Thursday, June 1st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ hosea-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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THE FIRST COMMUNICATIONS.—Hosea 1:1
I. The chosen servant.
1. His human descent. “Son of B.” The Jews say that the prophet whose father is named was the son of a prophet. Nothing recorded of Ber. Hosea dignified and distinguished not by noble birth nor worldly grandeur. Rank and riches are not moral worth. Life outlined by noble deeds; greatness acquired by religious service. Character in its noblest embodiments, exhibits the highest qualities, commands the greatest influence and admiration. Apostles of great thoughts and rulers of the human mind have sprung from no exclusive rank in life, but have been called from schools of the prophets and workshops of the poor.
2. His spiritual training. God spoke in Hosea; gave him knowledge and experience first, then commissioned him to teach others. Personal dedication before public duty; fellowship in private before reward in public. We must speak what we know; be blessed ourselves before we can bless others. This is a law of Christian economy. We can only teach others as we are taught ourselves. Our influence upon others must be measured by the Divine gifts within us. The best proof of Christianity is the energy with which we can Christianize. God bestows blessings not to nurse in our bosoms but to radiate in beneficent influence to others. “I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing.”
3. His outward call. Probably when a young man, and hence the length of his ministry. Samuel and Timothy given to God when young. Jeremiah consecrated from the womb. An honour and privilege to serve God in youth. Energy and enthusiasm are necessary as well as talent and experience. “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth.”
II. The Divine message.
1. Its nature. A “word,” the expression of the mind and purpose of God. The power of a word to influence character and change the destinies of life. Words of monarchs have decided the fate of empires. The word of God, judgment or mercy, the message of life or death to a people. “To the one we are the savour of death unto death, and to the other of life unto life.”
2. Its origin. “The word of the Lord.” Not by man nor from man, not self-originated; it was first God’s and then became the prophet’s. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man.” Men not left to their own devices and must not declare their own opinions. God finds the message and speaks with Divine certainty and authority. All teaching deserving the name comes to us not as the product of human thought but of the Holy Spirit. “Preach the preaching I bid thee.” The Bible is pre-eminently the prophetic word. “Ye do well that ye take heed to it.”
3. Its medium. Through Hosea. God’s message through men and to men. Man in his moral nature is renewed, elevated, and qualified to teach and bless a fallen people. This displays Divine wisdom and love, creates sympathy for our fellow-creatures, humanizes the Bible, and renders the gospel more charming and attractive.
III. The dark days.
1. Days of prevalent idolatry. “The land hath committed whoredoms.” Idolatry was made the national religion. The worship of Baal was a rival to the worship of God. Calf-worship led to sin, licentiousness and sensuality. The first in rank were first in excess. Sad when men of high position fall into vice! Now, even, men profess to own God, talk of “nature” and “natural laws,” yet forget God, or “change their glory (i.e. their God) into the similitude” of an ox, a man, a hero, or an abstract principle.
2. Days of political anarchy. Kings came to the throne by the murder of their predecessors and were in turn murdered by their successors. Military despotism disturbed the peace, and horrible slaughter stained the people of the land.
3. Days of threatened judgment. Hosea sent to urge to repentance, for captivity was imminent, certain, and irreversible; but God was forsaken, the nation was insensible of its moral and political decay, and judgments lost their terror. In spite of warning after warning the people sought to prop themselves up by alliance with Egypt and Assyria. When a nation is rotten at the core no outward power or splendour can prevent its decay. It carries within it the seeds of death. The sky grew darker and darker; the thunder at last resounded; calamities could not be averted; then judgments fell upon them without mercy in dispersion and destruction.
4. Days of little success. Israel was not converted but taken into captivity, yet Hosea laboured on year after year, through good and evil report (Amos 7:10; Amos 7:12). No abatement of his earnestness and efforts. He was faithful to his trust and to his God. It is often the lot of God’s servants to labour long and see little fruit. Isaiah cried, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain.” We must be content to toil on and deliver our message to the greatest sinners in the darkest days, and feel like the prophet named, “surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
In the days of, Hosea 1:1.—Hosea’s ministry.
1. A type of God’s long-suffering and mercy; waiting long, sending prophets, and offering grace to a sinful people, until beyond the reach of mercy.
2. A type of service fixed in time and sphere, in chequered scenes and great discouragements. God gives to every servant his special place and peculiar gifts. In hope and humble confidence he must labour on.
The days of Jeroboam II., days of prosperity and political pre-eminence. He reigned 41 years; recovered lost cities (2 Kings 14:28; Amos 1:3; Amos 1:5); was victorious in war (2 Kings 13:4; 2 Kings 14:26); and enjoyed the teaching of Hosea, Joel (Joel 3:16), Amos (Amos 1:1), and Jonah (2 Kings 14:25). But idolatry was mixed with the worship of Jehovah; drunkenness and oppression prevailed in the country, and the prophets predicted its downfall.
1. Temporal prosperity is no guarantee for public morality. The kingdom, amid splendour and popularity, rotten at the core, decaying in vigour, and under the judgment of God.
2. Temporal prosperity is no security against public calamity. “Temporal prosperity is no proof either of stability or of the favour of God. Where the law of God is observed, there, even amid the pressure of outward calamity, is the assurance of ultimate prosperity. Where God is disobeyed, there is the pledge of coming destruction. The seasons when men feel most secure against future chastisements, are often the preludes of the most signal revolutions” [Pusey].
