by green pastures and living rills. "Your house is left unto you desolate," are words which describe the doom of all without Christ. Hungry and thirsty, they are not satisfied, but perish like a traveller in want. "Slay her with thirst."

2. She would endanger her children. "I will not have mercy upon her children"—children of whoredom inheriting the nature and suffering from the conduct of their mother. There is no security in sin. The rising generation do not escape. Parents entail a curse upon their offspring, and individuals are involved in national calamities. As good is diffused on every hand, so evil has its consequences; consequences which have their influences, results themselves pregnant with other results, in endless succession. Our endeavour should be to guard ourselves from the evil of others, and guard against detriment from our own acts. "This man perished not alone in his iniquity."

IV. Reprove her for Folly. She had acted shamefully in word and deed, towards herself and her children. The course of sin is a course of shame. The sinner forgets his best friend, and forsakes his own mercy. "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" The conduct of Israel was an affront to God and a reproach to man. To fall down to any image, ancient or modern, is to turn our glory into shame. This was—

1. An ungrateful sin. God set before them his law and judgments, promised blessings for obedience, and had given them the necessities and the luxuries of life; "more than corn, wine, and oil" (Psa ); but they claimed these gifts as their own; "my bread and my water;" or ascribed them to the lovers they followed. Men care for the things of time and sense, lands, houses, and life, and forget the claims, the prior right of God. These things are only lent us, must not be held upon wrong tenure and made our gods. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness."

2. An aggravated sin. Amid Divine chastisement Israel encouraged herself in idolatry. She called the objects of her choice "lovers," and drew others to follow her in pursuit. She waits not for invitation and allurement, but eager and unbidden, contrary to natural feeling and covenant pledge, she cries, "I will go," She was obstinate in pursuit, and avowed her determination. Abuse is added to ingratitude; God is forsaken for the pleasures of life, and men attribute present happiness and prosperity to sin, rather than to his goodness and forbearance. Take heed lest ye be fattened and fitted for slaughter. Aggravated sin ripens for judgment. He that despises God's reproof "shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."

3. A delusive sin. Idols do not give the necessities and enjoyments of life. God alone can fill men's "hearts with food and gladness" (Act ). The heathens had a goddess of corn and gods of wine from whom they expected these gifts; so men now make their gods, and fancy that these gods will help them. They delude themselves by error and folly; make things outside of God their lovers; and deify their talents or the laws of nature. We belong to God, and all things are at his disposal. If we do not trust in him, we "observe lying vanities." Man must have a god, and if he will not love and serve the true and living God, he makes a fool of himself, and pays homage to a lie and a delusion. "As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos may be taken as (in last chapter),

1. A declaration of joy. Wrath passed away and mercy remembered.

2. A declaration of Christian experience. (a) To encourage others. (b) To glorify God. God's grace is magnified; God's word is proved to be faithful; God's name made known, and others are induced to repent and trust in him. "Say ye to your brethren, Ammi."

3. An exhortation to the converted to plead with the unconverted. The few faithful in faithless Israel must plead with others. Those who know God must expostulate with those who do not know him; children with parents; relatives with relatives. (a) This a natural order. We naturally feel for friends and relatives. We may not forget others, but we begin at home. Andrew was acquainted with Jesus and related to Peter. "He first findeth his own brother Simon." Paul could wish himself accursed for his kindred in the flesh (Rom ). (b) This a Divine order. "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee" (Mar 5:19). "Let them (children) learn first to show piety at home" (1Ti 5:4). (c) This the most successful order. We have greater sympathy for friends, more love to our own, than others. They are more likely to be influenced and persuaded by us than others. "Plead with your mother, plead" earnestly, faithfully, and continually.

Hos . The folly of sin.

1. It strips men of blessings.

2. Exposes them to shame and danger.

Hos . Mercy withheld from children, churches, or nations, is a sad addition to their trouble. There is nothing to moderate, prevent, or remove their sorrow.

Hos . "I will go." The infatuation of the sinner, who hardens, emboldens himself in sin, and rushes, heedless of warnings and judgments, to shame and destruction. Steps in apostasy from God.

1. Renouncing obedience.

2. Loving idols.

3. Ascribing God's gifts to idols.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Hos . Mothers and children. When a mother once asked a clergyman when she should begin the education of her child, then four years old, he replied, "Madam, if you have not begun already, you have lost those four years. From the first smile that gleams upon an infant's cheek your opportunity begins." The mother lives again in her children. They unconsciously mould themselves after her manner, her speech, her conduct, and her method of life. Her habits become theirs, and her character is visibly repeated in them" [Smiles]. Children may be strangled, but deeds never: they have an indestructible life, both in and out of our consciousness [George Eliot].


Verse 5

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Hedge and make] Build a wall, a double enclosure of stones and thorns. In the East cattle are fenced with thorns and closes. God with determined purpose will interpose between Israel and her idols. Behold, I will hedge] Exile and distress, and the inability of her gods to help, would prove the folly of her conduct (Job 19:18; Lam 3:7-9).

Hos . Follow after and seek] In eager pursuit and diligent search. "They express together a pursuit, whose minuteness is not hindered by its vehemence, nor its extent and wideness by its exactness. She shall seek far and wide, minutely and carefully, everywhere and in all things, and shall fail in all" [Pusey]. Not find] deliverance from calamity.

HOMILETICS

THE UNSUCCESSFUL PURSUIT.—Hos

Though Israel is dishonoured and fallen, she is not left to herself. God's mercy yearns over and seeks to check her in sin and recall her to himself. God even now has not written a bill of divorcement, nor cast away the people whom he did foreknow. Through eighteen hundred years they have been wandering without a dwelling-place and a temple; but the day will come, when she will "no more be termed Forsaken," nor "the land be termed Desolate; but she will be called Hephzi-bah and the land Beulah." Men are prone to wander. They are disappointed in their wanderings, and God rouses, instructs, and restores his backsliding people.

I. A pursuit after wrong objects. Man is a creature of strong affections. His feelings cling round the objects of his choice like ivy round a tree. Through sin these affections are misplaced. He loves the things which he should hate, and hates the things which he should love; forsakes the true God, and pursues lovers of his own. He must love, he will worship, something; "that I may win" is the desire of every soul. Wealth, honour, position, and learning are eagerly sought, loved for their own sake and for the sake of what they are thought to give. Thus men are seeking happiness where it cannot be found; committing two evils, forsaking the fountain of living waters, and hewing out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns which will hold no water. "Who will show us any good?" is the cry of the many. "Lord, lift thou upon us the light of thy countenance," is the prayer of the few.

II. A pursuit with intense anxiety. Man's spiritual desires are insatiable, yet ever seek gratification. They forbid him to rest, and compel him to seek supply. Inward sense of want, incapacity for alliance with sin, and instinctive longing for God, the "first good, first perfect, and first fair"—of whom all created beauty and good are mere shadows—make men restless and discontented. But instead of lifting the soul to God, they look to the creature for satisfaction; "seek" and "follow after" in eager pursuit of what they love; labour harder in sin, and seeking pleasure, than in serving God. They weary themselves in pursuit, rendered more eager by thorn-hedges and hindrances. Vexation and disappointment excite to desperate tenacity; affliction and remorse are often no check to the sinner; fuel is added to the fire, and with renewed ardour onward he goes to ruin and despair. "I will go after my lovers." The impenitent struggle on after that which God is taking from them, and will not give up, until the pursuit is found hopeless and exhaustive, and God in preserving mercy brings him back. "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"

III. A pursuit under Divine restraint. God governs the world, and seeks the good of his creatures. The way of transgressors is rendered hard "through much tribulation." It is a warfare against conscience, reason, and revelation. In consciousness of guilt we may discern our relationship to God. The trouble and anguish of spirit springing from this consciousness, "the inward unrest which sometimes seizes the slave of sin are proofs that he has not quite broken away from God." God works within by his Spirit and without by his providences. Hedges and walls are fixed up to restrain men in sin.

1. The restraints of God's providence are various in their nature. God sought to cut off Israel from idolatry by solitude and affliction. Like a thorn-hedge, affliction is painful. "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous." Conscience, the Divine officer, warns and checks the sinner. Disappointments in pursuits, pains attending pleasures, Divine judgments, and special manifestations, turn men from their purpose. Saul was overcome by light from heaven; Balaam was met by an angel, and David by Abigail (1Sa ).

2. The restraints of God's providence are merciful in their design, "that she shall not find her paths." (a) Given to withdraw men from sinful pursuits. "She shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them." (b) Given to restore men to God. "Then shall she say, I will go and return." Strong barriers and painful providences are not sufficient. If God did not mercifully interfere we should all go astray. Let us repent of sin, be thankful for correction, and admire the wondrous grace of God. "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word."

IV. A pursuit ending in failure. "She shall not overtake" what she follows; "she shall not find" what she seeks. Failure and disappointment after all her eagerness and effort! Egypt and Assyria were trusted in vain. Worldly alliances were of no service; did not give the anticipated deliverance. Idols were impotent; foreign nations were a broken reed, a source of sorrow and bitterness of spirit. Israel was obliged to confess, "it was better with me than now." The sinner gains nothing, but loses everything, by forsaking God. He pursues phantoms of bliss. The pursuit will disgust, and end in failure. "Why did the cannon-balls spare me to die in this manner? I am no longer the Great Napoleon. How fallen and disappointed I am!" cried Napoleon in his latter end. Nothing can take the place of God—nothing can satisfy but bread. A sinful life can never give peace of conscience and peace with God. The beast may be satisfied with what it finds on earth, for its nature aspires no higher; but man is linked to God, longs for him, and cannot be contented without him. Though the heart once alienated from him turns further away, and moves not towards him until renewed, yet even in its wandering it retains its nature and necessities. God is its centre, and it is restless and void till it meets with him again. Men go here and there, do this and that, in quest of good, as moments dictate and circumstances call forth, but all in vain. They faint in mind and fail in hope. God never created man to find rest and happiness in utter rejection of himself. "Thou madest us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it repose in thee" [Augustine]. "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."

THE BACKSLIDER'S WAY HEDGED UP.—Hos

Consider the text, and seek to arouse and restore backsliders, who have left their first love, and may have forsaken the Church of God, given up their profession and all attendance upon Divine worship.

I. While sinful men are in prosperity they pervert the mercies of God to their own injury, making them instruments of sin and weapons of warfare against God. While Israel enjoyed abundance of temporal comforts they ascribed all these blessings to false gods. Prosperous sinners make three great mistakes. At the outset they give their temporal mercies the first place in their hearts. Business prospers, but they consider not their soul. They say, "We must live," but they forget that they must die. Such folly most shameful, base ingratitude, in one who has known, or professed to have known, better. One error leads to another, and hence such people hold their temporal things upon a wrong tenure. Observe how many times the word "my" is found in the text. "Give me my bread," &c. They were not hers, but God's, who expressly claims them, and threatens to take them all away (Hos ). The backslider once professed himself to be God's servant; nothing is his now—houses, lands, profits, and children, only lent for a season. He is but God's under-bailiff, possesses only as tenant-at-will, or as a borrower, holding a loan. Then, further, backsliders are apt to ascribe their prosperity and their mercies to their sins. I have even heard one say, "Ever since I gave up a profession of religion I have made more headway in business than I did before." Some apostates have boasted, "Since I broke through puritanical restraint, and went out into worldly company, I have been better in spirits, and better in purse than ever I was before." Thus they ascribe the mercies which God has given them to their sins, and wickedly bow down to their lusts, as Israel did before the golden calf, and cry, "These be thy gods, O Israel!" These things are given to try you, to see how far you will go, and to what extravagances of ingratitude you will descend.

