Hosea Chapter Eleven
God's regard for Israel; their ingratitude. (1-7) The Divine mercy yet in store. (8-12)
Commentary on Hosea 11:1-7
When Israel were weak and helpless as children, foolish and froward as children, then God loved them; he bore them as the nurse does the sucking child, nourished them, and suffered their manners. All who are grown up, ought often to reflect upon the goodness of God to them in their childhood. He took care of them, took pains with them, not only as a father, or a tutor, but as a mother, or nurse. When they were in the wilderness, God showed them the way in which they should go, and bore them up, taking them by the arms. He taught them the way of his commandments by the ceremonial law given by Moses. He took them by the arms, to guide them, that they might not stray, and to hold them up, that they might not stumble and fall. God's spiritual Israel are all thus supported. It is God's work to draw poor souls to himself; and none can come to him except he draw them. With bands of love; this word signifies stronger cords than the former. He eased them of the burdens they had long groaned under. Israel is very ungrateful to God. God's counsels would have saved them, but their own counsels ruined them. They backslide; there is no hold of them, no stedfastness in them. They backslide from me, from God, the chief good. They are bent to backslide; they are ready to sin; they are forward to close with every temptation. Their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. Those only are truly happy, whom the Lord teaches by his Spirit, upholds by his power, and causes to walk in his ways. By his grace he takes away the love and dominion of sin, and creates a desire for the blessed feast of the gospel, that they may feed thereon, and live for ever.
Commentary on Hosea 11:8-12
God is slow to anger, and is loth to abandon a people to utter ruin, who have been called by his name. When God was to give a sacrifice for sin, and a Saviour for sinners, he spared not his own Son, that he might spare us. This is the language of the day of his patience; but when men sin that away, then the great day of his wrath comes. Man's compassions are nothing in comparison with the tender mercies of our God, whose thoughts and ways, in receiving returning sinners, are as much above ours as heaven is above the earth. God knows how to pardon poor sinners. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and therein declares his righteousness, now Christ has purchased the pardon, and he has promised it. Holy trembling at the word of Christ will draw us to him, not drive us from him, the children tremble, and flee to him. And all that come at the gospel call, shall have a place and a name in the gospel church. The religious service of Israel were mere hypocrisy, but in Judah regard was had to God's laws, and the people followed their pious forefathers. Let us be faithful: those who thus honour God, he will honour, but such us despise Him shall be lightly esteemed.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Hosea》
 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
Was a child — In the infancy of Israel.
I loved him — Manifested my tender and paternal affection to him.
Called my son — Adopted him to be my son, and as my son, provided for him, and brought him out of servitude.
Out of Egypt — But Israel, the first adopted son was a type of Christ the first-born. And the history of Israel's coming out was a type of Christ's future coming out of Egypt.
 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
They — Moses and Aaron, and other prophets.
Called — Persuaded, intreated, and urged by exhortations, the whole house of Israel.
From them — From the prophets counsel and commands.
Baalim — In the desert they began this apostacy, and held on with obstinacy in it.
 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.
I taught — As a mother or nurse helps the child.
Taking them — Supporting and bearing them up.
They knew not — They would not see nor acknowledge me in it.
 I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.
Cords of man — With such kindness as best fits and most prevails with a man.
I was to them — As a careful husband-man in due season takes the yoke from his labouring oxen, and takes off the muzzle with which they were kept from eating, when at work.
I laid meat unto them — Brought them provision in their wants.
 He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.
He — Ephraim.
Shall be king — Shall rule them with rigour and cruelty.
They refused — The reason of all is, their obstinacy in idolatry.
 And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels.
His branches — The lesser towns and villages.
Their own counsels — Which they have followed in opposition to all the good counsels the prophets gave them from time to time.
 And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.
They — The prophets.
None at all — Scarce any one would hearken and obey.
 How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
Give thee up — To utter destruction. Admah and Zeboim were two of the four cities which were destroyed with fire from heaven.