Kings rise and empires fall, but God’s purpose is the same; carried on through all times and by all agencies. Kings die and are buried in the dust; prophets live in all ages and rewarded in eternity. “Monarchs have their times and their turns, their rise and their ruin” [Trapp].
Men pass away—notwithstanding wealth and talent. Nations pass away—notwithstanding political power and military glory. God is eternal and carries on his work.
The perpetuity of truth. Although these kings successively appeared and passed away, the ministry of Hosea kept on.
1. The “Word of the Lord” is adapted to all generations. It is congruous with all intellects, it chimes in with all hearts, it provides for the common wants of all.
2. The “Word of the Lord” is necessary for all generations. All men in all ages and lands want it, it is as indispensable to their happiness as air is to their life. Generations may appear in the distant future, who may not require our forms of government, our social institutions, our artistic devices, our mechanical inventions, and who may despise our literary productions, but no generation will ever appear who will not require the “Word of the Lord” [Homilist].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1
Our Age and Work, Hosea 1:1. Every great man is the son of his age, but not its pupil [Guesses at Truth]. The dream, the common mistake, of the present day, is the belief that a man cannot be useful and noble without great endowments and a grand sphere. If we had great opportunities, and great duties, we could do something in life, and make a mark after death. The littleness of our trust is often an excuse for its neglect, like the servant with one pound who hid his Lord’s money. But with moderate powers, in a small sphere, we may be faithful to duty, and secure our reward. We must live and act in the present; realize what God has given us to do to-day, and do not look beyond it. “David after he had served his own generation, by the will of God, fell on sleep.”
Mother’s conduct. “I am a missionary in my nursery,” once observed a Christian mother. “Six pair of little eyes are daily watching mamma’s looks, and listening to her words, and I wish my children never to see in me that which they may not imitate.” “The mother lives again,” says Smiles, “in her children. They unconsciously mould themselves after her manner, her speech, her conduct, and her method of life. Her habits become theirs, and her character is visibly repeated in them.”
Hosea 1:2. By] Lit. in Hosea, the preposition expresses close relationship with another; cf. Numbers 12:6; Numbers 12:8; Hebrews 2:1. First in us and then through us is the Divine order; personal enlightenment and then public service. Wife of whore.] A vision, some; externally acted, others; taken in a real sense by most interpreters. The plural indicates not merely incidental, but continual and manifold acts [Pusey]. Take] i.e. marry one whose livelihood is gained by prostitution, and whose whole element is whoredom. Cf. men of blood, Psalms 5:7; man of sorrows, Isaiah 53:3. This is a symbol of Israel in its state of idolatry. Land] Israel, indirectly Judah, wife and children, equally grieved the husband and father, Ezekiel 16:8; Ezekiel 16:15. Committed] is whoring, whoring away, from Jehovah, lit. from after Jehovah; the composite preposition denoting more than absence from God, signifies opposed to walking with him; the breaking of the marriage vow, cut off from loving relationship (Psalms 73:27).
THE SYMBOLIC MARRIAGE.—Hosea 1:2
Whether this be regarded as a real and external transaction, or a spiritual scenery, or allegorical description, all agree in taking it as a type of God’s dealings with unfaithful Israel. Divine truth was to be acted, embodied in sensible signs and prophetic life. Hosea commanded to marry a prostitute and beget children, whose names, called by God himself, were to set forth the evils of departure from him.
I. A type of Israel’s fallen condition. It was the chosen people, specially created and brought into covenant relation to God. This relation, often represented under the figure of marriage, they vowed to keep. But the contract was broken, they had fallen away from God, and gone a whoring after other gods. Idolatry was not accidental, but prevalent; the whole land was polluted, and the sin national. The idolatry of foreign nations was regarded as an abomination, but the sin of Israel a more glaring enormity and greater moral guilt. Three things are condemned in Scripture as idolatry.
1. The worshipping of a false god;
2. the worshipping of the true God through an image;
3. the indulgence of those passions which draw the soul from God. Israel were guilty of the first in bowing the knee to Baal, and of the second in setting up the golden calves. Men now often guilty of the third. Lust, covetousness, and pleasure allure their hearts, and they set up gold, honour, popular applause, and worldly distinction, and cry, “These be thy gods.”
II. A type o God’s love to sinners.
1. Love to the unfaithful. Israel had fallen, but God loved her with a tender love, and sought to restore her to himself. Many have made a profession, Christians have left their first love, broken their engagement with God, and fallen into disgrace. Love is wounded, and deeply wounded, at such treatment, but it remains love, cannot suffer apostasy from him, and seeks to restore and save. “Thou hast left thy first love. Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works.”
2. Love to the unworthy. We shrink from the unchaste and condemn the outcast, but they are not beyond hope. The drunkard, the thief, and the idolater are renewed and restored to God, formed into a church, and sanctified for his service. “Love,” it has been said, “descends more abundantly than it ascends. The love of parents for their children has always been far more powerful than that of children for their parents; and who among the sons of men ever loved God with a thousandth part of the love which God has manifested to us?”
III. A type of moral life unstained by surrounding evils. The prophet was holy, separated from sinners, and dared not associate with adulterers.
1. In the family was a “wife of whoredoms” and “children of whoredoms.”
2. In the land corruption and abominations were prevalent. What a trial of patience! What a test of character this would be! Christians are often so placed, but must be “the salt of the earth,” preserve from corruption, and incite men to live godly in dangers by which they are surrounded. Even in Sardis were a few who had not defiled their garments. “To keep himself unspotted from the world.”