II. Turn from the gloomy side, and observe that the Lord interposes adversity in order to bring back his wandering children. Consider the hindrances which a God of love puts in the way. You see an unexpected hindrance, for it is placed right in the man's way. "I will hedge up thy way"—it was his way, his habit; he had fallen into it, and he meant to keep on; but suddenly he met with an unlooked-for obstacle. This hedge is placed in your way in different shapes. Business grows slack; bad debts multiply; bankruptcy stares you in the face; and where you had enough to lavish on pleasure you have not enough to supply your need. You thought you would live a millionnaire; more likely now to die a pauper. Or sudden sickness falls upon a strong healthy person. Possibly the hedge is of other thorns. The first-born son, the expected heir, the joy of the father's heart, falls like a withered flower; his wife is cut off as a lily snapped from its stalk. These are walls across the way of those whom God ordains to bless. Observe, it has a very disappointing impediment. The prosperous sinner is stopped when securely pursuing his way. "Why," says the man, "if it had not been for that I should have made a fortune." "Why did death come just when my fair girl looked so lovely, and when my dear boy had grown so engaging? Ah! this is trouble indeed. To meet with misfortune just when I built that new house, and held my head so high, and expected to see my daughters so respectably married; this is very disappointing." The man kicks, and though once professed to be a child of God, he is ready to curse God and die. If he knew the Divine nature, he would thank God for his troubles on bended knees. What painful hindrances our heavenly Father often uses. He hedges the sinner's path, not with rhododendrons and azaleas, not with roses and laurels, but with thorns—prickly thorns, which curse the soil and tear the flesh, are God's instruments of restraint. Furthermore, the fence is effectual; if the thorn hedge will not suffice, it is written, "I will make a wall." Some are so desperate in sin that they break through ordinary restraints; then a wall shall be tried, through which there is no breaking, over which there is no climbing.

III. You would think that the sinner would now stop, but instead of that, according to the text, even though God walls up the way of sin, men will try to follow it, but this resolve shall be in vain. He is desperately set on destruction, as though it were to be desired. What a creature is man, though he knows that sin will be his ruin, yet he hugs it as though it were his chief mercy; heaps to himself destruction as though it were gold. If the righteous were half as intent in seeking after goodness as the wicked are in hunting sin, how much more active would they be. Truly this love is so strange, that if we did not see it in ourselves we should wonder at it. It is in you, Christians, as in the worst of men, and but for Divine mercy you would have plunged on from bad to worse.

IV. Consider that the backslider's failure is followed by a blessed result. Observe, here is repentance attended with sorrow. The poor creature deeply feels to the very soul the wretchedness of her condition. It is an active repentance. It is not merely "I will return," but, "I will go and return." There is much earnestness in a sinner seeking Christ; but more, if possible, in a backslider returning from the error of his ways; for he has not only the guilt of sin to mourn over, but the double guilt of having despised the Saviour, of having known the way of righteousness and turned from it. The confession which this poor soul makes of folly is one which is sustained by the best of reasons. "Then was it better with me than now." Backslider, what have you gained? Have you gained anything more comfortable than the light of your Father's face? Before, you had the privilege of going to the throne of grace, you could tell your wants before God, and spread your sorrows there; but now you have no throne of grace to go to. Then you had God's promises to fall back upon. Once you had communion with Christ. What can the world afford you comparable to this? There is no room to entertain a comparison for a moment. Lastly, this repentance was acceptable. It is not often that a husband is willing to take back his wife when she has so grossly sinned, as the metaphor here implies; yet God is willing to receive the sinner, though his sin is even more aggravated. "Return unto me, for I am married unto thee."

V. Observe that there is an awful contrast to all this. Some prosper until, like a wide-spread tree, they are cut down and cast into the fire. There are backsliders who, never having had the root of the matter in them, go back unto their own ways and continue there for ever. Never trifle with backsliding. Chosen vessels, notwithstanding their backslidings, are brought back; but, ah! remember that nine out of ten of those who backslide never were God's people. You must be born again, and only the man who continues to the end shall be saved.

VI. We conclude with this—is not this subject a very solemn warning to the people of God? If one man falls, another may. If one professor turns out to be a hypocrite, another may. There must be the continual keeping and anointing of the Holy Spirit. No man backslides at once. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Wake up your coldness in private prayer. If love to Christ has grown cold, pray to the Master to inflame your heart again. Let us trust the Saviour. There is the sinner's hope; there is the saint's strength [Spurgeon].

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . Subject:—Divine Restraints. I. These restraints are manifold. "I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall." The first metaphor is from a husbandman who plants a prickly hedge to prevent cattle from breaking away. The other from architecture. If thorns are insufficient, high and massive walls must be built.

1. There is the restraint of affliction. When the wicked purpose some great crime, affliction comes, breaks their plans, and strikes them down.

2. There is the restraint of public sentiment. Public opinion, as it gets enlightened and strong, is a tremendous check to the wicked. The most daring cower before the public voice.

3. There is the restraint of conscience. Conscience is a Divine officer holding the sinner.

II. These restraints are necessary. It is necessary that God should plant thorny hedges and build massive walls around the sinner.

1. It is necessary for the sinner himself. Were it not for these he would go galloping to perdition. "O, unhappy men," says Luther, "when God leaves them to themselves, and does not resist them in their lusts. You bless yourselves many times that in the way of sin you find no difficulty. Bless thyself! Thou hast cause to howl and wring thy hands, thou hast the curse of God on thee. A dreadful curse to make pleasant the way of sin."

2. It is necessary for the world. What would become of the world if the wicked were not reined in? Were it not for restraints the Csars, the Alexanders, and the Napoleons would soon turn it into a Pandemonium.

3. It is necessary for the Church. Had wicked men their full fling, how long would the Church last? The flames of martyrdom would soon blaze to heaven and consume Zion to ashes. Thank God for thorny hedges and massive walls, for all the restraints he puts on sinful men [The Homilist].

The Danger of outward Prosperity—sufferings a specific against apostasy.

Divine Chastisements.

1. Love, their source.

2. Sorrow, their means.

3. Good, their end. "Crosses and obstacles in an evil course are a great blessing, and are so to be accounted. They are God's hedges, to keep us from transgressing, to restrain us from wandering out of the green pastures, to withdraw man from his purpose (Job ), to make the way of sin difficult, that we may not go on in it, and to keep us from it whether we will or not. We have reason to bless God both for restraining grace and for restraining providences" [Matt. Henry].

Hos . The Course of Sin.

1. A course of labour—unrequited toil—vexation of spirit and bitter bondage. Sinners labour harder than saints, and receive nothing but exhaustion and fatigue.

2. A course of failure. Loss of health and peace—all loss and no gain.

3. The service of God the only true gain. "It was better with me." Godliness is profitable to all things—body and soul, this world and the next. Sin suicidal. God's service real advantage. Those who embrace God, would take him up as the best of choices, and his way as the shortest cut to do well and to be well: they are sensible of their own disadvantage in forsaking him: for so much is imported as the reason for her return, "for then was it better with me than now" [Hutcheson].

I will go and return.

1. The sinner's wandering.

2. The sinner's penitence.

3. The sinner's return to God. "By this text we may gather what true repentance is: namely, when a sinner not only confesseth himself guilty and worthy of punishment, but truly displeaseth himself and seriously returns to God. Here we have two essential parts of true repentance—namely, contrition and conversion; or humiliation and reformation. The former is called in Scripture repentance for sin, the latter repentance from sin: and the one without the other is to no purpose or profit" [Trapp].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Hos . Affliction. The hedge stops or gives a turn. God, in pursuance of his covenant, and with a gracious meaning to a revolting people, hedges them up by affliction to stop them from undoing. It is a mercy to be kept out of the pond, though it be by a thorn hedge, sharpest troubles. This stop the Lord doth often give, though not always to sinners; he sometimes lets them run on to fill up their measure of sin and to receive their full measure of punishment. Reproof for sin is a great favour. Though God is angry for what we have done, yet it is a mercy that he will not let us do more, and so make ourselves vile and miserable [Caryl].


Verse 7

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Hedge and make] Build a wall, a double enclosure of stones and thorns. In the East cattle are fenced with thorns and closes. God with determined purpose will interpose between Israel and her idols. Behold, I will hedge] Exile and distress, and the inability of her gods to help, would prove the folly of her conduct (Job 19:18; Lam 3:7-9).

Hos . Follow after and seek] In eager pursuit and diligent search. "They express together a pursuit, whose minuteness is not hindered by its vehemence, nor its extent and wideness by its exactness. She shall seek far and wide, minutely and carefully, everywhere and in all things, and shall fail in all" [Pusey]. Not find] deliverance from calamity.

HOMILETICS

THE UNSUCCESSFUL PURSUIT.—Hos

Though Israel is dishonoured and fallen, she is not left to herself. God's mercy yearns over and seeks to check her in sin and recall her to himself. God even now has not written a bill of divorcement, nor cast away the people whom he did foreknow. Through eighteen hundred years they have been wandering without a dwelling-place and a temple; but the day will come, when she will "no more be termed Forsaken," nor "the land be termed Desolate; but she will be called Hephzi-bah and the land Beulah." Men are prone to wander. They are disappointed in their wanderings, and God rouses, instructs, and restores his backsliding people.

I. A pursuit after wrong objects. Man is a creature of strong affections. His feelings cling round the objects of his choice like ivy round a tree. Through sin these affections are misplaced. He loves the things which he should hate, and hates the things which he should love; forsakes the true God, and pursues lovers of his own. He must love, he will worship, something; "that I may win" is the desire of every soul. Wealth, honour, position, and learning are eagerly sought, loved for their own sake and for the sake of what they are thought to give. Thus men are seeking happiness where it cannot be found; committing two evils, forsaking the fountain of living waters, and hewing out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns which will hold no water. "Who will show us any good?" is the cry of the many. "Lord, lift thou upon us the light of thy countenance," is the prayer of the few.

II. A pursuit with intense anxiety. Man's spiritual desires are insatiable, yet ever seek gratification. They forbid him to rest, and compel him to seek supply. Inward sense of want, incapacity for alliance with sin, and instinctive longing for God, the "first good, first perfect, and first fair"—of whom all created beauty and good are mere shadows—make men restless and discontented. But instead of lifting the soul to God, they look to the creature for satisfaction; "seek" and "follow after" in eager pursuit of what they love; labour harder in sin, and seeking pleasure, than in serving God. They weary themselves in pursuit, rendered more eager by thorn-hedges and hindrances. Vexation and disappointment excite to desperate tenacity; affliction and remorse are often no check to the sinner; fuel is added to the fire, and with renewed ardour onward he goes to ruin and despair. "I will go after my lovers." The impenitent struggle on after that which God is taking from them, and will not give up, until the pursuit is found hopeless and exhaustive, and God in preserving mercy brings him back. "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"

III. A pursuit under Divine restraint. God governs the world, and seeks the good of his creatures. The way of transgressors is rendered hard "through much tribulation." It is a warfare against conscience, reason, and revelation. In consciousness of guilt we may discern our relationship to God. The trouble and anguish of spirit springing from this consciousness, "the inward unrest which sometimes seizes the slave of sin are proofs that he has not quite broken away from God." God works within by his Spirit and without by his providences. Hedges and walls are fixed up to restrain men in sin.

