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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Hosea 14

 

 

Verse 1

Hosea 14:1

O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God.

Man’s evil estate, and hope of deliverance

While the freeness of God’s mercy is the leading idea suggested by the text, it is not the only one: the condition of our nature is accurately expressed, as is the mode by which alone it can be ameliorated.

I. The state into which man has brought himself. There are few things more important than the fastening on the sinner all the blame of his sin. Adam might have obeyed the simple injunction, and, holding on his probation, might have won for himself and his descendants a hereafter fenced up against the spoiler. God foreknew that Adam would transgress, and prepared for the contingency. We can see that if there had been no ruin there could have been no restoration. The work of redemption takes, of course, for granted the apostasy of our race. On Adam must be fastened all the blame of his transgression. There was no extenuating plea which the offender could in justice have urged. The blame of the fall belongs individually to man. Thou hast not fallen through an inherent inability to stand; He has so constituted thee that thou mightest have stood. Thou hast not fallen through the ground being slippery, and thick-set with snares. He placed thee where thy footing was firm, and thy pathway direct. So that upon man himself comes home wholly all the effect of the fall. We argue from this the unqualified gratuitousness of God’s interposition on man’s behalf. In whatever degree there may be a necessity of sinning, in no degree is there a necessity of perishing. God places no man in such a moral condition that our falling into perdition is unavoidable. Let a man have once heard of Christ, and from that moment forward salvation is within arm’s length of this man. Man can have no right to take off the burthen of responsibilities and cast it on the secret decrees of his Maker.

II. The mode of man’s deliverance. “Return unto the Lord thy God.” It comes not within our power to destroy or diminish God’s title to our service. The fall did not do away with God’s claim on man. Some teach that God proportions His demands to our impaired capacities, and will be satisfied with the honest endeavour, seeing that we cannot come up to the thorough performance. But this is making God answerable for the apostasy of man. We may, however, gather an inference of consolation as well as one of admonition. There is the groundwork of hope, that God will yet look mercifully upon us, and restore us, seeing that, notwithstanding our alienation, He is still our God. Man of himself hath no power to turn unto God; but since God invites, He surely enables. He bestows all requisite assistance, and a clear pathway has been made. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

On repentance

In the history of the children of Israel we see the perverseness and ingratitude of man, and the forbearance and goodness of God. Israel’s sins were peculiarly aggravated by their having been committed after repeated and wonderful deliverances, after signal chastisements and mercies. At the period of Hosea’s prophecy Israel’s continued rebellion against God had nearly exhausted His patience toward that people. Though these words were primarily addressed to Israel, we shall consider them--

I. As conveying a gracious exhortation to all sinners to “return unto the lord.”

1. We must “return unto the Lord” with consideration. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways.”

2. With weeping and supplication. A proper review of our past follies and perverse wanderings, and of God’s mercies and patience towards us, will produce sorrow of heart, will cause tears of compunction to flow.

3. With humility. Our lofty imaginations and high opinion of ourselves must be brought low.

4. Through the Mediator. We cannot expect to find mercy unless, we seek mercy through Christ. Of this righteousness, not our own, we must make mention.

5. Without delay. This may be urged from the shortness and uncertainty of life, and from the greatness of the work which we have to do.

II. As declaring the reasonableness of the exhortation. “For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” The text is applicable to the case of backsliders who have fallen from their steadfastness. But all mankind have fallen from God. Adam fell, and in him fell all his posterity.

1. Man is fallen from the favour of God, and is under the displeasure of God.

2. Man is fallen under the dominion of sin and the curse of the law.

3. Man is fallen into the snares and power of the devil.

4. Man, if not recovered by Divine grace, will at last fall into the bottomless pit.

Apply to those who are still in their fallen state, and are wandering from God.

1. Yield to the solemn and affecting truth that you have fallen by your iniquity, and let this truth stir you up to inquire with solicitude, “What must I do to be saved?”

2. Listen to God’s gracious invitation, and believe His willingness to receive you.

3. Contemplate what has been done to accomplish the great work of your redemption.

4. Consider the awful doom of the finally impenitent transgressor. (E. Edwards.)

Repentance as return

The Divine love is content with nothing less than return. And nothing less and nothing else will give safety. There must not only be a cessation of the present journey, but a definite and conclusive retracement of the steps. What the prophet sighs for, and what his God so earnestly commands, is not the mere inactive terror of proceeding onwards when the fiery abyss stretches to the view, nor the attempt, while that terror lasts, to breathe a hasty vow or utter a disordered prayer. What the Divine love insists on is a decided and complete retreat, such as when, conscious of peril and aware of only one refuge, and that in God, he eagerly seeks Him with the whole heart. “I will arise and go to my Father” is his earnest and practical resolution. (John Eadie, D. D. , LL. D.)

A message to backsliding Israel

I. The lord’s address unto His backsliding ones. “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God.” God glorifies His sanctifying grace in some, and His pardoning grace in others. Let the children of God be in what state they may, as it respects their acts of grace or sin, this makes no alteration in the Lord’s love unto them. As they have the body of sin and death dwelling within them, there is a continual propensity in their fallen natures, to slide into themselves, and to backslide from the Lord Jesus Christ. Israel’s case was extreme. Be could not return unto the Lord by any strength of his own. He must be fallen by his iniquity into a state and kind of desperation. This was the fruit of his iniquity. It is the Lord Himself who here speaks. He does so in the language of commiseration. From these words what an infinity of grace and blessed encouragement may be derived, so as to encourage the people of the Lord to trust and hope in Him. None but backsliders know and feel the sorrows which arise from the same.

II. One substantial reason for the return of backsliding Israel to God. “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God.” It lies in their relation to Him, and His relation to them. All sin is the effect of unbelief. Every act of departure from the Lord is the fruit of it; let it be mental, or let it be open and manifest. Backsliders need great encouragement, even from the Lord Himself, to return to Him. He is pleased to give it them. The interest the Lord God hath in His people can never be broken in upon, neither can their interest in Him ever be impaired or cease. It is always the same on both sides. The intercourse between the Lord and His people may be interrupted. But God is immutable in His love and mercy.

III. The reason made use of to hasten God’s people’s return to Him. “Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” The mercy of God in Christ Jesus exceeds the very uttermost of our minds to receive any adequate ideas of. Guilt in the conscience produces fear in the heart; so long as we indulge the same it weakens our faith and keeps us from Christ. (Samuel Eyles Pierce.)

A call to repentant return

In Hosea’s days idolatry was first universally set up and countenanced by regal power. Here we have--

I. An exhortation to repentance, with the motives enforcing the same. Every word hath its weight, and in a manner is an argument to enforce this returning. “Israel” is a word of covenant. Return unto the “Lord Jehovah,” who is the chief good, the fountain of all good. “Thy” God in covenant, who will make good His gracious covenant unto thee. Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity; thine own inventions have brought these miseries upon thee, and none but God can help thee out of these miseries. God comes not as a sudden storm upon His people, but gives them warning before He smites them. He is a God of long-suffering, and has a special regard to His own children. Another point--

II. The best provision for preventing of destruction is spiritual means. Of all spiritual means the best is, to return to the Lord. In this returning there must be a stop. To make this stop there must be examination and consideration, humiliation and displeasure against ourselves, judging and taking revenge of ourselves, for our ways and courses. There must be a resolution to overcome impediments. In the original it is a very emphatic, “Return even to Jehovah.” Do not only begin to return, but so return as you never cease coming till you come to Jehovah. Where there is a falling into sin there will be a falling into misery and judgment. The cause of every man’s misery is his own sin. Then take heed of sin. Pray to God to make our way plain before us, and not to lead us into temptation. “Take with you words.” They who would have help and comfort against all sins and sorrows must come to God with words of prayer. Barrenness and want of words to go unto God are blameworthy. This is for consolation: if they can take words, and can pray well, they shall speed well. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Sin separates from God

You may sometimes see in the ocean a pile of rock rising steeply to a considerable height, and having on it here and there, where a patch of soil covers it, the remains of what was once a luxuriant vegetation. If you examine it, and also the mainland a few furlongs off, you will come to the conclusion that they were at one time, now long gone by, united together. They have become separated by the action of the sea. At first there was but a small inlet, scarcely large enough for a single boat to anchor in; this was gradually enlarged by the incessant beating of the surf until it became a broad bay, and at last the sea, striking with more and more force upon the cliffs every year, cut its way completely through, and now what was once part of the mainland is but a solitary and desolate isle. One of the most direct and appalling effects of sin is the breach which it makes between the human heart and God. Man is made in the likeness of God; he is an offspring of the Divine thought and love; he is endowed with the same moral and spiritual capacities as those which God Himself possesses; but let sin be suffered to find an entrance into his heart, and, like the gnawing, devouring, destructive sea, it will eat away all the holy and sacred ties which bind his:heart to God, and cut him off from God, and leave him inwardly lonely and desolate. (B. Wilkinson, F. G. S.)

How to return to an earnest Christian life

As long as the bright summer sun shines into the forest glades the fungus has no chance to flourish; but when the sunshine wanes, in the months of autumn, the woods are filled with these strange products of decay. It is because we drift from God that our lives are the prey to numberless and nameless ills. Make the best of all new starts, and returning to the more earnest habits of earlier days, or beginning them from now, give yourself to God, believing that He will receive and welcome you, without a word of remonstrance or a moment of interval. Form habits of morning and evening prayer; especially in the morning get time for deep communion with God, waiting at His footstool, or in the perusal of the Bible, till He speaks to you. Take up again your habits of attendance at the house of God: in the morning and the evening go with the multitude that, with the voice of praise, keeps holy-day, and in the afternoon find some niche of the Christian service, in your home or elsewhere. Then, inasmuch as you do not wish to be a slip-carriage, which, when the couplings are unfastened, runs for a little behind the express, but gets slower and slower till it comes to a stand, ask the grace of the Holy Spirit to confirm these holy desires, keeping you true to them, causing you to be steadfast, immovable, and set on maintaining life on a higher level. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

God always watching for our return

Bianconi, the introducer of the car system in Ireland, on leaving his home in Italy, found his most trying leave-taking in separating from his mother. She fainted as he left her. Her last words were words which he never forgot: “When you remember me, think” of me as waiting at this window watching for your return.” We may think of God in the same way if we have departed from Him at all. In spite of all our faults, all our sins, He is always watching for our return, for “His mercy endureth for ever.”

For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.

Our fall by sin

The sight of fallen greatness is exceedingly affecting to the mind of a thoughtful man, and excites inquiries concerning the cause or causes of it. The prophet looked on the kingdom of Israel fallen from its past strength and honour, and declares the cause of the fall to be--iniquity.

I. The fall by sin is the most grievous in human experience.

1. The fall by sin is from the highest relationships the soul can enjoy. No relationships, how distinguished and valued soever, can equal those of God, There are none so essential to the soul’s good and safety. Without holiness no true relationship with Him can be sustained.

2. The fall by sin is from life’s great purpose. Short as life is, it has a great mission to fulfil. Eternal life has to be secured. The world’s truest good has to be promoted. Sin causes a lamentable failure.

3. The fall by sin is a loss of truest power. A right life wields a great influence. No power can be compared with that of a holy character. This power is lost by sin.

4. The fall by sin is from truest content of soul. The hallowed quiet and peace depart. Painful misgivings and pangs of remorse tear the breast. The consciousness of guilt prevents the light and joy of hope.

II. This fall is the inevitable result of sin. The course of sin is the act of man’s free will. But if he choose the path he cannot escape the ruin.

1. The path of sin leads to ruin.

2. None can pursue the path of sin and escape the ruin. The individual cannot; the Church cannot; the nation cannot.

III. For this fall man himself is responsible. He falls by his own iniquity,

1. None can compel another to sin.

2. As none can compel another to sin, so none can compel his fall.

Apply--

1. Sin with such power and consequences should have our intensest hate, and should be guarded against.

2. He who is fallen should forsake his sin, and seek mercy and grace from God. God’s mercy can cover the past, and His grace can sanctify and secure the future. (Rombeth.)

Message to the remnant

So the admonition of Hosea has ended, and the note of destruction has been sounded. It only remains to look for a remnant out of the fallen nation, which by repentance and faithfulness may plead with God for their own rescue if not for the nation’s restoration. Hope, unwilling to be quenched in the pious patriarch’s breast, suggests words of returning to God, to relinquishment of human politics, and reliance on His faithfulness. To such a remnant, be it small or great, the everlasting mercy of God offers out of the jaws of ruin, as out of death and the grave, the possibility of return to Him who is not afar from every one of us. If there are any that will understand, let them not charge their Maker with folly. He has dealt justly by sinful Israel, and will deal mercifully with all men repentant. (Rowland Williams, D. D.)

God’s call to the fallen

God seems to find an argument in the very fact of our fall. He is moved with compassion at the spectacle. He sees from what a height to what a depth man has fallen.

1. The call to return implies that we had wandered away. Our fall has indeed been occasioned by our wandering. All sin originates in the apostasy of the human heart from God. Sin would never have entered human hearts, and defiled the lives of men, if man had been true to his primal relations with God. As with the race, so with the individual. Moral deterioration and corruption naturally and necessarily ensue from the apostasy of the soul from God. Evil works naturally flow from the corrupt condition. The fallen soul not only loses contact and fellowship with God, but comes under the influence of a certain feeling of aversion, and almost of antipathy, towards God which leads him to shrink from the very thought of God. The apostate man is fallen not only in position, but in character. Innocence has been forfeited instead of being developed, and sin reigns where moral beauty should be crowned. Man needs no revelation to convince him of his fall. He alone of all the animals fails to live up to his own proper ideal, and violates in many cases systematically the laws of his own nature. Fallen in position and character, he is fallen in conduct also. Then the first thing needful for the fallen and falling is to return to God. He who invites us wants us to come back to Him. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)


Verse 1

Hosea 14:1

O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God.

Man’s evil estate, and hope of deliverance

While the freeness of God’s mercy is the leading idea suggested by the text, it is not the only one: the condition of our nature is accurately expressed, as is the mode by which alone it can be ameliorated.

I. The state into which man has brought himself. There are few things more important than the fastening on the sinner all the blame of his sin. Adam might have obeyed the simple injunction, and, holding on his probation, might have won for himself and his descendants a hereafter fenced up against the spoiler. God foreknew that Adam would transgress, and prepared for the contingency. We can see that if there had been no ruin there could have been no restoration. The work of redemption takes, of course, for granted the apostasy of our race. On Adam must be fastened all the blame of his transgression. There was no extenuating plea which the offender could in justice have urged. The blame of the fall belongs individually to man. Thou hast not fallen through an inherent inability to stand; He has so constituted thee that thou mightest have stood. Thou hast not fallen through the ground being slippery, and thick-set with snares. He placed thee where thy footing was firm, and thy pathway direct. So that upon man himself comes home wholly all the effect of the fall. We argue from this the unqualified gratuitousness of God’s interposition on man’s behalf. In whatever degree there may be a necessity of sinning, in no degree is there a necessity of perishing. God places no man in such a moral condition that our falling into perdition is unavoidable. Let a man have once heard of Christ, and from that moment forward salvation is within arm’s length of this man. Man can have no right to take off the burthen of responsibilities and cast it on the secret decrees of his Maker.

II. The mode of man’s deliverance. “Return unto the Lord thy God.” It comes not within our power to destroy or diminish God’s title to our service. The fall did not do away with God’s claim on man. Some teach that God proportions His demands to our impaired capacities, and will be satisfied with the honest endeavour, seeing that we cannot come up to the thorough performance. But this is making God answerable for the apostasy of man. We may, however, gather an inference of consolation as well as one of admonition. There is the groundwork of hope, that God will yet look mercifully upon us, and restore us, seeing that, notwithstanding our alienation, He is still our God. Man of himself hath no power to turn unto God; but since God invites, He surely enables. He bestows all requisite assistance, and a clear pathway has been made. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

On repentance

In the history of the children of Israel we see the perverseness and ingratitude of man, and the forbearance and goodness of God. Israel’s sins were peculiarly aggravated by their having been committed after repeated and wonderful deliverances, after signal chastisements and mercies. At the period of Hosea’s prophecy Israel’s continued rebellion against God had nearly exhausted His patience toward that people. Though these words were primarily addressed to Israel, we shall consider them--

I. As conveying a gracious exhortation to all sinners to “return unto the lord.”

1. We must “return unto the Lord” with consideration. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways.”

2. With weeping and supplication. A proper review of our past follies and perverse wanderings, and of God’s mercies and patience towards us, will produce sorrow of heart, will cause tears of compunction to flow.

3. With humility. Our lofty imaginations and high opinion of ourselves must be brought low.

4. Through the Mediator. We cannot expect to find mercy unless, we seek mercy through Christ. Of this righteousness, not our own, we must make mention.

5. Without delay. This may be urged from the shortness and uncertainty of life, and from the greatness of the work which we have to do.

II. As declaring the reasonableness of the exhortation. “For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” The text is applicable to the case of backsliders who have fallen from their steadfastness. But all mankind have fallen from God. Adam fell, and in him fell all his posterity.

1. Man is fallen from the favour of God, and is under the displeasure of God.

2. Man is fallen under the dominion of sin and the curse of the law.

3. Man is fallen into the snares and power of the devil.

4. Man, if not recovered by Divine grace, will at last fall into the bottomless pit.

Apply to those who are still in their fallen state, and are wandering from God.

1. Yield to the solemn and affecting truth that you have fallen by your iniquity, and let this truth stir you up to inquire with solicitude, “What must I do to be saved?”

2. Listen to God’s gracious invitation, and believe His willingness to receive you.

3. Contemplate what has been done to accomplish the great work of your redemption.

4. Consider the awful doom of the finally impenitent transgressor. (E. Edwards.)

Repentance as return

The Divine love is content with nothing less than return. And nothing less and nothing else will give safety. There must not only be a cessation of the present journey, but a definite and conclusive retracement of the steps. What the prophet sighs for, and what his God so earnestly commands, is not the mere inactive terror of proceeding onwards when the fiery abyss stretches to the view, nor the attempt, while that terror lasts, to breathe a hasty vow or utter a disordered prayer. What the Divine love insists on is a decided and complete retreat, such as when, conscious of peril and aware of only one refuge, and that in God, he eagerly seeks Him with the whole heart. “I will arise and go to my Father” is his earnest and practical resolution. (John Eadie, D. D. , LL. D.)

A message to backsliding Israel

I. The lord’s address unto His backsliding ones. “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God.” God glorifies His sanctifying grace in some, and His pardoning grace in others. Let the children of God be in what state they may, as it respects their acts of grace or sin, this makes no alteration in the Lord’s love unto them. As they have the body of sin and death dwelling within them, there is a continual propensity in their fallen natures, to slide into themselves, and to backslide from the Lord Jesus Christ. Israel’s case was extreme. Be could not return unto the Lord by any strength of his own. He must be fallen by his iniquity into a state and kind of desperation. This was the fruit of his iniquity. It is the Lord Himself who here speaks. He does so in the language of commiseration. From these words what an infinity of grace and blessed encouragement may be derived, so as to encourage the people of the Lord to trust and hope in Him. None but backsliders know and feel the sorrows which arise from the same.

II. One substantial reason for the return of backsliding Israel to God. “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God.” It lies in their relation to Him, and His relation to them. All sin is the effect of unbelief. Every act of departure from the Lord is the fruit of it; let it be mental, or let it be open and manifest. Backsliders need great encouragement, even from the Lord Himself, to return to Him. He is pleased to give it them. The interest the Lord God hath in His people can never be broken in upon, neither can their interest in Him ever be impaired or cease. It is always the same on both sides. The intercourse between the Lord and His people may be interrupted. But God is immutable in His love and mercy.

III. The reason made use of to hasten God’s people’s return to Him. “Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” The mercy of God in Christ Jesus exceeds the very uttermost of our minds to receive any adequate ideas of. Guilt in the conscience produces fear in the heart; so long as we indulge the same it weakens our faith and keeps us from Christ. (Samuel Eyles Pierce.)

A call to repentant return

In Hosea’s days idolatry was first universally set up and countenanced by regal power. Here we have--

I. An exhortation to repentance, with the motives enforcing the same. Every word hath its weight, and in a manner is an argument to enforce this returning. “Israel” is a word of covenant. Return unto the “Lord Jehovah,” who is the chief good, the fountain of all good. “Thy” God in covenant, who will make good His gracious covenant unto thee. Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity; thine own inventions have brought these miseries upon thee, and none but God can help thee out of these miseries. God comes not as a sudden storm upon His people, but gives them warning before He smites them. He is a God of long-suffering, and has a special regard to His own children. Another point--

II. The best provision for preventing of destruction is spiritual means. Of all spiritual means the best is, to return to the Lord. In this returning there must be a stop. To make this stop there must be examination and consideration, humiliation and displeasure against ourselves, judging and taking revenge of ourselves, for our ways and courses. There must be a resolution to overcome impediments. In the original it is a very emphatic, “Return even to Jehovah.” Do not only begin to return, but so return as you never cease coming till you come to Jehovah. Where there is a falling into sin there will be a falling into misery and judgment. The cause of every man’s misery is his own sin. Then take heed of sin. Pray to God to make our way plain before us, and not to lead us into temptation. “Take with you words.” They who would have help and comfort against all sins and sorrows must come to God with words of prayer. Barrenness and want of words to go unto God are blameworthy. This is for consolation: if they can take words, and can pray well, they shall speed well. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Sin separates from God

You may sometimes see in the ocean a pile of rock rising steeply to a considerable height, and having on it here and there, where a patch of soil covers it, the remains of what was once a luxuriant vegetation. If you examine it, and also the mainland a few furlongs off, you will come to the conclusion that they were at one time, now long gone by, united together. They have become separated by the action of the sea. At first there was but a small inlet, scarcely large enough for a single boat to anchor in; this was gradually enlarged by the incessant beating of the surf until it became a broad bay, and at last the sea, striking with more and more force upon the cliffs every year, cut its way completely through, and now what was once part of the mainland is but a solitary and desolate isle. One of the most direct and appalling effects of sin is the breach which it makes between the human heart and God. Man is made in the likeness of God; he is an offspring of the Divine thought and love; he is endowed with the same moral and spiritual capacities as those which God Himself possesses; but let sin be suffered to find an entrance into his heart, and, like the gnawing, devouring, destructive sea, it will eat away all the holy and sacred ties which bind his:heart to God, and cut him off from God, and leave him inwardly lonely and desolate. (B. Wilkinson, F. G. S.)

How to return to an earnest Christian life

As long as the bright summer sun shines into the forest glades the fungus has no chance to flourish; but when the sunshine wanes, in the months of autumn, the woods are filled with these strange products of decay. It is because we drift from God that our lives are the prey to numberless and nameless ills. Make the best of all new starts, and returning to the more earnest habits of earlier days, or beginning them from now, give yourself to God, believing that He will receive and welcome you, without a word of remonstrance or a moment of interval. Form habits of morning and evening prayer; especially in the morning get time for deep communion with God, waiting at His footstool, or in the perusal of the Bible, till He speaks to you. Take up again your habits of attendance at the house of God: in the morning and the evening go with the multitude that, with the voice of praise, keeps holy-day, and in the afternoon find some niche of the Christian service, in your home or elsewhere. Then, inasmuch as you do not wish to be a slip-carriage, which, when the couplings are unfastened, runs for a little behind the express, but gets slower and slower till it comes to a stand, ask the grace of the Holy Spirit to confirm these holy desires, keeping you true to them, causing you to be steadfast, immovable, and set on maintaining life on a higher level. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

God always watching for our return

Bianconi, the introducer of the car system in Ireland, on leaving his home in Italy, found his most trying leave-taking in separating from his mother. She fainted as he left her. Her last words were words which he never forgot: “When you remember me, think” of me as waiting at this window watching for your return.” We may think of God in the same way if we have departed from Him at all. In spite of all our faults, all our sins, He is always watching for our return, for “His mercy endureth for ever.”

For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.

Our fall by sin

The sight of fallen greatness is exceedingly affecting to the mind of a thoughtful man, and excites inquiries concerning the cause or causes of it. The prophet looked on the kingdom of Israel fallen from its past strength and honour, and declares the cause of the fall to be--iniquity.