IV. A type of parental sin portrayed in children’s character. Parents leave behind them legacies of guilt and shame; contaminate their offspring by their influence and example. Children inherit the lands and the lusts of their ancestors, and are often cursed with the consequences of parental folly. Drunkenness, debauchery, and adultery entail on human life their ruinous and loathsome effects. Men transmit to remote posterity guilt and misery, and God visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” This should excite pity for children and caution in parents for their solemn charge and responsibility.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Go, take, Hosea 1:3.—
1. A people sunk into sin and idolatry need desperate and extraordinary efforts to save them.
2. Men employed in saving them must deny themselves, and adopt the means God directs. Hosea takes a strange wife. Ezekiel loses his own, Ezekiel 24:16-17. Our will must be merged into God’s. “This figure was proposed to the people that they might perceive in the looking-glass of this allegory, first, their duty towards God; second, their disloyalty; thirdly, their penalty for the same” [Trapp].
Idolatry is spiritual whoredom. It defiles the soul, God’s bridal-bed. It breaks the marriage-knot, and discovenants. It enrageth God, who in this case will take no ransom. It subjecteth men to the deepest displeasure of God, it besots them and unmans them [Trapp].
Children of whoredom. The sins of parents also descend in a mysterious way on their children. Sin is contagious, and unless the entail is cut off by grace, hereditary [Pusey].
Depart from God.—I. God is the great end of life. Man restless and insufficient without God. Natural bodies seek a natural resting-place; sensitive creatures seek good adapted to their rank and being: so the soul longs for God. Echoes of God resound through its depths, and it is made to turn instinctively towards Himself. Some have found and walk with God, like Enoch; some walk near to him and others are far from him. “Without God in the world.” God should be the supreme object of life and affection. This pursuit should be earnest and continued. “My soul followeth hard after (is glued) to thee.” The renewed soul is acquainted with God, and follows him with intensity of feeling and desire. When the Christian has lost God, he never rests satisfied until he has found him again. When he has found and enjoys him he longs to enjoy him more. And though he can never attain to God in perfection, yet he follows on, first, as a necessary discipline, and then as a necessary preparation for the future. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
II. Departure from God is idolatry. Sin hinders and indisposes in the pursuit after God. It is a violation of his law and rejection of his love and authority. It renounces all subjection to him, and casts him off entirely. This is, to prefer the creature to the Creator, in whom all joys and blessings consist. If we seek anything out of God, we turn from following him, and take something else to be our god. This is to make an idol, and prefer emptiness and vanity. An idol is nothing. Men have many idols. When they do not worship God, they worship themselves, their fellow-creatures, their works, and their substance. It is not necessary that each one should sing a psalm and offer a prayer to deify self. The outward life is a psalm, and the inward life a prayer. Man cannot dethrone God in heart and life without putting an idol in his place. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
III. This departure involves others in its consequences. Every individual is a centre of moral influence. Every word and deed sends forth more than electric fluid. He may choose what he will do, but having done, he cannot stay the consequences of the act. Kings and priests, ministers and parents, influence others for good or evil, produce effects which do not terminate on themselves, but extend to society, and are transmitted to posterity as mighty, indestructible forces of existence. “When one member suffers, all suffer with it.” By neglect of duty, wrong example, and leading others into sin we injure our fellow-creatures, and leave an active influence, which does not cease when we repent or die. Wealth, language, and customs influence the health and morals of society. And as the seed sown will produce the harvest, so licentiousness and idolatry sow their fruits in families, churches, nations, and fill “the earth with violence.” “The land hath committed great whoredom.”
Hosea 1:3. Gom.] The name of a nation (Genesis 10:2-3); symbolically G. = completion; i.e. completely given up to whoredom. Dib.] = daughter of grape-cakes, indicating pleasure and sensuality. “The sweetness of sins is the parent of destruction” [Pusey].
Hosea 1:4. Jez.] = I will sow, scatter or disperse, like a seedsman, which happened by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:5-6). Avenge] Heb. visit. Jehu commanded to destroy the house of Ahab, externally obeyed, and rewarded in measure. He acted not from principle, or as he pretended out of zeal, but to serve his own political ends (2 Kings 9:10; 2 Kings 9:36; 2 Kings 10:16). “And so the blood which was shed according to the righteous judgment of God, became sin to him who shed it, in order to fulfil, not the will of God, but his own” [Pusey]. Jez. symbol of past sins, intermediate punishment and final overthrow.
Hosea 1:5. Bow] Might, military prowess (Genesis 49:24; Jeremiah 49:35).
Hosea 1:6. Daughter] A symbol of a degenerate race, some; of the totality of men and women of the nation, others; seems to intensify Lo-ruh.] = not pitied, lit. I will not add any more to. The original expresses tender yearning towards one (Romans 9:25; 1 Peter 2:10); but God would not continue to show compassion as he had done; Divine mercy exhausted and Israel was left in a defenceless state. I will utterly] Lit. taking away, I will take away everything they have. Marg. another sense, to take away, i.e. to forgive sin.
Hosea 1:7. The Lord their God] More emphatic than “through me” (Genesis 19:24). Judah worshipped God; Israel turned to idols. One a witness for God, the other apostates from God. Judah saved in marked contrast to Israel punished.