1. The restraints of God's providence are various in their nature. God sought to cut off Israel from idolatry by solitude and affliction. Like a thorn-hedge, affliction is painful. "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous." Conscience, the Divine officer, warns and checks the sinner. Disappointments in pursuits, pains attending pleasures, Divine judgments, and special manifestations, turn men from their purpose. Saul was overcome by light from heaven; Balaam was met by an angel, and David by Abigail (1Sa ).

2. The restraints of God's providence are merciful in their design, "that she shall not find her paths." (a) Given to withdraw men from sinful pursuits. "She shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them." (b) Given to restore men to God. "Then shall she say, I will go and return." Strong barriers and painful providences are not sufficient. If God did not mercifully interfere we should all go astray. Let us repent of sin, be thankful for correction, and admire the wondrous grace of God. "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word."

IV. A pursuit ending in failure. "She shall not overtake" what she follows; "she shall not find" what she seeks. Failure and disappointment after all her eagerness and effort! Egypt and Assyria were trusted in vain. Worldly alliances were of no service; did not give the anticipated deliverance. Idols were impotent; foreign nations were a broken reed, a source of sorrow and bitterness of spirit. Israel was obliged to confess, "it was better with me than now." The sinner gains nothing, but loses everything, by forsaking God. He pursues phantoms of bliss. The pursuit will disgust, and end in failure. "Why did the cannon-balls spare me to die in this manner? I am no longer the Great Napoleon. How fallen and disappointed I am!" cried Napoleon in his latter end. Nothing can take the place of God—nothing can satisfy but bread. A sinful life can never give peace of conscience and peace with God. The beast may be satisfied with what it finds on earth, for its nature aspires no higher; but man is linked to God, longs for him, and cannot be contented without him. Though the heart once alienated from him turns further away, and moves not towards him until renewed, yet even in its wandering it retains its nature and necessities. God is its centre, and it is restless and void till it meets with him again. Men go here and there, do this and that, in quest of good, as moments dictate and circumstances call forth, but all in vain. They faint in mind and fail in hope. God never created man to find rest and happiness in utter rejection of himself. "Thou madest us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it repose in thee" [Augustine]. "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."

THE BACKSLIDER'S WAY HEDGED UP.—Hos

Consider the text, and seek to arouse and restore backsliders, who have left their first love, and may have forsaken the Church of God, given up their profession and all attendance upon Divine worship.

I. While sinful men are in prosperity they pervert the mercies of God to their own injury, making them instruments of sin and weapons of warfare against God. While Israel enjoyed abundance of temporal comforts they ascribed all these blessings to false gods. Prosperous sinners make three great mistakes. At the outset they give their temporal mercies the first place in their hearts. Business prospers, but they consider not their soul. They say, "We must live," but they forget that they must die. Such folly most shameful, base ingratitude, in one who has known, or professed to have known, better. One error leads to another, and hence such people hold their temporal things upon a wrong tenure. Observe how many times the word "my" is found in the text. "Give me my bread," &c. They were not hers, but God's, who expressly claims them, and threatens to take them all away (Hos ). The backslider once professed himself to be God's servant; nothing is his now—houses, lands, profits, and children, only lent for a season. He is but God's under-bailiff, possesses only as tenant-at-will, or as a borrower, holding a loan. Then, further, backsliders are apt to ascribe their prosperity and their mercies to their sins. I have even heard one say, "Ever since I gave up a profession of religion I have made more headway in business than I did before." Some apostates have boasted, "Since I broke through puritanical restraint, and went out into worldly company, I have been better in spirits, and better in purse than ever I was before." Thus they ascribe the mercies which God has given them to their sins, and wickedly bow down to their lusts, as Israel did before the golden calf, and cry, "These be thy gods, O Israel!" These things are given to try you, to see how far you will go, and to what extravagances of ingratitude you will descend.

II. Turn from the gloomy side, and observe that the Lord interposes adversity in order to bring back his wandering children. Consider the hindrances which a God of love puts in the way. You see an unexpected hindrance, for it is placed right in the man's way. "I will hedge up thy way"—it was his way, his habit; he had fallen into it, and he meant to keep on; but suddenly he met with an unlooked-for obstacle. This hedge is placed in your way in different shapes. Business grows slack; bad debts multiply; bankruptcy stares you in the face; and where you had enough to lavish on pleasure you have not enough to supply your need. You thought you would live a millionnaire; more likely now to die a pauper. Or sudden sickness falls upon a strong healthy person. Possibly the hedge is of other thorns. The first-born son, the expected heir, the joy of the father's heart, falls like a withered flower; his wife is cut off as a lily snapped from its stalk. These are walls across the way of those whom God ordains to bless. Observe, it has a very disappointing impediment. The prosperous sinner is stopped when securely pursuing his way. "Why," says the man, "if it had not been for that I should have made a fortune." "Why did death come just when my fair girl looked so lovely, and when my dear boy had grown so engaging? Ah! this is trouble indeed. To meet with misfortune just when I built that new house, and held my head so high, and expected to see my daughters so respectably married; this is very disappointing." The man kicks, and though once professed to be a child of God, he is ready to curse God and die. If he knew the Divine nature, he would thank God for his troubles on bended knees. What painful hindrances our heavenly Father often uses. He hedges the sinner's path, not with rhododendrons and azaleas, not with roses and laurels, but with thorns—prickly thorns, which curse the soil and tear the flesh, are God's instruments of restraint. Furthermore, the fence is effectual; if the thorn hedge will not suffice, it is written, "I will make a wall." Some are so desperate in sin that they break through ordinary restraints; then a wall shall be tried, through which there is no breaking, over which there is no climbing.

III. You would think that the sinner would now stop, but instead of that, according to the text, even though God walls up the way of sin, men will try to follow it, but this resolve shall be in vain. He is desperately set on destruction, as though it were to be desired. What a creature is man, though he knows that sin will be his ruin, yet he hugs it as though it were his chief mercy; heaps to himself destruction as though it were gold. If the righteous were half as intent in seeking after goodness as the wicked are in hunting sin, how much more active would they be. Truly this love is so strange, that if we did not see it in ourselves we should wonder at it. It is in you, Christians, as in the worst of men, and but for Divine mercy you would have plunged on from bad to worse.

IV. Consider that the backslider's failure is followed by a blessed result. Observe, here is repentance attended with sorrow. The poor creature deeply feels to the very soul the wretchedness of her condition. It is an active repentance. It is not merely "I will return," but, "I will go and return." There is much earnestness in a sinner seeking Christ; but more, if possible, in a backslider returning from the error of his ways; for he has not only the guilt of sin to mourn over, but the double guilt of having despised the Saviour, of having known the way of righteousness and turned from it. The confession which this poor soul makes of folly is one which is sustained by the best of reasons. "Then was it better with me than now." Backslider, what have you gained? Have you gained anything more comfortable than the light of your Father's face? Before, you had the privilege of going to the throne of grace, you could tell your wants before God, and spread your sorrows there; but now you have no throne of grace to go to. Then you had God's promises to fall back upon. Once you had communion with Christ. What can the world afford you comparable to this? There is no room to entertain a comparison for a moment. Lastly, this repentance was acceptable. It is not often that a husband is willing to take back his wife when she has so grossly sinned, as the metaphor here implies; yet God is willing to receive the sinner, though his sin is even more aggravated. "Return unto me, for I am married unto thee."

V. Observe that there is an awful contrast to all this. Some prosper until, like a wide-spread tree, they are cut down and cast into the fire. There are backsliders who, never having had the root of the matter in them, go back unto their own ways and continue there for ever. Never trifle with backsliding. Chosen vessels, notwithstanding their backslidings, are brought back; but, ah! remember that nine out of ten of those who backslide never were God's people. You must be born again, and only the man who continues to the end shall be saved.

VI. We conclude with this—is not this subject a very solemn warning to the people of God? If one man falls, another may. If one professor turns out to be a hypocrite, another may. There must be the continual keeping and anointing of the Holy Spirit. No man backslides at once. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Wake up your coldness in private prayer. If love to Christ has grown cold, pray to the Master to inflame your heart again. Let us trust the Saviour. There is the sinner's hope; there is the saint's strength [Spurgeon].

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . Subject:—Divine Restraints. I. These restraints are manifold. "I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall." The first metaphor is from a husbandman who plants a prickly hedge to prevent cattle from breaking away. The other from architecture. If thorns are insufficient, high and massive walls must be built.

1. There is the restraint of affliction. When the wicked purpose some great crime, affliction comes, breaks their plans, and strikes them down.

2. There is the restraint of public sentiment. Public opinion, as it gets enlightened and strong, is a tremendous check to the wicked. The most daring cower before the public voice.

3. There is the restraint of conscience. Conscience is a Divine officer holding the sinner.

II. These restraints are necessary. It is necessary that God should plant thorny hedges and build massive walls around the sinner.

1. It is necessary for the sinner himself. Were it not for these he would go galloping to perdition. "O, unhappy men," says Luther, "when God leaves them to themselves, and does not resist them in their lusts. You bless yourselves many times that in the way of sin you find no difficulty. Bless thyself! Thou hast cause to howl and wring thy hands, thou hast the curse of God on thee. A dreadful curse to make pleasant the way of sin."

2. It is necessary for the world. What would become of the world if the wicked were not reined in? Were it not for restraints the Csars, the Alexanders, and the Napoleons would soon turn it into a Pandemonium.

3. It is necessary for the Church. Had wicked men their full fling, how long would the Church last? The flames of martyrdom would soon blaze to heaven and consume Zion to ashes. Thank God for thorny hedges and massive walls, for all the restraints he puts on sinful men [The Homilist].

The Danger of outward Prosperity—sufferings a specific against apostasy.

Divine Chastisements.

1. Love, their source.

2. Sorrow, their means.

3. Good, their end. "Crosses and obstacles in an evil course are a great blessing, and are so to be accounted. They are God's hedges, to keep us from transgressing, to restrain us from wandering out of the green pastures, to withdraw man from his purpose (Job ), to make the way of sin difficult, that we may not go on in it, and to keep us from it whether we will or not. We have reason to bless God both for restraining grace and for restraining providences" [Matt. Henry].

Hos . The Course of Sin.

1. A course of labour—unrequited toil—vexation of spirit and bitter bondage. Sinners labour harder than saints, and receive nothing but exhaustion and fatigue.

2. A course of failure. Loss of health and peace—all loss and no gain.

3. The service of God the only true gain. "It was better with me." Godliness is profitable to all things—body and soul, this world and the next. Sin suicidal. God's service real advantage. Those who embrace God, would take him up as the best of choices, and his way as the shortest cut to do well and to be well: they are sensible of their own disadvantage in forsaking him: for so much is imported as the reason for her return, "for then was it better with me than now" [Hutcheson].