My repentings — Not that God is ever fluctuating or unresolved; but these are expressions after the manner of men, to shew what severity Israel had deserved, and yet how divine grace would be glorified in sparing them.
 I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
Return — Conquerors that plunder the conquered city, carry away the wealth of it, and after some time return to burn it; God will not do so.
Not man — Therefore my compassions fail not.
The holy One — A holy God, and in covenant, though not with all, yet with many among you.
Enter into the city — Utterly to destroy thee, as I did Sodom.
 They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
They — The remnant shall hear and obey the Lord.
Like a lion — The word of the Lord, so saith the Chaldee, shall roar as a lion. Christ is called, The lion of the tribe of Judah: and when he cried with a loud voice, it was as when a lion roared. The voice of the gospel was heard far, as the roaring of a lion; and it was a mighty voice.
Tremble — The spirit by its power awakening them to a sight of sin, shall make them fear and tremble.
From the west — From the ends of the earth.
 They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.
They shall tremble — At their return into their own land, some shall hasten, yet with solicitude, out of Egypt, whither they fled for shelter; others like doves shall hasten out of Assyria, but with fear and trembling.
I will place them — A seasonable and comfortable promise.
 Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.
Ephraim — Most of the people of Israel.
With lies — Play the hypocrite with me still.
Judah — The two tribes.
Yet ruleth — While idolaters are slaves to the devil, the true worshippers of God, like princes, rule with God.
Faithful — Retains purity, at least truth of worship, and comparatively is faithful. Judah adheres to God's holy prophets, priests, and other saints of God.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Hosea》
11 Chapter 11
When Israel was a child.
The national unit
The meaning is not, necessarily, when Israel was an infant, a child in mere years, but when Israel was a child in spirit, docile, simple of mind, sincere of purpose, true in worship. When Israel lifted his eyes heavenward, and sought for Me, then I stooped over him as a man might stoop over his child to lift him into his arms, and press him closely to his heart. There is a unit of the individual; let us take care lest we rest there, and so miss the ever-enlarging revelation of the Divine purpose in human history. There is not only a unit of the individual, there is a unit of the nation. Israel is here spoken of as if he were one man, a little child; though a million strong in population, yet there was in the million a unit. This is one aspect of Divine providence. We must not regard nations as if they ceased to have status and responsibility, name and destiny before God. A nation is one, a world is one, the universe is one. What does God know of our little divisions and distributions into pluralities and relationships? The nation may have a character. The Church is one, and has a reputation and influence. So we come upon the Divine handling of great occasions. The Lord is not fretted by details. All the details of His providence come out of and return to one great principle of redeeming Fatherhood. The locks are innumerable; the key is one, and it is in the Father’s hand. Let Him hold it. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
God’s love to us the pattern of our love to others
The leading topic of this chapter appears to be the calling of the people of Israel out of the prison-house of Egypt. It gives a gracious account of our heavenly Father’s love, and a fearful picture of man’s ingratitude. Under figures and emblems there is a lively representation of God’s dealings with His redeemed ones--with the Israel that now is, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. The call of Israel from Egypt, as typical of Christ and of His people, is our subject. It is typical of us, as we are called from sin to the holiness of the heavenly Canaan.
I. God’s love to Christ, as a child, manifested to us by His calling Him from egypt. In the fulness of time the beloved of the Father became flesh, and dwelt among us. But no sooner did He appear than His life was threatened. The child was borne for safety into Egypt. In due time Christ was called out of Egypt, brought again to the Holy Land, there to exercise His ministry and perform the will of God.
II. God’s love to us, whilst we were yet at a distance from Him. We who are redeemed are loved with the self-same love with which God loved His only begotten Son.
II. The effect which the possession of this love will naturally produce in our hearts. It will produce love to others. What should be the effect of God’s love in our minds? A disinterested love to our fellow-creatures. Thus shall we have a scriptural evidence that we are of the spiritual Israel, whom God hath loved and called out of Egypt. (G. C. Tomlinson.)