Hosea 1:9. Lo-am.] = not my people; the covenant relation dissolved. Son may typify the revival of strength in the reign of Jeroboam II., but prosperity brought no revival of piety. They were not God’s people. Not be your God] Lit. I will not be to you or for you; “for you by providence, to you by love” [Pusey]. Deprivation of all that God can be to them. When God ceases to belong to men, to compassionate them, rejection follows.
THE THREE JUDGMENTS.—Hosea 1:3-9
The names of the three children given by God himself were to be significant. The life of the prophet was to be a living sermon before the people. His marriage preached God’s mercy, and his children God’s judgment. If they refused his words, they should see his actions. In the first name we have a warning of terrible judgment, in the second its connection with the Divine nature, in the third the result. Destruction, cessation of mercy, and rejection, would be dreadful to any nation, but to Israel they involved the loss of special privileges and distinctions, their social, political, and theocratical position.
I. The destruction of the Royal Family. “Upon the house of Jehu.” J. anointed at God’s command to execute judgment upon the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:6-7); was rewarded in measure for his conduct, yet served his own ends, and in executing judgment upon others, brought it upon himself and family. God loves justice, and will punish those who administer it from wrong motives and feelings. Kings and men in authority must not fall short of duty, nor exceed it in any respect. “So awful a thing it is to be the instrument of God in punishing or reproving others if we do not by his grace keep our own hearts and hands pure from sin” [Pusey], that we may be rejected ourselves. The slaughter of the Gibeonites by Saul, the conduct of Amalek towards Israel, seemed to be forgotten, but punishment came at last. Jehu’s house is visited, his progeny extinguished in the fourth generation for his offences. If we judge others we should not do the same things ourselves.
II. The destruction of the Regal Sovereignty. “And will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.” The strength of the kingdom was paralyzed after the destruction of the house of Jehu. Of five kings that followed Zechariah, only one died a natural death, the others were murdered and dethroned. The kingdom was distracted and broken, and in about 50 years completely destroyed by the captivity of the ten tribes. Kingdoms are built up, extended, and established by God; but the immorality of the rulers and the idolatry of the people will sow the seeds of decay and death. When God has numbered their days, no power, no splendour can hold them up. Foreign invasion and civil revolution may overturn. That kingdom is the strongest, the most splendid and secure, which makes God its sovereign. The skill of parliaments, the valour of soldiers, and the power of wealth are no security against the judgment of God. “Put them in fear, O Lord; that the nations may know themselves to be but men.”
III. The destruction of Military Prowess. “I will break the bow of Israel.” The bow was the special pride of Jehu (2 Kings 9:24); the military strength upon which Israel relied, and for which it was famous (Jeremiah 49:35).
1. This strength shall be broken. When God blows with the blast of his anger, individual health, family prosperity, and national glory fade like a flower. The strength of body, the vigour of mind, and the power of numbers are weak before him. God can humble the pride of men and nations, and take from them whatever they make their strength and defence.
2. This strength shall be irreparably broken. All power and projects defeated. When God breaks none can piece; when man pieces God can break. “The shield, the sword, and the battle,” weapons offensive and defensive, God can dash in pieces. In the spiritual conflicts of this and every age, no weapon formed against his people and his purpose shall prosper.
IV. The destruction of National Prestige. “In the valley of Jezreel.” This valley was the very centre and security of the kingdom, their Marathon and their Waterloo. It was the scene of their exploits and skill; the place of Ahab’s wickedness and Jehu’s zeal. Here God had executed judgments against the enemies, and delivered his people from danger. In this very spot in which the nation’s history was localized the nation’s glory should fade away, and the nation’s guilt be punished. Places of carnal security often exposed to shame and destruction. “Thus it is ever; when retribution comes it seems to despise the very things in which its victim gloried. A noble lineage, great wealth, patrimonial possessions, elevated positions, brilliant genius, and distinguished abilities; these are the modern Jezreels of sinners. In these they boast. But what are these? God, when he comes to judgment, will strike them in those very places, he will break their bow in the valley of Jezreel” [The Homilist].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
1. Service insincere. God’s will done half way, not fully. He killed the priests, but clave to the calves.
2. Service from wrong motives. He acted not, as he pretended, out of zeal for God, but served his own political ends, and did God’s will from selfish and base motives.
3. Service divested of real virtue. It had no principle in it, and of was no true worth in the sight of God. His piety gave way to policy, and policy stained his piety. “By the ends, and not by the works done, are virtues distinguished from vices. Two things make a good Christian, and declare him so—good actions and good aims. And although a good aim doth not make a bad action good (as in Uzziah), yet a bad aim makes a good action bad, as here in Jehu” [Trapp].
4. Service involving his house and kingdom in ruin. “The massacre therefore,” says Calvin, “was a crime so far as Jehu was concerned, but with God it was a righteous vengeance.” Even if he did not make God’s command a mere pretext, yet his conduct was an act of blood-guiltiness which called for vengeance upon posterity. Things done by God’s desire or command may become crimes in the performer, if he acts from evil and selfish designs, and not from love to God. Religion must never be a cloak for the lusts of an evil and ambitious heart. Retribution will swiftly follow. “Be sure your sins will find you out.”
Jehu’s character. J was one of those quick, ambitious men, whom God raises up to change the fate of empires and execute judgment upon the earth. His zeal was great so long as it squared with his own interests, but cooled wonderfully when directed against them. He was not a great or good man, but an agent for the accomplishment of great purposes. In his sudden elevation to the throne; in the ruthlessness with which he carried out his purposes; in the union of profound dissimulation with fanatic zeal, he is not without his likeness in modern times.