I will go and return.

1. The sinner's wandering.

2. The sinner's penitence.

3. The sinner's return to God. "By this text we may gather what true repentance is: namely, when a sinner not only confesseth himself guilty and worthy of punishment, but truly displeaseth himself and seriously returns to God. Here we have two essential parts of true repentance—namely, contrition and conversion; or humiliation and reformation. The former is called in Scripture repentance for sin, the latter repentance from sin: and the one without the other is to no purpose or profit" [Trapp].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Hos . Affliction. The hedge stops or gives a turn. God, in pursuance of his covenant, and with a gracious meaning to a revolting people, hedges them up by affliction to stop them from undoing. It is a mercy to be kept out of the pond, though it be by a thorn hedge, sharpest troubles. This stop the Lord doth often give, though not always to sinners; he sometimes lets them run on to fill up their measure of sin and to receive their full measure of punishment. Reproof for sin is a great favour. Though God is angry for what we have done, yet it is a mercy that he will not let us do more, and so make ourselves vile and miserable [Caryl].


Verse 8-9

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Not know] Wilful ignorance and ingratitude, for she was taught by the law and the providence of God. Prepared] Made and mended images of Baal, and devoted them to the support and extension of idolatry.

Hos . Return] As if absent from men when they abuse his gifts: turn from love to displeasure; from bestowing bounties to withholding them. Recover] Because "I" emphatic, the given not acknowledged. Nakedness] The result of gifts withheld. Take away] by dearth and unfruitful seasons, vermin, judgments, &c.

HOMILETICS

GOD DISHONOURED IN HIS GIFTS TO MEN.—Hos

Israel is still accused and threatened. God will disgust the idolatrous nation, put to shame its delusive fancy that all prosperity came from idols, and bring it to an acknowledgment of dependence upon him. In gross and affected ignorance she fathered all gifts upon her gods.

Here we have—

I. The Gifts of Life bestowed in abundance. Israel was greatly blessed with "corn, and wine, and oil," the fruits of the land. These productions were the foundation of the nation's wealth and prosperity, and the means by which "silver and gold" were multiplied. Money was superabundant in Solomon's reign. "The king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones" (1Ki ). Wool and flax for clothing and ornament. God bestows necessities and luxuries upon men; honour and position, leaders and genius, upon nations. The earth yields its increase, and corn and wine, bread and water, are spread before us in the wilderness. The sun sheds forth its light and heat, flowers send forth fragrance, and herbs grow for man and beast. All our possessions and enjoyments come from him. Amid ingratitude, atheism, and vice, life springs up ever new, food is given as plentifully to sustain it, and joy and blessings are poured over all existence. God "is kind unto the unthankful and the evil." He makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

II. The Gifts of Life received with ingratitude. "She did not know." She would not know. It was not a mere weakness or infirmity, but wilful ignorance. God had taught her by Moses and the prophets. In their feasts and offerings of first-fruits, in their eventful history and the wonders of providence, the goodness of God was impressed upon their minds. But when the heart is not touched, the memory will fail. The ingratitude of man to man is base. Pitt was soured in temper by the ingratitude which he experienced. "All the eers whom he had made deserted him," says a writer, "and half of those whom he had served returned his kindness by going over to his enemies." Divine favours are frozen by human ingratitude and turned into a cause of rebellion. There was no excuse for Israel, and none for men now.

1. Ignorant of the Divine source from whence they come. "I gave her corn." "God is the giver of every good and perfect gift." "A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven." But men do not acknowledge God; attribute their comforts to secondary causes, their own skill, their fellow-men, or "good luck." The ox knows its owner, and the ass his master's crib, and both are grateful for help: but intelligent beings receive gifts from God, and hoard up for posterity; forget their relation, and pay no dues to their benefactor; but live in known sin and wilful disregard of his love. What tables are spread for us without grace before meat or gratitude after.

2. Ignorant of the benevolent purpose for which they are sent. Grass for cattle, corn and wine to gladden human hearts, flax and wool to clothe and beautify human bodies, and all things richly to enjoy. God has never left "himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." But we claim his bounties as our own, forget the end for which they are bestowed, and under a formal and false religion, employ them for selfish and unworthy ends. "Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?"

III. The Gifts of Life basely abused. Israel first made golden calves, then mended or made images of Baal with the gold and silver which God had given them. God's gifts were turned into human idols, worshipped by men's own hands, and turned into food for sinful lusts. In modern idolatry God's blessings are abused and employed to maintain and spread the worship of Baal and Bacchus. Gold and silver, houses and land, children and earthly comforts, take the place of God; all are taken as our special right, attributed to our intellect and industry, and employed in the service of idolatry. In providence God is displaced by fortune or fate; in business talent and tact is all; in pursuit of pleasure and gain, the heart and understanding, the soul and body, are wholly devoted to unworthy objects. "Covetousness is idolatry." Men are "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." Christians are cautioned against "the worship of angels," and of some it is said "their god is their belly." Self-will, excessive thirst of aggrandizement, love of applause, undue veneration of creatures, greedy indulgence in lust and animal appetite, and inordinate attachments of every kind, are dishonouring to God and injurious to man, prove a tendency to depart from God, and display the actual and continual forgetting of God's claims, who says to each individual person, "I am the Lord thy God." "Thou shalt have no other god before me."

IV. The Gifts of Life justly withheld. "Therefore will I return and take away my corn." These things were God's, not theirs—they were only stewards in trust. He reserves all power to himself, and retains supreme authority over men. If they do not give him his due, unjustly withhold their gratitude and homage, then he will claim his own and take from them what he bestowed for their welfare. God is the sole proprietor, has incontestable right, and to him we must give an account.

1. Gifts abused will be taken away from men. Ingratitude and sinful appropriation will rob us of enjoyments and necessities of life. Idleness and neglect will forfeit all reward. Take from him that which he hath (Luk ; Luk 19:24; Luk 19:26). Keeping, hiding our talents, and non-employment of our time will bring—(a) Divine denunciation, (b) Divine deprivation, and (c) Divine displeasure.

2. Gifts abused will be taken away from men unexpectedly. "In the time thereof," and "in the season thereof." Just when they expect them and when men think they are sure of them. God will blast the harvest when it is ready for reaping. The meat shall be taken from their mouths (Joe ); drunkards will awake and weep (Hos 2:5; Hos 2:11); and husbandmen howl. In the fulness of sufficiency men are put into straits (Job 20:22-23); and when they are just about to realize their hopes they will be disappointed. Unseasonable weather, wicked men, and mysterious providences snatch away abused mercies. This punishment is more signal and severe than gradual decay or long-looked for visitation. It is not the work of chance, but a solemn, significant judgment of God which leaves the sinner in want and distress, in shame and utter destitution.

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . Ignorance of God.

1. Negative, inexcusable.

2. Affected, sinful.

3. Wilful, hopeless. "There remaineth no sacrifice if we sin wilfully," &c.

Ingratitude.

1. Its source, wilful ignorance.

2. Its fruit, (a) forgetfulness of Divine benefits, (b) worship of idols—coarse and refined.

3. Its punishment, withdrawal of all gifts, resulting in poverty and distress. "Were men but sensible of what God doth for them every day and hour, they could not in equity and common ingenuity serve him as they do. He preserveth and provideth for us all; lays us down and takes us up, commanding the best of creatures to cater for us (Hos ), and to bring us in the best of best for our subsistence (Psalms 8). Every good gift and perfect, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, cometh from the Father of lights (Jas 1:17), as naturally and as constantly as light doth from the sun, or water from the sea. Let us therefore imitate those lights of heaven and rivers of earth, do all the good we can with those good things, corn, wine, silver and gold, &c., which God hath given us, and then reflect back towards and return all the glory and praise unto the sun of our righteousness and the sea of our salvation. Let us ever send back (as the beams of the moon and stars return to the face of the sun, which gave them their beauty) to, God's own glorious self the honour of all his gifts, by a fruitful improvement of them and fresh songs of praise" [Trapp]. God manifests great kindness, whereof little notice is taken, and wherein his hand is not seen nor acknowledged [Hutcheson].

When men will not know God as the giver of all their temporal blessings, they shall be compelled to know him as the withholder of them [Fausset]. Those who abuse the mercies God gives them to his dishonour, cannot expect to enjoy them long [Matt. Henry].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Hos . Ingratitude. When I consider how the goodness of God is abused and perverted by the greatest part of mankind, I cannot but be of his mind that said, "The greatest miracle in the world is God's patience and bounty to an ungrateful man." Oh! what would God not do for his creatures, if thankful, that thus heaps the coals of his mercies upon the heads of his enemies? But think not, sinners, that you shall escape thus. God's mill goes slow, but it grinds small; the more admirable his patience and bounty now is, the more dreadful and insupportable will that fury be which ariseth out of his abused goodness [Gurnall].


Verse 10

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Discover her lewdness] Lit. uncover her shame. Sin decked out in gaudy colours, and covered with showy masks, shall be stripped and exposed to public shame. None can avert the threatened punishment.

HOMILETICS

THE EXPOSURE OF FOLLY.—Hos

Warning follows warning, but amid judgment and corruption Israel forgets God and gives up herself to mirth and idolatry. Pleasures allure men astray. But sin and mirth will be separated, and those who refuse Divine mercy will feel Divine justice.

Notice:—

I. Folly decked in gaudy colours. "Lewdness" means folly; for sin is real folly, as holiness is essential wisdom. Foolishness is the natural tendency, the mighty propensity to evil; bound up in the heart, incorporated in the thoughts, and manifest in the life of the sinner. But the folly of sin is often veiled in darkness, decked in ornament and trickery, to attract and deceive. It dazzles by its glitter and ensnares by its mask. The outside is attractive, but the inside is deceptive. There is no substance, no enjoyment in sin; all is shadow and emptiness. Men think themselves wise in their folly, and are praised for their worldly policy (Psa ). They call themselves happy, when applauded by others and blessed with temporal prosperity. But fame and success, wealth and worldly possessions, are impotent in the tomb. The dying worldling "shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him." The pleasures of sin and the pride of life are only rainbow colours to the bubble, giving it tint, but no substance and reality. There is no utility, no rest, no gain in sin. It is not a casual step from the path of wisdom, but the regular and usual course of folly. Essential folly, folly in the grain, folly in its nature, folly in its dress, and folly in its end. "Nought but itself could be its parallel." It has the fascination and the fangs of a serpent. "It biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." It deceives and destroys. In whatever guise folly presents itself, gross and repellent, subtle and seductive, it must be shunned. "Abstain from all appearance of evil," or as some, "from everything that not only is evil, but that looks like evil."