I. The fall by sin is the most grievous in human experience.

1. The fall by sin is from the highest relationships the soul can enjoy. No relationships, how distinguished and valued soever, can equal those of God, There are none so essential to the soul’s good and safety. Without holiness no true relationship with Him can be sustained.

2. The fall by sin is from life’s great purpose. Short as life is, it has a great mission to fulfil. Eternal life has to be secured. The world’s truest good has to be promoted. Sin causes a lamentable failure.

3. The fall by sin is a loss of truest power. A right life wields a great influence. No power can be compared with that of a holy character. This power is lost by sin.

4. The fall by sin is from truest content of soul. The hallowed quiet and peace depart. Painful misgivings and pangs of remorse tear the breast. The consciousness of guilt prevents the light and joy of hope.

II. This fall is the inevitable result of sin. The course of sin is the act of man’s free will. But if he choose the path he cannot escape the ruin.

1. The path of sin leads to ruin.

2. None can pursue the path of sin and escape the ruin. The individual cannot; the Church cannot; the nation cannot.

III. For this fall man himself is responsible. He falls by his own iniquity,

1. None can compel another to sin.

2. As none can compel another to sin, so none can compel his fall.

Apply--

1. Sin with such power and consequences should have our intensest hate, and should be guarded against.

2. He who is fallen should forsake his sin, and seek mercy and grace from God. God’s mercy can cover the past, and His grace can sanctify and secure the future. (Rombeth.)

Message to the remnant

So the admonition of Hosea has ended, and the note of destruction has been sounded. It only remains to look for a remnant out of the fallen nation, which by repentance and faithfulness may plead with God for their own rescue if not for the nation’s restoration. Hope, unwilling to be quenched in the pious patriarch’s breast, suggests words of returning to God, to relinquishment of human politics, and reliance on His faithfulness. To such a remnant, be it small or great, the everlasting mercy of God offers out of the jaws of ruin, as out of death and the grave, the possibility of return to Him who is not afar from every one of us. If there are any that will understand, let them not charge their Maker with folly. He has dealt justly by sinful Israel, and will deal mercifully with all men repentant. (Rowland Williams, D. D.)

God’s call to the fallen

God seems to find an argument in the very fact of our fall. He is moved with compassion at the spectacle. He sees from what a height to what a depth man has fallen.

1. The call to return implies that we had wandered away. Our fall has indeed been occasioned by our wandering. All sin originates in the apostasy of the human heart from God. Sin would never have entered human hearts, and defiled the lives of men, if man had been true to his primal relations with God. As with the race, so with the individual. Moral deterioration and corruption naturally and necessarily ensue from the apostasy of the soul from God. Evil works naturally flow from the corrupt condition. The fallen soul not only loses contact and fellowship with God, but comes under the influence of a certain feeling of aversion, and almost of antipathy, towards God which leads him to shrink from the very thought of God. The apostate man is fallen not only in position, but in character. Innocence has been forfeited instead of being developed, and sin reigns where moral beauty should be crowned. Man needs no revelation to convince him of his fall. He alone of all the animals fails to live up to his own proper ideal, and violates in many cases systematically the laws of his own nature. Fallen in position and character, he is fallen in conduct also. Then the first thing needful for the fallen and falling is to return to God. He who invites us wants us to come back to Him. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)


Verses 1-9

Verse 2

Hosea 14:2

Take with you words, and turn to the Lord.

Turning to God in prayer

This passage teaches us how we are to come back to God. “Take with you words and turn.” We are to come in prayer to God. We are to come in supplication, to come and acknowledge that we have nothing, and with an entreaty that He will furnish us with that which we require. The prophet gives us the very prayer we are to offer. That must be an acceptable prayer which God Himself has indited! Here is the sum and substance of every acceptable prayer that has ever been offered to God. Two things which this prayer presents to us--

1. It teaches in what character we are to draw nigh to God; who they are that are warranted to come to the Father of mercy and God of all grace- sinners.

2. In “Receive us graciously” we have our Saviour presented to us. It is in Him that the grace of God is manifested. In the latter part of the text and in the succeeding verse there is presented a sort of supplement to this prayer. It contains the promises of the servant, the vows which he offers to the Most High, and which he is determined to pay. The besetting evil of the Israelites was their trusting to the neighbouring heathen nations for help, and forming associations and unions with them. We too have our besetting evils. We trust to anything rather than to God in our various emergencies and distresses. We use all the means that are placed within our power to relieve us in our distresses, but we use them without reference to God. When in repentance we turn to the Lord, then in His strength we determine to abandon our sins. (Dr. Thorpe.)

Israel’s petition in time of trouble

The blessing of Ephraim was fruitfulness. And throughout this prophecy the judgments of God against Ephraim are expressed by needs, emptiness, barrenness, dryness of roots, of fruits, of branches, of springs, etc.

I. An invitation to repentance. The matter of it is conversion; which must be to the Lord, and spiritual. It must be a full, thorough, constant, continued conversion, with a whole, fixed, rooted, united, and established heart. The motives to this duty are, God’s mercies and God’s judgments.

II. The institution: how to perform it.

1. A general instruction. “Take unto you words,” which importeth the serious pondering and choosing of requests to put up to God. He expects there should be preparation in our accesses to Him. Preparation of our persons; by purity of life. Preparation of our services; by choice of matter. Preparation of our hearts; by finding them out, and stirring them up. We must attend unto His will, as the rule of our prayers. Unto His precepts and promises, as the matter of our prayers. Unto the guidance of His Holy Spirit, as the life and principle of our prayers. There is a kind of omnipotency in prayer, as having an interest and prevalence with God’s omnipotency.

2. A particular form. A prayer for two benefits: the removal of sin, the conferring of good. A promise of two things. Thanksgiving, and a special care for the amendment of their lives. Observe especially the ground of their confidence so to pray, and of their resolutions so to promise. “Because in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy. (Edward Reynolds.)

Israel exhorted to return unto the Lord

I. An awful fact stated. “Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” Israel had--

1. Fallen from their allegiance to God.

2. Fallen from His worship.

3. Fallen from the enjoyment of His favour.

II. An affectionate exhortation urged. “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God.” Observe--

1. The persons addressed. “Israel.”

2. The nature of the address. “Return.”

3. The object to whom they were to return. “The Lord thy God.”

III. Instructive direction administered. “Take with you words.” Words of sincerity. Appropriate words. Words of humble confession. Words of petition. “Take away all iniquity”--

1. From our affections, that we may no longer love it.

2. From our consciences, that we may no longer labour under the burden of it.

3. From our lives, that it may no longer have dominion over us.

4. From our hearts, that we may be dead to it. “Receive us graciously.” Receive our prayers. Receive our persons. Receive us into Thy favour.

IV. Returns of gratitude expressed. “Render calves of our lips.”

1. Gratitude is a debt which all owe to, God.

2. Gratitude is a debt which gracious souls are ready to pay. Learn--

The need for expression is words

What need God words? He knows our hearts before we speak unto Him. God needs no words, but we do, to stir up our hearts and our affections. Our words must not be empty, but such as are joined with a purpose of turning to God. To turn to Him with a purpose to live in any sin is the extremity of profane impudence. The petition is, “Take away all iniquity.” Because where there is any true good ness in the heart, that hatred which carries the bent of the soul against one sin is alike against all. Because the heart which desires to be at peace with God desires also to be like God, who hates all sin. “Take away all” sin; both the guilt and the reign of every sin, that none may rule in me. Forgive the sin, and overcome the power of it by sanctifying grace, and remit the judgments attending it. They pray for the taking away of their iniquity; for take away this and all other mercies follow after; because this alone stops the current of God’s favours, which removed, the current of His mercies run amain. Many say, How shall I know whether or no my sins are forgiven? You may know by something that goes before, and by something which follows after. Before, a humble and hearty confession. After, when a man finds strength against it; for where God forgives He gives strength withal. Another evidence is some peace of conscience, though not much perhaps, yet so much as supports us from despair. Again, where sin is pardoned our hearts will be much enlarged with love to God. And forgiveness frames the soul suitably to be gentle and merciful, and to pardon others. Therefore let us labour for the forgiveness of our sins, that God would remove and subdue the power of them, take them away, and the judgments due to them, or else we are but miserable, though we enjoyed all the pleasures of the world. “Receive us graciously, and do good to us.” So it is in the original. All the goodness we have from God, it is out of His grace. God’s mercy to His children is complete and full. God not only takes away ill, but He doth good. We cannot honour God more than by making use of His mercy in the forgiveness of sins; and of His goodness, in going to Him for it. The prayer is an acknowledgment of our own emptiness. The best that we can bring to thee is emptiness, therefore do Thou do good to us, fill us with Thy fulness. Do good to us every way. “So shall we render the calves of our lips.” Here is the re-stipulation or promise. They return back to God. There should be a rendering according to the receiving. This promise of praise is a kind of vow. “So will we render.” To bind one’s self is a kind of vow. The Church therefore binds herself that she may bind God. It is good thus to vow, if it were but to excite and quicken our dulness and forgetfulness of our general vow; to put us in mind of our duty, the more to oblige us to God, and refresh our memories. The “calves of our lips” implies not only thankfulness to God, but glorifying of God, in setting out His praise. In glorifying there are two things, a supposition of excellency, and the manifestation of this glory. The yielding of praise to God is a wondrous acceptable sacrifice. Besides this “the calves of our lips” carries us to work. The oral thanksgiving must be justified by our works and deeds; or else our actions will give our tongue the lie. Why doth the prophet especially mention lips, or words? Because--

1. Christ, who is the Word, delights in our words.

2. Because our tongue is our glory, and that by which we glorify God.

3. Our tongue is that which excites others. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

A form of prayer for backsliders

It pleased the Lord to draw up for them a form of prayer, which He puts into their mouths, and with which He sends them, that they might present themselves before Him at His throne and mercy-seat, and there repeat it.

I. The connection of these words with the former, Israel is fallen by her iniquity. -What is requisite in this case? Most assuredly, a return to the Lord. But Israel might say, “I know not how to return.” To prevent despairing thoughts the Lord gives suitable words for those who would return but hardly know how to do so. The words are cogent and most particular, and exactly suited unto and expressive of the grace which those persons stood in need of.

II. Open and explain the expressions made use of in this prayer. They contain for substance the whole grace and gracious design of the everlasting Gospel. If all iniquity were not taken away there could be no expectation of being received graciously, therefore the order, propriety, and connection of these words, with the vast subject and importance of them.

III. The suitableness of them to such as are in a state of backsliding, or are on the verge of the same. There is a continual change, a flux and reflux, in the frames, temper, cases, and feelings of the people of God. None are safe, one single moment, but as they are kept by the power of God.

IV. The most grateful acknowledgments of these suppliants. “We will render the calves of our lips.” When the Lord is pleased to overcome our minds by the manifestations of His pardoning mercy, we cannot but open our mouth, and with our lips shew forth His glorious praise. (Samuel Eyles Pierce.)

The prophet’s call to repentance

We are furnished in this chapter with a most vivid picture of God’s unchangeable love towards His people. No sooner are the children of Israel brought to a sense of their helpless wretchedness, and led to betake themselves to the footstool of their God, to ask for pardon and mercy, than they obtain grace, and find help in the time of need. They no sooner assay to go to Him than He anticipates them; binds up their broken hearts, pours the balm of consolation into their wounded spirits.

I. The prophet’s call to repentance. This is pathetic to a degree. “O Israel!” What boundless instances of unspeakable love does this single expression imply! “In Me is thy help.” Return, only return, and it shall be well with you again. You must have learnt, long ere this, the hopelessness of the prodigal, without a father’s love and protecting care. But let that return be a sincere, earnest, and permanent return. Let it be a truthful and spiritual return. Only genuine repentance can do us any effectual good. The wording of the call suggests that the prophet’s appeal is dictated by mercy and judgment, Mercy. “Return unto the Lord thy God.” Jehovah is still thy God, and not yet thy Judge, still gracious and merciful, long-suffering, of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. It is by the attribute of mercy that God first appeals to His covenant people to return to Him. What a glorious motive for repentance! The Lord Jehovah is still ready and willing to be your God, in order to smooth the way for your return to Him. Judgment. “For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity,” and art therefore amenable to the just punishment which is the portion of all those who transgress God’s law. If mercies do not work upon your love, let judgment work upon your fear.

II. The nature of genuine repentance. “Take with you words,” etc. The penitent is not left., to frame words according to his own fancy or imagination, but the Holy Sprat actually puts words into the sinner’s mouth. We must also be prepared personally, we must endeavour to begin a pure and holy life. It was for lack of a personal preparation that Israel’s prayer was rejected. It is also necessary to endeavour to be possessed of such a state of mind as to entitle the suppliant to the benefits of paternal compassion. We need preparation of the heart. This fourfold preparation must be obtained from Him alone who is almighty. Of ourselves we can do nothing. From the simple expression, “Take with you words,” we learn--

1. That God’s will must be our rule in prayer, for it is under such circumstances only that we need expect our supplications to be accepted.

2. That God’s precepts and promises must be the subject-matter of our prayer. We are too short-sighted to know what is good for us, or what God in His inscrutable dispensations has appointed for us.

3. That the help of the Holy Spirit must be the life and principle of our prayer. The Spirit who now abides with us must be our teacher in all things, and bring all things to our remembrance. He will teach us what is the will of God. Observe now the “sound form” dictated for the use of the penitents, when really and truly returning unto the Lord their God. “Take away all iniquity,” etc. In this passage there is a petition and a promise. The petition is subdivided into two distinct requests, an entreaty for the pardon of sin, and a solicitation for granting unmerited favours. The promise consists of thanksgiving. “So will we render the calves of our lips”; and of amendment of life. “Asshur shall not save us,” etc. The text concludes with a reason for the petition and promise. “For in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” Note that repentance cannot exist without thanksgiving, nor can sincere thanksgiving be found in an individual not truly penitent. “Asshur shall not save us,” means, we give up all human succour. Genuine repentance takes the heart from all carnal confidence. Many are the gods and lords which the unconverted create for themselves. Men of power deify strength. Men of wisdom deify knowledge and prudence. Men of morality and virtue deify their good works. (Moses Margoliouth.)

How to return to God

God not only invites us to return, but He tells us how to do it. He puts the very words in our mouth. The first act of the awakened is usually an act of prayer. The very act of expressing our need has a tendency both to bring about clearer views of what it is that we need, and to intensify our desire. A true conversion involves, above everything else, personal transactions between the penitent, on the one hand, and his wronged and injured God on the other. Now the very act of prayer tends to bring to the front and impress upon our consciousness this personal aspect of the case. It is, however, of the utmost importance that the awakened soul should abstain from anything that might be called making a prayer. I would to God that men were more simple and definite in their prayers. God knows our needs before we utter them. But do we know them? Indefinite notions as to what we require at the hands of God must paralyse our faith and rob our approach of all reality. Notice the urgency of the prayer which God’s love puts into the mouth of the penitent. It is also the expression of a distinct change in our moral attitude towards God. It seems asking a great deal to say, “Take away all iniquity.” Can it all be taken away? (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

Israel exhorted to return unto the Lord

I. An awful fact stated. “Thou hast fallen,” etc. The term “fall” is used literally, when we speak of a body descending from a higher to a lower situation. When the fall of angels or of men is mentioned, we understand the term figuratively. Thus Israel had--

1. Fallen from their allegiance to God.

2. Fallen from His worship.

3. Fallen from the enjoyment of His favour.

II. An affectionate exhortation urged. “Return unto the Lord.” Observe--

1. The persons addressed. “Israel.” No reproachful name is used.

2. The nature of the address. “Return.” This implies previous wandering.

3. To whom they were to return. “The Lord thy God.”

III. Instructive direction administered. “Take with you words.” Not bullocks or sacrifices. Words of sincerity. Appropriate words. Words of confession. Words of petition. They were to pray for the removal of iniquity.

1. Take it away from our affections, that we may no longer love it.

2. From our consciences, that we may no longer labour under the burden of it.

3. From our lives, that it may not have dominion over us.

4. “From our hearts, that we may be dead to it.” Receive our prayers graciously. Receive our persons graciously.

IV. Returns of gratitude expressed. “So will we render the calves of our lips.” (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

The iniquity of the people

The Gospel itself has gone no further than the elements which constitute this closing chapter. The nation is addressed in its unity. “Return unto the Lord.” Come back; do not any longer pursue the way of folly and the path of darkness; turn round; be converted, be healed, come home. That is an evangelical cry, that is the very passion and the very meaning of the Cross of Christ. “For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” Man is not called to come down, but to come up. Thou hast fallen fiat upon the earth. This is a call from a fall. The fall is not to be argued into a man; the fall is an experience which must be confirmed by the consciousness of the heart itself. The experience of the heart about this matter of the fall is a varied, conflicting, tumultuous experience. “Take with you words.” When men are in earnest their words are themselves. Leave all ritualism, and take with you yourselves speech of the heart, prayer of the soul, cry of the felt necessity. “Take away all iniquity.” Here is confession, “Receive us graciously.” Here is petition. “So will we render the calves of our lips.” Our sacrifice shall be a living sacrifice. But can Israel so pray and so promise, and then repeat yesterday as if nothing had occurred in the night-time of penitence? Israel must be complete in confession, and complete in renunciation. A man must at some point say good-bye to his ruined self. If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Now we come upon words never excelled by John or by Paul for sweep of thought and tenderness of pathos. “I will love them freely,” literally, “I am impelled to love them.” When God sees the returning prodigal, He sees more than the sin--He sees the sinner within the man, the man within the sinner, the God within the man. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

The penitent returning to God

Not only is the obligation to repent universal, the main features of real repentance are invariably the same. It is the like corruption of heart and practice over which the contrite sinner of every age and country has to mourn; it is the same mercy-seat he has to approach; it is the same God to whom he has to be reconciled.

I. As to the general circumstances of mankind. The expression, “Thou hast fallen,” applies primarily and directly to the case of the Jews. They had fallen in every sense of the word. Their vices had been their ruin; their city was destroyed, their temple consumed, and they themselves were captives in a strange land. The work of devastation had reached their minds as well as their bodies. Many of them clung still to their sins and idolatries. Consider, more generally--

1. The state of degradation to which man has fallen. How often have we, in contemplating our own hearts, or the conduct of others, to blush for the creature who was originally formed in the image of his God.

2. The state of corruption and depravity into which human nature has fallen. It is quite possible to overstate the limits of this corruption. But we may say that spiritual qualities are absolutely extinct in the unconverted mind.

3. The state of suffering to which we have fallen. Some compare the world to a vast hospital, and others to a huge prison.

4. The state of danger and condemnation to which we are fallen. Look at the strong bias of the heart to evil--at the snares of the world, and the temptations of the devil.

II. The duty of man under such circumstances. Our Heavenly Father has been pleased to give us, in our guilty and lost circumstances, certain express directions for returning to the God from whom we have fallen. In our text the injunction is--

1. That we should “turn to the Lord.” With the help of the Spirit, and by a strong effort on your own part, you should set your face heavenwards.

2. “Take with you words, and say unto God, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.” Feel that your first business and object, in the presence of the Lord, is to seek by earnest and devout supplication, a release from guilt, and wrath, and punishment. This release and pardon you are to seek, not on the ground of any merits of your own, but from the free and unmerited love of God.

3. You are to say unto God, “We will render the calves of our lips.” Or as the apostle puts it, “The fruit of our lips giving praise to Him.” The feelings of heartfelt gratitude and praise are to accompany prayer.

4. We are to renounce all dependence upon and all allegiance to other masters. Our sincerity will be testified by an abandonment of the paths of sin. A change in the direction of our affections and our services will uniformly follow real conversion.

III. The encouragement suggested by the text for thus turning to god. It is stated in those simple but beautiful words, “For in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” Apply to the despondent; to the believer; to the contrite sinner. (J. W. Cunningham.)

An exhortation to repentance

I. These verses in their primary reference to israel.

1. The prophet calls upon the people to return unto the Lord their God. He was their God in an especial manner. He had never been wanting to them while they owned and served Him as the Lord their God. He directs them in what manner and with what spirit they should return. They were to take with them words, and make their petition to this effect, that God would be pleased to “take away all iniquity.” To take away the guilt of it, and grant them His gracious pardon: to take away the power of it, and grant them His effectual grace to resist and subdue it. They were to pray that God would receive them graciously, graciously implying that merit was not to be pleaded in any degree by the petitioners. They were to promise the tribute of their lips, grateful language flowing from a grateful heart. In returning to the Lord the people were further to express their renunciation of all former and false confidences. And they were frankly to acknowledge that Jehovah alone was the effectual succour of the helpless and destitute.

II. Consider these verses as of more general extent in their application. Kingdoms and nations may “fall by their iniquity.”

1. There is a cad to wandering sinners to return unto the Lord their God. A door of hope is left open for them.

2. God uses inducements. He assures the sinner that he has “fallen by his iniquity.” Every sinner is fallen from that state of happiness and holiness in which God originally created man.

3. You are to take words and pray. The removal of sin must take place in order to our restoration. If the guilt of it is not taken away by pardoning grace, the wrath of God must abide on us. If the power of it is not broken, and the love of it subdued in the soul, it must exclude us from the holy and happy society of God and glorified spirits above.

4. You are to entreat that God would “receive you graciously”: take you into His favour, and admit you into His family.

5. Such surprising grace will demand the most fervent affections of your hearts, and the most devoted and obedient submission of your lives.

6. You are to approach the throne of grace with a solemn and deliberate disavowal of all forbidden dependencies, and an acknowledgment that the God of grace is the only helper of helpless sinners. Glorify God by acknowledging the freeness and fulness of His grace, and by accepting the blessed and complete deliverance offered to you in the Gospel. (S. Knight, M. A.)

Total repentance

The prophet entreats them not only to turn back, and look toward the Lord with a partial and imperfect repentance, but not to leave off till they were come quite home to Him by a total and sincere repentance and amendment. He bids them return quite to Himself, the unchangeable God and their God. “Great is repentance,” is a Jewish saying, “which maketh men to reach quite up to the throne of glory.” (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Repentance or reformation

I. Its nature and method indicated.

1. Its nature. “O Israel, return unto the Lord your God.” The description contained in the first and third verses of this reformation implies three things--

2. Its method. “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord.” Why take words to God?

(a) His forgiveness. “Take away all sin.”

(b) His acceptance. “Receive us graciously.”

II. Its cause and blessedness specified.

1. Its cause--God. “I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely. I will be as the dew.” I will act upon the soul silently, penetratingly, revivifyingly--“as the dew.” All true reformation brings with it God’s silent but effective agency.

2. Its blessedness.

(a) The growth is connected with beauty. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like it.

(b) Its growth is connected with strength. “Cast forth his roots as Lebanon.”

(c) Its growth is connected with expansiveness. “His branches shall spread.” How a Divinely formed soul expands. Its sympathies become world wide.

(d) Its growth is connected with fragrance. “His beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.” How delectable the fragrance of a holy life!

(e) Its growth is connected with social usefulness. It shall offer protection to men. “They that dwell under his shadow shall return.” Not only protection, but beneficent progress: “They shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine.” (Homilist.)

So will we render the calves of our lips.

By “taking with us words,” in speech or in sacred song, we can render to God the calves, i.e., the sacrifice of our lips. There is--

I. A sacrifice of silence. It is a great thing to know how to serve our Lord and our neighbour by keeping our lips closed. To be silent when we are tempted to speak, but when the closed mouth is wiser and kinder than the uttered word.

II. The sacrifice of truthfulness. We are bound to truthfulness by the express commandment of God, and by the claims of our fellow-men. We render this sacrifice, not merely by refusing to stoop to downright, deliberate falsehood, but by avoiding the utterance which is fitted to convey a false impression; by avoiding the evil and pernicious habit of exaggeration and caricature. Others should be able to trust our word absolutely.

III. The sacrifice of praise. We can hardly conceive of Divine service without the element of praise, and this is the best and truest Christian form of the sacrifice of the lips. Unitedly, intelligently, heartily, spiritually should we render this most pleasant, most acceptable sacrifice.

IV. The sacrifice of prayer. By utterance of our thought we help ourselves to pray; for expression kindles, sustains, directs devotion. And by uttering our thought we help others to pray.