Jehu’s punishment. “I will visit,” &c.,
1. God’s government. God supreme, exalted above the heavens, and ruleth over the kings and nations of the earth.
2. God’s purpose. “I will visit.” This purpose not capricious and arbitrary; in harmony with fixed principles, and regards moral conduct and desert.
3. God’s providence. “I will visit.” The providence fulfils the purpose of God in the events of history and by the agencies of men.
(1.) It is active. “I will visit.” “My Father worketh.” “All things work together.”
(2.) It is just as well as benevolent.
4. God’s power. “I will avenge.” God omnipotent can easily destroy or punish. God’s providence and presence are sensibly felt among men. Hence the ruin of the wicked certain, irresistible, terrible, and complete.
The destruction of the kingdom.
1. God is the Creator and Destroyer of nations. Men build often upon weak foundations, with unsuitable materials, and for base designs. “Except the Lord build,” &c.,
2. When God determines to destroy nations no power can avail against him. “I will break the bow.” No bow can abide in strength without him. Seeming prosperity or outward grandeur of no account with him.
3. The destruction of nations is not always by outward force. God has many ways, and can work without means. Loss in battle, invaded borders, and mercantile panics may be recovered. But vital corruption and decay of religion reach the very heart of a nation. Nothing can preserve a people wholly given to whoredom and idolatry.
4. Destruction of national exigence. “If all the historians who recorded the ultimate extinction of nations were inspired of God to give the true reasons of their fall, we should often meet this testimony: “Perished of national pride, producing contempt of God and of fundamental morality!” [Cowles].
Yet a little while. Space for repentance in human life and national affliction. Men perish not without warning. Judgment lingers long, but falls heavily at last. God’s measurement of time disregarded and sinned away can never be given again. “I gave her space to repent of her fornication.”
JUDGMENT AND MERCY.—Hosea 1:6-7
The second judgment, the punishment foretold in the name of the daughter, is greater than that of the first. God would scatter, now Israel will be unpitied. By reference to the opposite lot of Judah, all false hope in God’s mercy is taken away. Those who forsake God, forsake their own mercy, and may reckon upon nothing but judgment.
I. Judgment without Mercy. Israel owed its preservation and prosperity amid anarchy and prevailing idolatry entirely to God’s mercy. God long-suffering, but sinners may exhaust his patience.
1. Mercy may be withheld from men. When former mercies are received with ingratitude, or abused, God will add no more (Psalms 59:5). Goodness and mercy should lead to repentance, but if despised, men will treasure up wrath for themselves against the day of wrath (Romans 2:4-5). Day by day, hour by hour, individuals may be heaping up this awful treasure. The cup may soon be filled, God’s forbearance withheld, and judgment without mercy.
2. Mercy withheld from men will lead to utter ruin. “I will utterly take them away.” The ten tribes never returned (except very few) from captivity. Judgment fell upon the Churches in Asia Minor, and now they are warnings to others. The long-suffering of God waited in vain in the days of Noah; the flood came and destroyed an ungodly world. Because sentence is not suddenly executed, men plunge into deep sin, ripen themselves for greater judgment, which comes in ten-fold vengeance and utterly takes them away.
3. Mercy withheld from us and given to others is a sad ingredient in the cup of sorrow. This life is often embittered by opposite lots. The sobriety of one condemns the drunkenness of another. The spendthrift sees in the happiness and prosperity of his neighbour what he might have been himself. There is a necessary and natural connection between conduct and reward here. So in the future; condition will result from character; the fruit will grow from the tree. “Say to the righteous, it shall be well with him. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him” (Isaiah 3:10-11). One thing is set against another to teach men righteousness.
II. Mercy in the midst of Judgment. “I will have mercy upon the house of Judah.” Mercy was wonderfully shown to Judah in her danger from Assyrians, in deliverance from Babylon, in her beaten and plundered condition at the present by. Israel (2 Kings 14:12). This a type of God’s dealings now. None deserve mercy, all are alike guilty.
1. Mercy Divine in its source. Israel had no mercy upon Judah; men have no mercy upon one another, but God shows mercy. “I will have mercy.”
2. Mercy sovereign in its objects. Upon Judah, not Israel. God has mercy upon whom he will have mercy (Romans 9:15). Often sinners beyond all others, liars, thieves, and drunkards are chosen. Paul, Bunyan, and Newton become patterns of mercy unto others. In this there is no unrighteousness in God, nor injury to man.
3. Mercy without human merit. Man clings to means, and wants to be saved by works. Not by works of the law, lest man should boast, but entirely of grace, through faith. Human efforts, instrumentalities of men, the power of intellect, and the energy of will avail nothing. Not by bow nor by sword, not by horses and chariots, on which nations rely in battle. God needs no creature helps; exalted in power, he will magnify his grace. It is salvation complete, without sorrow, humiliation, and bloodshed. “By the Lord their God,” whom they worshipped when Israel committed whoredom.
This passage leads us to contemplate God’s mercy. Mercy is a modification of goodness. God is good to all, but is only merciful to the suffering sinner. Mercy not only implies suffering, but suffering arising from sin. If suffering were a necessity springing out of the constitution of things, its removal or mitigation would be an act of justice rather than mercy. Earth is a sphere where God shows his mercy, for here is suffering springing from sin. Here we have—
I. Mercy withheld from some. “For I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel,” &c. When mercy has been abused the time comes when it is withheld, and the subjects are left abandoned of God. When mercy is withheld from nations they perish, from churches they decay, from families they sink to corruption, from individuals they are lost. “My spirit shall not always strive with men.”