II. Folly exposed to public shame. "Now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers." Darkness and secresy are no hiding-place to God. His eyes penetrate every place, and his hand can reach every person. Secret sins shall be discovered and their perpetrators exposed. The mask shall be torn away, and sin in its nature and consequences shall appear offensive, lewd, "exceeding sinful." Men may deny the fact and excuse the fault of sin; may cover crime with lies, and self-righteousness with professional virtues; but a God of truth will bring "to light the hidden things of darkness." Virtues are hidden and oppressed; wickedness rules; and every day cries out for redress and retribution. Evil-doers shun the light and love darkness. They never will, never did, appreciate the light of holiness and rectitude. It reveals their folly and kindles remorse in their bosom. As foul birds of night, they hide themselves from its beams. The wicked cover their sins from themselves and others. They banish serious thoughts from their minds, stifle convictions, and put on a cheerful appearance. But "he that covereth his sins shall not prosper." An offended God, who summoned Adam from his hiding-place, will call and condemn the sinner. In public, "in the sight of her lovers," before men on earth and angels in eternity, they will be put to shame and confusion of face. The darkest deeds are "set in the light of God's countenance," and will "be proclaimed upon the house-tops." "There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves."

III. Folly bereft of every defence. "None shall deliver her out of mine hand." When God begins to work, who shall let or hinder him? Men say, "It was an oversight," "I could not help it," therefore forget it. They plead ignorance, custom, temptation, infirmity, necessity, and fatalism even, to excuse or palliate their guilt. This will never succeed. It was hopeless for Israel to trust to their idols and alliances. The strongest army, the most popular idol, are nothing before God. "All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing and vanity." The allurements of vice will deceive. Reliance on temporal prosperity, outward formality, and religious ceremony will be in vain. It is only faith in Christ, not confidence in men, that can deliver us. The wicked "strengtheneth himself in his wickedness" (Psa ); but he can neither outwit nor overcome his Judge. Given to wickedness, the sinner and the false professor shall find that "none shall deliver." "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness" (Pro 14:32); "neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it" (Ecc 8:8).

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Hos . Mirth. Mirth is a vain and unprofitable passion, not fit for a wise man's entertainment [Bp. Hall].

Often when in the full enjoyment of all that this world could bestow, my conscience told me, that in the true sense of the word I was not a Christian. I laughed. I sang. I was apparently gay and happy. But the thought would steal across me,—what madness is all this! to continue easy in a state, in which a sudden call out of the world would consign me to everlasting misery, and that when eternal happiness is within my grasp [Wilberforce]. Mirth at a funeral is scarce more indecent or unnatural than a perpetual flight of gaiety and burst of exultation in a world like this; a world which may seem a paradise to fools, but is an hospital with the wise [Dr Young].

Forgetfulness of God, Hos . Such is the character of all engrossing passion, such is the source of sin to which the soul gives way, in avarice, ambition, worldliness, sensual sin, godless science. The soul at last does not rebel against God; it forgets him. It is taken up with other things, with itself, with the subjects of its thoughts, the objects of its affections, and it has no time for God, because it has no love for him [Pusey].

The gradations of sin.

1. Neglecting God. Neglect of his word, house, and service.

2. Forgetting God. Forgetting his love, goodness, and claims.

3. Departing from God. Departing into danger, error, and punishment.

Forgetfulness of God—a sign of carelessness—a mark of ingratitude and contempt—springs from unbelief and disobedience to God's command (Deu ; Deu 8:14).

Idolatry in the Church—the top-stone, the height of all crime—hated by God, and pursued by the sinner. Professed believers are too slow after God, but sinners hasten after their lovers. Let their zeal rebuke our tardiness; their punishment turn our steps to God and duty

The two masters.

1. Jehovah forgotten, Baal loved and worshipped.

2. The sacred days of Jehovah turned into festive days of Baal.

3. The gifts of Jehovah devoted to the service and support of Baal. "No man can serve two masters," &c. Which are you serving? "Choose you this day," &c.


Verse 11

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Feast days] and festivals retained in worship should cease because abused.

MIRTH TURNED INTO MOURNING.—Hos

Israel had forsaken the temple of God, and worshipped idols under the form of a calf—had changed some festivals, and kept up all in outward form. The monthly and yearly feasts were celebrated with mirth. God had commanded them to rejoice in their feasts (Deu ); but their hymns and instrumental music, their priests and sacrifices, were licentiousness and falsehood, luxury and excess of every description and degree. Their joy must cease and their mirth would be turned into mourning.

I. Mirth connected with wickedness.

1. It is a most prevalent connection. "The notes of jollity and fun are heard everywhere through society. At theatres, taverns, divans, and social festivities, it flares and rattles. The drunkard has his mirth, the liar his mirth, the debaucher his mirth, the blasphemer his mirth, the sabbath-breaker his mirth. The union of sin and mirth is, alas, very common. "We meet it everywhere; in the dance and in the song, in the joke and in the gibe" [Dr Thomas].

2. It is a most unreasonable connection. Wickedness and mirth, how incongruous! "Sorrow is better than laughter" to the wicked. "For by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better." The condition and prospects of a sinner should make him weep rather than rejoice. Sin can never give true happiness. The world can never be our home, and the heart cannot rest there. Its resources are poor; its pleasures are not solid; and when its "joys are all packed up and gone," then will be the days of mourning. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.

II. Mirth connected with false religion. If sin and mirth are unreasonable, how much more mirth and idolatry! Israel turned "her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths" into days of making merry. On the Sabbath they should have owned God as their Creator; on other festive days they should have thanked him for the gifts of Nature and the wonders of Providence. But the worship of God was blended with the service of idols; and feigned joy under the form of true joy. As Israel of old "made a calf in Horeb," the place of solemnities and law: so men now worship "graven images;" cling to forms of their own device; and change true joy into false mirth. Joy becomes a feast; but the revelry that marked heathen festivals can never become the house of God. Communion with God can never be enjoyed through consecrated symbols. "Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."

III. Mirth turned into mourning. Their songs were to cease, and their music and dancing turned into weeping and wailing. "I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation" (Amo ). The mirthful songs of sinners suddenly change into shrieks of agony and death. Many a sigh is heard amid loudest laughter. The smiles of mirth are counterfeits to hide hearts of woe. Belshazzar's impious feast to a thousand lords ended by his own destruction and that of his empire. "Be merry and wise." "Fly the pleasure which bites to-morrow." Mirth pursued, possessed, and enjoyed without God is vanity (Ecc 7:6).

1. It is of short duration. It is but "the crackling of thorns under a pot," a blaze for a moment, an excitement which cannot last.

2. It is certain in its termination. I "will cause her mirth to cease." It may be attractive in its appearance, supported by its resources, and spread by its devotees; but the solemn warning is read, "Woe unto you that laugh now; for ye shall mourn and weep."

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Hos . Mirth. Mirth is a vain and unprofitable passion, not fit for a wise man's entertainment [Bp. Hall].

Often when in the full enjoyment of all that this world could bestow, my conscience told me, that in the true sense of the word I was not a Christian. I laughed. I sang. I was apparently gay and happy. But the thought would steal across me,—what madness is all this! to continue easy in a state, in which a sudden call out of the world would consign me to everlasting misery, and that when eternal happiness is within my grasp [Wilberforce]. Mirth at a funeral is scarce more indecent or unnatural than a perpetual flight of gaiety and burst of exultation in a world like this; a world which may seem a paradise to fools, but is an hospital with the wise [Dr Young].

Forgetfulness of God, Hos . Such is the character of all engrossing passion, such is the source of sin to which the soul gives way, in avarice, ambition, worldliness, sensual sin, godless science. The soul at last does not rebel against God; it forgets him. It is taken up with other things, with itself, with the subjects of its thoughts, the objects of its affections, and it has no time for God, because it has no love for him [Pusey].

The gradations of sin.

1. Neglecting God. Neglect of his word, house, and service.

2. Forgetting God. Forgetting his love, goodness, and claims.

3. Departing from God. Departing into danger, error, and punishment.

Forgetfulness of God—a sign of carelessness—a mark of ingratitude and contempt—springs from unbelief and disobedience to God's command (Deu ; Deu 8:14).

Idolatry in the Church—the top-stone, the height of all crime—hated by God, and pursued by the sinner. Professed believers are too slow after God, but sinners hasten after their lovers. Let their zeal rebuke our tardiness; their punishment turn our steps to God and duty

The two masters.

1. Jehovah forgotten, Baal loved and worshipped.

2. The sacred days of Jehovah turned into festive days of Baal.

3. The gifts of Jehovah devoted to the service and support of Baal. "No man can serve two masters," &c. Which are you serving? "Choose you this day," &c.


Verse 12-13

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Vines and fig-trees] Esteemed rewards, wages of prostitution (Deu 23:19; Isa 23:17); the choicest produce of earth, denoting sustenance and prosperity, would be destroyed by Assyria (ch. Hos 9:4-5).

PROSPERITY TURNED INTO ADVERSITY.—Hos

Festive rejoicing was to end. Israel loved new moons and sabbath days not for the sake of religious worship, but for sinful pleasures and delight. The vine and fig-tree, the choicest productions of the land, and the source of great wealth and sustenance, were to be taken away. Orchards, gardens, and vineyards were to be neglected, deprived of defences, and exposed to wild beasts.

I. Prosperity in rich abundance. God is the Giver. There is no moment in all history, in all departments of life, in which he is not giving with a liberal and powerful hand. He is the author of abundance everywhere—abundant light, abundant rain, and abundant joys. Israel had a land flowing with milk and honey. The necessities and luxuries of life are given to men in abundance. Giving doth not impoverish him, nor withholding make him rich. But even to those who abuse his gifts, to the wicked and unthankful, God bestows prosperity. The ungodly prosper on earth. They are successful in business. Their bread seems to be gained without care, and their wines without stint. They are often in great power, ruling with the might of Cæsar and the wealth of Crœsus. "Spreading themselves like a green bay tree," they are rooted in the world, add house to house, and field to field, rise higher and higher in splendour and pride. "They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men." They escape many anxious cares and killing toil. God's people smart under the rod while the wicked escape. But to the eye of faith and in the sanctuary of God these perplexities are unriddled. "Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious at the prosperity of the wicked."

II. Prosperity greatly abused.

1. Ascribed to wrong sources. A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven; but he looks to sinful and secondary causes, and boasts as if he had received nothing. Israel thought all their prosperity was bestowed by their idols. "These are my rewards that my lovers have given me." Men look to their neighbours, or thank their stars, for their good fortune. They attribute success in business to their diligence and talent; believe themselves to be the architects of their own fortunes; and cry in the spirit of Nebuchadnezzar, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built," &c.

2. Leading to sinful practices. "Wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels." Like harlots, the Israelites adorned themselves to attract admirers; and like heathens, they burned incense to idol gods. One sin leads to another. Prosperity begets pride, and pride begets ingratitude. Then when God is deserted, his power, goodness, and love are attributed to another; sacrifices are offered and incense burned to unworthy deities. Ancient and modern idolatry have filled the world with corrupt practices and tendencies. Impurity, unchastity of every description, is most deteriorating. In dishonouring God, men have "dishonoured their own bodies" (Rom ). Moral corruption is followed by physical debasement. The grossness of Pagan idolatry is only equalled by the degrading immoralities which it fostered and consecrated. Gluttony, drunkenness, and every "sin without the body," only injures, does not alienate the body from God: "but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body," commits sacrilege, and makes it like a harlot's body (1Co 6:18-19).

III. Prosperity visited by Divine judgment. "I will destroy her vines and her fig-trees." What God gives he can easily take away—turn our joy into mourning—our prosperity into adversity.