V. The sacrifice of humility and confession. Humility is the gateway that opens into the kingdom of Christ. When with deep and true penitence of spirit we take with us words, we offer an acceptable sacrifice, and “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

VI. The sacrifice of helpfulness. By the timely, thoughtful, helpful word, we may render service to man and sacrifice to God.

1. The word of warning.

2. The word of comfort.

3. The word of encouragement.

4. The word of challenge. Thus by timely and helpful words shall we “render the calves of our lips.” (Sunday in Church.)

A living sacrifice

Our sacrifice shall be a living sacrifice; we have nothing to slay; we will live unto the Lord. The “lips” here stand for life; the “calves” must be regarded as representing symbolically the old sacrifice in a new form,--not the unintelligent and irresponsive calves of the meadow, but the calves of our lips, the living sacrifice, the personal offering. What a prayer, thus modelled and outlined! Here is confession, here is hope, here is poetry, here is consecration, here is communion with God: yet is there no bargain-making. Man is not inviting God to enter into a covenant in which there shall be so much for so much. Forgive us, and we will obey. Pardon us, and reckon then upon our worship;--the worship does not come as payment, but as a necessity of nature; it will be the utterance of gratitude; it represents the irrepressible music of spiritual thanksgiving. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)


Verses 2-9

Verse 3

Hosea 14:3

Asshur shall not save us.

Giving up our vain confidences

It is a great point of wisdom to take advantages with the stream of our temper to praise God. It is one branch of redeeming the time, to observe what state and temper of soul we are in, and to take advantage from thence. Add some encouragements to incite us to praise God. We honor God by it. It is a gainful trading with God. It is a most noble act of religion. We have more cause to praise God than to pray; having many things to praise Him for, which we never prayed for. Praise being a larger sacrifice than prayer, we ought to be abundant in it. If we be much in praising God, we shall be much in joy, which easeth misery. How shall we know that God accepts these sacrifices of praise? Under the old law God witnessed by fire from heaven. If we find our hearts warmed, cheered, and encouraged with joy, peace, and comfort in praising God, this is as it were a witness by fire from heaven, that our sacrifices are accepted. Here is also a promise of new obedience, which hath two branches.

1. A renunciation of the ill courses they took before. “Asshur shall not save us.” The people of God, in any distress, had recourse for help to the Assyrians or the Egyptians, as if God had not been sufficient to be their rock and shield.

Learn--

1. That man naturally is prone to put confidence in the creature.

2. That the creature is insufficient and unable to yield us this prop to uphold our confidence.

3. That God’s people when they are endowed with light supernatural, to discern and be convinced hereof, are of that mind to say, “Asshur shall not save us.” As a preparative for the treatment of these points, notice that reformation of life must be joined with prayer and praise; and that true repentance is of the particular sin which we are most addicted to and most guilty of. The particular sin of this people was their confidence in Assyria, horses, and idols. Naturally we are apt and prone to confidence in outward helps and present things. Because having lost communion with God, somewhat we must have to stay the soul. Because Satan joins with our sense and fancy, by which we are naturally prone to live, esteeming of things not by faith and by deeper grounds, but by fancy. These outward things cannot help us, and so are not to be relied on. “Asshur shall not save us.” He is but a creature. He is an enemy. He is an idolater. “A horse is a vain thing for safety.” When God alters and changes and moulds anew the heart of a man to repentance, He altereth his confidence in the creature. “In Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” When a man hath once repented, there is a closing between God and him, and he seeth an all-sufficiency in God to satisfy all his desires. Therefore he will use all other things as helps, and as far as it may stand with His favour. How shall we know whether we exceed in confidence in the creature, or not? We may know it by adventuring on ill courses and causes. When there is such confidence in the creature, as for us to outdare God, then there is too much trust in the creature; and that trust will end in confusion. By security and resting the soul in meaner things; never seeking to Divine and religious helps, when we are supplied with those that are outward. Let us take heed of carnal confidence. All is but vanity. Things do not yield that which we expect they should yield. There is a falsehood in the things; they promise this and that in shows, but when we possess them they yield it not; as they have no strength in deed, so they deceive. Then there is mutability in them. And they are snares and baits to us, to draw us away from God, by reason of the vanity of our nature. Let this be the end of all, touching this carnal confidence, to beware that we do not fasten our affections too much upon any earthly thing, at home or abroad, within or without ourselves: for “God will destroy the wisdom of the wise.” Let us use all outward helps, yet so as to rely upon God for His blessing in the use of all. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Penitence

We have here the true portrait of real penitents.

1. Here is a renunciation of all help and succour in all creatures, and all dependence for salvation on anything inherent. It is good to observe here that we have all the initials of true Gospel sorrow and godly grief for sin, with all contained in that repentance which is unto, and belongs unto, everlasting life. Turning to the Lord; acknowledging our case; deploring our sinfulness; praying for the Lord’s gracious acceptation of us, a declaration of our future acknowledgment of these gratuitous acts of the Lord towards us; and then a full renunciation of ourselves, with the sole ascription to the free grace of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; this involves and includes all contained in godly sorrow for sin. It was one of the national sins of Israel to trust in the Assyrians for help and succour, when in trouble and distress they looked to them. So “Asshur shall not save us,” means, we will no longer seek relief in human means. It is a very important effect of our truly turning to the Lord to renounce ourselves wholly and altogether.

2. A declaration of having no more to do with any works of their hands. The terms used are very expressive of the rejection of idols and idolatrous worship.

3. The reason which is assigned for this. “In Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” Mercy is in the Lord. It is inherent in Him. It is a perfection of His glorious nature. In the display and manifestation of it He takes delight. (Samuel Eyles Pierce.)

For in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.

God merciful to the fatherless

And it is well that they do find mercy there, for very often they find little mercy among men. The text contains a statement of facts with reference to former dispensations, and a promise of blessing in the future.

I. THE VALUABLE BLESSING HERE BESTOWED--MERCY. Not riches, not honour. Mercy is the Divine perfection, by which God is inclined to pity and succour such as are in distress. It relates only to the miserable; there can be no manifestation of mercy without misery. But though misery was in the world and mercy was the character of God, there existed a strong impediment to the exercise of that mercy. That impediment was justice. That justice has been satisfied. God can be a God of mercy through the merits of His own Son. Why should this blessing of mercy be singled out as given to orphans?

1. It is a comprehensive blessing. It pardons all sin. It prevents evil. It supports in danger. It supplies all wants. It guides in doubt. It heals all diseases. It sustains in death. It comforts in sorrow. It delivers in difficulty. It saves the soul. You cannot think of mercy without thinking of a train of mercies following it.

2. It sweetens all other blessings. Health, property, social comfort, the fireside, are mercies, but to have all these sweetened by the mercy of God, flowing from Him through Christ,--that gives sweetness to all other mercies. Mercy sweetens even the Divine attributes. Mercy sweetens every affliction. Mercy paints a rainbow on the darkest clouds of affliction and distress. There is mercy put into every cup, and this makes it ever delightful to the sinking spirits. Mercy prepares individuals for contentment in every situation.

3. It is a fruitful blessing. What clusters of fruit gather on the tree of mercy! The first-fruit will be an humbled spirit. It will break down the pride of the heart. So sure as mercy is manifested to the soul, the soul will love in return. It creates a spirit of thank fulness.

4. It is an enduring mercy. One psalm is entirely devoted to this blessing (Psalms 136:1-26.). What a comfort it is that amid all the changing things of time there is one thing that “endureth.”

II. The encouragement presented in the character of God.

1. It is part of God’s character to be merciful.

2. What assurances there are that we shall find mercy if we seek it.

3. See that orphans especially are required, and even entreated, to have this mercy.

Seeing what a choice blessing this mercy must be, both to spiritual orphans and to those who are literally so, let us all seek to possess it. But remember that nothing provokes the Divine anger so much as abusing His mercy, or slighting His love. (James Sherman.)

The Church as fatherless

1. It is the Church’s lot to be very desolate and orphan-like in the world.

2. God’s compassion and the sweet manifestation thereof are especially reserved for His people’s low condition and their greatest need.

3. The confidence of God’s respect to His humble people, would be cherished by the needy and penitent, to encourage them to come to Him and call upon Him.

4. Such as do apprehend and believe the mercy of God toward His needy people will renounce all carnal and sinful confidences. (George Hutcheson.)

The fatherless finding mercy in God

I. The distressed case here supposed. The word “fatherless” is sometimes used in its natural sense; and sometimes in a figurative sense, for afflicted and destitute persons in general. Our text supposeth that the case of orphans is truly pitiable, and that, above all others, they stand in need of assistance and mercy from God.

II. God’s kind regard to the fatherless.

1. God has commanded others not to injure, but to assist them. He made provision in the law of Moses that they should not be wronged.

2. He hath expressly declared Himself their friend and guardian. He is their reliever, helper, judge, redeemer, and father.

3. He hath in the course of His providence often shown mercy to them. In cases of families deprived of their heads, we have known how remarkably providence has taken care of them and raised them up friends.

Application.

1. How amiable a view doth this give us of the blessed God, and of His wonderful condescension.

2. Let us imitate God in showing mercy to the fatherless.

3. Let parents take encouragement to commit their children to the care of God.

4. Let the fatherless and orphans seek mercy from God, and humbly commit themselves to Him. (J. Orten.)


Verse 4

Hosea 14:4

I will heal their backsliding.

The awful stale of backsliders

In the history of the Israelites there is no feature more striking than their frequent rebellions and backslidings. It is amazing to think that a nation which had witnessed such signal interposition of the Divine power in their behalf could be found backsliding to such a degree. Oh, the unfathomable depths of Divine compassion! God has mercy to heal the backslidings of His people.

I. The case of the backslider. It is the most awful to be found within the pale of the professing Christian Church. There is a wide difference between his case and that of the unawakened and unconverted sinner. For a man to become an apostate; to relapse into deliberate sin; with all his light, knowledge, and advantages, to sin openly and wilfully,--what ingratitude is implied in this, what treachery and baseness! The most awful condition on this side hell is that of him whose once awakened conscience is now seared as with a hot iron; whose once melted heart is turned into worse than its original flintiness; whose once enlightened mind is given over to judicial blindness. Yet even such a case is not beyond the reach of Divine compassion. To human eyes it is indeed incurable. It is a cancer which spreads its fibres through the entire system, the disease which mocks at human cures. But God says, “I will heal their backsliding.”

II. The means God employs in healing the backslider. He is not limited in the selection or use of means; but He acts, generally speaking, by bringing the backslider into the wilderness of affliction, and by turning the idol which seduced him away from his God, into his scourge. It may be the idol of sensual pleasure, of fame, or of gold. By and by he will awaken to a full sense of his danger and misery. His God forsaken, his Saviour betrayed, his hopes of heaven blasted! He let go the substance to grasp at the shadow. The idol which led him from God has become his curse. As he journeys on in this wilderness, in despair and wretchedness, thinking he has turned his back for ever on happiness and peace, then it is that a new and unexpected prospect bursts upon his sight! An unthought of opening presents itself. Through the long vista he catches a glimpse of a bright and glorious expanse. God gives him his vineyards from these. “The valley of Achor becomes a door of hope.” God brings the backslider to himself by another route than he ever thought of. Let us remember, for our own warning and heart-searching, that there may be many a backslider in heart, where there is no open and manifest defection from the ways of godliness. (Denis Kelly, B. A.)

The Lord’s healing

Their alienation was not only offensive to God, it was also hurtful to themselves. It had brought spiritual malady upon them. Jehovah assumes the function of healer, and He expects what He promises. The God whom they had offended does not suffer them to perish, nor spurn them away as loathsome; but He revives and quickens them. The gangrene disappears, and they return to soundness and health, with the assured prospect of coming at length to the fulness of the stature of perfect men. (John Eadie, D. D. , LL. D.)

Blacksliding healed

In this verse is set down an answer to that prayer, repentance, and reformation which the Church made. Where God doth give a spirit of prayer, He will answer. God answers exactly unto all that is prayed for, beginning first with the ground of all comfort, the forgiveness of sins. Backsliding is an aggravation of sin. Sins rank thus--

1. Sins of ignorance.

2. Sins of infirmity.

3. Sins against knowledge.

4. Sins against the Holy Ghost.

In that God’s promise is “I will heal,” observe that sin is a wound and a disease. Sin, as disease, arises either from ourselves, as we have a seminary of them in our own hearts; or from the infection and contagion of others; or from Satan, who hath society with our spirits. In regard to its effects, sin is like a disease. Diseases neglected breed death; they become incurable. This is the end of sin, either to end in a good despair, or in a fruitless, barren despair. How may we know that we are sick of this sickness and disease of sin? If the soul be inflamed with revenge and anger, that soul is certainly diseased: the temper of the soul is according to the passions thereof. If a man cannot relish good diet, then we count him a sick man; so when a man cannot relish holy discourse, nor the ordinances of God. A man may know there is a deadly sickness upon the soul, when he is senseless of his wounds; and senseless of that which passeth from them. A man is desperately soul-sick when oaths, lies, and deceitful speeches pass from him, and yet he is senseless of them. Let us know and consider, that no man who lives in sins unrepented of and uncured is to be envied, be he never so great. Let there be no dallying with sin. God is the great physician of the soul. Healing implies taking away--

1. The guilt of sin, which is the venom of it, by justification.

2. The rage of sin, which is the spreading of it, by sanctification.

3. The removing of the judgment upon our estate.

Sense of pardon only comes after sight, sense, weariness, and confession of sin. Let us remember this, lest we deceive our souls. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Backsliding

This word imports a departing or a turning away again from God. It is quite contrary, in the formal nature of it, to faith and repentance, and implies that which the apostle calls a “repenting of repentance.” For a man, having approved of God’s ways, and entered into covenant with Him, after this to go from his word, and fling up his bargain, and start aside like a deceitful bow; of all other dispositions of the soul, this is one of the worst; to deal with our sins as Israel did with their servants, dismiss them and then take them again (Jeremiah 34:10-11). It is the sad fruit of an evil and unbelieving heart. Yet God says, “I will heal their backslidings.” To understand this aright, we are to know that there is a twofold apostasy.

1. An apostasy arising out of impotency of affection and prevalency of lust, drawing the heart to look toward the old pleasures thereof again: it is a recidivation or relapse into a former sinful condition out of forgetfulness and falseness of heart, for want of the fear of God to balance the conscience and to fix and unite the heart to Him. Though exceedingly dangerous, yet God is sometimes pleased to forgive and to heal this disease.

2. An apostasy which is proud and malicious, when, after they “have tasted the good Word of God,” men set themselves to hate, oppose, and persecute godliness, to do “despite unto the Spirit of grace,” to fling off the holy strictness of Christ’s yoke. Observe

I will love them freely.

God’s promise of forgiveness

We observe God’s acknowledgment or consideration of all the three points embraced in the supplication of the truly penitent. God healeth in four different ways, and each mode embraces all the others.

1. By a gracious pardon.

2. By a spiritual and effectual reformation, by enabling, us to walk in newness of life, by making us holy, even as He is holy.

3. By removing judgments which sin brought upon the sufferer, whether nationally or individually.

4. By comforting. This mode of restoring health to the soul is one of Christ’s principal works. The Lord is very minute and distinct in marking every article in the penitent’s prayer. Ephraim not only besought mercy to have all his iniquity taken away, but also that He who took away all sin, should, at the same time, receive good gifts in his behalf. Jehovah, accordingly, does not only promise, “I will heal their backsliding,” but proceeds to say moreover, “I will love them freely.” This is the fundamental principle of Gospel truth. Ephraim gave a reason for his entire dependence, henceforth and for ever, upon the Lord, which was, “For in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” We can do nothing on our part to obtain the mercy vouchsafed unto us; for God said, “I will love them freely.” It is out of man’s power to deserve God’s love. Another consideration must be borne in mind, not to incur God’s wrath again. (Moses Margoliouth, B. A.)

The free grace of God

Here the heart of our Heavenly Father is opened to us in the declarations of His free, royal, and incomprehensible mercy. This as far surpasses our sins and sinfulness as His self-existent Godhead does our creature capacities.

1. The Lord’s free grace in healing the backsliding of His people.

2. The manner in which this is made known to them.

3. The way and means by which they receive the inward sense and benefit thereof. (Samuel Eyles Pierce.)

Loving freely

St. Austin says, “Those that are to petition great persons, they will obtain some who are skilful to frame their petitions; lest by their unskilfulness they provoke anger, instead of carrying away the benefit desired.” So it is here with God’s people, being to deal with the great God, and not being able to frame their own petitions. God answers them graciously with the same mercies which He had suggested them to ask. His answer is full, “I will love them freely.” This He does because--

1. It is His name and nature to be gracious.

2. No creature can deserve anything at God’s hands.

God did not then begin to love them, when He said, I will love them freely, but to discover that love which He carried unto them from all eternity. Whatsoever is in God (manifested in time) is eternal and everlasting in Him, without beginning or ending; for whatsoever is in God, is God. His love, discovered in time, must needs be from all eternity. This free love and favour of God is the cause of all other mercies and free favours, whereby He discovereth His love unto us.

1. It is the cause of election.

2. Of vocation.

3. Of forgiveness of sins.

4. Of the grace of love.

5. Of justification, sanctification, etc.

6. Of eternal life.

If we would have God to manifest His free love to us, let us strive to be obedient to His commandments, and stir up our hearts by all means to love Him, who hath so freely loved us. The reason for the discovery of this love is thus given. “For Mine anger is turned away from him.” There is anger in God against sin: because there is an antipathy between Him and sin. God’s anger is the special thing in afflictions. Judgments are called God’s anger. God will turn away His anger upon repentance. It is His nature to do so. Learn to observe God’s truth in the performance of His gracious promises. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Loving freely

The word means, impelled thereto by himself alone, and so (as used of God), moved by His own essential bountifulness, the exceeding greatness of His goodness. God loves us freely in loving us against our deserts, because He is love. He loves us freely, in that He became man, and having become man freely shed His blood for the remission of our sins, freely forgave our sins. He loves us freely, in giving us grace, according to the good pleasure of His will, to become pleasing to Him, and causing all good in us; He loves us freely in rewarding infinitely the cod which we have from Him. “More manifestly here speaketh the person of tee Saviour Himself, promising His own coming to the salvation of penitents, with sweetly sounding promise, with sweetness full of grace.” (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

The promises of God for the comfort and encouragement of the penitent

I. I will heal their backslidings. Sin is the malady, of the soul. Here is the assurance that it shall not be fatal. Healing denotes recovery from the disease. The condemnation shall be removed, and the dominion of sin subdued.

II. I will love them freely. Which implies conferring upon them everything good and desirable.

III. I will be as the dew. God will visit the souls of His penitent people with His refreshing grace and sanctifying Spirit. In consequence they shall flourish and increase in know ledge and goodness, adorning their religious profession, and appearing before the world in the beauty of holiness.

1. Dew refreshes the face of nature.

2. Dew makes the ground fruitful.

The soul shall become as a fair and fragrant garden, as a comely and flourishing plantation.

IV. He shall grow as the lily, etc. All the excellences of the vegetable world are here collected to express the effects produced by the dew of God’s grace on the penitent’s soul; beauty, fragrancy, vigour (or strength), and fertility. The salutary influence of God’s blessings should reach surrounding nations. (S. Knight, M. A.)

Privileges of the pardoned soul

Were it not then the wisest course to begin with making our peace, and then we may soon lead a happy life? It is said, he that gets out of debt grows rich; most sure it is, that the pardoned soul cannot be poor; for as soon as the peace is concluded, a free trade is opened between God, and the soul. If once pardoned, we may then sail to any port that lies in God s dominions, and be welcome; where all the promises stand open with their treasure, and say: Here, poor soul, take full lading in of all precious things, even as much as thy faith can bear and carry away. (J. Spencer.)

Love for the unlovely

The greatest sins do most and best set off the freeness and the riches of God’s grace; there is nothing that makes heaven and earth to ring and sound out His praise so much as the fixing of His love upon those who are most unlovely and uncomely, the bestowing of Himself upon those who have given away themselves from Him. (Thomas Brooks.)


Verses 5-7

Hosea 14:5-7

I will be as the dew unto Israel.

Divine relationship and human responsiveness

Through the picturesque forms and utterances of Hebrew prophecy there breaks a very deep and generous sympathy with the world of nature. For Israel itself, fallen and debased by grievous backslidings, smitten as with a plague of shameless apostasy and spiritual corruption, yet sorrowful, repentant, and growingly responsive to the exhortations of Jehovah’s servant, no simile could more vividly illustrate the effect of Divine influence on the degenerate nation, or the restoring impulses it would give to its better life, than that to which Hosea turned. “I will be as the dew unto Israel.”

I. I will be as the dew unto israel. A more tender and beautiful comparison for God’s association and fellowship with His people is not to be imagined. The points of correspondence are very obvious, and can scarcely be invested now with any sense of novelty. The silent stealth of the dew to its resting-place, its reviving and invigorating effect on fields and gardens, its plenteous supply of moisture for the bosom of the earth, and its most beneficent adaptation to needy physical conditions, are all so many well-worn and widely accepted lines of interpretation. What a sense of impenetrable mystery there is about the dew! Who shall make plain to us the process of its generation? And yet how mild and familiar this mysterious economy of nature has become, inspiring no dread, arousing no suspicion, creating no fear, but simply accepted as a gracious providential arrangement that, despite the fact that it is so incomprehensible, may be safely left to its close and constant contact with our earthly life! What marvellous combination of force and gentleness there is in the dew! It does not strive nor cry, nor lift up any contending voice among the powers of nature. See again the service of the dew in replenishing nature’s waste of fertilising power. The very existence of the dew indicates a loss sustained by nature, and a pro vision in nature for repairing that loss.

II. Fertility is begotten of the dew. Where it was given it was natural to expect growth. The response of fields and vineyards to its productive presence was fruitfulness and plenty: and so, in a figure, the result is applied to Israel in this splendid picture of human responsiveness to God’s gracious influence. “He shall grow as the lily.” There will be growth, stability, breadth, usefulness, and fragrance--the pervading sweetness of the holy life, a characteristic of our growth before God, which must ever be most pleasing to Him. (W. H. Tetley.)

The dew of the Holy Spirit

I. To whom the blessing is promised. To Israel. Not Israel only after the flesh. The name Israel brings before us Jacob, concerning whom there are two remarkable circumstances recorded.

1. God’s special choice of him.

2. His power with God in prayer.

II. The nature of the blessing set forth. “As the dew.”

1. Dew is refreshing and fertilising.

2. Dew is, in many Eastern lands, the only means for producing these effects.

3. Dew is mild and grateful in the manner of its influence.

4. Dew is generally imperceptible in its approaches.

5. Dew comes only in the night. (Joseph Jowett, M. A.)

Dew to Israel

Before, He had said, “his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up.” Now again He enlarges the blessing; their supply shall be unfailing, for it shall be from God; yea, God Himself shall be that blessing. “I will be the dew; descending on the mown grass,” to quicken and refresh it, descending, Himself, into the dried and parched and sore hearts of men, as He saith, “We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” The grace of God, like the dew, is not given once for all, but is day by day waited for, and day by day renewed. Yet doth it not pass away, like the fitful goodness of God’s former people, but turns into the growth and spiritual substance of those on whom it descends. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

The Lord as the dew

(a talk with children):--When there are clouds to lessen the heat of the sun, there is less need of the dew at night, and so God ordains that if clouds cover the heavens, there is little dew to be found. The clouds prevent the escape of heat from the earth, and therefore it does not get cold so rapidly, and thus the evaporated moisture that is in the air does not so readily condense into dewdrops and settle on the grass. When there has been a burning sky all day, and it continues clear even at night, the heat escapes rapidly from the earth, and the moisture that is in the warm air when it touches the colder earth condenses rapidly, and so the dews are generally profuse. Thus there is a very wise provision made by God. According to the burden and heat of the day, as a rule, is the amount of dew at night. The dew does not descend upon all things equally. The moisture does not condense to rapidly upon the gravel paths as upon the grass. The grass needs it most. The dew in descending makes no noise. It is a gracious blessing that comes silently without trumpeting of any kind. It visits every bud and blade of grass. It does not visit the big trees and forget the tender little plant. God provides for the little ones as well as the great ones. The dew comes so gently that the feeblest blade can bear it. It takes hours to develop a dewdrop. No blade can be injured by the dew. Even the most beautiful bloom on the fruit would not be damaged by it. I want you to feel that as God is so gentle and loving and kind, your sin against Him is all the greater for that. But even when you sin, He comes gently still, so patient and long-suffering is He. He comes to refresh your strength when you get tired and sad and impatient. God is constantly coming like the dew: not once, but time after time. It is according to the need that the dew comes. So the Saviour comes to us even in the darkening hour when no one seems to expect the blessing; comes and refreshes our strength so that we may be the better able to bear the heat and burden of another day. As you grow up to be men and women you will have special need of strength: you will have new cares, new duties, new sorrows. But if God refreshes your strength and fits you for every duty as it shall come, all is well. Your duty and privilege is just to wait upon God, and trust in Him for every needful blessing. (D. Davies.)