A typical portrait of a people
I. A highly favoured people.
1. God loved them.
2. God emancipated them.
3. God educated them.
4. God healed them.
5. God guided them.
6. God relieved them.
7. God fed them.
II. A signally ungrateful people.
1. They disobeyed, God’s teaching.
2. They gave themselves to idolatry.
3. They ignored God s kindness.
4. They persistently backslided.
III. A righteously punished people. The judgment would be--
1. Extensive; and
2. It should continue; and
3. It should be destructive.
Is not this history of this people typical? Do not they represent especi ally the peoples of modern Christendom, highly favoured of God, signally ungrateful to God, and exposed to punishment from God? (Homilist.)
1. This is the great sin of the visible Church, to which she hath a strong inclination naturally, even in her best frame.
2. Men’s hanging sometimes in suspense, and having some inclinations to return, will neither double out their point against the power of corruption within them, nor will it extenuate their backsliding.
3. The great backsliding of God’s people is their backsliding from God and communion with Him; which draweth on all other apostasies and defections.
4. It is of the Lord’s great mercy that He ceaseth not to follow backsliders with messages from His Word. (George Hutcheson.)
A fivefold view of God’s love
1. It is adopting love. God loved Israel in Egypt, Israel in captivity, Israel among the brick-kilns, and called him “His son.” It is by no merit or righteousness of our own that we are made sons of God. We become children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. God’s love is adopting love. God delights in adopting children, and giving them the spirit of adoption, and taking them to the home of the ransomed family.
2. It is a tender love. The Lord describes the manner of a mother teaching her babe to walk. “I taught Ephraim to go.” The Omnipotent became as a nurse to Israel. When difficulties arose He bore him in His arms as a man doth bear his little child. And the heavenly Father is ever the same.
3. His inviting love. “Called My son out of Egypt.” We know how cruel Pharaoh was, and how hard were his taskmasters. But there was One who loved them, who said, “I have heard their cry, and have come down to help them.” His fiery cloudy pillar was the symbol of his inviting love.
4. It is weeping love. God mourns over their iniquities. God’s love as weeping love was displayed by “The Man of Sorrows,” whose grief was for the hardness of men’s hearts, and whose hot tears over Jerusalem were because she knew not the things which belonged to her peace.
5. His incarnate love. “The cords of a man.” Incarnate love is the magnet by which souls are drawn to God. “The Word was made flesh” begins the story of redemption. Christ became man, to stand in man’s place and deal with God in man’s behalf, and to be able to enter into our feelings and fears as a merciful and compassionate High Priest. (A. Clayton Thiselton.)
Mingled severity and mercy
The scope of this chapter is to clear God from severity, and to upbraid Israel for ungrateful and stubborn carriage, against mercies and means, and yet to promise mercy to the remnant, to His elect ones. At the close of the preceding chapter there were dreadful threatenings against Israel, that the mothers should be dashed in pieces upon their children, and the king utterly cut off. But does not this argue God to be a God of rigid severity? Where is the mercy, goodness, and clemency of God towards His people? God says, “For all this I am a God of mercy and goodness, for I have manifested abundance of mercy already, and am ready still to manifest more; but you have been a stubborn and a stout-hearted people against Me.” From this general scope observe--
1. God stands much upon the clearing of Himself to be a God of love and mercy. Whatsoever becomes of the wicked, yet God will make it clear before all the world that He is a God of much mercy. God takes it very ill that we should have any hard thoughts of Him; let us not be ready to entertain such thoughts of God, as if He were a hard master. “When Israel was a child.” That is, at his first beginning to be a people, in his young time, My heart was towards him. When he knew little of Me. When he could do little for Me. When there was much vanity and folly in him, as there are generally in children. When he was helpless and succourless, and knew not how to provide for himself. The love of God to Israel is expressed in these three particulars.
2. It is the privilege of the Church and of the saints to be beloved of God. God loves His people; this is their privilege, He loves them with a special love.