1. Temporal judgment. Before, God had threatened only to take away the fruits in their season; now he will take away not only fruit, but the trees that bare it. Present enjoyments and future prospects can be cut off; beauty, wealth, and honour wither like a flower; famine and sword can turn our vineyards into a desert. "He smote their vines also and their fig-trees; and brake the trees of their coast."

2. Spiritual judgment. "I will visit upon her the days of Baalim." Take one step to idolatry, we may be given up to more. God may seem to wink for a time, but a continual course of impenitence will be visited with severe punishment. Change Jehovah for Baal, you change prosperity for adversity, honour for shame, real enjoyment for sensual pleasure. God's presence is seen and God's voice is heard in all the vicissitudes of men. Woe to men when their table becomes a snare, "and that which should have been for their welfare a trap," a retribution for their departure from God, and their inhumanity to themselves (Psa ).


Verses 14-16

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Therefore] Nevertheless a promise of conversion (Hos 2:14-17); and assurance of renewed covenant (Hos 2:18-23). Misery draws mercy. Allure] in a friendly sense; decoy by words, persuade by love. God outbids the idols and displays his attractive grace. Wilderness] The way from Egypt to Canaan a type of temporal want and distress, needful discipline, and miraculous deliverance. Solitude leads to enjoyment and fellowship with God. Speak comfortably] Lit. to her heart in friendly feeling; to mitigate her grief and heal her wounds.

Hos . Achor] Where Achan troubled Israel (Jos 7:11-15); the borders of Canaan and the place of cleansing and success. A door of hope] Hope dawned in despair, and sorrow turned into joy. Sing] When God speaks comfortably the Church responds gratefully, like Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 15; cf. Isa 11:15-16). Youth] Days of blessed experience and vigour of life, when delivered from bondage and unwasted by sin.

Hos . Ishi] An appellation of love. Baali] An appellation of rule. B. applied to idols is now disowned by God, and not to be taken on their lips (Exo 23:13).

RESTORATION TO GOD.—Hos

"Therefore," a treatment not as we should expect, not after the manner of men, but according to Divine mercy. This is not an inference from the 13th verse, but from the whole section. Because Israel had been punished severely for sin and forgetfulness of God; because reduced to distress and longing to return to God—I will go and return, Hos —"therefore" God allures and restores the sinner to himself.

I. The nature of restoration to God.

1. From bondage to liberty. Israel in Egypt, under severe, helpless, degrading servitude, a type of the sinner under the dominion, authority, and consequence of sin. Heavy tribute, cruel taskmasters, unrequited toil, render life bitter and distressing. Sin makes the sinner serve with rigour and sigh for freedom. Israel redeemed and led into the wilderness a type of separation from sin and restoration to God. An entire separation to devote oneself to God (Exo ).

2. From darkness to light. Egypt not only a place of bondage, but of darkness. Sin is moral darkness. The valley of Achor is a place of Divine chastisement and suffering. Sin brings trouble, penitence bursts the clouds and brings hope. Put away the accursed thing: God will show mercy. The sinner when restored is turned from the darkness of ignorance and doubt, fear and despair, to the light of truth and joy, from the power of Satan unto God (Act ).

II. The method of restoration to God.

1. By Divine attraction from without. God seeks to counteract the effects of sin by showing its exceeding sinfulness; to allure to virtue by displaying its beauty; to persuade men by the preaching of the gospel. God in Christ is placable. Hard thoughts of God are sinful. Truth is beautiful, and the promises are encouraging. Though deep and fixed dislike be rooted in the heart, yet "God is love." This is the special revelation, the grand fact of the gospel. It is the expression of God's love to me—"He hath loved me." This Divine truth imparts new ideas to the mind, and stays the progress of the sinner, like that of Saul in his departure from God.

2. By Divine operation within. "And speak comfortably unto her." The truth of God alone is not sufficient. The Spirit must enlighten the mind and work in the heart. The ear may be touched, but the soul not comforted. When truth is near it does not attract, nor kindle sympathy in the heart. Men know the truth, but do not practise it. God, Christ, and moral virtue do not attract. The Spirit renews the disposition and begets love; makes us willing, and draws us with the cords of a man and bands of love. God speaks friendly, and draws effectually when he writes his laws in our hearts (2Co ).

III. The results of restoration to God. God does not speak in vain. As in the first creation he spake and it was done, so in the second his will is obeyed. "I will draw all men unto me."

1. Response for reluctance. The sinner is unwilling to return; the penitent fears and hesitates; but when God said, "Seek ye my face," my heart said unto thee, "Thy face, Lord, will I seek." Where other voices fail God's voice is effectual. There is a true response, a prompt and ready response. The inmost soul is moved, and, like the echo among the Alps, repeats the notes of Divine music. There is no delay nor denial, for this savours of distrust, and displeases God. There is full and complete, hearty and sincere return. The resolution is no sooner made, "I will go," than carried out. The heart is in tune with God, and sings for joy, like Israel in her days of youth and deliverance. Israel at the Red Sea was a young and joyful nation, redeemed from bondage and ready to sacrifice. "I will sing unto the Lord" (Exodus 15). Man never rises to his dignity until he realizes his relation to God. Then he utters emotions in songs of praise, and music becomes the handmaid of memory and the instrument of praise.

2. Riches for poverty. "I will give her vineyards from thence." The wilderness had no supply of bread and water, no fertile plains and fruitful fields. It yielded nothing, yet Israel lacked nothing. Water gushed out from the rock, and manna fell from the clouds. The sinner is in a dry and thirsty land where no water is; barren and unfruitful in heart and life; poor in spirit and prospect, in a wretched and forlorn condition, "wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." But when restored to God, he is rich in experience and life, spiritual joy and hope, rich in faith and rich in God.

3. Sonship for slavery. "Thou shalt call me Ishi, and shalt call me no more Baali." Baal indicated lordship, and was a name given to idols. God would disown the title, lest his people should be reminded of their former condition—preferred the tender name of love to prove closer relationship. "Thy Maker (thy Baal) is thy husband." God would have Israel forsake everything which kept up the reputation and put them in mind of idolatry. He was married again to them. The Church calls him by right names when in true relation. The sinner when restored to Divine favour, the son when introduced into the family of God, is not under the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption by which he cries, Abba, Father. God is not cold towards us; be not lukewarm towards him. "Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . "I will allure her," &c. The attractions of Divine love.

1. They are innumerable, yet so frequently overlooked.

2. They are powerful, yet so frequently resisted.

3. Rich in blessing, yet so frequently unemployed. "Christ works upon his people fortiter, but yet suaviter; powerfully, but yet sweetly; he inclineth their hearts to his testimonies, and not to covetousness (Psa ), and brings them to the obedience of faith. If he do seduce them it is for no hurt, it is but to speak a word in private to them, as one friend may with another; it is but to give them his loves, as he speaks in the Canticles; to show them his glory, as he did Moses; to spread before them his beauty, and so to catch them by guile as St Paul did the Corinthians (2Co 12:16); to steal away their hearts before they are aware, according to that, Son 6:12, that they thenceforth may be an Aminadab, a willing people, a free-hearted people (Psa 110:3), waiting for the law (Isa 42:4), and walking by the rule (Gal 6:16)" [Trapp].

The valley of Achor.

1. An assertion of God's rights.

2. A warning to sinners (cf. Jos ).

A door of Hope.

1. Trouble turned into joy.

2. Judgment turned into mercy.

3. Despair turned into hope.

Up out of the land of Egypt. Moral life an elevation in character, purpose, and pursuit; an advancement towards God and heaven. "Such as are converted to Christ, should resolve on a journey and progress, as having more before them of duty and exercise and enjoyments; for after she is ‘allured,' Israel is to remove and come to a wilderness, whether we understand it of the progress of the godly toward heaven, or toward wonted enjoyments" [Hutcheson.]

Vineyards from thence. Observe the Author of these favours. I will do it. Every good gift is from God; and his people acknowledge that all they enjoy is not only from his agency, but from his grace. Observe also the richness of the supplies. I will give her, not her corn, which is for necessity, but grapes, which are for delight. Yea, it is not a vine, but a vineyard; yea, vineyards! As if he could not do too much for them, he engages to give; concerned not only for their safety, but welfare; not only for their relief, but enjoyment; not only for their tasting consolation, but being filled with joy and peace in believing. Observe also the strangeness of the way in which these indulgences are to be communicated. Whence are these supplies to come? From a wilderness. Loneliness and mazes, danger and beasts of prey, sand, and briers, and thorns only in a wilderness. "He only doeth wondrous things;" turns the shadow of death into morning, makes rivers in high places and streams in the desert. He makes the wilderness to rejoice and blossom as the rose, and gives us vineyards from thence.

Earth is a wilderness. It was not designed to be such, but sin entered into the world, cursed the ground, and the Fall left it such. Such it would be now but for Divine grace. Men of the world are discontented and miserable; to the Christian the curse is turned into a blessing. He has before him a land of promise, a thousand succours and delights, and in Divine ordinances he has comforts, vineyards from thence. Solitude is a wilderness. There is much to be done, gained, and enjoyed alone. There we gain our best knowledge and richest experience; enjoy the freedom of prayer and intercourse with God. Outward trouble is a wilderness. Many afraid to be brought into it, but God has given them vineyards from thence. What proofs of God's presence in trouble! What discoveries and supports! As the sufferings of Christ have abounded, so the consolations have also abounded by Christ. The state of mind produced by conviction of sin. A wounded spirit, who can bear? Who does not remember the surprise, the confusion of mind, the terror, the anguish, and self-despair he once felt? and who can forget the feelings induced by a discovery of the cross and the joy of God's salvation? Many are afraid when their friends tremble at God's word and are broken in heart. Christians hail it as a token for good, and know that he gave them their vineyards from thence. The same may be said of self-abasement, and distress of soul, which a believer may feel, when he sees his unworthiness, depravity, and guilt. The experience is lamentable, but will not hurt him. He giveth grace unto the humble. The valley of the shadow of death is the last wilderness. There is much to render it awful and uninviting, but when entered the gloom flies away. The place has been made glad for those subject to its bondage and fear. They have had a peaceful and delightful entrance into the joy of their Lord. And what vineyards does he give them from thence! [Jay].

Hos . A revived Church. 1. The frequent condition of the Church. In the land of Egypt; in bondage to sin, to sense, and to materialism.

2. The means of revival. "I will allure—speak comfortably—and give her vineyards."

3. The results of revival. "Youth," and renewed vigour. "Sing," joy, and rejoicing. God's presence restored his ancient people from literal captivity, and his spiritual seed from sorrow and distress. "God's dealings with his people will furnish them with joy and refreshment; ‘she shall sing.' Not only should they rejoice when all things are performed according to promise, but when the Lord gives any pledge of his love, or begun evidences of it, they ought to cherish it by joy and praise, though full fruition be wanting: for even ‘there' on the border of her wilderness, in the valley of Achor" [Hutcheson].


Verses 17-20

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Beasts] Lit. (Job 5:23; Eze 34:25); or figurative of peace, safety, and gospel times; the re-established Jews at friends with the heathen nations. Bow] War extinguished, and its instruments destroyed (Psa 46:9; Eze 39:9-10).