Divine influence

The dew is the emblem of Divine grace.

I. Divine influence, like the dew, is unseen. The greatest things we know of are unseen.

II. IT IS SILENT. The most delicate ear cannot hear the descent of the dew. So is it with the coming of Divine grace.

III. It is gentle. It falls upon the weakest flower without hurting it. Gentleness is a property of Divine grace. Every true believer is ready to say, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.”

IV. It is reviving. The source of many and great blessings. So Divine grace, upon a soul withered up by sin, imparts a freshness and a beauty to its faded life.

V. It is abundant. It bespangles all the fields, forests, and gardens of our beautiful world. The humblest flower has its own drop of dew. In Christ there is grace to enlighten, to pardon, to strengthen, to comfort, to glorify every human spirit.

VI. It is free. It falls as freely on the barren rock as on the fertile soil; as sweetly upon the rough fern as upon the delicate rose. The most precious temporal blessings we possess are free to all. Even so Divine grace is universally free. The jewel of Divine grace is as free to all as the light, the air, the water, or the dew. (John Dunlop.)

The measure of blessing in spiritual influence determined by human disposition

Dew is but very sparingly deposited on hard metals, while on glass, straw, grass, cloth, and similar substances it forms abundantly. The nature of the substance determines the amount of moisture that rests upon it. And the nature of our feelings towards God, and the disposition of our spirits towards holy things, determine the amount of God we are privileged to enjoy. Too often men blame their surroundings and accuse others of being responsible for their spiritual poverty. But our environments are not so responsible as are our own dispositions. The callous, unbending, resisting spirit is but little blessed, while the soul that is submissive to the Divine will, lovingly disposed towards God and His ways, and possessing a sympathetic affinity to the Divine, is saturated with rich and satisfying blessings. (E. Aubrey.)

God’s silent blessings

I. The dew is a type of the silent blessings of God. He descends with spiritual graces, coming silently even as the dew falls upon the tender grass. God works no less mightily because He works in silence. This mode of Divine working is profoundly effective. There is something strangely impressive in perfect silence. Man’s heart is a tough and stubborn piece of mechanism. Nevertheless it is susceptible to the influences of gentleness, persistingly and lovingly laid upon him, and by these influences God is constantly working.

II. The dew teaches the timeliness of the Divine blessing. The dew comes in just where and when it is most needed, adding greatly to its benefits by the timeliness of its coming. And this is in accordance with the modes of Divine working among the children of men. The souls who most need the Master’s tender care are those whom He most seeks to bless. God does not seek us because we are saints, but to make us saints. Human sorrow is small attraction to men, but is the lodestone that draws to us the Spirit of God.

III. The dew teaches the transient character of much human goodness. “As the early dew it goeth away.” Of how many persons may this sad complaint be spoken? How many resolves made since this year was born have already been dispelled as dew by the morning sun! The dew vanished and left a blessing. These broken resolves, do they leave the heart any better? Nay, the heart is harder and the mind more perverted because of these failures to fulfil vows. (H. C. M’Cook, D. D.)

Christ is as the dew

This comparison of the dew is made use of for illustration in sundry places of Scripture (Hosea 6:4; Psalms 110:3; Micah 5:7; Psalms 133:1; Psalms 133:3).

I. What likeness is there between Jesus Christ and the dew? The dew has six properties, all fitly applicable, without straining, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. The dew is Divine and heaven-born.

2. The dew descends, comes down.

3. The manner of the descending of the dew is not observable. It descends silently, makes no noise.

4. It is the nature of the dew to soften as far as it goes.

5. The dew moistens.

6. The dew makes fruitful.

II. Who is the Israel to whom he will be as the dew? There is a twofold Israel spoken of. Israel the person, Israel the people: this includes Israel according to the flesh, and Israel according to the spirit. Understand this latter.

1. Of the Gospel Church in general, and

2. Of particular believing souls.

III. When especially have we need of this dew?

1. We have all need of it while we are in an unconverted state and condition.

2. When the conscience is parched at any time with the sense of guilt, through some wilful omission or commission.

3. Under the withdrawings of the light of God’s countenance.

4. When a fit of barrenness prevails, through the stirrings of some corruption, the success of some temptation, or through the want of quickening means and ordinances, the Word, sacraments, Sabbaths, solemn assemblies.

5. In a time of outward trouble and calamity.

6. When we come to die.

7. When we go to an ordinance. The dew is necessary to prepare the ground for the plough.

8. When we have been to an ordinance.

IV. What is our duty in reference to this?

1. Mix faith with it, as a Divine truth; that there is certainly such a thing as this dew, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is in it.

2. Be more sensible of your need of it every day in everything.

3. Ask it of God; and having asked it, expect and wait for it, in the use of appointed means.

4. Observe whence all your spiritual refreshments come, and all your fruit. It is from Christ as your dew; and let Him have the glory of it. (Philip Henry.)

Improvement in religion the fruit of a Divine influence

God has so framed mankind, and so disposed the affairs of human life as that, on the one hand, our dependence on Him should not at all lessen our obligations to diligence; and that our diligence should not preclude our regards to the influence of Divine providence. No inference is to be drawn from the belief of a providence that is the least unfavourable to industry. But he acts a part equally foolish and sinful who builds his future prospects wholly upon his own prudence and labour. It is an undoubted truth that the concurrence of an external influence, which is not under our control, is absolutely necessary to secure success. Let a man be as industrious as he will, if he pays no regard to the providence of God, his conduct is as unreasonable and criminal, as if through a pretended reliance on that providence, he were to abandon himself to sloth and indolence! In vain do we profess faith in the influence and operations of the blessed Spirit, while we live in the slothful neglect of appointed duties. The text is the gracious assurance of God to penitent and returning Israel. By the blessing here promised we are to understand the influence of Divine grace.

I. Why are the Divine influences compared to the dew? The dew is a mist, or thin small kind of rain, which falls upon the earth morning and evening in a very gentle, gradual, imperceptible manner, and so refreshes the ground and makes it fruitful. It has always been esteemed a great blessing. It is a natural emblem of the Spirit.

1. As to its origin. The dew comes down from above. It is called the “dew of heaven,” and the heavens are said to “drop down dew.” It is no effect of human art or power. So the influences of the Spirit come down from God They are absolutely at God’s disposal, and under His direction and control. Who shall question this? To deny that there is a secret invisible mighty influence, which at some seasons especially quickens the heart of a good man and animates him to his duty, is in effect to deny all religion. The means of religion are manifestly adapted to produce the effects which have been mentioned, just as the sowing and cultivating the ground to make it fruitful. But these means are not alike successful with all who enjoy them. The benefits which some reap from the means of religion must be owing to the kind and seasonable influences of Divine grace which accompany them.

2. As to the manner in which it falls upon the earth. It descends gradually, imperceptibly, seasonably, and some times very plentifully. So do the influences of the Holy Spirit descend upon the Christian. They were given richly to early Christians who had to establish Christianity and to endure persecutions. These early disciples were filled with the Spirit.

3. As to its use. These are the effects of the Divine influences.

What ornament so fair and beautiful as that of a meek and quiet spirit--a mind endued with patience and contentment, with benevolence and love?

II. To make some suitable improvement of the whole.

1. Does this dew come down from God; of Him then let us earnestly seek it, and to Him let us offer our humble thanks for it.

2. Though we receive this dew from above, let us not expect it but in the way of duty. If we do, it is not to be wondered at that we are disappointed.

3. How vain are all their pretences to a large experience of these dews of Divine grace who bring forth no suitable fruit in their lives!

4. Let the humble, serious, and timorous Christian be comforted--the Christian whose concern it is to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, though through many discourage ments he is sometimes ready to question whether he is the happy subject of Divine influence.

5. How unspeakable will be the bliss and glory of the heavenly world, where the effects of these Divine influences shall be enjoyed in their utmost perfection. (S. Stenner, D. D.)

As the dew

These sweet promises in their order follow immediately upon this, that God would freely love them, and cease to be angry with them: then He adds the fruits of His love to their souls, and the effects of those fruits in many particulars.

1. God’s love is a fruitful love. Wheresoever He loves, He makes the things lovely. Our hearts, in regard to themselves are barren and dry, wherefore God’s grace is compared to the dew. The dew falls insensibly and invisibly. It falls very sweetly and mildly. Grace is compared with dew in regard to its operations. It cools the air when it falls, and then with coolness it hath a fructifying virtue, for falling especially on tender herbs and plants, it soaks into the root of them and makes them fruitful. So it is with the graces of God’s Spirit.

2. Notice the unresistibleness of the dew and of God’s grace.

Christians grow like lilies--

1. For beauty and glory.

2. In regard of purity and whiteness.

Let us then labour that the dew of God may prove the dew of grace, and that God would make us lilies. Remember that there is a growing upward; a growing in the root; and a spreading and growing in the fruit or sweetness. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

The metaphor of the dew

I. Open and explain the declaration and promise here given. The fountain and spring of these words originates from the former. Some interpret as a promise of the Holy Ghost. The expression, “I will be as the dew unto Israel,” is indicative of Divine sovereignty. Here is the will of God expressed in a promise. In Scripture, things very delightful and refreshing are compared to dew. Unity amongst brethren is compared to the “dew of Hermon.” Afflictions and sufferings are like dew and drops of the night. The metaphor as now before us is designed to show how the Church of God and the saints of the Most High are refreshed by the love of the Father, the salvation of the Son, and the gracious influences of the Holy Ghost. He falling gradually and insensibly on the souls of the elect, they are most blessedly revived and refreshed; so as to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and made fruitful in every good word and work.

II. The sudden change produced by the fulfilment of the promise. “He shall grow as the lily.” The expression is used of spiritual growth. This can only be by the grace and Divine influences of the Holy Spirit.

III. The establishment of the Church of Christ in this flourishing condition. “He shall cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” The strength of Christ’s Church, and the fixation and firmness of the same, will be such as cannot be moved. The whole of these words are an absolute promise. God’s “I will” runs throughout them. (Samuel Eyles Pierce.)

The dew

This is a gracious promise to a penitent and returning people. Dew is of the greatest value to all who are engaged in agricultural pursuits. It assuages the fierce drought of the season. With its nightly baptism it invigorates the languid vegetation, and renews greenness and growth over the whole landscape. Give some analogies between the descent of the dew upon the ground and the gracious comings and manifestations of God to His people.

I. The dew falls very quietly and gently. On the tempestuous night there is none. It is distilled beneath serene heavens. Its crystal drops are formed under the wing of silence and in the bosom of the night. So God does not usually come to bless and revive His people amid agitations and excitements, in the stress of life, in the hurry of affairs, in the crash of startling events. Times of recruiting and replenishment will probably be times of silence. Elijah heard the “still small voice.” There are times in the Church’s history when God comes graciously near amid agitations and alarms. But such comings of God have hitherto been exceptional. God’s gracious work has gone on in sublime quietness. Many a true religious revival has been accomplished in much quietness, without any tremendous agonies or sublime raptures, without swift alternations of hope and fear--just by a growing sense of the nearness and importance of Divine things. God is waiting for the opening of your heart in the hour of quietness, that He may distil over all its affections the sweet baptism of His grace.

II. The dew falls very copiously. In the land of Israel much more abundantly than it ever does in this country. Travellers tell us that after a still night, when the dew has been falling, they find their baggage and their tents dripping as though it had been heavy rain during the night. God’s grace to a Church in a time of spiritual quickening is very copious and full. God’s dealings are with the whole soul of a man. A man can find this engagement of his whole nature only in religion. The copiousness of Divine influence is seen not only in this wholeness of effect upon the individual, but also in its diffusion over the whole Christian community. God’s dew does not come in streams; it is distilled from all the air. It lies clear and cool on every growing thing. And God’s grace in like manner comes to many hearts. It runs from heart to heart by the chain of sympathy.

III. The dew is very refreshing. It makes dying nature live. The husbandman looks despondingly over his fields, and fears for the safety of his growing corn. But then begins the silent, copious baptism of the dew. And the farmer can think with hope of the coming harvest day. When God comes in fulfilment of the promise of the text, there is a recovery of sinking strength, a rekindling of dying graces, a returning to first love, a doing of first Works. To those who are so visited there is a newness of religion every day.

IV. The dew is fertilising. This silent, copious, refreshing agent works fruitfulness nut of all growing things. They are thus aided in the accomplishment of the very end of their existence. And God’s final end with His people is that the plants of His right hand’s planting may become fruitful. Our Divine Master speaks much and very solemnly on this subject of fruitfulness. And Christian fruitfulness is a manifold and various thing. It is not all of one kind. Let each “planted” soul rejoice to feel rooted in Him! And then let each grow freely according to His will--not fearing, but gladly daring to branch and blossom and fructify according to the law of individual life. Lily, olive, corn, vine, cedar, all are growing in God’s garden; and there is room and dew for them all.

V. There is yet another analogy in the nearness to us in both cases of the reviving influence. God does not fetch the dew from stars or from fountains in the skies. He condenses and distils it out of the atmosphere. A little change in temperature does it all. This reminds us how we are surrounded by a very atmosphere of grace, which holds all precious things in readiness to be dropt upon us when God shall command it so. May God give us His Holy Spirit to work so on our hearts that we shall become quickly and largely receptive of the unsearchable riches of Christ. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

God promises to restore fruitfulness to Ephraim

Here is a continuation of Jehovah’s answer to Ephraim’s prayer, especially to the second part of it. “Receive us graciously,” or, “Receive good gifts, both temporal and spiritual. Ephraim shall once more realise what his name signifies, even fruitfulness, not only in earthly things, but in every good word and work. The outpourings of all these blessings spring from the dew of God’s mercy, and from no other source. How infinitely more abundant is God’s grant than Israel’s request. God answers our petitions more than we think or ask. The reasons are two.

1. God knows our wants far better than we do. We, in spiritual things, resemble children in temporal things.

2. God answers prayer consistently with His majesty. Man answers his fellow-man, like the treacherous echo, only by halves. “As the dew.” Ephraim, on account of backsliding, was cursed with barrenness and bleakness; but the gift of dew shall restore his blessings. Dew embraces several significations, comfort, refreshment, encouragement, fecundity, and suchlike. Dew, in a spiritual point of view, means Christ. What dew is to the earth, that is God’s grace to the soul. We are naturally heart-hardened, and therefore barren, as regards the fruit of righteousness; but the dew of God’s grace disposes our hearts, by softening them, in the first place, for the purpose of receiving the seed of the Word; and, in the second place, to make that seed fruitful. Many are the reasons why the grace of God should be likened to dew.

1. Because none can give it but Jehovah-Jesus.

2. Because it is the fruit of a serene, clear, and tranquil heaven. The grace of God is not given to a soul which is scorched or frozen, but it is granted to such an one as looks peacefully and steadily towards heaven for it.

3. Because it is abundant and immeasurable.

4. Because it is silent, and falls imperceptibly.

5. Because it is of a gentle and benign nature, and therefore sinks--though slow yet sure--deeply into the earth. So is the Spirit of God.

6. Because it is of a quickening nature. It causes the earth to bring forth her increase. When the Sun of Righteousness melts the moral frost from man’s heart, and the Spirit breathes upon the parched soul, it is then that both heart and soul open to the reception of Christ. (Moses Margoliouth, B. A.)

Dew upon Israel

The prophecy of Hosea may be likened to a tempestuous summer’s day. Here we have peace after storm. Consider the comparison Jehovah here employs.

1. Dew is refreshing. A godless soul is like a rainless, dewless, desert land--everything is dead or dying. There are noble faculties and Divine capacities but they have no life. Seek, I beseech you, the benign presence of your God and Saviour.

2. Dew is beautifying. What more delightful than to go forth into the fields with the sunrise and see them lit up with millions of sparkling diamonds, and sown with myriad pearls! And how beautiful have been the characters of those in whose hearts God has dwelt. And the presence of God is the true beauty of a Church.

3. Dew is fertilising. Regions where the dew falls copiously are remarkable for their fertility. Fertility implies two things--luxuriant growth, and abundant fruit.

4. Dew is gentle. In its descent it does not break the tenderest filaments; it does not wound the most fragile blossom. And so God deals tenderly with His children.

5. Dew is impartial in its distribution. It descends upon the evil and the good, upon the just and unjust. It falls alike on the poor man’s plot and on the broad acres of the rich. So impartial is the love of God, so impartial are the benefits of the Gospel. (Joseph Halsey.)

God’s mission and expectation

The symbolism of the Bible is unrivalled for beauty and suggestiveness. The text suggests--

I. The ministry of the Divine to the human. God’s influence comes as close to men as the dew to the flower. It is inspiring to know that ours is not a God who lives only in the light of His own majesty, but dwells with the humble everywhere. He not only rides in the rolling chariot of the stormy skies, or sits in silence above the crested billows of the heaving ocean; but He stoops to earth, and kisses the face of the flowers with His presence, and touches the weak and the weary with a tenderness that surpasses that of the dewdrop as it rolls into the heart of the lily, and becomes there a hidden fountain of strength and refreshment. What is God to the soul that trusts in Him? Is He not, as the dew to the flower, its unseen source of strength? Men need to realise, above everything else, the readiness of God to help them. Why does the dew come to the flower? To bless it, of course. When the dew is on its petals, it breathes its whole sweet fragrance in response. It is for this that the Lord approaches humanity, that we may become better men, or, to put it in the words of the text--“He shall grow as the lily.”

II. The Divine expectation. It is only natural for the Lord to expect us to “grow,” when He has nourished us. We know how the “lily grows.” Its first endeavour is to growl.

1. Strong. We are to “grow” like sturdy Christians. It is the stunted growths, the dwarfs of Christianity, that bring it most discredit. But it also grows--

2. Beautiful. We are to “grow” in the beauty of holiness. The Lord wants all His servants to be giants, but He does not want them to be clumsy. We are to develop symmetry as well as strength. Next, the “lily” grows--

3. Useful. It has medicinal as well as floral uses. Our characters can never be complete until we “grow” after this order--strength, beauty, service. Application. The Lord is waiting to fill every life, as the dew fills every flower. And when He enters, and not till then, will our lives burst into blossom, and fragrance, and fruit. (J. W. Bray.)

The grace of God like the dew

In the text, the Lord is introduced as promising the copious and refreshing influences of the Holy Spirit, in the most unrestrained and engaging manner.

I. The propriety and force of the comparison between the dew and the grace of God. As natural philosophers are not agreed as to the source whence dew is formed, so neither can, we discover what is the cause of the grace of God. The love of God in Christ Jesus procures it for us; but how that is effected we know not; nor why, in the Gospel, it is offered so universally, and yet received so indifferently. As the dew is diffused during the night, in a silent and imperceptible manner, after the sun has withdrawn its shining; so the grace of God has been extensively diffused since Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, left this lower world, and the sweet operations of the Holy Spirit are, in a silent but powerful manner, carried on, without our notice or our help. As the dew is regular in its returns, at the seasons when the earth is most in need of it, so the grace of God is regularly granted to His chosen people in every time of need, and is, in general, accompanied with the use of appointed means. As the dew is the free gift of a bountiful providence, so grace is the free gift of our most merciful Father. The dew nourishes and refreshes the whole vegetable creation, and when the grace of God descends upon men by the saving influences of the Holy Spirit, they are refreshed and revived, quickened and made alive to God and holiness. As the dew causes all things which grow out of the earth to advance to maturity, so the Spirit of God works upon the hearts of His people, making them fruitful in good works, obedient in every duty, and wise unto eternal life. It Is said, “he shall grow as the lily.” The lily is by nature delicate and weakly, but by the repeated visitations and refreshings of the dew, it puts forth its tender buds, and by degrees assumes strength and increases in size. The grace of God, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, enables the soul to go on towards perfection. Observe concerning the growth promised, that God will not only supply the believer’s wants, but will Himself be to him all that he needs. “I will be as the dew upon Israel.” The grace of God in the soul is an active principle.

II. The effects of the grace of God upon his people’s hearts and lives. Various similitudes are employed in Scripture. It is likened to “seed fallen in good ground,” to being “made willing,” to being “raised from the dead,” to being transformed into another likeness, etc. Then remember that when we profess faith in the Divine promise, we should give evidence of it by our sincere repentance, and our obedience to the holy law of God. Application. Through faith and patience the believer shall at last inherit the promises in their fullest acceptation. “What shall we then say to these things.” If God be for us, who can be against us?” (James Kidd, D. D.)

Spiritual blessings for the true Israel of God

The text is part of a description of the flourishing condition of the chosen people when returned to God. It may be accommodated to the Church of Christ among the Gentiles.

I. The promise. “I will be as the dew unto Israel.” We know the value of dew, but in Eastern lands much more vivid ideas are called up by it. In Palestine little or no rain is known during the summer. Were it not for the cool nights and the heavy dew all vegetation must perish. The bestowal of the dew has been accounted one of God s especial blessings--and the withdrawal of it a curse. What the dew is in the natural world, causing the earth to soften, to bring forth, to fructify, that is the Holy Spirit of God to the soul of man. It softens the heart, implants the principles of grace, sows the seed of eternal life, and puts forth all the evident tokens of a new creation within. As the dew is essential to the production and preservation of herbs and plants, so is it every way necessary to the reviving of the heart of man, that the Spirit of God work in it, because left to himself man could never change one feature of his original corrupt and unfruitful nature. As the dew descends on every plant, leaving not one leaf unwatered, in silence refreshing even the smallest blade of grass, so does the Holy Spirit work silently, warning, teaching, convincing, in the hearts of all. When in the text it is stated that Israel shall grow as a lily and cast forth his roots as Lebanon, of course it is implied that an earnest and faithful reception of the good Spirit has been given.

II. The effects which are to follow God’s Spirit being as the dew unto Israel. Whatever effects may be expected from any future outpouring of the Spirit, the same in their measure and kind are to be looked for in our immediate dispensation. “Grow as the lily.” This is a beautiful emblem of the loveliness and purity of a truly Christian character. The chief attributes of the lily of the East are beauty, fragrance, and certain medicinal qualities. These qualities, morally considered, should be found in every Christian. We read of the beauty of holiness. St. Peter speaks of the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. The Christian should be noted among his brethren for the excellence of his principles, for conscientious behaviour, and for a display of love and sympathy in all his actions. Like the fragrance of a beautiful flower, the name of the Christian ought to be acceptable to all men. There should be a loveliness, a seriousness in his manner, an habitual holiness evincing everywhere that he is a disciple of Christ. Such graces can only flow from constant communion with his God. As the lily is endued with medicinal properties, so is the Christian to be as the “salt of the world.” He must be jealous of God’s honour. Sin must never be unreproved in his presence. He, by his principles and practice, placed as he is in a wicked world, must preserve it from corruption. The margin says, “He shall blossom as the lily.” This is precisely what God expects from us. Too many forget the truth that a Christian should be a marked man. If any of you feel your shortcomings, flee to the Saviour for grace and pardon. Copy the example of your Master; learn of Him; emulate His innocence, His purity, His fragrance, His faithfulness. He compares Himself to a lily, and thus condescends to show us His humility, His love, His “oneness” with His Church and people. “He shall cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” This figure shows the stability which true religious principles impart. It is a forcible image of the security of him whose heart has yielded to the strivings of Divine grace. Here is found an argument for the necessity of progress in religion. Seasons of trouble, sorrow, inquiry; the hour of death, the day of judgment, are before us. It is needful, therefore, to have some settled principles, some well-ascertained and surely laid foundation upon which we may then rest. “It is a good thing that the heart be established by grace.” (R. H. Whitworth.)