II. Mercy bestowed upon others. “I will have mercy upon the house of Judah.” This mercy was signally shown to Judah, when in one night one hundred and eighty-five thousand warriors were slain. Looking at the words in their spiritual application they suggest two remarks in relation to man’s deliverance. First, It is of mercy. The deliverance of man from the guilt, the power, and consequence of sin, is entirely of God’s mercy, free, sovereign, boundless mercy. Secondly, Man’s deliverance is: By moral means. “Will not save them by bow,” &c. No material force can deliver the soul from its spiritual difficulties and perils. Moral means alone can effect the object. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord.” Conclusion: Use mercy rightly while you have it. Its grand design is to produce reformation of character, and meetness for the high service and lofty fellowship with the great God, here and yonder, now and for ever [The Homilist].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Hosea 1:7. Mercy upon the house of Judah. When Divine justice is glorified in some, yet there are others in whom free grace is glorified. And though some through unbelief are broken off, yet God will have a Church in this world till the end of time. It aggravates the rejection of Israel that God will have mercy on Judah, and not on them, and magnifies God’s mercy to Judah, that though they also have done wickedly, yet God did not reject them as he rejected Israel [Matt. Henry].
The Lord their God. The antithesis is not merely to the false gods of the heathen, but to the conduct of Israel who cast off Jehovah. Hence God withheld mercy from Israel, but gave it to Judah, who owned him as theirs, and whom they outwardly worshipped in pursuance of the covenant with them. Notice the benefits of national worship. Even outward forms of worship and Sabbath observance remind us of the reality, tend to ameliorate the prejudices and intone the spirit of society. Men are in danger of sinking into animal life by the pressure of labour and materialism. Neglect of national worship would break down moral barriers, and flood the land with amusements and wickedness. The human race feel the necessity of a purer and better life. Hence whatever interferes with Sabbath observances, whatever hinders the worship of God and the moral culture of men, should be avoided. Without national worship—
1. Many would observe no worship at all.
2. Men would have no opportunities for moral and religious instruction at all.
3. Generous feelings would not be cherished, the mutual equality of men in the sight of God would be forgotten, the highest ranks would not be inspired with humility and condescension, nor the lowest with feelings of gratitude and love.
4. The people would have no regard for God; eventually cast off all fear and restraint; and judgment without mercy would strip us of our national prestige and position. When utterly taken away no bow could defend us, and no battle save us.
A CAST OFF PEOPLE.—Hosea 1:8-9
The third judgment is the most severe of all. Lo-ammi, not my people. God ceases to compassionate the rebellious tribes, the state of rejection ensues, and they are no longer “my people,” Jehovah will not belong to them. “I will not be your God.” Notice the gradual steps to this result.
1. Fellowship with God is interrupted. God was the God of Israel, but they did not own him as such—did not worship him, but committed whoredom. The service of Jehovah was irksome. Idolatry weaned their hearts from him, and they neglected religious privileges and despised religious teaching. Neglect of public worship and private devotion, contempt for the ordinances of the gospel, any wilful interruptions of communion with God, are signs of declension and steps to utter abandonment of God.
II. The Covenant relation is dissolved. Israel would not have God, and God would have nothing to do with them; would not be to them what he had been, and what they vainly expected he would be. They deprived themselves of his love and mercy, of his providence and protection. Many despise God and contemn his laws. They despise the authority of the Father, the death of the Son, and the influence of the Spirit. They disregard every office they sustain, and dishonour every relation they bear to us. They break from their allegiance, and live alienated from God by wicked works. They are “without God in the world.” To be without food and shelter is sad enough; to be without friends and supporters is sadder still; but to be without God, the sublimest being, the greatest good, is the real and awful condition of those whom God disowns.
III. Utter rejection results. “Not my people.” Forget God, and you will depart from him. Cast off God, and he will forsake you for ever (2 Chronicles 15:2). When God deserts in providence, and withholds his grace in Christ, men are doomed to be cut off from hope here, and eternal life hereafter. “I will not be your God,” describe their dreadful condition;
2. Disinherited, and
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Not be your God.
1. In the exigencies of life; to supply your need.
2. In the providences of life; to guide your steps.
3. In the end of life; at the solemn hour of death. Continuance in sin after once smiting will bring greater judgment upon nations, churches, and individuals. No limits must be set to God’s mercy, yet it often happens when God contends with nations that they prove so obstinate in sin, so incessant in departing from God, that nothing but rejection ends it for a time. “The same is seen in individuals. God often first chastens them lightly, then more heavily, and brings them down in their iniquities; but if they still harden themselves, he withdraws both his chastisements and his grace, so that the sinner even prospers in this world, but, remaining finally impenitent, is cast off for ever” [Pusey].
The Three Judgments.
1. Three warnings to the impenitent.
2. Three opportunities of repentance.
3. Three degrees of chastisement—or, The Judgments of God.
1. Gradual in their manifestation.
2. Intenser in their degree.
3. Corrective in their design.
4. Suspended in their operations.
5. Certain in their event.
6. Destructive in their consequence.
A cast-off people.
1. Not a privileged people, do not belong to “the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise.”
2. Not a pitied people, destitute of mercy and grace to help, exposed to wrath, and in danger of perishing.
3. Not a people at all, lacking everything which makes a people, spiritually dead. God’s people the only real people, the only persons worthy to be called a people.