Hos . Betroth] Make a new covenant with Jew and Gentile; three times repeated. God not only forgives, but espouses afresh and for ever. In right] In justice to himself and his law; by purifying from sin (Isa 1:27). In judgment] Vindicating his cause, and showing right from wrong.

Hos . In faithfulness] (Psa 111:9; Joh 13:1.) Shalt know] experimentally and be saved; the consequence of the union, not mere acknowledgment of God, but a taste of his love.

HOMILETICS

THE GOOD TIME COMING.—Hos

When the cry of trouble is turned into the song of joy, and nations cease to worship idols and serve the true God, then God restores them to his favour, and renews to them his covenant. Idolatry shall cease, and perfect peace—peace with God, peace among men, and peace with the beasts of the field—shall follow. God predicts a memorable time to be enjoyed by men.

I. Abolition of idolatry. "In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered." God abhors idolatry, and warns his people against its evils (Exo ; Deu 12:3). God's name must be remembered, and his worship be upheld by his word and grace. People must not devote themselves to any false god. The non-existence of other gods must be recognized—they are nonentities. "Thou shalt have no other gods." The Church shall be purified from error and false worship. Heathen nations shall abandon their gods many and lords many—shall neglect their offerings, and close their pagodas and temples. At the present time, at home and abroad, the signs are cheering; but "in that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats."

1. This abolition is by Divine agency. "I will take away the names of Baalim." Atheism, Polytheism, and superstitions of every kind can only be abolished by Divine power. Education, civilization, and commerce cannot renew the heart and reform the habits of people. Our hearts are sinful, prejudices and heathen customs are deeply rooted, and the Gospel alone can renew and deliver.

2. This abolition is seen in the purity of language. The names shall be taken "out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name." The names detested and disowned shall be disused. There must be no mixture in life or lip of idolatry and true religion. God's name must not be desecrated and Baal's name be reverenced. "Call me no more Baali." God's grace in the heart purifies the language of the lip. "I will turn to the people a pure language." The liar speaks the truth, the swearer forsakes his oaths, and the penitent separates himself from every pollution of word and deed. A Christian spirit governs the tongue, selects the holiest themes in conversation, and clothes the fittest words with impressive forms. "No corrupt speech "proceeds out of the mouth of a true believer. His conversation in neither corrupt nor insipid, but hallowed with pungency to excite interest; and preserved with flavour to influence for good. A man's tongue is an index to his life; a test of his godliness. "The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom."

II. Cessation of war. "I will break the bow and the sword, and the battle out of the earth." Warriors and warlike statesmen have been too long the idols and too much the gods of mankind. Alexander and Napoleon have been extolled: but military fame is delusive and false; war is inhuman and criminal. Science and philosophy, legislation and commercial treaties, may mitigate, but cannot prevent or abolish it. Nations often defy these, and armies are not checked by paper or parchment. This is to act like the Xerxes of morality, and throw our idle chains into the tempestuous ocean of strife. Morality and religion forbid war. Christianity, in its principles and obligations, produces peace. Christ the Prince of Peace shall break the bow and the sword; establish the government of peace and good will towards men—spiritual foes are already despoiled of their power to hurt and destroy. The goodness of the cause is certain, though its success for a time be doubtful. God has spoken the word, and it shall come to pass. "They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." In this belief the Christian may rejoice. Many are asking, "Shall the sword devour for ever?" and others, whatever be their differences in opinion, cry in practice, "I am for peace."

III. Security from wild beasts. "In that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field." When man was subject and loyal to his Maker, all creatures were subject to him. When he rebelled, the harmony of creation was broken, and peace with inferior creatures destroyed. Man is still lord of creation; but nature is an unwilling servant, and must be restrained and subjugated by force. Man's fear over beasts of the earth has gradually diminished, and the enmity between the tame and wild, between the friendly innocence and the hostile dread of the species has gradually increased. This lost dominion will be regained in Christ. Though no longer ruling by the sympathy of a spiritual power, yet he is legally authorized to exercise forcible dominion over three classes most injurious to him (Gen ). Though nothing in the sight of the starry universe, and "a little lower than the angels," yet all things will be put under his feet. In the mean time God protects the dwellings and the fields of man. Savage beasts are under his control, linked into Divine covenant, and made man's servants. Prowling creatures of the field, ravenous fowls of the air, and creeping scorpions of the earth, are prevented from touching men. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder," not accidentally, but intentionally, in power and conquest. "I have an impression," says Dr Thomas, "that were man to possess and manifest the moral majesty of goodness, the wildest and most savage creatures would stand in awe of him." God shall replace the sceptre in man's hand. The promise to Israel was, "I will cause the evil beast to cease out of the land"—the promise to us is, ‘The beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee."

IV. Perfect peace and tranquillity. "And will make them to lie safely." Man is not secure, is not at peace with all creation, yet. Beasts may devour and war destroy him. Dangers threaten, above, below, and all around him. God only can protect him and make him dwell securely. But outward peace can neither give nor destroy inward confidence and rest. God keeps from fear and alarms by night and by day, and makes us "take our rest in safety" (Job ). Short-lived is the rest, insecure is the safety, of the wicked; but the righteous "lie down safely," in confidence and calm repose. He is fearless and courageous, for only "perfect love casteth out fear." He is often at peace with his neighbours, and always at peace with his conscience and God. As a loving parent puts to rest and watches over her darling babe, so God sends to sleep and keeps in rest his own children. This rest is only a foretaste of everlasting rest, unfading peace in Christ. Tenures differ, but nothing can equal the safety which the believer has in his covenant God. By special promise his security is fixed, and by special presence his safety is secured. What would some men give for a good night's rest! They are tossed about by troublous thoughts, waking at every stir, and unsettled in every place. "When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet."

V. Covenant blessings renewed. "And I will betroth thee unto me for ever." God promises to restore Israel and treat her as a spotless virgin. In a threefold repetition he declares his love to the unfaithful and unworthy. He forgets the past, forgives sin, and espouses afresh, and that for ever. There is no divorce for adultery. He only is unchangeable, and his mercy, grace, and goodness abound to the chief of sinners. It is mercy to bring back, but love beyond degree to betroth and endow with bridal gifts. Notice—

1. The method of the engagement. "God betroths his Church to himself in righteousness and judgment, not by doing her justice, and faithfully fulfilling the obligations which he undertook at the conclusion of the covenant, but by purifying her, through the medium of just judgment, from all the uncleanness and ungodliness that adhere to her still (Isa ), that he may wipe out everything that can injure the covenant on the part of the Church. But with the existing sinfulness of human nature, justice and judgment will not suffice to secure the lasting continuance of the covenant; and therefore God also promises to show mercy and compassion. But even the love and compassion of God have their limits; the Lord still further adds, "in faithfulness or constancy," and thereby gives the promise that he will no more withdraw his mercy from her" [Keil]. The covenant is founded upon a firm basis—"in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies." In the faithfulness of God the pledge is sure; God will keep his covenant for ever (Psa 111:9).

2. The result of the engagement. "Thou shalt know the Lord." The complaint was that Israel did not know God, nor recognize his providence in the blessings of life (Hos ). The consequence of this union would be a real and experimental knowledge of God; not intellectually merely, but living, personal relation to him. Many acknowledge God, but do not know him. True knowledge includes love and life. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." When restored to God, we know him not merely as God, as revealed in his word, but what he is to us, as our God in Christ. We discover more of his grace and love, enjoy more of his favour, and we love God because he first loved us.

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . That which is very innocent in itself should, when it has been abused in idolatry, be abolished, and the very use of it taken away, that nothing may be done to keep idols in remembrance, much less to keep them in reputation.

To remember with delight sins past is to re-commit them; and herein the deceitful heart is with all care to be looked unto, that when we call to mind former evil practices, though with an intent to be humbled for them, we be not insnared and drawn to commit them afresh by being tickled in the thought of them [Trapp].

Hos . The blessings of God do not correspond only, they go beyond the punishment. The protection is complete. Every kind of animal, beast, bird, and reptile is named. Together the words express that God would withhold the power from all enemies, visible or invisible; worldly or spiritual. Each also may denote some separate form of the enemy [Pusey].

God foretells much more the greatness of what he would do for man, than the little which man receives. The gospel brings peace within, and since wars and fightings come from evil passions and lust, it brings peace as far as it prevails without also; peace, as the borders of the Church (Psa ); peace in the world, so far as it is won to Christ by the Church; peace to the soul of the believer, so far as he loves God and obeys the gospel [Pusey].

Hos . In the covenant of grace, there is God's part and there is our part. But God undertakes for the latter as well as the former—engages to do all that is necessary for his people and in them Here is the nature of the connection he will establish with them. "I will betroth thee unto me." And the manner of it. In righteousness, &c.

1. In righteousness. He is holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works. The soul that sinneth shall die. Righteousness, then, seems to require the punishment of the sinner. The awakened soul wants to see how God can be just and the justifier. He has provided for this in the gospel. Though sin is pardoned, yet it is condemned. The transgressor escapes, but the curse falls upon another. The law is magnified and honoured in Christ. In the destruction of sinners justice would have been displayed passively, but now actively—would have been hated, but now loved by them. For righteousness means not only the way in which the guilty are made just, but the depraved holy. This is from the same gracious agency, and equally necessary with the former; for God could not admit men into communion with himself in a state of sin. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?"

2. In judgment. The heathens placed Mercury, the god of wisdom, by the side of Venus, the goddess of marriage; and for good reason, for there is nothing in which judgment is so needful. Hence the wretched consequences of hasty matches. But God knows what he does and why he does it—has reasons which justify the measure of his infinite understanding, and salvation is called his counsel. This is true in contriving, procuring, and applying it. The place, time, and manner of conversion known to him. We know but little now, yet there are openings which carry the mind in contemplation and surprise, and which assure us more remains for our discovery and rapture in the world of light. This applies also to God's people as well as to God himself. In their choice of him and love to him wisdom is seen. The world may censure, but they can give a reason of the hope within them. The spiritual judgeth all things, though he himself is judged of no man.

3. In loving-kindness. Without this persons had better never come together—it is daily and mutually needed. The law of kindness should rule in looks, words, and actions. This seldom wanting in the female, often in the male side. Hence men commanded to love their wives. God says to his Church, "You shall find me full of tenderness and compassion," &c. Strange to apply the exercise of this quality to them as well as to him, yet he has sanctioned it. "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth," &c. He takes at their hand everything they do for him; their disposition makes them afraid to grieve his Holy Spirit, and anxious to walk "worthy of him unto all pleasing."

4. In mercies. This is distinguishable from the former. That was the effect, this shows the cause, and mentioned in addition to loving-kindness, to remind us that all we possess, or expect, springs from the free, undeserved grace of God, and to meet discouragement from a sense of unworthiness and ill-deservings. God will not cast away his people, but have mercy upon them according to the multitude of his tender mercies. The more cheerful and vigorous will they be, the more they remember this truth. Fruits that grow in the sun are richer and riper than those which grow in the shade. The best frame we can be in is to be upheld by a free spirit, and act under a full sense of our Divine privileges. Let us therefore sing of God's mercy for ever, and if he seems to have forgotten to be gracious, plead and say, "Where is thy zeal, and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels, and of thy mercies toward me?" Here again is imported, not only that we receive, but exercise mercy, not towards him personally, but towards his creatures that need it. What is done to them he considers as done to himself. What so just and proper as that they who are forgiven should forgive? And they which live by mercy should be merciful? [Jay].