The progressive Christian

I. The spiritual influence which God promises to his people. It is like the dew--

1. In its source.

2. In its silence.

3. In its seasonableness.

4. In its abundance.

II. Its beneficial results.

1. Growth.

2. Stability.

3. Beauty.

4. Fragrance.

5. Fertility. (G Brooks.)

The dew of Israel and the lily of God

I. Christ, as set forth by the dew unto Israel. Jehovah Himself is the dew. This promise implies that there is a dry and withered field somewhere. This field we are, in so far as we are not yet partakers of His life. As the dew falls in the sultry nights of summer, when the fields thirst and languish, so does the dew of God descend only upon thirsting and fainting souls. As the dew fans from heaven in the stillness of the night, so is the way of Christ. The manner and way of His coming to the soul is a mystery hidden in night; and who can unveil it? The dew of the field has a bright lustre within it, for it has communion with the light of heaven. When once Christ has come in unto us, all is bright and pellucid in the depths of our disordered nature. But Christ covers all our misery with His own self, with His own righteousness. How fructifying is the dew I And what a life does Christ impart to the soul!

II. Christ compares his bride the Church, and herein every believing soul, to the beautiful lily. The people of Palestine knew of no flower more truly sweet and lovely than the noble lily. The lily is often found growing among thorns. Thorns represent the many spiritual and temporal troubles with which the chosen of God are encompassed. Observe by what means the lily thrives and flourishes. It toils not, neither does it spin. It passively waves in the sunshine, and opens its cup to the morning dew. May, then, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus come upon each of us as dew! (F. W. Krummacher.)

The dew of God’s grace, and its results

I. The influences of the spirit, “as the dew.”

1. Dew is never far off (humidity of atmosphere); waits around; makes itself felt at proper season by whatsoever thirsts for it. So the Giver of life is ever present with His own; ready to refresh, cleanse, strengthen. He is round about us (Psalms 139:1-24.) the atmosphere of His promises, His providences, His presence.

2. Falls in quiet of evening, and believers specially realise God’s presence in quietness. “Commune . . . and be still.” Eventide experiences; “cool of the day.” Do you serve with quiet mind? Too much excitement, worldly or “religious”; bustling, mechanical? Troubled souls, be comforted.

3. Falls in due measure; never in excess: grasses, flowers, olives, cedars; each receives in proportion to need. Similarly, the workings of the Spirit, infinitely wise, gracious. Dew of “youth,” babes, elders. Class, condition, character; our responsibilities,. . . “the grace that is given to us,”--given abundantly, tenderly.

4. Falls silently; not see or hear. So with the ordinary operations of the Spirit. Stillness, secrecy of reception; gradual formation of habits; transformation (2 Corinthians 3:18); growth, “grace for (upon) grace”; renewing of the hidden life with energy invisible; loving influences, mighty, mysterious, silent, but sure (Mark 4:27).

5. Regularly: to-day’s dryness, to-day’s dew. Even so we pray for “the continual dew” of God’s blessing; fresh joy and vigour from the “healthful Spirit” of His grace (Job 29:19). Daily hallowing. Not spasmodic.

II. The results of the spirit’s influences. “He shall grow . . . They that dwell . . . ”

1. Believers blessed. Notice first the position: lilly, cedar, olives, herbs; and grasses; mountain crest, slope, clefts, and rich soil; exposed, admired, hidden. Each plant its own place. So each member of the Church his own vocation: what we are, where we are--of God. The poor and unlearned may as truly, though not as widely, glorify God, as the high-placed and greatly gifted. Notice second, perfection; in all bedewed vegetation, luxuriance and beauty of vigorous life. Special services and pleasantnesses; purity and loveliness--the lily; strength and expansion--the cedar; fruitfulness--the olive; fragrance (“smell”) of herbs, and scented tufty “Lebanon.” “Diversities of gifts” and “of operations” (1 Corinthians 12:4). A Conway, a Living stone, a Monod, a Lyre, a Selwyn, a Hedley Vicars; “stewards of the manifold grace of God.” What variety! Humility, sweetness, purity, fervour, fruitful ness, self-sacrificing patience, courage, steadfastness, etc. But be not contented with some special grace: pray to “worthily magnify” His name in full orbed holiness.

2. Believers a blessing. “They that dwell under His shadow shall return.” The influence of consistent Christian living; it wins, helps, warms, comforts. Try thus to be, more and more, a means of grace. (Clergyman’s Magazine.)

A fertilized Church

God promised to be as dew to His chosen people. He was so. Their entire history proves it. He was the beauty of their character, their strength in battle, the wisdom of their counsels, the giver of food--as the dew. God is as dew to His people now by the operations of the. Holy Spirit. Dew is a type Of spiritual influence because it is essential. Nature pro vides no substitute. Its operations are mysterious, unlike rain. Its workings are silent. It is one of God’s many quiet workers. Its influence is beautify ing. It feeds flowers. It is fertilising. No drink of vegetation is more grateful.

I. The growth of a God-watered Church. In nature, stability is never reached rapidly. Strength is always crowned with hoary years. This law affects also the works of man. A new kingdom is feeble; an old one strong. In the growth of a God-watered Church we have a beautiful exception to this law of nature. In it the peculiarities of the lily and the cedar are blended. It has beauty that is not fragile. It has strength that is not of tedious growth.

II. The power of a God-watered Church. Preachers often say that but two classes of persons inhabit earth--the saved and the unsaved. But the unsaved divide into those who have never known God, and those who have apostatised from Him. A God-watered Church has power with both classes.

1. It has power with the world at large.

2. It has power with relapsed Christians.

God as the dew

The comfortable, fruitful, sanctifying grace of God is compared to dew.

1. The dew doth come from above. It cannot be commanded by the creature.

2. The dew doth fall insensibly and invisibly. So the grace of God. We feel the comfort, sweetness, and operation of it, but it falls insensibly, without observation.

3. It falls sweetly and mildly, not violating the nature or course of anything, but rather helping and cherishing the same.

4. Grace is compared to dew, in regard of the operations of dew. What effects hath dew upon the earth?

5. Dew is irresistible. Nothing can hinder the dew from falling. Use. Let none be discouraged with the deadness, dryness, and barrenness of their own hearts, but let them know that God doth graciously promise, if they will take the Course formerly set down, to be “as the dew unto them.” Therefore let them come to the ordinances of God, with wondrous hope, confidence, and faith that He will bless the means of His own ordaining and appointing, for His own ends. (R. Sibbes.)

The Holy Spirit as the dew

The Holy Ghost came down on the day of Pentecost. He comes down now also, though not in any extraordinary manner, or with any remarkable manifestation. Quietly, calmly, but mightily, now as then He comes, the Lord, the Giver of Life, to quicken the dead soul and to revive the drooping, The manner of His ordinary coming is likened to the falling of the dew, and the various effects of His coming are likened to the luxuriance of the most beautiful plants of an Eastern climate.

I. The coming of the Spirit is as the dew.

1. As the dew all day long hangs suspended in the atmosphere waiting only for the fitting moment to form itself into sensible drops upon every blade of grass which is thirsting for its fall, so is the blessed Spirit of God ever moving on all sides around us, unseen indeed, but not altogether unfelt, waiting for the hour when the glare of this world shall have gone down, and man’s heart, as in the coolness of the evening hour, be prepared-to receive Him. The Spirit is ever in contact with our hearts, gently yet strongly, inclining them to receive Jesus as their Lord, and to live for Him. Above, beneath, around, within you is God the Spirit, and every moment He is striving with your conscience to lead you on to God.

2. There is a likeness in the seasons when the dew falls, and when the Holy Spirit most sensibly comes. The dew settles in drops upon the herbs at evening. The Spirit’s seasons come when the gathering night-clouds of sickness or of sorrow, or the calm still hours of Sabbath meditation, have shut out the glare of earthly things and cooled down the heart. You were still and calm in your own spirit, and so inclined to receive the impressions of the blessed Spirit of God.

3. The manner in which the dew falls. Gently, and again and again. So while the Spirit humbles the heart of the stoutest sinner, He does not overwhelm the spirit of the most timorous and feeble disciple. He settles on our hearts, and shows us the things of Jesus.

4. The dew falls much more fully on the grass which thirsts for it than on the stones which have no longing for it. The Spirit is about us all, but His fulness of grace comes to those who really need.

II. The effect of the Holy Spirit as pictured by the growth of plants when watered by the dew. The prophet illustrates by the beauty of the lily, the fruitfulness of the olive, and the deep-rooted strength and far-spreading sweetness of the cedar of Lebanon. Each one has its own peculiar properties, but each of these properties is nourished and brought to perfection by the dew. To Jesus the Spirit was given without measure; and therefore in Jesus all graces and all gifts are combined; each is in perfection, and no one clashes with another. In meekness alike and in firmness, in depth of thought and in activity of work, He stood alone, the perfect man, and in Him alone the words of the prophet are completely fulfilled. (Canon Morse.)

The Divine dew and its result

s:--We think of God as being the dew in connection with the influences of His Spirit. These influences of the Spirit descend in consequence of the work of Christ.

I. The connection between the Divine dew and its results.

1. It is a gentle influence, but has great results. The dew is never anything but gentle. It does not seem a force at all. And yet it is an arrangement by which some of the greatest effects in nature are produced. To those whose backslidings have been healed, and from whom God’s anger has been turned away, there is no storm influence, there is only the influence of the dew. God is gentleness itself, and His Spirit falls on our life with no violent action, yet accompanied with the greatest results.

2. It is a silent influence, but has visible results. If plants were always in the glare of the sun they would soon wither and die. But at nightfall, after the heat of the day, the dews noiselessly descend. Every blade of grass has its own drop of dew. There has been no sound of anything going on, and yet when morning comes the effects are plainly visible. Drooping plants have revived; nature comes forth refreshed. The Divine workings cannot be traced, but the fruits of the Spirit are manifest.

3. It is a Divine influence, and yet its results are entirely human. The dew is a pure ethereal influence. It is not like the fogs or pestilential vapours from swamps, which rise only a little from earth. It is the dew of heaven. And yet it has an affinity to all forms of vegetable life on the earth. So the influences of the Spirit come from above, from a source high above us; and yet they have an affinity to us. There is that which is foreign to us, namely, sin. To that the Spirit has no affinity. As dew, He mingles with and brings out all that is truly human.

II. The results by themselves and in their mutual connection. It requires three things to set forth the excellence of the Christian life. The lily, the cedar, and the olive-tree are brought together to give us, in their combination, a conception of what our life should be under the clews of the Spirit.

1. The results of rapid growth, and yet solidity. “He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth His roots as Lebanon.” There must be solidity as well as rapidity of growth. The cedar is especially deep rooted in the soil. We strike our roots down when we wrestle with God in prayer, when we read God’s Word so as to take firm hold of it, and when, in temptation, we steadfastly adhere to principle.

2. The results are breadth of growth and fertility. “His branches shall spread,” etc. It belongs to the idea of a perfect tree that while it grows upward it grows all round, and at the same time. The cedar especially is widespreading. And so while we have heavenly aspiration we are always to be broadening in our human views and sympathies. But trees that grow to breadth do not grow so much to fatness. So one tree does not suffice to complete the idea. The olive is superior to the cedar in one respect--in fruitfulness. It spends its strength, not on spreading but on fruit-bearing. So we are to combine the cedar and the olive, and, while keeping up our breadth, we are to increase in the rich elements of our life.

3. There results a variety of beauty. There is the beauty of the lily, and also of the olive-tree. There is always a dignity and stateliness about the lily. Whatever belongs to us, whether it be more of the lily or of the olive, will be brought out under the dews of the Spirit. The results are healthfulness, and pleasantness of influence. (R. Finlayson, B. A.)

Grace reviving Israel

I. The promise of grace made to Israel, notwithstanding Israel’s sin. “I will be as the dew unto Israel.” The Christian is here compared to a plant which cannot be watered by any water that is to be found on earth, a plant which needs heavenly watering, even the dew from above. The Eastern figure of the dew has in it several beauties.

1. Grace, like the dew, often comes down imperceptibly into man’s heart. Who ever heard the foot steps of the dew coming down upon the meadow-grass?” And Christianity is very often imperceptible in its operations. Do not despise spiritual things, because thou hearest not a sound thereof.

2. The dew is always sufficient. If God waters the earth with dew, foolish would be the man who should go after wards to water after his Maker. God’s grace, when it comes upon a man’s heart, is all sufficient.

3. The dew, when it is required, is constant. As thou wantest the dew of grace, so shalt thou find it.

II. The influences of Divine Grace in the soul are here set forth in metaphor.

1. It makes us grow upward. “Grow as the lily.” This refers to the daffodil lily, which on a sudden, in a night, will spring up. That is what grace does in a man’s soul. Its first operation is to make us grow up.

2. After they have been growing” upward they have to grow downward. “Cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” God will not have His people all flower and foliage; He wants them also to take deep root, and throw out strong fibres. Growing down is quite as good as growing up. We should be rooted in humility, and growing in zeal; but usually the two do not come together. Growing downward is a very excellent thing to promote stability. Perhaps that is the exact meaning of the passage.

3. The Christian must next make a profession. “His branches shall spread.”

4. The next effect of grace is, the Christian must be beautiful, as “the olive-tree.” Its beauty lies in its fruitfulness. And the olive-tree is an evergreen.

5. A good report must go forth about the Christian. “His smell as Lebanon.” Wherever the Christian goes he will cast a perfume about him.

II. The benefits of grace to others. “They that dwell under His shadow shall return.” You will not wish yours to be a selfish religion. I like an expansive religion. By a godly conversation the Christian man shall spread the sweetness of perfume wherever he goes. (Anon.)

What God will be to His people, and what He will make His people to be

I. What God will be to His people. It is not what God does For His people, but what He is. What does the dew do?

1. It nourishes the growing plants; All along the course of life God comes Himself to our hearts, to keep alive and nourish the good which He has planted there.

2. The dew refreshes the drooping plant. How often have we been drooping and withering, but then God in His love draws near to us, and whispers kind thoughts of His love and pardon and help. Or perhaps we have been treated unkindly, or have been much tempted to sin. Then God comes like the gentle dew from heaven. The dew comes softly; and without being seen; and day by day.

II. What God’s people shall be through Him. The character of the true Christian shall be likened--

1. To the lily. This plant is used to signify the beauty and purity of God’s sanctified ones. God will make us pure in heart and life, afraid of what is wrong, with a tender conscience, disturbed at little sins, and that we shall be continually striving after greater holiness.

2. To the cedar of Lebanon. Which has deep roots, a strong trunk, great height, and spreading branches. God will make us to be so firmly fixed on God’s truth and love that we cannot be turned away from it by false teaching or temptation to evil.

3. To the olive-tree. Which is always fresh in appearance and abundant in fruitfulness. God will add to His other gifts, continued joy from continual intercourse with Himself. As God leads us on, nearer to Himself, dropping His grace and Holy Spirit more unceasingly into our hearts, He makes to spring up within us an overflowing well of joy and peace in believing. And He will make us abound in all good works. He will make us do good things abundantly, acts of kindness, and forgiveness, and helpfulness to others.

4. To the smell of Lebanon. The country immediately around this mountain smells sweetly of the many fragrant flowers which bloom at its foot. God by His grace makes us to do what is right in His own sight, and He condescends to be pleased with it; and other Christians are pleased with the good they see in us--so that to God and man we are pleasing, like the delicious scent which rises up in our faces from fragrant flowers. How does God do His work of grace? As the dew He comes--not like the noisy, violent thunderstorm. The dew comes very gently, stealing softly and unobserved. Its work is very gradual, but it is continuous, day by day. It is in secret unobserved ways that God works His great work in our hearts. Then use all your opportunities diligently. Do not seek for excitement. Seek to draw near to God in all the ordinary and even little ways. He will surely come to you to do you good. (W. H. Ridley, M. A.)

On Divine influence

The figure here is borrowed from one of the finest and most efficient operations of nature. The promise was made to Israel, not at a time when God had reason to commend, but to reprove them. We would not lessen in your estimation, the evil of sin; but it must not be concealed that the spirit, burdened and oppressed width guilt, may derive from this fact abundant consolation.

I. The origin of the Divine influence. “As the dew.”

1. This influence cometh from God. Hence we call it Divine influence. Of all the operations of nature, there is nothing more independent of human agency than the dew.

2. This influence cometh from God as reconciled in Christ. The dew is the offspring of an unclouded sky, the benediction of a placid atmosphere. Is not God a consuming fire? How then can He be as the dew? Inspiration answers the question: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” Brought into a state of unity, and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, there descends upon our souls that influence of His Spirit which is here beautifully compared to the dew.

3. This influence comes from God, as a sovereign and distinguished blessing to His chosen people. It is not a common, but a peculiar blessing. It belongs not to the world, but to the Church.

II. The properties of this Divine influence. It is like the dew, which is silent, copious, penetrating, irresistible, and fertilising.

III. The results of divine influence.

1. Growth; as the lily: spiritual increase,--rapid progress in knowledge, in faith, in zeal, in love, in hope, in confidence, in whatever adorns the Christian character.

2. Stability. Lebanon is, by a figure of speech, put for the cedars which grow there. The stability of the Christian refers to three things--the security of his state, the firmness of his principles, and the perpetuity of his character. His faith, the root of his profession, takes firm hold of the holy covenant. Holy principles, like so many fibres of that root, by adherence to the truth, give a stability to His Christian profession, like that of the majestic cedar. This stability distinguishes the real Christian.

3. Expansion. “His branches shall spread.” Spreading branches may denote the extended and extending influence of the Church. There is a celebrated oak which casts its shadow and sheds its acorns upon four counties of England.

4. Corresponding beauty. The beauty of the olive was as proverbial as the strength of the cedar. The proportion of its branches, the perfection of its symmetry, the perpetual freshness of its verdure, and the beauty of its colours constitute that which in nature we call beauty. It may indicate the glory which is put upon the Christian, by imputation of the Saviour’s righteousness. It sometimes refers to that moral and spiritual beauty which consists in conformity to the image of Christ. It is the concentration and exhibition of all the graces of the Holy Spirit.

5. Moral fragrance. This expresses the happy effect, the delightful influence, of Christian feeling and Christian character. Two things are intended by this fragrance.

6. Universal excellence. The enjoyment of sacred repose. A gracious revival. The earnest of abundant fruitfulness. “Blossom as the vine.” Grateful commemoration.

Learn--

1. The absolute necessity of Divine influence. Be solicitous to obtain a copious effusion of the Holy Spirit.

2. The end for which Divine influence is given, and for which it should be desired.

3. The ground on which Divine influence is hoped for, and the exercises with which its attainment stands inseparably connected. (John Hunt.)

The dew and the plants

Hosea is eminently the prophet of repentance and pardoning love. He has also a poet’s eye with which he looks on nature. The text comes from a fervent and tender appeal to Israel to come back to its God. We have here, with lovely symbolism, the various aspects of the Christian ideal of character, and the productive energy which makes them all possible.

I. The source of fruitfulness. The dew in Palestine is peculiar. The strong summer sun carries on evaporation with great activity over the surface of the Mediterranean, and the prevailing summer winds bring masses of vapour, which are condensed by the cold when evening falls, and wrap the land in a moist veil which refreshes the drooping vegetation, and saves many a little floweret. It is that moistening mist, not properly “dew” as we know it, which the prophet picks out as being a fitting emblem of tile secret, silent, refreshing, quickening, life-giving influences which God will bestow upon the spirit that comes back to Him in lowly penitence. Is there no fierce sunshine blazing down on us, which needs in like manner that our inward life should be moistened and refreshed by the visitations of that silent guest that will come and bring the moisture we need? The deceitful ray of prosperity is full of danger to the spiritual life, and no less cruel are the fervid beams of fiery temptation with which we have all to be tried. And where is our strength? I know but of one source of it,--that we shall receive the communications of that spiritual life, the gift of which is the central blessing of the Gospel; the impartation of the life of God to our hearts and spirits, mediated by the indwelling in us of the Spirit of God which is the Spirit of Christ.

II. The profuse beauty which will follow the fall of the dew. The lily is most probably identified as the scarlet anemone. The idea conveyed in the figure “He shall grow as the lily “ is twofold profusion, or what gardeners call freedom of growth and beauty. A profusion of grace ought to match the profusion with which the dew comes from God. The real beauty is goodness. That beauty of goodness will come wherever a man keeps himself in touch with God and Christ. We are all bound to try and make our Christianity attractive. A great many very good people are repellent and not attractive. There ought to be the beauty of holiness where there is the dew from the Lord.

III. The strength which should go with the beauty. “He shall cast forth his roots as Lebanon; his branches shall spread.” To the beauty of the fragile lily we must add the strength of the stable cedar. There must be strength conjoined with beauty in a world like ours, full of conflict and strife.

IV. The fruitfulness which should crown beauty and strength. The olive is not a beautiful tree. It has a gnarled, often twisted and distorted, sometimes a monstrous stem and mean branches, and insignificant, pointed, pale leaves, with a silvery grey underside. Its beauty lies in its fruit, and in nothing else, and that fruit produces the oil which sustains and soothes, and smoothes and gives light. Our deeds, which are our fruit, are important, not in themselves so much as because they are the outcome and manifestation of what we are. Our fruit is the test of our Christianity. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Sacred similitudes

I. God has here a similitude for himself. “I will be as the dew unto Israel.” The dew steals down softly, unheard and unobserved by men. So silent and so secret are the operations of the blessed Spirit on the soul. It is an inward work He carries on which the world seeth not and knoweth not. The very men He condescends to visit are, for a while at least, unconscious of His presence, and are often praying for His visitations when He is actually dwelling in their hearts and helping them in their petitions. Though the dew comes softly, it comes not in vain. It brings a blessing on the fields. It is with an especial view to these kindly influences of the dew upon the ground that the Lord makes it an emblem of His own blessed influences on the soul. It is as if God said, “I will refresh the heart of a penitent and humble sinner as the dew refreshes and revives the thirsty land.” It is said of the natural dew, that it “tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.” It does not depend on man’s making places ready for it. So is the grace of the Divine Spirit free and sovereign in its operations. It falleth where it listeth.

II. More than one similitude for the people on whom God’s Grace is bestowed. When the natural dew has fallen plentifully on the ground we expect to see a growth there--a growth among the herbs and flowers. “He shall grow as a lily.” This is a quickly growing flower: and so the man on whom the dew of the Spirit is plenteously diffused is a quickly growing Christian. He is no idle, sluggish, dull professor, but is constantly gaining ground in the blessed life which is begun in him. His faith groweth exceedingly. But the lily has only a feeble footing in the soil. Nothing more easy than to take and pluck it up. Not so with the Lord’s Israel, with those who have the Spirit’s dew upon their souls. This emblem, therefore, does not altogether suit them. The text resorts to another emblem in order to express the firmness and stability of the child of grace. “Send forth his roots as Lebanon.” The cedar trees are vast in height, and they are as vast in depth. So is it with those spiritual trees who have the dew of grace upon their branches. They are rooted and grounded in the love of Christ, as those mighty trees of Lebanon are rooted in the soil. The cedars of Lebanon are spreading trees; and so it is said of him who is watered with the dew of grace--“His branches shall spread.” This refers to the useful ness and profitableness of the Christian. The man who hath the dew of heaven in his heart is a blessing to the neighbourhood in which he lives. As far as his power or influence extends it is exerted on behalf of all around him. It is also said, “His beauty shall be as the olive-tree”; a tree fair and fruitful to a proverb, and employed to set forth the spiritual beauty and fruitfulness of true believers. He who has the dew of the Spirit in his heart has “the beauty of holiness” in his life and conversation. There is a comeliness and consistency in his behaviour which even the enemies of godliness must needs admire. The last similitude alludes to some sweet-smelling shrubs with which Lebanon abounded. “His smell shall be as Lebanon.” There is a fragrancy, as it were, in the character of him who hath the dew of grace within him. He is acceptable to his brethren. His graces, like a sweet perfume, endear to them his company, and make his communications precious to them. I am afraid that to find a suitable emblem for many of ourselves we must look not to the garden, but the wilderness. It would not be the lily, or the cedar, or the olive, but the “heath of the desert,” or the prickly bramble. By the grace of God’s Spirit you may become trees of righteousness, lilies, cedars, and olives, in the garden of the Lord. Learn, as Christians, what trees and flowers we should resemble in the garden where our God hath planted us. We should be as lilies in growth, as cedars in establishment, as olives in beauty, and as the sweet smelling shrubs in the odour of our lives. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

The dew unto Israel

These words follow immediately the healing of the backsliding and the proclamation of God’s free love. With us the dew is little noticed. We look to the clouds to supply all that grows upon the earth with sufficient moisture. In Judaea the great heat and little rain make the dew as important as it is beautiful. Three circumstances render the dew a peculiarly appropriate symbol of God’s sustaining care for His people.