3. It is a great aggravation to sin, to sin against love.
4. It is very useful to call to mind God’s old love.
5. All God’s old mercies remain engagements to duty and aggravations to sin.
6. Let not our hearts sink in despairing thoughts, though we see that we are able to do but little for God, and though we are unworthy of His love.
7. God’s love begins betimes to His people; let not His people’s love be deferred too long. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)
God’s love for the Church
1. God’s love to the Church is her first and great privilege, which prevents her in her lowest condition, when she is unworthy and base. When Israel was a child, witless and worthless, then I loved him. And this is the fountain of all God’s bounty to him.
2. The Lord will make His love to His people conspicuous in their preservation in a low condition, and under much trouble, when He seeth it not fit to deliver them from it.
3. The Lord also will magnify His deliverance from trouble and bondage, not only spiritual, but outward also, in so far as is for their good.
3. As the Lord doth ofttimes manifest His love, and put special honour on His people, by putting them to sufferings and trouble, so He will specially make His delivering of them proclaim His love and estimation of them, and His peculiar interest in them. (George Hutcheson.)
And called My son out of Egypt.
“And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, even My first-born; and I say unto thee, Let My son go, that he may serve Me.” On these words Hosea’s reference rests. The people of Israel are to God as a son to a father; even as a first-born son. That is why He has come down to deliver them. We speak of the “purposes” of God, as though God had formed some complex schemes at an early period in the world’s history, and now He must work these schemes out. But the God of the Bible is no scheme-maker. He is a Father--we are His sons. It is Israel’s cry that has brought Jehovah down to deliver them. He is the Father of the fatherless. He hears the cry of the afflicted. But though God is moved by love, He does all things in order. He pities His people before their cry has ascended to Him; but He waits for that cry before He comes down to deliver them. For He will not deliver the unwilling or the proud. So He waits. And He came to the right person. He will do His work by means of a man, and He knows the man to do it. Moses brought Israel out of Egypt. Jehovah, that is the name of Israel’s Father and Deliverer. “I am that I am” is practically the translation of Jehovah. It is a somewhat cold name to us, because we know the tenderer name of Father. Hosea’s reference looks forward as well as backward; it looks before and after. Hosea saw that his words had a fuller meaning than could be filled by the people of Israel. He saw that they carried a promise which had not been performed even in his day. Like Abraham, he saw Christ’s day afar off, and was glad. (James Hastings, M. A.)
The flight into Egypt
How can Matthew speak of these words as a prophecy, and of the sojourn of the Divine babe in Egypt as a fulfilment of their prophecy? It has been said that Matthew uses Hosea’s words, so to speak, rhetorically or classically, declaring that the story of the infant Jesus in Egypt was a fine instance of Hosea’s saying. Or it may be answered that the literal Israel was the type of the spiritual Israel. At all events, the Divine Man was Himself the true, ideal Israel, and as such Jehovah did call Him when a child out of Egypt. Once more, it may be answered, in a more general way, that the present is ever the fruit of the past and the seed of the future. Events are born of events, as successive parts of plants are born of preceding parts; the parts are different, but they are radically only repetitions of the original seed. History repeats itself. The historic is ever the prophetic. Particularly is it true in a case of special Divine election, like that of the Jewish nation, that history will be prophecy. The fulfilments of the prophetic Scriptures, like waves of the sea, are ever-multiplying and enlarging concentric circles. And Jesus Christ is evermore the final and crowning fulfilment. The Divine Man is the universal pleroma--alike the radiant point and the circumference of all things. As God called out of Egypt His son, so out of Egypt does He call His Church. It was literally true of some of the most eminent of the fathers,--Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, Cyprian. It is spiritually true of all God’s people. (G. D. Boardman.)
They sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
We read frequently of graven images and of molten images,
and the words are become so familiar as names of idolatrous images that,
although they axe not well chosen to express the Hebrew names, it seems not
advisable to change them for others that might more exactly correspond with the
original. The graven imago was not a thing wrought in metal by the tool of the
workman we should now call an engraver; nor was the molten image an image made
of metals or any ether substance, melted and shaped in a mould. In fact, the
graven image and the molten image are the same thing under different names. The
images of the ancient idolaters were first cut out of wood by the carpenter, as
is very evident from the prophet Isaiah. This figure of wood was overlaid with
plates either of gold or silver, or sometimes perhaps of an inferior metal, and
in this finished state it was called a graven image (i.e., a carved
, in reference to the inner solid figure of wood, and a molten (i.e., an overlaid or covered)
image, in reference to the outer metalline case or cover. Sometimes both epithets are applied to it at once (Nahum 1:14; Habakkuk 2:18). The English word molten conveys a notion of melting or fusion. But this is not the case with the Hebrew word for which it is given. The Hebrew signifies to spread, or cover all over, either by pouring forth a substance in fusion, or in spreading a cloth over or before, or by hammering on metalline plates. (Bishop Horsley.)
I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms.
Taken by the arm
When God redeems and shelters His people by the blood of the Paschal Lamb,--i.e., of Christ our Passover sacrificed for us--and gives them His law, telling them to serve Him, He does not leave them to their own strength, but gives them power to do what He bids them: He teaches them how to go, taking them, as a nurse would, by the arms. Our obedience is not the cause which procures or awakens God’s love to us, but His love is the cause that procures and awakens our obedience. The text tells us what God is doing for the true disciples of Jesus, and how God undertakes to teach them how to go. “Taking them by the arms.” As a nurse teaches a helpless child to walk, He invites us to rely upon His strength and watchful care. He knows our weakness. The thought may be illustrated by Deuteronomy 32:11. In this life we cannot go without the support of Christ; but there are different ways in which He gives this to His people. At first He teaches them to fight against their own evil passions, to resist their own wayward wills, to quench their fiery temptations. But soon they pass onward. The new nature moves, stirs, waxes stronger, grows; the old decays. At first He leads, He guides them against their will, then without it, and it is a happy day when their will cheerfully goes along with His; then they are taught to go. (W. Grant.)
But they knew not that I healed them.
Two different types of ignorance in relation to two different methods of Divine dealings. Look--
1. At the words uttered by the Lord to Cyrus, the Persian king--“I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me” (Isaiah 45:5). From these words we learn that while God uses His own people for a gracious purpose, they are not the only people that He uses for the furtherance of His designs. He places men in high positions, and by their instrumentality He often brings about the fulfilment of His own purpose, though they themselves have had no conscious part in the accomplishment of such a glorious end.
2. Our text points to a very different dealing, namely, God’s treatment of the Jewish people. The ignorance of Cyrus, as a heathen, was not the culpable thing that ignorance of God on the part of any king of Israel or Judah would have been. God had granted Israel a special revelation, and admitted them into an exceptional relationship with Himself as His people. Notwithstanding all God’s goodness to Israel, Hosea says, in God’s name, “They knew not that I healed them.” Thus we have two types of ignorance. That of the man who has never been brought under godly influence; and the wilful ignorance of those who sin against the light, and in spite of gracious influences. The latter is the only ignorance possible to us. The surprising thing about Israel was that they could be so ignorant of God’s goodness after all that He had done for them. Knowledge of God they had, but it had formed no part of their being, had not permeated their character and life, and had not given a bent to their conduct. Their attitude Godward was atheistic. They talked flippantly enough about their history, but there was no gratitude in the heart that would mould and fashion life into submissive obedience to the law of God. Thus their ignorance was all the worse for being so wilful and persistent. “Ye are weary of Me,” exclaimed God to them. I know of no charge more pathetic than that. This ignorance is the result of the blinding power of a sinful passion; an ignorance which will not let a man know the truth because he is too closely wedded to his evil. (D. Davies.)
I drew them with cords of a man.