I will betroth thee unto me for ever. Christians are not only pardoned, but employed in God's service—not only reconciled, but admitted into friendship and intimacy. Yea, they are not only friends and favourites, but his bride. Observe the permanency of the relation. "Permanency adds bliss to bliss." Every enjoyment and possession is impaired in value without it. The more important any acquisition, the more necessary to our happiness, the more alive we are to keep it; the more averse to its absence, the more painful the loss. Yet whatever we are attached to here, we set our hearts on that which is not. Jews are said always to throw a glass on the ground in their nuptial ceremony, to indicate that the union formed was brittle as glass. The apostle reminds us that time is short, and that they who have wives will be as though they had none. We take each other "till death do us part"—the relation is terminated by the death of either. But Christians can never be in a widowed state—never lose their defence, glory, and joy. Nothing is precarious in the transactions of God with his people. "I know that whatsoever God doeth it shall be for ever," &c. How delightful in a world of changes to know that he changeth not, and therefore we shall not be consumed. Many a persuasion fails, for the confidence may be strong and the foundation weak. But here the full assurance of faith can never do justice to the certainty of the event. "I am persuaded that neither death nor life," &c. [Jay].

The Harmony of the Divine Attributes in Salvation. Mercy founded on righteousness, and truth vindicating mercy. Justice honoured in mercy. Loving-kindness which is faithful. "Eternal love and immutable faithfulness are the body-guards of Jesus' throne, and they are both the providers and the preservers of all those who in him are made kings and priests unto God. We cannot keep ourselves, and nothing short of Divine mercy and truth can do it; but these both can and will, nor shall the least of God's people be suffered to perish" [Spurgeon].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Hos . Covenant with beasts. To men who dwell in God the most evil forces become harmless; they wear a charmed life, and defy the deadliest ills. Their feet come into contact with the worst of foes; even Satan himself nibbles at their heel, but in Christ Jesus they have the assured hope of bruising Satan under their feet shortly. The people of God are the real "George and the Dragon," the true lion-kings and serpent-tamers. Their dominion over the powers of darkness makes them cry, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy word" [Spurgeon].


Verses 21-23

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . I will hear] The heavens pray to God, to give to earth its fertility; the earth and all creatures desire to satisfy the wants of God's people; God is no longer scattering, but providing and planting.

Hos Jez. =] the seed of God.

Hos . Will sow] A promise antithetic to the threat (Deu 28:23; Lev 26:19); expressive of prodigious converts and innumerable blessings on the earth (Rom 11:12-15). The children now change names to show mercy and prove restoration. "And with tenderness I will cherish her that had been Lo-Ruhamah (the not-beloved), and I will say to Lo-Ammi (to the no people-of-mine), Ammi (my own people) art thou; and he shall say, My God" [Horsley].

This chapter is an enlargement and application of the first, the symbol of the one is expounded by the other. The sinful conduct of the nation is condemned, punishment is threatened, but salvation is proclaimed in promise of restitution and the blessings of peace and subsistence. The remnant among Israel, for whose sake God preserved a corrupt people, must prove living witnesses for him, testify to his goodness and grace, and urge others to turn to Jehovah. The penitent must plead with the impenitent, the converted with the unconverted, and the children with the parents.

HOMILETICS

THE UNIVERSE GOVERNED IN THE INTERESTS OF HUMANITY.—Hos

In these verses we have an unbroken chain of causation. The prophet represents God as listening to the prayer of the heavens, to allow them to give fertility to the earth. The heavens fulfil the desire of the earth, and the earth yields its increase to the nation; all things in heaven and earth depend upon God, "so that without his bidding not a drop of rain falls from heaven," says Calvin, "and the earth produces no germ, and consequently all nature would be barren, unless he gave it fertility by his blessing."

I. All things are subordinate to God.

1. God is the Creator of all things. All things were made by him at first. He only has absolute being and original essence. Creation is derived from him, The Great First Cause. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." By this simple expression Atheism, Polytheism, Pantheism, and Materialism are denied, and that philosophy which sees nothing apart and distinct from matter is reproved. We have no chance work, no "theory of development" here. Matter is not eternal. The world had a birthday. In the beginning God; God before primordial matter; God before its arrangement into shape and order; God first, and last, and everywhere; God before all things; God the cause of all things, and God the meaning of all things.

2. God is the Conserver of all things. That which was dependent at first cannot afterwards become independent. It requires the same hand to sustain as to create a thing. God did not create the world like a carpenter builds a house, to stand still. Having its very being from him, that being cannot be, or continue to be, without him. "By him all things consist," or stand together. God is "the Conservation and Correlation of forces." Not an atom is permitted to fall out of existence. Things may travel far, and take different shapes; but nothing is destroyed. The tiniest dew-drop is long-lived as the mighty ocean, and the feeblest nebule indestructible as the everlasting hills. As in matter, so in mind and morals. "I know whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever. Nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it."

3. God is the Governor of all things. Creation carries with it the idea of control and superintendence. We are under law, mild, gracious, paternal law. But laws of themselves are impotent without the law-giver. Second causes depend upon the First Cause, and cannot put forth any causation without God. God works, and is ever active in his dominions. We are not the inhabitants of a fatherless world, nor is the earth a little province in a forsaken universe. God directs and controls all forces, all agencies, and all events, for the accomplishment of his design. There are no localities with God. He is everywhere present, and ruleth over all. In effecting his great designs he is independent also of every other creature, and renders the purpose and plans of every other power subordinate and auxiliary to his own. Here one sovereign forms an alliance with others for mutual interests and protection. If one were to oppose another the opposition might endanger all states under the alliance. But were all kings and kingdoms of the universe to unite against him, they could not succeed. His throne is above the heavens, above the accidents and contingences of earth. The frame of nature might be unhinged, and the universe fall into commotion, but he reigns undisturbed, God over all, and blessed for evermore.

II. All things co-operate, or work together. God hears the heavens; they hear the earth; and "the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil, and they shall hear Jezreel." Here we have the connection and concatenation of all things. "God is not the author of confusion." Providence, therefore, which is God's will in action, is consistent with itself. It is the glory of creation that it everywhere "marches in time, moving to the music of law." Here is the true "music of the spheres." A consummate harmony of relationships so dominates over the whole, that we have never an organic demand without the means of satisfying it, that amid innumerable changes and intermediate ends we find designs of final results. The world is not a machine, and the action of God interference; things are not like particles of dust driven in a whirlwind: but "all things work together," work in harmony, subserve the ends for which they were made, and never cease to conform to God's will, and be a reflex of his wisdom and goodness. The principle of mediation is seen everywhere in God's government. "I will hear the heavens." Heaven intercedes for earth, and the earth for men upon it. In the common intercourse and concerns of life, one man is blessed through another and for the sake of another. Our material and spiritual gifts come through the medium and mediation of another. But this regular system of established agency connects the result with the sovereign will of God. The first power is a link placed at the foot of the eternal throne. "I will act upon the heavens, the powers of nature above us; they shall act upon the earth, the powers and sources of vegetation beneath us; the earth shall act upon the corn, and the wine, and the oil; the results of their combined and mysterious influence. Thus the chain is complete and unbroken.

Where one step broken, the great scale's destroyed:

From nature's chain whatever link you strike,

Tenth, or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike.

III. All things are governed in the interests of the Christian Church. "They shall hear Jezreel." Jez. means the seed of God, the nation pardoned and restored to God. All things not only work together, but good is the result, and this good is "to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom ). The universe in all its operations and departments contributes to the interests of God's people. Events do not happen in human society and the Christian Church as if left to the mere causalities of nature, and were not under Divine control. Human happiness is promoted and human wants supplied, and men in Christ are the objects of God's eternal purpose.

1. Human wants are satisfied. Corn, wine, and oil are given to Jezreel. Chastisements are removed, Divine favour is restored, and men are daily loaded with benefits and blessings. The gifts of nature are emblems of the gifts of grace. Constant bread, common mercies, and spiritual joys are bestowed with a liberal hand. "Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."

2. There is spiritual increase in the Church. "I will sow her unto me in the earth." Persecution and affliction did not diminish Israel. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." God restored her, and in her dispersion she was the means of scattering the knowledge of God and the seeds of Divine truth. Gentiles were converted to God, and the earth will yet be the scene of an increase richer than any yet enjoyed. The fields are already white unto harvest.

3. There is restoration to friendship with God. Mercy for those that were unpitied, that had not obtained mercy, and those that were not God's people were to become his people. God would anew declare them his people, and they would affectionately respond to the call. Jew and Gentile, bond and free, Barbarian and Scythian, will be one in Christ. "All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . All nature is closed and would refuse her office to those who rebel against her God, so when he hath withdrawn his curse, and is reconciled to man, all shall combine together for man's good, and by a kind of harmony all parts thereof join their ministries for the service of those who are at unity with him. And, as an image of love, all, from the lowest to the highest, are bound together, each depending on the ministry of that beyond it, and the highest on God. At each link the chain might have been broken; but God, who knit their services together, and had before withheld the rain, and made the earth barren, and laid waste the trees, now made each to supply the other, and led the thoughts of man through the course of causes and effects up to himself, who ever causes all which come to pass [Pusey].

Learn—

1. The unworthiness of man. A dependent, sinful creature.

2. The dignity of man. All creatures employed to help him.

1. The abundance of God's gifts—"corn, wine, and oil."

2. The goodness of God in supplying them—"I will hear."

3. The medium through which they come—"heaven and earth."

4. The certainty of their bestowment—"It shall come to pass."

Hos . "I will sow her." The Church the channel of blessings to the world. The Church can only bless the world as she is blessed herself.

A beautiful earth.

1. The residence of the Church of God—"I will sow her unto me in the earth."

2. The theatre of the mercy of God—"I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy."

3. The scene of obedience and love to God—"Thou art my people.… Thou art my God."

God's mercy.

1. The sum of human wants—"not obtained mercy," "not my people."

2. The source from which it comes—free grace. "I will have mercy."

3. The result of its bestowment—"Thou art my people."

4. The evidence of its possession—"Thou art my God."

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Hos . My God. All in this life that is truly good is included in this, my God! if said not from habit, but with a full title to its use. This is a word of faith, by which we place our whole reliance upon the almighty, true, and compassionate God; it is a word of hope, by which we provide ourselves with all good perpetually in God, who is a Rock of Eternity; a word of love and fellowship, by which we delight ourselves in the goodness of God, and give ourselves wholly up to him [Rieger.] "This God is our God." Is it so? Then infinite riches, infinite beauty, infinite excellence is ours. Is it so? Then all he has is ours; his infinite resources are ours; his providence, his Son, his Spirit, his heaven, are ours (1Co 3:23). If the character of God be paternal, then your character should be filial, and the leading features of that are dependence and love.

Hos . Providence is God in motion; God teaching by facts, and God fulfilling, explaining, enforcing his own word. Providence is God rendering natural events subservient to spiritual purposes; rousing our attention when we are careless; reminding us of our obligations when we are ungrateful; recalling our confidence when we depart from him by dependence upon his creatures. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord [The Pathway].

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 2:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/hosea-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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