1. The dew falls regularly, in summer as in winter, in autumn as in spring.

2. It comes quietly in the night, when no one perceives its advent.

3. There is a mystery connected with it,--at least in popular thought. Thus watered from on high, Israel “shall grow as the lily (or blossom).” With the lily is associated the idea of purity. The tall lily, elegant in shape, gorgeous in colouring, prolific in growth, sending forth leaves and flowers freely, forms a choice emblem of Christian beauty and fertility. But the lily is extremely fragile and short-lived. Another comparison must exhibit Israel s strength and stability. What type can better set forth firmness than the cedar of Lebanon! It retains its vigour for centuries. The roots clasp themselves around the rock, and therefore the tree stands unshaken. So the Christian is strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. “His branches shall spread.” The flourishing tree sends out new suckers continually, which take root, and themselves grow into trees, to repeat the process again and again. Israel multiplies as well as grows. “His beauty shall be as the olive-tree.” To an Oriental eye the olive-tree is actually beautiful. To us it is an emblem of usefulness. The very character of a true Christian renders him useful. He is ever ready to render to all men kindly service and help. “His smell as Lebanon.” Travellers say that the smell of Lebanon extends to a considerable distance from its mountains and valleys, owing partly to its cedars and partly to various sweet-smelling plants which are produced profusely. The metaphor may illustrate the influence exerted by the Christian ceaselessly and often unconsciously. “They that dwell under his shadow shall return.” The figure represents Israel as a widespreading umbrageous tree. It may refer to the protection the Church affords. Or it may allude to the teaching and instructing power of the Church. “They shall revive as the corn.” Even prosperous Israel may have his seasons of depression and apparent feebleness. The green stalk of corn may lie seemingly lifeless upon the parched earth, stricken by the sun. But the night mists and morning dew enwrap it, so that it drinks in the blessed moisture, and once more it erects its head and recovers its greenness. Thus tribulation, or persecution, or the assaults of insidious sin may render the Christian feeble, and may cause him to fall; but the dew of Divine grace descends upon him. He who restoreth the soul vouchsafes His Holy Spirit to him, and again he rises strong in humility and trust. Through the merciful communications of God to him he may revive when his disease seems desperate and recovery hopeless. “And grow as the vine.” The preceding metaphors imply power to stand alone. The vine must lean on something else. And the Christian must ever rely on a strength beyond his own. “The scent (memorial) thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.” Travellers speak enthusiastically of the manifold virtues of the wine of Lebanon, of its invigorating qualities, etc. Can a more appropriate illustration be conceived of the abiding influence of a Christian’s life, example, work after he has left this world? His memory is an inspiration. His good deeds live after him. (J. Robinson Gregory.)

The dew and its energies

God is no less with us day by day, in the calmer moods of our soul, than in the experiences in which we seem with more or less of terror to apprehend His awful presence. We speak of the thundercloud as His dark chariot; let us none the less think of the floweret and the dewdrop as telling of Him.

I. This image of god’s character--the dew.

1. You see the herbage languishing under the heat of the scorching sun. What hope is there for the languishing, thirsty flowers? Penetrating copious dews will bathe the dying vegetation with liquid life; and in the morning, when the sun looks forth, from myriad leaves shall flash the reflection of God’s own light and glory, and upon every petal shall rest the spangled dewdrop to tell how the most blessed offices of nature are wrought in silence and secrecy. Observe that God does not always come as the dew. It is to bruised and moaning penitents God appears as the dew. God comes often, like the dew, without observation. A restoration of religious life may be unaccompanied by great startling signs. We may scarcely know by what means our spiritual pulses are quickened from their languor, so silently and stealthily comes the grace of God into our hearts. And the dew represents to us the penetrativeness of God’s grace. God’s Spirit works beyond escape. A shower might miss the tender life overgrown by widespreading leaves; but the dew carries its blessing to the tiny flowerets that lie concealed beneath the broad cover of the more regal growths. To lowly, humble spirits God’s blessing comes, diffuse and copious, refreshing and life-giving; as well to them as to the more observed and outstanding. Many millions, in ways we know not, shall be reached by God’s gracious penetrative Spirit.

II. The threefold picture of the results of God’s gracious activity.

1. The beauty of vitality. Growth with rapidity and beauty. Some of the earlier stages of the Divine life have about them an apparent rapidity which finds its image in this growth of the lily. This lily is fitly chosen to represent the idea of beautiful, vital growth; no plant more redundant. This picture tells how, by a mighty force, our life should begin to be a prosperous life; we should grow as the lily, and become plants of the Lord, beyond all doubts, by the very rapidity of our growth and enlargement of our activity.

2. Forceful reserve. There is a hidden life, as we call it, a life away from general observation. With the change of figure, rapidity of development gives place to steadfastness, and the more tedious processes of the spiritual life--steadfastness of will and purpose--all that goes to make character. Some of the processes of Divine life, some of the most needful processes too, are out of sight, and not for observation. I pity the man who has no reserve force in him. He will endure but for a season, and then wither away.

3. Varieties of usefulness. There will be fruit and fragrance, and shelter and refreshment. Its branches will spread, and leaf and fruit in all their manifoldness will abound. Some trees are so beautiful that they utter no apology for their existence. So of the Divine life; it ought never to need an apology. It should be self-assertive; it should command admiration, not pity, never contempt. Fruitfulness and usefulness may command admiration, where even beauty and sublimity may fail. By all our systems we may fail to measure the effects of a truly productive spiritual life. The indirect blessedness flowing from a true life, who can calculate it? The “odour of sanctity” is a phrase which has come to mean some thing not pleasant, but the odour of real goodness and worth--think of this. And let your smell be that of Lebanon. (G. J. Proctor.)

Divine refreshings

I. God’s refreshing communications to His people. The communications of God to His people are fitly compared to the influence of dew, which--

1. Distils silently and almost imperceptibly.

2. Yet insinuates itself into plants.

3. And thus maintains vegetative powers.

II. God’s refreshing communications are attested by gracious fruits and effects.

1. Growth. The quickness of the growth of the lily often excites admiration. Its stability defies the assaults of earth and hell. While it spreads its branches and displays its vigor in every good word and work.

2. Beauty. Peculiar grace and beauty in the olive-tree. And such there is in the soul that communes much with God. How is the lively Christian beautified with salvation!

3. Fragrancy (twice mentioned in text). Lebanon was no less famous for its odoriferous vines than for its lofty cedars.

4. Fruitfulness. The corn and the vine are just emblems of a Christian’s fruitfulness.

1. How honourable and blessed is the Christian state! Often is he favoured with visits from above. Glorious are the effects produced by God upon him. The whole creation scarcely affords images whereby his blessedness may be adequately represented. Who, then, is so honourable? Who so happy? Let all endeavour to maintain a sense of their high privileges; and to “walk worthily of the calling wherewith they are called.”

2. How hopeful is the state of those who wait on God! The promises in the text were given as an answer to prayer. And they are made to all who, like Israel, plead with God.

Five good marks

I. The lily mark. A good life is like a lily; it is a fruitful life, it does more good than anybody knows but God. Everything carries seeds about--birds and bees, roaring storms and whispering breezes. Well, so it is with a good life; it is very fruitful. Anything that touches it is the better for it.

II. The mountain mark. “Cast forth his roots like Lebanon.” The lily is fruitful, but very soon uprooted. It is a very weak thing. Well, a good life is not only like the lily, it is also like Mount Lebanon--that is, strong, firm, and steadfast. Now, there are some people who are good by fits and starts; they are very good in the morning, but before dinner-time their goodness has gone away. They have little bits of goodness that look very nice at the time, out when a strong wind arises--that is, when they are tempted in any way, crossed or provoked--the nice little bits get blown clean away. But a really good life is like Lebanon. It has roots. Winds, come and go. It remains unmoved.

III. The shadow mark. “His branches shall spread.” Just think of a hot day in a tropical country. A weary traveller comes trudging along, and he says to himself, “Oh, for a bit of shade! I feel so tired, the sun will kill me.” And then he sees in the distance a great tree that seems to say to him, “Come here to me; I will shade you, and stand between you and the heat, and you shall rest and sleep and be refreshed.” Well, now, a good life is like that, it does good to others, and it spreads its branches so that others may be benefited. The shadow mark means usefulness.

IV. The beauty mark. “And his beauty shall be as the olive tree.” What is the beauty of the olive tree? Why, it is “ever green,” it is beautiful all the year round. Some trees are beautiful for a few months, but the olive tree is ever green; it is beautiful all through the seasons of the year. That is another mark of a good life. You boys will grow up to be men--old men, perhaps--and you will lose a great deal of the outward beauty you have to-day, and so will you girls, for the body will decay; but if you believe in Jesus Christ, and are like Jesus Christ, every year will be like a painter’s brush adding to your beauty, every day will make you more and more beautiful to the very end.

V. The wildflower mark. “And his smell shall be like Lebanon,”--that is, a good life gives joy and pleasure to others. Lebanon was a mountain; it had great trees growing on it, and a great many beautiful flowers too, and these had a beautiful smell; and when the wind blew over Lebanon, and people were coming up the valley towards it, and came round a certain corner, there came a beautiful spicy breeze from Lebanon, and they drew it in and said, “What a sweet smell! the smell of Lebanon on the breeze!” Well, now, a good life is like that. It gives other people pleasure, it makes the earth a better place to live in, and makes people happier. (J. M. Gibbon.)

Dew unto Israel

This is one of the exceeding great and precious promises which God has given to His Church, in which every true believer has a special interest, and for the fulfilment of which to himself and to others he is to look, and long, and pray.

I. As to the analogies.

1. As natural dew in ordinary language is spoken of as descending from heaven or from above, so is the spiritual. In the blessing of Moses to Israel before his death, His heavens, it is promised, shall drop down dew; and Solomon speaks of the clouds as dropping down dew (Proverbs 3:20); and the Spirit, in His gracious influences, comes down from the highest heaven. In waiting for the promise of the Spirit, Jesus commanded His disciples to tarry in the city of Jerusalem till they should be endued with power from on high; and the prophet Isaiah declares, that on the land Of God’s people will come up thorns and briars until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high” (Isaiah 32:13-15).

2. As the natural dew comes down freely, so does the spiritual. The husbandman has generally to pay a large rent for his land; he has also to expend much in manuring and preparing the ground, and replenishing it with appropriate seed; but the dew, which contributes so largely to the return which he reaps in harvest, costs him nothing. It is also distributed over his field in the best possible way, without any labour on his part. And this is still more emphatically true of the gracious influences of the Holy spirit. I, says Jesus, “will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever”; and again--“If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” This is an unspeakably precious gift, which no money could purchase, and without which men would labour in vain in trying to cultivate the field of their own fallen nature and the heritage of God.

3. As the natural dew comes down seasonably, and sometimes very copiously, so does the spiritual. It is after the heat and drought of the day that the dew descends during the night, to refresh and invigorate the herbs and plants of the field; and in warm, eastern countries it often descends so plentifully as not only to water the herbs and plants, but also to moisten the soil, and drench the raiment of those exposed to it. And it is in this world, in which His people are exposed to the scorching and withering influences of manifold temptations, that God sends the refreshing dew and rain of the Spirit’s benign influences. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and dry land springs of water.” God is pleased to give His people the most abundant enjoyment of the gracious influences of the Spirit in tile season of deep adversity.

4. As the natural dew descends very extensively, so does the spiritual. It is thus diffused not merely over all the hills and valleys, mountains and plains of one country, but of many countries in the four quarters of the globe. And the spiritual dew is also widely diffused. On how many living souls is this falling from day to day and night to night? On every living soul over the habitable globe. In respect of constancy, the analogy between the natural and the spiritual dew fails--the natural dew falls only during the night, but the spiritual descends day and night. The natural dew does not fall amidst storm and tempest; but it is when the storms and tempests of life rage most fiercely in the experience of the believer that the dews of the Spirit’s influence fall most plentifully on his soul. The natural dew only falls from a serene and cloudless sky, but the spiritual comes down when the sky of the people of God is most deeply overcast.

5. The natural dew comes down very gently, and almost imperceptibly,--and so does the spiritual.

II. The varied effects of the fulfilment of this promise as held forth in the figurative language here employed. The effect of this is--

1. Revival and growth,--“He shall grow as the lily.” “They shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine.” There are few more pleasing sights than a field of young corn, every blade of which stands erect with its drop of dew, as if it rejoiced in drinking in the cold moisture by which it is rendered healthful and vigorous. And such are the delightful effects of the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit on the Church and people of God. This produces health of the most precious kind--soul health. This renders the plants of grace in the believer healthful and vigorous, constituting a leading part of the beauties of true holiness.

2. The effect of this is stability and strength,--“He shall cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” It is generally known that the taller a tree grows the deeper do its roots sink into the soil. The cedars of Lebanon were distinguished for the loftiness of their stature and the extent of their boughs, and consequently for the depth to which their roots were struck into the soil, and the breadth to which they extended under the ground. This figurative language intimates very impressively the strength and stability which the influences of the Holy Spirit give to the people of God, preventing them from being driven to and fro as the chaff, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, or laid prostrate by assaults of temptation like uprooted trees of the forest after the hurricane.

3. Another effect of this is, an increase of the Church’s genuine members. He shall not only grow as the lily, but as the vine, which, when in a prosperous state, abounds with branches; and “his branches shall spread.” Such was the effect of an abundant effusion of the Spirit in the apostolic age, when thousands of true converts were added to the Church in one place in one day, and when there was a fulfilment of the prediction of such rapid increase to the Church as is indicated in the question, “Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows?”

4. Another effect of this is, beauty: moral and spiritual beauty. “His beauty shall be as the olive tree.” Any tree richly clothed with leaves is a beautiful sight. But the olive tree, with its verdant leaves, either when adorned with its gorgeous blossoms or loaded with fruit, excels in beauty. And to this the beauties of holiness with which the saints of God are adorned, when richly replenished with the Spirit, are likened. However delightful the beauties of the landscape are to the natural, such spiritual beauty spread over the heritage of God is unspeakably more precious and delightful in the sight of God, and in the esteem of His people, in proportion as they have been made like Him.

5. The effect of this is, the diffusion of a delightful spiritual fragrance. “His smell shall be as Lebanon”; and again, “tire scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.” God, in His amazing beneficence, as displayed even in nature, is pleased to furnish men with what gives pleasure to every sense--to the eye, to the ear, to the taste, and to the sense of smelling. Lebanon, doubtless, in the days of its glory, excelled in such richly garnished spots; and to this the savour of the holy, consistent lives of the people of God to the spiritual sense are compared; and such, we are assured, shall be the lives of Christians and their heavenly conversation, when God fulfils the promise largely in their experience. This last word, here rendered “scent,” has reference to memory. And of the righteous it is testified, that they shall be had in everlasting remembrance. The examples of the saints in ancient times, which have been embalmed in the inspired record, and the fragrant reminiscences of the excellent of the earth in subsequent ages, which have been preserved in authentic uninspired history, are special means by which, through the Divine blessing, the power of godliness has been perpetuated in our fallen world. Let us, then, seek to be enabled, by the Holy Spirit, so to bye from day to day, and from Sabbath to Sabbath in particular, that our example and our counsels shall exert a benign influence on children and children’s children, and on posterity generally. Let us try to unite in praying earnestly for an abundant fulfilment of this promise to ourselves, as individuals, as families, as congregations, and to the Church in all her branches. With what beauty of the best kind would this adorn her! What stability would this impart to her! What a blessing would this make her among the nations, yea, to the whole world! (Original Secession Magazine.)

He shall grow as the lily.--

Spiritual beauty

We have here--

I. The secret of spiritual beauty. “I will be as the dew unto Israel,” therefore “he shall grow as the lily.” Not the mere outward, but the outward as it grows from the inward. The dew may wash the dust off the fine petals of the lily, but it is not this that makes it grow beautiful and causes it to unfold its grandeur, but by going down its capillaries and saturating its roots. It is, in the language of modern science, first an involution, and then an evolution. First it takes in and then gives out. Not the amount of God’s blessings that rest upon us promote our spiritual beauty, but the amount of God that we absorb into our souls. If the former will, as it were, wash our faces, and it does this, as it makes national customs more pure and humane and beautiful, as it promotes a clean morality, as it gives sweetness to our habits and modes of living, yet it is the blessings that we take into our very being that make beauty a growth, a living product of the Divine within. There is a beauty of art, the result of the magic pencil or chisel of the artist, but it is not a growth; it is still, cold, and lifeless. It is a decoration and external addition, but not a production. It is the difference between the decorated Christmas-tree and the living, fruit-laden tree of the orchard. Spiritual beauty is the result of Divine blessings appropriated and converted by the Divine life within into outgrowing grandeur. The addition of external decorations is sometimes mistaken for this. Spiritual beauty is a living product, the natural outgrowth of the life within. A life dependent upon the nourishment that the Fountain of Life supplies. Be beautiful without God! Yes, when nature can wear her gorgeous apparel without the blessings and the light of heaven.

II. Then the figure suggests the pronounced character of true spiritual beauty. “Blossom as the lily.” Blossom like this. Changed into the plain prose of the New Testament it means Christians growing like Christ; beautiful with His beauty, grand with His grandeur. For as He is the unchanging standard of spiritual beauty. Making no pretensions, it frequently hides half-buried among more obtrusive and gaudy blooms, yet is known when seen. To grow as the lily is to have a beauty inseparable from real quality. The disciples in the council and Stephen before the court were too real and beautiful to be ignored, and we read that men took note of them. Such men are the living yet unconscious preachers of the nature and grandeur of the Divine character. It is unnecessary to be anxious about our appearance, about being demonstrative, about showing our character and piety; we need be anxious only about being real and the character will show itself. See that the inner life is Christ in us, filling our spirits, and the outer life will be a natural, agreeable product requiring no effort on our part to produce it.

III. Again we learn that our spiritual beauty is God’s concern rather than ours. Be not concerned about your beauty, but be concerned about your goodness; not about what you are to become, but about what you are, about doing your duty to God, and He will see to your beauty. He does not bid us chisel our own beauty; it would certainly be very inferior work. The fashioning of the spiritual beauty of the Christian character is in the hands of the Master Artist of the universe, and we can profitably leave it to Him. (E. Aubrey.)

Spiritual growth

Coleridge defined genius as “the faculty of growth”; goodness belongs to the same order, and may be similarly defined. It is ever “becoming,” changing into a more complete and Diviner thing.

1. There is growth in purity. Wesley said, “I believe this perfection is always wrought in the soul by faith, by a simple act of faith; consequently in an instant.” But I believe a gradual work, both preceding and following that instant. The gift received in faith was preceded by a gracious preparation, the gift received in faith is slowly realised in its fulness of meaning in after years. We must look for growth in clearness of insight, for increasing freedom from pride and self, for new blossomings in purity of thought and motive and life.

2. There is growth in depth. How little many of us read, or meditate, or pray. And this is the reason that our branches are bare, that we wither at the top. We want more pondering in our heart, more of that secret assimilation which takes fast, hold of the eternal grounds of reason and righteousness. The plants which grow in the Alps are, as a rule, firmly and largely rooted. It is much the same with the Christian character. Whenever we find strength or beauty of character, we may be sure that it springs from depth of soul, that the fibres have struck deep in the everlasting truth and love. And when we gain this depth we enjoy a blessed stability and peace. The Christian life is strong and stable, hidden with Christ in God.

3. There is growth in breadth. Spreading of roots, and spreading of boughs. Not unusually we commence the spiritual life with narrow and ignorant views of the Divine character and government; but justly cultured, the soul expands in the knowledge and love of God. We sorely need to grow out of all narrow and unworthy misconceptions. There is also a growth in charity--a growth in heart. The growth in kindness, sympathy, catholicity, is the Divinest growth of all.

4. There is growth in beauty. Mount Lebanon is decked with loveliness, and it has an abundance of aromatic things and odoriferous flowers. The olive is a tree with a charm of its own. The olive is by no means a picturesque tree, it even sometimes looks stunted and shabby. But the soft, delicate beauty of the olive grows upon you, until, stirred by the wind, the shimmering silver of its leaves makes a picture. So Christian character is often not in the least brilliant, not heroic or striking. The noblest men and women living are modest, homely, simple souls; but they are marked by a mild and serious grace which is in truth the perfection of beauty. In this unconscious winsomeness we ought to grow unto our lives’ end.

5. There is a growth in useful ness. What corn and wine are to men, the children of God are to the world they diffuse life and gladness. Usefulness is the very glory of the Christian. The glory of the Christian is that he lives to bless. And we are reminded that every thing is possible in the power of grace, as all beauty and fruitfulness are possible in the dewdrop. God says, “I will be as the dew unto Israel.” (Wesleyan Magazine.)

The believer’s growth in grace

These words contain the gracious promise of God’s favour and blessing upon Israel converted. The Lord gives refreshment to His people, which produces in them the firmness of the tree that is deeply rooted, the beauty and spotless purity of the lily, the fragrance of an odoriferous plant, the smell of Lebanon. The dew which is promised is grace, grace which justifies, as well as grace which sanctifies. This grace is given in order to produce certain fruits. The beauty of holiness may be fitly represented by the purity and comeliness of this flower. Then spiritual growth is not all outwards, it consists mostly in growth of the root, which is out of sight. The more we depend upon Christ, and draw our virtue from Him, the more we act from principle, the more steadfast we are in faith. Another blessing, following the operation of grace, is the increase of God’s Church. There is one metaphor more. The Christian plant is pleasing to the sight; it is pleasant also to the smell. The olive-tree has the advantage of being always green. And the spiritual sacrifices, like the smell of Lebanon, are as a sweet savour unto God. The Church of Christ is compared to a garden of spices. The fragrance of true piety is felt where it is not acknowledged. (Richard Burgess, D. D.)

Spiritual prosperity

The cause of all which follows is this, God by His gracious Spirit will be “as the dew unto Israel.” Upon that note of the prosperous success this dew of God’s Spirit hath in them. “They shall grow as the lily.” Objection--

1. The lily grows but hath no stability. Then “they shall cast out their roots as Lebanon.” With growth they shall have stability; not only grow in height speedily, but also grow fast in the root with firmness. Objection--

2. As everything that grows in root and firmness doth not spread itself, he says “his branches shall spread,” making him more fruitful and comfortable to others. Objection--

3. Everything is not fruitful, therefore he shall be as the olive-tree for fruitfulness. Objection-

4. The olive hath no pleasant smell or good taste. Therefore he adds another blessing. They shall, in regard to their pleasantness to God and man, be “as the smell of Lebanon,” which was a wondrous, pleasant, and delightful place. (R. Sibbes.)

And cast forth his roots as Lebanon.--

Spiritual strength

The lesson here directs attention to spiritual strength, not in its manifestations so much as in its invisible secret growth and power, agreeing with the New Testament expression, “Strengthened with might in the inner man.”

I. That spiritual strength is primarily an invisible growth. We see the stem of the tree coming to view, its branches spreading, its foliage budding and opening; but this is secondary. Previous to this the roots have spread themselves and absorbed nourishment, and fastened themselves to the hidden rocks. And our life in its visible beauty, in its vigour, in its fruitfulness, will be just in proportion to the extent that our desires and affections and motives grow towards God, and cling to Him and draw their nourishment from Him. A man is really outwardly what he is really inwardly. Root principles are not conveniences but necessities. Faith is first a conviction and then an effort. Trees without deep roots have been seen sprouting and bearing leaves, but they have soon withered. Virtues without principle, tim result of training or environment, or even imitation, may in their bearings upon mankind prove beneficial. The man may act or give to satisfy another, or to obtain applause, or from some other selfish motives; but the virtues of the truly religious spring from a deep invisible principle that is rooted in and gathers its strength from God. And one of the results of absorbing abundantly God’s blessings is that it develops righteous principles and convictions in the soul, bringing the invisible in us into living and growing contact with the invisible Eternal.