Hosea 1:4-10 may be taken as A graphic picture of family life.
1. The mother’s life a life of apostasy from God.
2. The father’s life a life of service for God.
3. The children’s lives lives of judgments from God. What a difference in the moral character, spiritual condition, and future destiny in the same family.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1
Retribution, Hosea 1:4-5. That God is revealed in nature as a God of retribution, the writings of the heathen abundantly show. The attribute of retributive justice they made a separate deity, whose conclusions and awards would be full and perfect only in the future world. They gathered this, first, from the admonitions of conscience within them; second, from those judgments of God, from time to time falling upon mortals, so extreme and awful, that even the most darkened minds were compelled to interpret them as God’s testimony, both of his wrath against sin, and his determination to punish it. But by far the most remarkable of these judgments are related in the Scriptures; and the sacred writer adds to the enumeration of them, that they happened as examples, and are to be regarded as proving this great truth, that God is reserving the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished. God’s judgments awaken men’s conscience and set it powerfully at work. They reveal a God who can and will punish sin [Cheever].
Judgment and Mercy, Hosea 1:6-9. The changes of providence are not the tricks of fortune. Empires rise and fall at God’s bidding. A dungeon here, and there a throne, his will assigns. Assyria yields to Babylon, and Babylon to the Medes. Kings are but puppets in his hand; they serve his purpose when they rise and when they fall. A certain author [Timbs] has issued a work called “Historic Ninepins,” a fit name of scorn for all the great ones of the earth. God only is: all power belongs to him; all else is shadow, coming and going, unsubstantial, misty, dream-like [Spurgeon].
Here he exalts neglected worms
To sceptres and a crown;
Anon the following page he turns
And treads the monarch down.
Mercy. In the reign of the first Napoleon, there was an insurrection at Paris. One of the ring-leaders was brought before the Emperor; and as this was his second offence against the government, he was sentenced to be transported. The day after the trial, it was told Napoleon that the child of the convicted man was waiting to see him. “Bring her in,” said Napoleon; and a tearful, trembling little girl, on being led in, cast herself at his feet and implored him to have mercy on her father. “My child,” said the emperor, touched by her distress, “this is the second time your father has been guilty of treason; I cannot save him.” “Oh, sir!” said the kneeling child, “it is not justice we want, but mercy and pardon.” Napoleon, much moved, raised the girl to her feet, and said, “For your sake I will release your father.” We deserve judgment, but our great want from the Lord our God is mercy. “I will have mercy” [American Paper].
Free as the sun that shineth, and gilds the mountain’s brow, and makes glad the valleys, without fee or reward, so free is the mercy of God to every needy sinner. Free as the air which belts the earth, and penetrates the peasant’s cottage, as well as the royal palace, without purchase or premium, so free is the mercy of God in Christ. It tarrieth not for thee; it cometh to thee as thou art. It waylayeth thee in love: it meeteth thee in tenderness [Spurgeon].
Forsaken, Hosea 1:8-9. To be forsaken of God implies utter loneliness, utter helplessness, utter friendlessness, utter hopelessness, and unutterable agony [Spurgeon].
Hosea 1:11. Gathered together] in one body. One head] Zerubbabel typically, Christ really (Jeremiah 3:18; Ezekiel 34:23). Go up] from Babylon, from whence God restored the two tribes; typ. = deliverance from sin and moral dignity; go up from sinful life, join the Christian Church and march to the land of promise. Great, &c.] Not as Hosea 1:4. God will increase in mercy, not scatter in displeasure. Where Israel was overthrown, victory shall be achieved. Instead of no mercy and not my people, we have mercy and my people. Great and glorious the day when the fortunes of Israel shall be reversed and the fulness of the Gentiles come in.
THE GOOD TIME COMING.—Hosea 1:10-11; ch. Hosea 2:1
Though excluded from the love of God, Israel was not always to be so. The hand which wounds will heal, and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. The spiritual Israel, the Gentiles as well as Jews, shall be restored to God and become numerous as the sand (Genesis 32:12; Romans 9:25-26). Light springs out of darkness, and life out of death. Promise of blessings follows threat of punishments, and a glorious future opens out to the penitent believer.
I. Israel shall be increased in number.
1. This increase from God. God the source of all increase in families, churches, and nations. Health, favourable circumstances, do not account for increase. Modern calculations must not be applied. God who multiplied Israel in Egypt by special miracle increases the number of his people. “I will increase them with men like a flock.”
2. This increase is innumerable “as the sand of the sea.” It is a law of nature, a rule of providence, to promote growth from small beginnings. The oak from an acorn. A Syrian ready to perish became a great and populous nation, Deuteronomy 26:5. God’s people, few in number at present, shall be increased to “a multitude which no man can number.” “A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation; I the Lord will hasten it in his time.”
3. This increase notwithstanding persecution and sorrow. God’s people often severely persecuted and oppressed; their number diminished; but God replaces things temporal by things spiritual, outward gifts by inward graces, and restores fourfold what he takes away. The Church can never be crushed by force. Omnipotence defends her, and the purpose of God will never be frustrated. “Israel shall be as the sand,” “it shall come to pass.”
II. Israel shall be restored to spiritual dignity.
1. They shall be restored to right relation to God. “The sons of the living God.” This the goal of their Divine calling, but from this relation they had fallen. The external relation only a faint emblem of the spiritual. Not merely a people, but the people, the subjects, the sons of the living God. God owns his people, they are reconciled to him, and possess the spirit of adoption, whereby they say, Abba, Father. This is their unspeakable joy now, but is only a foretaste of what they shall be (1 John 3:2).