God’s saving method with the soul
I. God in the action of great solicitude. “I drew them.” There are two ways by which this thought is confirmed--
1. By Scripture.
2. By experience.
God is represented in the Song of Solomon as drawing us with the odour of a great ointment.
II. God drawing man through the principle of human agency--“Cords of a man.”
1. God did this in the use of the prophets.
2. God did this in the Person of Christ.
3. God is now doing this in the Christian ministry.
III. God drawing man through the principle of spiritual conditions: “With hands of love.”
1. There is the voice of the inner life,--telling of wrong, and pointing to right and duty.
2. There is the agency of the Holy Spirit,--pointing to holy decisions. Dr. Doddridge once said to his daughter, “My dear, how is it that everybody seems to love you?” She answered, “I do not know, papa,--unless it is that I love everybody.” Jesus loves us. Shall we not love Him? (W. A. Perrins.)
God’s redemptive agency
I. The uncoerciveness of His redemptive agency. He draws, not drives. This Divine mode of action implies two things--
1. That God respects the moral freedom of human nature. He has endowed us with moral agency. We have a consciousness of freedom which defies and spurns all the logic that would prove us slaves. The Holy Father treats us according to the natures He has given us. God neither condemns nor saves men contrary to their own will.
2. That God’s moral power in the Gospel is extraordinarily great.
II. The humanity of God’s redemptive agency. It is by a man’s intellect, heart, life, example, influence that he draws. God saves man by man.
1. The reasonable draws man. God appeals to our reason through man.
2. The merciful draws man. God appeals to our gratitude through man.
3. The excellent draws man.
4. The desirable draws man. (Homilist.)
The place of love in the Gospel
It is God who speaks of the humanity of His treatment of us. When a man would influence, he must begin by loving. Few can resist that spell. I need not tell any one how mighty, how almighty, in a man’s being is the force of love. There are not two definitions of love, though it has many modifications. The symptoms common to all loving are delight in presence, impatience of absence, eagerness for reciprocity, intolerance of coldness, joy in exchange of thought, sympathy in each change of circumstance; delight in the opportunity of benefiting, and corroding grief in the prohibition of intercourse. We have claimed for hope--we have claimed even for fear--a place in the Gospel. Can it be needful to do the same for love? Yet there may be some comparative, if not positive, disparagement of this grace. I have heard men speak slightingly of Gospel love. They judge it better, on the whole, for the character of Christ’s Gospel, that in its central’ innermost shrine the Deity of deities should be rather obedience than love. Thus, in improving Christ’s Gospel, they spoilt, marred, ruined it.
I. The Gospel is a revelation of love. Herein lies its power, the secret of its strength. It reveals the love of God. That God loves virtue, and will compensate and make up for the sufferings of the good, is a tenet which needs not a revelation. But that God loves all men, even the sinner, is that quite right? Must there not be something here not altogether sound in doctrine, because not altogether conducive to morality and good? The Gospel risks this perversion. It refers us to Christ. Did Christ’s example, did Christ’s life, encourage or favour sin? There is, in the immeasurable love of God, room for all His creatures. There is a yearning of soul over the scattered, dispersed, erring, and straying race. He loves, therefore He pleads. The whole secret of the drawing lies in the spontaneity of the love. Tell a man,--“Seek God, and He will be found of you,”--and you waste words. Tell him--“God loves you as you are. God has come after you, with far-reaching endeavour.” He will find there is strength in that which will not, cannot, be resisted.
II. There is an invitation of love. There is something always pathetic, to the unsophisticated ear, in the petition of love. The outcries of barren, thirsting affection waste themselves oftentimes upon the desert. And yet there was a love for them, would they but have had it, a love better than of son or daughter, better than of wife or husband, a love indestructible, satisfying, eternal. It is permitted to you to love God. Ought not that to be joy enough and privilege enough for any man? God makes it religion to do the thing which will make us happy; and therefore He turns the invitation into the injunction of love, and bids the fallen self-ruined creature just love and be happy--just love and be saved.