II. That spiritual strength is ours in proportion to the growth of our internal principles. We may have a laudable ambition to be strong, vigorous Christians, having resisting power to fight manfully and successfully all alluring temptations, persisting power to pursue with firm step our godly course, maintaining a large measure of devoutness whatever may be the hindrances and difficulties “in our way, and possessing conquering power whereby we may overcome self as well as Satan. Then our desires and anxieties and ambitions must move towards God, to settle themselves in Him, and derive their strength from Him, and become “strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.”

III. A strength that shall be seen in unwavering steadfastness. Storms sweep over the Lebanon forests in mad fury, but they only help to consolidate the roots of the cedar, and help them to strike themselves deeper among the rocks, to have a still firmer hold, and then to stand in stately grandeur. The powers of our soul are capable of expansion, and don’t try and tie them down to any circumscribed rule of your own, and sinfully stunt their growth! Give them scope, being careful that they ever move in the direction of God and eternal realities. Why the wavering and vacillating on the part of so many? Why the painful unrest so generally apparent? The answer is not far to find. The roots are not deep. Conviction is at a discount, and principle is not the sacred and important concern that it rightly should be in the estimate of large numbers of professing Christians. How different they who are rooted and grounded in God, with convictions firm, and principles a guiding rule! Compromise and expediency find no countenance with them, Such men were Moses, Job, Daniel, and others in Old Testament times, and Peter, Paul, John, and others in apostolic times, and the martyrs and others in later years. (E. Aubrey.)

Spiritual restoration

I. THIS EXPRESSION IMPLIES A SAD AND PAINFUL TRUTH. A truth, alas! only too evidently confirmed by our own experiences, namely, that there lies in us a possibility to err from the ways of God. Among the many causes that contribute to this is--

1. Too large a measure of self-confidence. There is a confidence that is legitimate and necessary, the confidence that has God for its foundation. But if in exalting self our trust rests upon our own powers, and we reason confidently from an exaggerated conception of the ability of those powers, then do we sin both against God and ourselves. Self-confidence is false confidence, and like all things false, it must wither and decay. The chequered career of Israel as a nation is a striking object-lesson that illustrates this truth. Its several declensions are preceded by unmistakable evidences of a growing self-confidence, that leads to ignoring God, and eventually makes them the captive slaves of their victorious enemies. And history in its recital of the careers of individuals bears testimony to the operation of the same law here. Self-confidence has proved the sure harbinger of declension. It was so with Peter.

2. Another cause of spiritual declension is the neglect of the means Divinely appointed to ensure our stability and progress. This naturally follows the other. An exalted self means a belittled God. Self-satisfaction means despised Divine provision. We cannot live and grow and prosper without God. And so are His appointed means.

3. Again, too close a tie to the world in its enervating influences conduces to declension. We cannot live in the miasma and fever swamps of sin without being spiritually affected for ill. Indications of such declension are also present in our own spirits.

II. Voices a consolatory truth. “They shall return.” Recover the ground lost by their declension, on condition that in quiet, trustful receptiveness they dwell under God’s shelter. It is our comfort to know that God works our restoration. Have we asked, “What shall I do to win back the joys of former days”? We may have vowed and planned and promised and striven in our own strength away from God, but all in vain. How shall we compass again the experiences of a brighter day? Here is the answer, “They that abide under His shadow shall return.” (E. Aubrey.)

Soul revival

The figure implies--

I. The possession of a living energy.

II. The figure again suggests that soul revival is promoted by coming under the influence of the necessary and adapted means. The grain to germinate and grow and produce must be placed in congenial soil, be watered by the clouds of heaven, and warmed by the abounding rays of the sun Israel’s revival is ensured by being in God’s presence, with His fertilising blessings resting upon them and His gracious favours awakening their sleeping powers. Prayer, the Word of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit are a necessity.

III. Soul revival shall mean the increase and multiplication of life. “Revive as the corn.” How? To grow? Yes, and to multiply. When God is ours, He multiplies life through us. We live to-day, when God is ours, to live to-morrow, not only in ourselves, but in others, and become immortal both in heaven” and on earth. Immortality is inseparable from the life lived in God and nourished by Him. Its very nature, for it is Divine, ensures its perpetuation. The saints that have gone before never lived as they do to-day. They fill a larger circle, and sway a greater influence than when in the flesh. When filled with God we produce what becomes seed for greater harvests. What magnificent possibilities belong to us! (E. Aubrey.)

And grow as the vine.--

Spiritual growth by dependence and pruning

I. It is growth by dependence upon superior strength. While all the trees and plants of forest, field, and garden in many ways evince their dependence, in none, perhaps, except the ivy and its class, is it manifested more openly than in the vine. Growth by clinging to superior strength seems to be the primary lesson that it teaches. “The Lord was my stay,” says David. “Who is among you that feareth the Lord let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” It is no dishonour to our devout character, no disgrace to our virtues, no disparagement of our powers to acknowledge our utter dependence upon God, and to exhibit it. “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.” It was no empty platitude, or mere figure of speech, that exhortation of Barnabas’s to the brethren in the Church at Antioch: “That with full purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord.” Clinging to the Lord is not only weakness laying hold of strength, but life gathering force and finding support to expand and grow and be fruitful. This is not merely a wise policy, but an absolute necessity.

II. Growing in an elevated situation. We are told that “the elevation of the hills and tablelands of Judah is the true climate of the vine.” This natural fact suggests a parallel in Christian history and experience. The souls that have dwelt in the heights of God, above the world in their desires, affections, and aims, standing on an elevated platform in the principles that they have ever acted upon, and the methods which they have adopted, have ever proved the most fruitful, and the product of their life most wholesome and rich. As the vine is indigenous to an elevated position, and grows best there, so our souls are indigenous to a higher mode of life than the worldly, and meant in that higher position to breathe a holier and purer atmosphere, and grow best in our native soil, which is God and the Divine.

III. That our spiritual growth is promoted by necessary purging and pruning. To grow is one thing; to grow pure, strong, healthy, and fruitful is another thing. And the latter is ensured by the wise arrangement that ordains a measure of trial and sorrow and suffering. To grow as the vine is to grow to the sharp, necessary touch of the pruning knife as it lops off the superfluous, and as it bleeds by skilful incisions to draw off the infected sap, which being allowed to remain would work destruction. Conscious as we are of the presence in our spirits of much that is injuriously superfluous, it is a loving hand that in affliction comes to purge, since it makes the zeal stronger and the soul holier. “It was good for me that I was afflicted,” is a confession that has often been endorsed. Is it not a privilege to be helped to grow strong and healthy? Is it not a favour to be assisted to greater purity and more abundant fruitfulness?

IV. In which fruitfulness is its purposed end. The vine that grows to a purpose, being advantageously situated, carefully and skilfully tended and trimmed is the one that repays the attention bestowed upon it with rich clusters of luscious fruit. And it is this that explains the attention. “That ye may abound in every good work” is the key that unlocks the mysteries of our life, and explains the trying dispensations through which the believing soul is made to pass. (E. Aubrey.)

His branches shall spread.--

Spiritual progress

First the growth of our inner virtues, then the growth of our outer graces. First deep-rooted convictions, pure desires, holy affections, honest motives; then manifest activities, wide sympathies, and powerful influences, the natural and irresistible outcome.

I. To the manifest and visible in spiritual growth. Grace, which is the New Testament term for the Divine blessings, cannot be concealed. Besides, we cannot absorb more unless we produce with what we have. We must give God out in our life, if we would take in more of God into our spirit. God has not meant that we should be reservoirs to store, but channels to communicate. It is as false as it is selfish to suppose that, God being ours, He is ours to conserve for ourselves, as if the ideal of religion consisted in getting as much from Him for our own aggrandisement aa we can contain. Then verily would our portion be small. Not how much of enjoyment can we derive in the sanctuary makes us religious, but how much of God can we exhibit in our homes and its duties, in the workshop, in the office, and in the street. Religion is not personal enjoyment so much as a relative blessing. The ideal is not our own enriching as being blessed in being means of enriching others.

II. A truth not less applicable to our influence than to our acts. Society has mistakenly joined the epithet “influential” to mere worldly position and material wealth, and calls him the influential man who possesses these. But the standard is a low one, and neither true to history or experience. True influence, an influence that lives and elevates the race, is that which emanates from goodness and is joined to disinterested piety. Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon, and others are but mere names in history as compared with the living influence of the disciples. Their branches spread and are spreading still.

III. Then, again, progress is characteristic of our visible graces when God is ours. This sentence in its literal form presents to us a complex figure, seemingly contradictory--“His branches or sucking offshoots shall go on.” And having God as ours even now progress is characteristic of our life as we go “from strength to strength,” adding virtue to virtue. Our life’s history is a “going on.” From grace to grace; from effort to effort; from experience to experience; from achievement to achievement. The branches are going on. Desires are becoming more holy, devotion’s fires burn brighter and stronger, zeal becomes increasingly fervent, and religion is more transparent. (E. Aubrey.)

His beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon.--

Like the olive and Lebanon

“His beauty shall be as the olive-tree,” which though fruitful and excellent, yet hath no sweet smell; therefore it is added, “His smell shall be as Lebanon.” The olive is a very fruitful tree, and the oil which comes and distils from it hath many excellent properties, agreeing to graces. It is a royal kind of liquor, that will be above the rest: so grace commands all other things, it gives a sanctified use of the creature, and subdues all corruption. And then it is unmixed, it will mingle with nothing: light and darkness will not mingle, no more will grace and corruption. And it is sweet, strengthening, and feeding the life. It is the excellence and glory of a Christian to be fruitful in his place and in his particular calling. Every one that is fruitful, God hath a special care of. A Christian by his fruitfulness doth delight others. Note the figure, “dwell under His shadow.” What is the use of a shadow? It is for a retiring place to rest in. It is for defence against the extremity of heat. It is for delight, if the shades be good and wholesome. What solace and rest do men find under the shadow of the Church? There is rest and peace. God is about His Church as a wall to protect it. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Abiding beauty of the godly life

So the, beauty of the pious life is by this figure set forth.

I. As being unintermittent. A striking contrast to the ever-changing and short-lived so-called beauty of the world. Dressed in the charm of novelty and breaking upon the world at certain seasons, the beauty of much that society boasts of, or even nature presents to our view, is thereby deemed especially attractive. But true spiritual beauty is an ever present quality. Not the cold beauty of a statue or of a finely painted picture, the result of human skill and artistic manipulation, but the living production of a healthy, God-filled soul. The strength within counteracting the destroying forces without, and triumphing over them. The winter of life no less than summer witnesses its continuance. As sure as it is the result of the God-life in us, so sure will it abide and live unintermittently. The unbelieving observer will occasionally complain that it is not sufficiently apparent, and some, because they cannot see it, deny its existence, forgetting that spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Besides, the pious man’s surroundings occasionally prevent the world from seeing his real character.

II. That it is beauty combined with utility. The olive-tree, while symbolical of beauty, stands none the less noted for its wealth, with its proverbial fatness, combining with its abiding vigour and beauty the virtue of being pre-eminently serviceable--its stock, branches, sap, leaves, and fruit being all of the highest value. And that is the truly beautiful which is preeminently useful. The beauty of an object to the pious mind is that it awakens gratifying spiritual sensations, and so far is subjective; and, moreover, is ever fresh with unfading glory, serves a useful purpose, harmonises with the grandeur of the Divine creation, and stands in due order and rightful proportion to the universe in its symmetry and forces. The spiritual theory, as one puts it, is that it is “the expression of the invisible and spiritual under sensible material forms,” or, in theological phraseology, it is the inner life manifesting itself in holy fruitfulness and blessing, glorious with the attraction of felt benefits. Such is the really beautiful life--a life of positive activity and blessing. Speak we of spiritual beauty? We ever associate it with self-sacrificing labours. We view the representatives of the truly beautiful in the gallery of Scripture; and inquire wherein does their beauty lie? And we find it consists in the manifestation of this self-sacrificing spirit and effort. They found their beauty by distributing their powers and blessings, regardless of self.

III. It is beauty of an ever-enduring character. (E. Aubrey.)

Spiritual fragrance

I. Such fragrance is the product of internal grace and divine favour. Vain is the hope to be able to diffuse a sweetening and hallowing influence unless God is in us in His sweetening and sanctifying life. The botanist tells us that the perfume of flowers depends upon the volatilisation of an essential oil which they secrete in their most hidden recesses, whether a sweet oil diffusing rich fragrance or a nauseous oil that exhales itself in repulsive smell. Still the possession of this oil is one thing, its volatile character another. Turning from the figure to the lesson it embodies, it manifestly suggests two things: first, the necessity of possessing internal graces, being filled with the fulness of God, and then, that these graces should become external influences, as they dispose themselves in pleasing and effective forms. Such influences are the holy fragrance of the devout life, arresting attention, awakening inquiry, and inspiring fondness, being neither heard nor seen but powerfully felt. Appearance and sweetness do not always go together. To the eye the richly-hued dahlia is more fascinating than the spray of mignonette, which can scarcely lay claim to be regarded as a flower. But which is it that gives the greatest sense of sweetness? True spiritual influence is more a felt than a seen power. There are parallels in human life to the dahlia and the mignonette: the beauty that expends itself in colour--not to be despised--and that still greater beauty that touches us with pleasing and arresting force, though still unseen--the subtle, penetrating, and captivating influence whose presence is a felt reality. It is so in the life of many a humble, modest, retiring disciple of Jesus Christ’s, who dread nothing more than conspicuous publicity, who would blush to find themselves famous, and yet whose presence gives a healthy, fragrant character to the workshop, warehouse, office, or in whatever circle they are found. Their life is a diffusion of Divine sweetness. To scatter a Divine aroma in the community, to diffuse a holy fragrance in our life, grace must be obtained from God, and our virtues must be of a diffusive nature.

II. Spiritual fragrance means again the harmonious blending of Christian virtues. As the fragrance of Lebanon was the blended odours diffused by the various fragrant plants that grew on that mountain range, so the spiritual fragrance of the Christian Church is the harmonious unity and co-operation of its members, and in the case of the individual believer it is the union of the several virtues that go to make up Christian character. There is a spiritual deformity that hinders the diffusion of spiritual influence, where only one grace, or set of graces, is cultivated to the neglect of all the test, and symmetry is lost and beauty and sweetness consequently absent. Christian character, to prove an influence, must be symmetrical and complete. “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge,” etc. Men may admire boldness, revere meekness, take pleasurable notice of sturdy faith, applaud charity, speak of kindness, and trust honesty when beheld singly; but it is when they are joined together in one character that men are afraid of committing evil in its presence, and are inspired by it to holy effort.

III. The emblem suggests again unconfined expansion. Lebanon loads the passing breezes with a rich profusion of flagrance to be carried anywhere and everywhere--a fragrance that defies the artificial limitations of men’s erecting. A high wall may shut in the colour, but the fragrance will overleap it and scatter itself in ever-widening directions. (E. Aubrey.)

Lily, cedar, olive

Look at the picture of what the dew does, that we may claim the promise and drink in the blessing.

I. The dew makes bloom. When God heals the backsliding of Israel, “he shall blossom as the lily.” God comes as the dew to dower us with eternal bloom. His secret influences are meant to urge us to an open and increasing beauty. God promises in this figure, to give us, not merely the lily lines, but also the lily glow. He shall lead us not only to do the right, but to do it from a noble motive, and in a noble manner. He aims at colour as well as form.

II. The dew makes root. “Shall cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” The famous rid is known the world over for its groves of cedar, and the cedar-tree is remarkable for its deep, strong grip of the soil. It takes its name indeed from the way in which it “coils” its roots about the rocks. It is the very figure of immovability. Our faith roots itself in truths as sure as the changeless, tremulous rock. We lay hold of the eternal love, and we know that we must shake the universe and wreck all existence before we can move that. Therefore our hope rears itself ever nearer heaven, and fears not the blasts of temptation nor the tooth of time.

III. The dew makes fruit. God promises the luxuriant growth of the olive. Here is the symbol of a life that is visible in open majesty and usefulness. It bears an ever fuller harvest of fruit. It shows a constant freshness. The spiritual olive-tree, weighted with its berries, is God’s secret benediction to the soul given forth again as an open blessing to the world.

IV. The dew makes scent. The lily, when it has much colour, has little fragrance. The cedar and the olive are sweet-smelling trees. Thus the three foregoing figures not only represent gracefulness, steadfastness, and usefulness, but also imply the virtue which is typified by scent. God would have His Church fling far beyond its borders a pleasant savour. As we send our own special sweetness into the air we make a fragrance which woes the world to think well of God’s work. Popular opinion as to godliness is not formed from the aroma of one saintly life, but from the general experience of men in their dealings with saintly people. How necessary then that every plant of the Lord, however lowly, should be richly fragrant. The dew, which is God, nourishes the continual incense that ascends to God. Sweeter than our songs, truer than our prayers, our godly spirit is a delight to God, and a worship ever waited for. (Anon.)

Fragrant influence

(for children):--Lebanon is the name of two great ranges of mountains on the northern border of Palestine. Travellers who have visited the place tell us that when you enter the valley between these mountains there meets you at once “a perfect gust of fragrant odours.” It tomes from the flowers, from the aromatic shrubs, from the fig-trees, mulberry-trees, vines and cedars which abound in the valley. The perfume is delightful, and cannot easily be described. Hosea must have passed that way and caught some of the exquisite fragrance, else he could not have written about it so forcibly. But what can the prophet mean when he speaks of Israel--God’s people, men, women, Children--having a “smell as Lebanon”? Was the smell in their clothes, or in their bodies? No. Clothes may smell of grease, of smoke, of scent; and vulgar persons are sometimes vain enough to make themselves known in a company by means of their favourite perfume. He was a silly little boy who, after nurse had washed his face, removed his pinafore, put some sweet pomatum on his hair and a drop of scent on his handkerchief, came strutting into the drawing-room among his mother’s guests, and, looking all around, proudly said, “Now, if anybody smells a smell, that is me.” We shall do well to shun that kind of folly and vanity. If good people have a “smell as Lebanon,” it is not in their clothes, or in their bodies, but in their character--their influence is what the prophet refers to as fragrance. Influence is not an easy word to define, yet we all know what it is. Influence is like the scent Of shrubs and flowers; you cannot see it, touch it, hear it, but it never fails to make its presence known. The fragrance of a plant is part of itself--that part which it gives forth in minute particles, in atoms so small the eye cannot see them, yet they float in the air, and reach the organs of smell. And influence is something going forth from us in little, almost imperceptible ways; in looks, tones, gestures, tempers, actions. It is the outcome of our inner self. It may be good, or bad, sweet or foul, wholesome or noxious; and like the magnet, it has power to draw or repel. Every one of us has influence. No hair is so small that it is without a shadow. No violet is so hidden that it yields no scent. No child is too young, too lowly, to sweeten daily life in home and school. If boys and girls live for Jesus, in the sunshine of His love, and under the dew of His Spirit, theirs will be a fragrant life. They will bring joy into the family, love into the playground, good temper into every quarrel, happiness and gladness into many hearts. The missionary who settles among strange people in a foreign land may not be able, at first, to speak their language, or say a word to change their bad habits. Yet there is something he can do. He may live a life of kindness, goodness, compassion, truthfulness, purity; and, so living, the influence of his character will be sure to “impress the heathen favourably, and do them good. Of King Jesus it Is said, All Thy garments smell of myrrh.” Keep company with Jesus, and He will give you of His sweetness, wherewith to influence others. The Chinese have a wood which, however deeply buried underground, fills the air with fragrance; and in the higher peak of Teneriffe, far above the clouds, in a dry, burning waste, grows a plant which in summer emits a delicious odour far and wide. Let me so live, that, whether my lot be in the vale or on the hill-top, others may find some good and gracious influence proceeding from me, like that in Israel of which the prophet testified, “His smell as Lebanon.” (A. A Ramsey.)

God does everything beautifully

Everything that God does is beautifully done. His stars are jewels set in velvet; His flowers are sapphires set in emerald. Everything of His creation, in shape and colour, as it lies bathed in the sunlight, has upon it the touch of the beautiful. And this teaches us to do beautifully everything that we do. Especially in our conduct towards each other ought there to gleam the beauty of star and breathe the fragrance of flower.

The uses of the olive

Anybody that has ever seen a grove of olives knows that their beauty is not such as strikes the eye. If it were not for the blue sky overhead, that rays down glorifying light, they would not be much to look at or talk about: The tree has a gnarled, grotesque trunk, which divides into insignificant branches, bearing leaves mean in shape, harsh in texture, with a silvery under side. It gives but a quivering shade and has no massiveness nor sympathy. Ay! but there are olives on the branches. And so the beauty of the humble tree is in what it grows for man’s good. The olive is crushed into oil, and the oil is used for smoothing and suppling joints and flesh, for nourishing and sustaining the body as food, for illuminating darkness as oil in the lamp. And these three things are the three things for which we Christian people have received all our dew, and all our beauty, and all our strength--that we may give other people light, that we may be the means of conveying to other people nourishment, that we may move gently in the world as lubricating, sweetening, soothing influences. The question, after all, is, Does anybody gather fruit of us, and would anybody call us “trees of righteousness the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified”? (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn.--

The blessings of the Church of Christ to others

1. Who are those that are under his shadow, and what is their return? What is the shadow? Is it Christ, or is it the visible Church? A shadow is literally the representation which any solid body, interposing between the sun, or light, and another body makes of itself. Christ, and God in Him, are the shadow and protection of the Church. But the Church of God seems to be the shadow meant in the text, to which those who dwell under the shade of the same return.

2. Their revival on their having returned, and being under his shadow. This is described as the growth of corn. Corn, in this metaphor, includes wheat, barley, oats, rye, etc.

3. Set forth the growth of these converts, thus returned to the Church, Who, being received into it, and protected by it, and being hereby under the shadow of the same, “are revived as the corn, and grow as the vine.”

4. The spiritual fragrancy of those who thus return to the Lord. “The scent, or memorial (see margin), shall be as the wine of Lebanon.” Thus we have the Church of Christ in the open, visible state in which she will shine forth in all her gifts and graces. (Samuel Eyles Pierce.)


Verse 8

Hosea 14:8

Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols.

Joined to idols

Compare this account of Ephraim with that given in Hosea 4:17. How is this surprising Change to he accounted for?

I. A sinner in his natural state is joined to idols. Herein consisteth the essence of man’s apostasy. Something that is not God is the supreme object of his love, and possesseth that place in his heart which is due only to the living and true God. This world, the things of the world, its riches and pleasures and honours, are the great rivals of God which, ever since the fatal apostasy, have usurped the throne of the human heart. This present world, in one shape or other, is loved and served in preference to God by every man, without exception, who hath no other principle of life than what he derived from the first Adam.

II. To separate a sinner from his idols must be the peculiar work of God himself. The natural man may change the object of his devotion; but he will only turn from one idol to another. He stops short of God. All the objects of his pursuit belong to the present state of things. The conversion of a sinner is in Scripture represented as the effect of omnipotent creating power. It is called “a new creation,” a being “born again,” “a resurrection,” a “passing from death to life.” The apostate creature is really dead, in the truest and most important sense of the word.

III. How does God accomplish this work? By the discovery and application of His pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace. Fear is the immediate consequence of guilt, which soon degenerates into hatred, or that enmity against God which is the distinguishing characteristic of the carnal mind. The report of God’s pardoning mercy presents him in a light so suited to the necessities of the apostate creature that, in proportion as it is believed, the sinner is encouraged to look to Him with hope. Then how powerful must the actual experience of such pardoning mercy be.

IV. These words of Ephraim will be adopted by all upon whom God hath been pleased to confer His pardoning mercy. By this means alone can the sinner be separated from idols. Learn--

1. How to account for that idolatry which is so prevalent in the world.

2. That nothing can avail for the cure of this idolatry which doth not relieve from the guilt of sin and vanquish the tormenting fear of wrath, by representing God in a light wherein we can behold Him with pleasure. 3 The importance and use of faith in Christ. (R. Walker.)