2. This restoration is by a method least expected. “In the place where it was said, Ye are not my people,” &c. Mercy when judgment is expected, love beyond description and degree. Love without a parallel and example. Love to the sinful, restoration to the fallen. The place of rejection, the place of redemption; in the place where there was nothing good and encouraging, there shall be a change for the better—a people shall be formed, increase given, and a nation gathered together under the benediction and protection of God.
III. Israel shall be united under one government. “The children of Israel shall be gathered together and appoint themselves one head.”
1. United under one head. This head not the pope, nor Zerubbabel as chief, nor Joshua as priest. Christ, the head of the Church, shall be the head of every man. He, “the one King, shall be the King to them all” (Ezekiel 34:23). Men may gather together into societies and creeds, but no true unity, no real allegiance, except in Christ. He gathers together by his word and love the children of God which are scattered abroad (John 11:52).
2. United by Divine influence. “They shall be gathered.” God only knows where, and how, to find his people. He follows them in their wanderings, restores them when fallen, and leads them into green pastures, and beside the still waters. Men are drawn to Christ, disposed to join together, and made willing in the day of his power.
3. United by voluntary consent. We have first the act of God, without whom we can do nothing, and then follows their own act. “They appoint themselves one head.” No outward force can constrain. If we do not act willingly, there can be no friendship and loyalty. God’s service is a choice, a free service, “Choose you this day.” “Will ye be my disciples?”
4. United in true love. “The children of Judah and the children of Israel,” who lived apart and at enmity. In the gospel only we have a basis for a common brotherhood and fraternity; in Christ only have we bonds to cement and preserve it. In him Jew and Gentile, bond and free, live at peace; “no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms.” “In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel” (Jeremiah 3:18). “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” (Isaiah 11:12-13).
5. United in great joy. Taking Hosea 1:1 in chap. 2 in connection with these, we have a declaration of joy. Those who called the children of the prophet not my people, and unfavoured, are now to call them the opposite names, the son to his brethren, the daughter to her sisters: or the people who have obtained mercy are summoned to salute one another with the new name and new dignity. Those who have obtained mercy may rejoice, and rejoice in God. This privilege is insured to them. They must cherish mutual love among themselves, encourage one another in trouble, and rejoice together in hope. God’s blessings must be commended to others. God’s family is the only happy family. They “sing unto him a new song.”
6. United in great glory. “They shall come up out of the land.” They shall be delivered from captivity, and led into the land of promise; rise up and march forth to victory, and be re-instated in splendour and power. Egypt is a type of heathen lands into which Israel is driven; Canaan a type of the land of the Lord; the guidance of Israel through the wilderness, and their deliverance from captivity, a figurative representation of re-union with God, and restoration to full enjoyment of salvation. “Great shall be the day of Jezreel.” This grand picture has not yet been realized; but under the leadership of the Messiah the destiny of the human race shall be accomplished. “This seed is now sown,” says Matt. Henry, “in the earth and buried in the clods, but great shall be its day when the harvest comes.” Look joyfully, pray continually, and labour earnestly for that day when God shall sow and give the full increase of the Redeemer’s work (John 12:24).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Hosea 1:10. Places of sorrow, places of joy. Where the fathers are cast off for unbelief, the children shall there be restored in mercy—places of death, places of resurrection.
The living God. “The world has abounded with dead gods; there is but one living God. He is the living one. He is life, the primal fount of all existence. Christ calls him the living Father. As the living Father sent me, I live in the Father, so he that eateth with me shall live by me” [Dr Thomas]. If we expect God to be a living God to us, it becomes us not to have dead hearts in his service. If God be active for our good, let us be active for his honour [Burroughs].
Sons of the living God.
1. A unique relation.
2. A distinguished privilege.
3. A blessed prospect.
One Head, Hosea 1:11. Saints are said to appoint Christ their head, and indeed to set the crown upon his head (Song of Solomon 3:11), when they choose him and embrace him for their sovereign, when with highest estimations, most vigorous affections, and utmost endeavours of unfeigned obedience, they set him up in their hearts, and serve him in their lives [Trapp].
The Headship of Christ is:
1. The fulfilment of ancient prophecy.
2. The bond of connection with God.
3. The unity of all ranks.
4. The centre and support of all virtues. He is King of the Jews, Head of the human race, and Lord of all creation. When mankind depart from God, they lose the bond of unity and of peace. They are divided then into parties, which contend with and exterminate each other. But when these have again united themselves with the Lord, the unity of the members is restored. Therefore there is liberty, equality, and fraternity only in the Lord [Lange].
Great days of the Church. The Sabbath—the resurrection of Christ—the day of Pentecost—the day of revivals, and the gathering together of all nations.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1
Future increase, Hosea 1:10-11. Prophecy predicts a bright and blessed future. Everything in the conditions of the human mind and of universal society indicates a coming change, a glorious transformation. The nations are looking and yearning for their redemption. The world must be subject to Christ. Every knee must bow to him, and every tongue confess that he is Lord. His name is the only perfect symbol of freedom and life. Under his love and reign every fetter of mind shall be broken; the heart shall be purified, social happiness will be diffused, order and harmony will be restored, and the whole race be again bound in one grand unity. Heaven will be reflected on earth, and earth will be wedded to heaven. God shall descend and dwell with men, and men shall become the sons, and rise into the life of God.