Some of our idols

When the Holy Spirit comes into any heart He drives out the buyers and sellers. If you have received the Spirit you will be crying now in your heart: Lord, take these things hence; what have I to do any more with idols? Some of the idols to be cast away are--

1. Self-righteousness. The largest idol of the human heart--the idol which man loves most and God hates most.

2. Darling sins. Every man has his darling sins. Dash down family idols, and secret idols of your own heart.

3. Unlawful attachments. There is not a more fruitful source of sin and misery than this.

4. Ministers. It is right to love them, but beware of making idols of them.

5. Earthly pleasures. This is a smiling, dazzling idol. Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Sometimes it is a gross idol.

6. Money. You must not love money. You must be more open-hearted, more open-handed.

7. Fear of man. Grim idol! Many souls has he devoured. His eyes are full of hatred to Christ’s disciples. This keeps some of you from secret prayer, from worshipping God in your family, from going to lay your case before ministers, from openly confessing Christ. (R. M. M’Cheyne.)

Turnings in life

This is a touching delineation of true repentance, not the less applicable to us in our turning to God because it describes the repentance of a nation, not of an individual, or because it was written thousands of years ago. Israel and Judah were at this time in a miserable condition. The form under which the prophet presents the lesson he would teach his people is very curious. He was directed to take a wife; she was faithless to him, and fell lower and lower in infidelity and infamy. In his own distracted home-life the prophet is taught to see a parable of the state of his country. The words of the text are spoken partly by returning and repentant Israel, and partly by God. Ephraim exclaims, “What have I to do any more with idols?” The response of God is, “I have heard him, and observed him.”

1. The recoil and disgust of Ephraim when he remembers his past idolatries. Idolatry in the Bible is always associated with moral debasement. It is not necessary that the idol should be an image of wood or stone. It may be money, position, a splendid establishment, or aesthetic feeling; it may be senseless parsimony, or drink, or licentiousness. And sooner or later there comes a sense of debasement, a wonder that we could have brought ourselves so low. If we have ever known true repentance, we must have known also that feeling which is of its very essence,--“What have I to do any more with idols” To hate our idol, even though we confess its power over our souls, is at least an advance, the beginning of spiritual life, But by one manly effort to say,--“What have I to do any more with idols?” and to lay our heart’s allegiance and love and reverence before Him who deserves it and asks it, this is repentance or change of mind, this is to pass from death unto life.

2. But that is a tremendous revolution. Such a resolve demands the very highest form of moral courage. The spell of our false gods does not withdraw itself all at once: But God is not unaware of the struggle in which you are engaged. And to returning Ephraim His loving response is, “I have heard him and observed him.” Our warfare is so feeble because we do not believe that God is witnessing and approving and aiding us. It is well to hear Ephraim recognising his own weakness in the words, “I am like a green fir-tree.” “I do not think I am a giant of the forest; I know I am but a slight and delicate sapling.” Then comes the response of God, deepening Ephraim’s humility and trust, “From Me is thy fruit found.” The great spiritual need of our souls is to trust God more perfectly, to lay the full weight of our spiritual being on His promises and His character; not to trust Him a little, and ourselves much, but to say out of the fulness of our hearts, “All my fresh springs are in Thee.” Such trust means strength, not weakness. It is manly; it is truthful; it is self-respecting. (J. A. Jacob, M. D.)

True penitents

I. THE LANGUAGE AND CHARACTER OF TRUE PENITENTS. Godly sorrow for sin is always found when sin is perceived in its pollution and native deformity. The language, “What have I to do any more with idols?” is the language of confession: a sincere acknowledgement of sin committed against God. Unless the sinner confess his sins unto God he cannot entertain the least degree of hope that they will be forgiven. But this sorrow is not that godly sorrow which issues in repentance unto salvation, unless it has respect to Him who was made a sin-offering for us. Godly sorrow is the gift of God. It is the effect of His Spirit brooding on the heart, softening and melting it. A constituent part of true repentance is faith in the Saviour of sinners. It implies also a steadfast determination to break away from idols, to cast them off. The idols of the heart are to be treated as heathen should treat their idols of wood and stone. But this costs us supreme difficulty.

II. God’s disposition towards such as call upon Him in penitential prayer.

1. His attentive observation. The words of this passage depict the notice which God takes of those who have any spark of generous indignation against themselves. The ears of the Almighty are open to the very first words which betoken humiliation and penitence.

2. His favourable mind towards them. He regards them with a placable mind, as well as a favourable eye. If there is any one truth to which we should cling with the greatest tenacity it is surely this, the favourable disposition of God towards returning penitents.

3. He is a shadow of protection for those who repair to Him in penitence and faith. “I am a green fir-tree.” He will shield and defend them from the fiery darts of Satan, from their own clamorous lusts, and from the depraved examples of the world.

III. Fruit proceeding prom the relation into which the truly penitent are brought with God.

1. What is to be deemed “fruit.” The worth of a tree consists in its bringing forth the fruit which is proper to its nature. The fruit differs according to the kind of the tree. God’s people are called “trees of righteousness.” They bring forth the fruits of the Spirit.

2. This fruit is produced by the grace of God working in those who are in union with Christ.

3. This fruit is found in all who are truly turned to God, truly converted to God. Faith is lifeless and dead if it produce no fruit. There must be life and reality in our religion if we would glorify our Father who is in heaven. (H. J. Hastings, M. A.)

Ephraim forsaking idols

Here are two voices--first, the penitent voice of the returning wanderer, then the welcoming answer of the Father. Here is a wonderful expression of the perfect simplicity of a true return to God. “What have I to do any more with idols?” That is all! No paroxysms of grief, no agonies of repentance, no prescription of so much sorrow, so much grief, for so much sin; no long, tedious process, but, like the finger put upon the key here, the sound yonder. Look at the answer, the echo of this confession which comes from heaven: it is the welcoming voice of the Father, “I hear him, and observe him.” Note how instantaneously that Divine ear, strong enough to hear the grass grow, fine enough to hear the first faint shootings of the new life in a man’s heart, catches the sound that is inaudible to all besides, and as soon as the word comes from the pale penitent lip of Ephraim the answer comes from God. Observation is here used in a good sense: watching as a nurse watches a feeble child. Then comes a singular metaphor. “I am like a green cyprus-tree.” The cyprus is an evergreen. So God means, I am unchanged amidst the changing seasons, unaffected by all the change. To the prophet this tree, with its wealth of continual shadow, was an emblem of an unchanging blessing and protection. There is another possible association in these words--fanciful but beautiful--for which I am indebted to an old Jewish rabbi and commentator. He says a cyprus-tree bends down, and anybody that has seen one knows that its shelves of leafage do droop and come down near to the ground; that a man may lift up his hand and grasp the branches. There is an old legend that the boughs of the tree of life used to droop of themselves to the level of Adam’s hand when he was pure and good. And when he had sinned and fallen they lifted themselves above his reach. This metaphor, then, may hint the condescension of the great loving Father, who stoops down from heaven in order that He may bring Himself within our reach. If you take these three points, unchangeableness, protection, condescension, you exhaust the force of this lovely emblem. And so it all comes to this: the humblest voice of conscious unworthiness and lowly resolve to forsake evil, though it be whispered only in the very depths of the heart, finds its way into the ears of the merciful Father, and brings down the immediate answer, the benediction of His shadowing love and perpetual presence, and the fulness of fruit, which He alone can bestow. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Portraiture of a Christian

The text exhibits the temper of all converted people towards God. Converted men forsake their idols. The Christian knows that everything becomes an idol to a man which occupies more of his thoughts, his time, his care, his desires, and his pursuit than God and His glory. In setting before you the temper and characteristics of a child of God, our attention must be directed before all things to its principles, which is that of universal conformity to the image of Jesus Christ. If it be said that the character of our blessed Lord is too grand and too holy for our imitation, the excuse may be met by saying, that imitation does not mean perfection. It is by the perpetual earnest study of the character of Christ that we are first of all brought to love, and afterwards impelled to imitation. The more we study Christ, the more we must love Him; and the more we love Him, the more we shall assuredly copy His features. The Christian’s temper of heart and mind is, of course, displayed in the two great duties of life--

1. That which concerns his Maker.

2. That which concerns his neighbour.

With the former of these only are we now engaged. In casting away the idols of his heart and life, the Christian, like Ephraim, serves, loves, and acknowledges no other but God. The first thing in the character of the child of God is holy fear. The next is obedience. How many idols are overthrown by obedience! Then comes gratitude, which makes a man seek all occasions of showing love and honour to his benefactor. Then trust. This is ever a peculiar mark of the Christian’s temper towards God. This trust keeps the Christian watching, striving, praying, and expecting. Then comes supreme desire for the glory of God, which over throws the great idol of selfishness. This temper is very necessary to prevent many deceptions of the heart. It is of all things most difficult to keep the motives pure; and without pure motives how barren and contemptible ‘is our abstinence from evil and our practice of good. Purity is the temper of right motives. Purity of heart is the most eminent and distinguished temper in the circuit of the Christian graces. This temper brings with it the love of God. Love is the spring that moves all the wheels. It is that delight in God which makes us choose Him above all things. There is one more characteristic of the child of God--a constant endeavour to draw nigh to Him. For this cause the Christian loves and values the ordinances of religion. He prizes them as gracious means whereby he is brought into that nearer fellowship with God after which he is aspiring. Humility forms the crowning feature in the Christian’s temper towards God. It is the seeing our own proper position before God. (W. Harrison, M. A.)

Ephraim renouncing his idols

The necessity and power of Divine influence to regenerate the heart is a truth in which all Christians will agree who make the Word of God their sole guide. This doctrine receives confirmation from the history of Ephraim. Two things. Ephraim’s abandonment of idols; and God’s reception of him.

I. The renunciation. Here is--

1. The language of confession. The strong aversion he expresses is a virtual admission of his precious attachment. The state of Ephraim in his degeneracy is a correct picture of the entire family of man in their irreligious condition.

2. The language of detestation. The predominating sin of Israel was the worship of idols. With us the sin which has been most prevalent lies the heaviest on the conscience, and becomes the object of the most unqualified indignation.

3. Ephraim resolved on the abandonment of his idols. There is a noble promptitude in this pious determination.

II. the reception.

1. The Divine attention. “I have heard him.”

2. The Divine observation. “I have observed him:”

3. The Divine protection. “I am like a green fir-tree,” which affords grateful shade and security to the traveller. It conveys the ideas of repose, refreshment, safety.

4. Fruitfulness is provided for. This extends the previous image. Reference probably is to the fruit which the penitent bears after conversion to God. This subject is a check to despondency. No true penitent has cause for despair. (Anon.)

Idols abandoned

1. What men pursue, before conversion, are idols, i.e. things which give trouble.

2. When the grace of the Gospel is received into the heart it divorces the sinner from his sins.

3. The language of a penitent renouncing his sins is most pleasing to God.

4. Converts shall find that happiness in Christ Which idols offered, but gave not.

5. Whatever good we do and enjoy is in and from Jesus Christ.

6. True wisdom is to know and understand God’s Word, in its threatenings and in its promises. (H. Foster.)

Giving up idols

Ephraim does not give up his idols without a reason. He says, I have tried you, and you are vain; I have leaned upon you, and you are broken staves; I have consulted you, and you had no answer; I have looked to you, but you never turned a kind eye upon me. The great apostle says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”; the old Scotch version says, “Wee bairns, keep yourselves frae dolls”; the meaning is the same. I like the quaintness of the Scotch version. There is a caressing tenderness in that gruff old tone; listen to it; it is the kind of tone that grows upon the heart. At first it is very singular, and not wholly desirable, but there is in it a latent music; if you say the words over and over again you will come to like them. The time is on the surface; open it, and you find eternity. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

True repentanc

e:--

I. THE EVIDENCE OF A TRUE REPENT ANCE. Entire renunciation of idolatry. The repentant sinner is led to confess the folly and sin of his empty pursuits (Romans 6:21). Sinful pleasures (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). False confidences: e.g., self-righteousness. Unconditional mercy, etc. And to determine to renounce them. This gracious melting: of heart is the Lord’s doing. Jesus is exalted to give repentance (Acts 5:31):It is produced here as the blessed fruit of sanctified afflictions. Illus.

Manasseh. Prodigal.

II. The notice which God takes of a repentant sinner. “He listens to his meanings.” (Job 33:27). He watches for his return. His eye is upon the repentant sinner when least he thinks so. He observes him.

III. The gracious encouragement which God gives to him.

1. A promise of security. Shadow from the heat. Shelter from the storm.

2. An assurance of supply. Fruits of comfort derived from God. Fruits of grace produced by God’s help. (John D. Lowe, M. A.)

The pious determination of the true penitent

Whatever we set our affections upon, in preference to God, is an idol; and grace will teach us to renounce it. Every man in an impenitent state seeks his happiness in some forbidden and sinful enjoyment. He is therefore an idolater. We have here--

I. A confession of guilt. “Any more” implies that in the past he had been concerned with idols.

II. A determination to renounce sins. Implied in the language taken form as an interrogation.

III. The determination is a humble one, formed in reliance on God’s heavenly Grace. Reasons for renunciation of sin are--

1. Penitent sees something of the real nature and evil of it.

2. Penitent has had experience of the vanity and unprofitableness of all sinful pleasures and pursuits.

3. Penitent has already experienced some, and expects more of, solid and permanent happiness.

4. A principle of love and gratitude to God in the penitent’s heart cannot but operate to make him abhor and renounce all iniquity.

5. Every true penitent has the strongest reason to express and maintain the most determined disavowal of all iniquity, in consequence of having surrendered himself to God, and in solemn covenant devoted himself to His service. And this is true religion. This is genuine repentance. All that comes short of this is but vanity and deception. (S. Knight, M. A.)

Ephraim and his idols

The statement here is, that Ephraim shall and will go on in abominating idols, be constant in his former resolution. Under the term “idols” gather--

1. False doctrine, which is the foundation of idolatry.

2. Idols themselves.

3. Idolatry, which they tend to.

4. Idolaters. Idolatry frameth base conceits of God.

Consider the opposition between any representation of God, and God. Because God is a jealous God, He will not give His glory to another. Unconverted persons are prone to idolatry; to set up their own wits and wills, instead of God’s. Some commit this great sin of idolatry by trusting to the outward performances and tasks of religion. Consider God’s hatred unto all sorts of idolaters; for He accounts such to hate Him, and so accordingly punishes them. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

God corroborates Ephraim’s promise

There are two causes of repentance, one is fear, the other is love. That repentance which owes its existence to fear is to be repented of, but that which originates in love tends to the soul’s salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Repentance which owes its existence to love is distinguished by the infallible effects of a new heart and a right spirit. Penitents, from the effects of redeeming love, endeavour to keep God’s commandments. The truly penitent is never left to the treachery of self-dependence The text is a ratification or corroboration of the terms of the covenant which Israel promises to fulfil. Unless the Almighty confirms our promises and resolves our own determination would be of no avail. We learn the confidence of the truly penitent in God’s mercy. The truly penitent ascribes all to the great First Cause. And the truly penitent loses no time to make a firm stand against his former sins. The words also express that the penitent does not cavil or reason as to the effect his conversion might have upon his worldly prospects. Genuine repentance affords comfort in every condition of life. (Moses Margoliouth, B. A.)
.


Verse 9

Hosea 14:9

Who is wise, and he shall understand these things?

Who is wise

There must be prudence and wisdom before we can understand Divine truths; there must be an illumination within. A man may know whether he be prudent and wise by his relishing of Divine truths, for otherwise he is not wise and prudent in these things which are the main. The prophet now comes to shew and defend the equity of God’s ways, how crooked soever they seem to flesh and blood. By “ways” he understandeth the whole law and Gospel, the whole Word of God; which he calleth right, not only because they are righteous in themselves, but because they reform whatsoever is amiss in us, and rectify us; and work whatsoever is needful for our good and salvation. God’s ways are those wherein He walks to us: the ways that He prescribes us to walk in; and our ways as they are comformable to His. “The ways of the Lord are right”; as they agree to that which is right or straight; and right likewise, because they lead directly to a right end. Observe that man is not a prescriber of his own way, and that no creature’s will is a rule. The Word of the Lord is every way perfect, and brings us to perfection. The best way to come to a good and right end is to, take God’s ways. Shew the divers effects these right ways of God have in two sorts of people, the godly and the wicked.

1. The just shall walk in them. They are just who give to every one their due, and give God His due. They are such as have respect unto all God s commandments. They do things to a good end, even the glory of God and the good of man. They desire to grow in grace and they love the brethren. In the worst times, God will have always a people that shall justify wisdom. Men must have spiritual life, and be just, before they can walk. For our encouragement to walk in God’s ways, know that they are the most safe ways of all; they are the most pleasant, and they are the cleanest and holiest. “The transgressors shall fall therein.” The same word which is a word of life and salvation to the godly is an occasion of sin and perdition unto the wicked. (R. Sibbes.)

Who are the truly wise and prudent?

I. The character of the persons who would give heed to the words of this prophecy, and to these doctrines.

1. What does the Spirit mean by “wise”? Wisdom is described in the Book of Proverbs. In it wisdom calls, reproves, and has a spirit to pour out, actions and attributes which belong only to the very and eternal God. In it wisdom is said to be the source of royal and judicial authority. It is described as eternal. It is said to have a temple and sacrifices.. It promises to do that which the Almighty alone can do. It threatens to execute judgment upon those who refuse to accept the proffered mercy. Then who else can wisdom be but the Lord of Hosts? “Wise” must mean those who make the knowledge of God their chief study and pursuit. They are wise whose heart, mind, and soul are pervaded by wisdom.

2. What does the Spirit mean by prudent? The original means, an “understanding one,” or “a sound reasoner.” So the real meaning of the expression differs considerably from the apparent one. The Spirit means an individual who, by diligent searching and study of God’s dispensations and providential visitations, arrives at accurate conclusions with reference to the Almighty’s promises and threats; to the consequences of obedience and disobedience; to the effects of impenitence and repentance. A prudent man, in Scripture, but especially in this place, means a knowing individual in the deep mysteries of God’s holy Word.

II. The nature of the doctrines taught. “The ways of the Lord are right.” This is an expression for true religion which binds and knits man to God. True religion is irresistible. What can be more “reasonable” than that He who made all things for Himself should demand us to Himself? The ways of the Lord “are right,” with regard to their conformity to the holy nature and will of God, with regard to the peace which they confer.

III. The double use made of the ways of the Lord by different parties. “The just shall walk in them: the transgressors shall fall therein.” We never make the Word of the Lord our rule of life whereby to walk, until we are made righteous; until the sun of righteousness hath shone in our hearts, and illumined our souls. But how fearful is the doom of those who have despised the wisdom and prudence which the prophet recommended for their knowledge and understanding. The same Being who helps forward the just on their way, and removes every impediment from their path, becomes the insurmountable obstruction in the way of transgressors. Many are the things in the Word of God at which corrupt hearts are apt to stumble. The profoundness and incomprehensibleness of some of its mysterious doctrines, instead of humbling the finite mind and bringing it into subjection to the infinite, puffs up with pride and arrogance the depraved and scanty reason, and makes it exalt itself against Him who is exalted above all. The sanctity and strictness of God’s ways make many an unholy temper and disposition revolt against making those ways their choice. (Moses Margoliouth, B. A.)

The right ways of the Lord

Here the prophet makes an application of his subject.

I. The import of this question of appeal.

1. Vain men would fain be wise. The question implies that the number of the wise and intelligent on these subjects was but small. And those who did not understand such things as the prophet had delivered did not deserve the name of wise and intelligent, however they might assume it to themselves.

I. The important declaration. “The ways of the Lord are right.” Need not prove this. It is a first principle in religion. It is now before us as matter of reflection.

III. The different views of the ways of God which are entertained, and the different effects produced thereby. The righteous, being taught of God, have a proper and spiritual discernment of things. Transgressors, blinded by the god of the world, discern no spiritual objects in their proper colours. (S. Knight, M. A.)

God’s ways made known unto the wise

The truth is, that men live the chief part of their lives without any knowledge of their own separation from the Lord; they do not understand that sin separates the sinner from his Maker.

I. Who are the wise?

1. They are willing hearers of God’s truth. Like Cornelius of old.

2. Humble receivers of truth. Like the jailer at Philippi.

3. They are careful thinkers. Like Mary, who pondered things in her heart. No others but these can really be spoken of as wise.

II. God’s right ways. He has a right to demand obedience on our part to whatever He may please to lay down. If we walk in His ways we shall have grace to support us, and supply our various wants, we shall have guidance in the hour of difficulty, we shall have our hearts prepared for the enjoyment of those pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore. He will give us strength for the day, and grace unto the end. The ways of the just shall be increasingly clear. “The wicked shall fall therein.” The ways are the same, but men receive them and walk in them differently. That which is really good for those who are anxious to serve God, we are told here, is turned into evil in the case of the wicked. (H. Montagu Villiers, M. A.)

Walking or failing in God’s ways

In the worst times God will have always a people that shall justify wisdom. Some are foolish; not caring for the ways of God, cavilling at them. But the “just shall walk in them,” that is, they take a contrary course to the world that slights wisdom. In ill times, let us labour to justify truth, both the truth of things to be believed and all just religious courses.

1. Men must have spiritual life, and be just, before they can walk. Walking is an action of life; there must be life before there can be walking. Unless there is first spiritual life in the inward man there will not be a harmony and correspondency betwixt a man and his ways.

2. Because a just man is also a prudent and wise man, he walks in God’s ways. Spiritual wisdom and prudence lead to walking in obedience.

What things doth this walking in the ways of God imply?

1. Perspicuity. Those who walk in the ways of God discern those ways to be God’s ways, and discern them aright.

2. Resolution to go on in those ways till he come to the end, though there be never so much opposition.

How shall we know whether we go on in this way or not?

1. When earthly profits and pleasures seem little, and heaven and heavenly things seem near.

2. It implies a uniform course of life.

3. He who would walk in God’s ways must be resolute against all opposition whatsoever.

The use of this teaching may be--

1. Reprehension unto those who can talk, but not walk; that have tongues, but not feet.

2. It is for instruction, to stir us up to walk in God’s ways.

3. It is for consolation. If this be our walk, then God will walk with us, and the angels of God shall have charge of us, to keep us in all our ways. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

The cause and cure of social evils

It cannot be said that our position as a nation is like that of Israel in those days when she was tottering to her fall. But the same, or very similar, evils to those which proved the ruin of Israel exist among us to a deplorable degree. Those who are familiar with the prophecy will know what I mean when I say that evil is with us at the moth stage, not yet at the lion stage (see chap. 5.). The moth stage is when evil keeps eating like a canker into the vitals of a people, but where there is nothing, or very little, to attract attention; no noise, nothing to alarm. But let the moth stage go on, let corruption increase among the people, and presently the roar of a lion will be heard; there will be tumult and commotion, there will be the outbreak of open rebellion against the powers that be, in heaven and on earth too. Hosea has it for his great object throughout to show the cause and the cure of all these evils. The cause is unfaithfulness to God, and the cure is returning to Him with the whole heart. There is never more vigour in Hosea’s tone than when, reminding of the sin of Jehovah, he says, “Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off!” Has modern society no calf? Does it not make a god of gold? Is not that “covetousness which is idolatry” a national vice? Israel had a calf at Dan as well as at Bethel. This may be taken to represent the idol of natural law. People trust in the laws of evolution, working through the struggle for existence to the survival of the fittest. The great effort, of these people is to bring man and all that concerns him under the stern operation of that law. What shall we do? A question much more easily asked than answered. There are many reforms, and these by far the most needful and far-reaching in their result, which can only be accomplished by the diffusion of a spirit of love; and this is only possible by a general return of the people to the Lord their God. The humanitarian spirit which is shown by not a few of those who make no profession of faith in God is much to be commended; but it never can by its inherent force make way in society. To flow as a fertilising stream through the waste places of society, it must take its rise in the high mountains of Divine faith and hope and love. The nether springs of human generosity must be fed by the upper springs of Divine grace. (J. Monro Gibson, D. D.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hosea 14:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/hosea-14.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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