III. There is a communication, or transmission, of love. He who has been loved, and therefore loves, is bidden by that love of God to love his brother also; and then, in that transmission, that handing on of the love, the whole of the Gospel--its precept as its comfort--is in deed and in truth perfected. Little, indeed, do they know of the power of the Gospel who think either that obedience will replace the love of God, or duty be a substitute for the love of man. Christ teaches us that both towards God and towards man love goes first and duty follows after. Not, indeed, that we are idly to wait for the feeling, and excuse the not doing on the plea of not loving. There is such a thing as worshipping because I desire to love. So there is such a thing as doing good to my brother, if so be I may love him; a setting myself to every office of patient and self-denying charity, if by any means it may at last become not a labour but a love to me. But how can we love the unlovely? Surely whosoever sees with the eye of Christ, can discern, if he will look for it, on the most tarnished, debased, defaced coin of humanity, that Divine image and superscription in which God created, and for the sake of which Christ thought it no waste to redeem. This is love’s place in Christ’s Gospel. Love revealed, love reciprocated, then love handed on. (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
This is not a day for difficult doctrines, but for the simplest and humblest feelings. The great work of this day is quite beyond, the reach of our understanding. The appeal is not made to our understanding, nor even directly to our conscience. With the cords of a man we are drawn. The human affections which all men share, the feelings which even the poorest, the meanest, the most ignorant partake in, the pity, the tenderness, the love that can only be called forth by love, these are now the cords by which our Father draws us, the cords of a man. To the heart that loves like a child, to the sinner deeply laden with his burden of unhappiness, to the broken spirit that secretly longs to escape from fetters which it is powerless to break, to the soul that is ready to despair, this Gospel speaks, and tells of hope, and love, and eagerness to forgive, and embracing arms, and falling on the neck, and tears of joy, and the welcome of the prodigal son. We cannot study here. We can but surrender our hearts to the love which is too much for them to contain. We are sometimes cold and dead. There are times when our feelings towards God seem to lose their warmth. We can obey and do, but we feel like servants, not like children, and we are unhappy because we cannot rouse any warmer feelings in ourselves. And when this is so, where can we go but to the Cross of Christ? Perhaps under a decent exterior we hide some sinful habit which has long been eating into our souls. It is possible that we may be discharging every duty as far as human eyes behold us. Yet time after time the temptation has proved too strong, or we have been found too weak. Our besetting sin has clung to us, and we cannot get rid of it. Then let us once more turn to God, and gaze upon the Cross of Christ. Or perhaps we have never striven to serve God at all. We have lived as best suited the society in which we were, as most conduced to our own pleasures. Whenever the thought of God or conscience comes across us, we find that but a dull subject to think on, and we turn to pleasanter and more exciting themes. What then shall warm our hearts but this plain story of sadness? If we have human feelings still left us, and sympathy can yet touch our souls, it will be impossible to read of the Cross of Christ without emotion. (Archbishop Temple.)
God’s gracious dealings
I. I dealt with them rationally, as men, not as beasts.
1. My statutes were according to right reason.
2. They were supported by many arguments.
3. And by persuasions, motives, and exhortations.
II. I dealt with them gently, not with rigour and violence.
1. Suiting Myself to their dispositions.
2. Dealing with them when they were in their best temper.
3. Giving them time to consider.
III. I dealt with them honourably, in a manner suitable to that respect which is due to man.
1. My instructions ever exceeded My corrections.
2. Whatever spark of ingenuousness remained in them, I took care to preserve it.
3. I aimed at their good, as well as My own glory, in all things. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)
s:--No man ever does come to God unless he is drawn. Man is so utterly “dead in trespasses and sins” that the same Divine power which provided a Saviour must make him willing to accept a Saviour. But many make a mistake about Divine drawings. They seem to fancy that when the time comes, they will, by some irresistible power, without any exercise of thought or reasoning, be compelled to be saved. But no man can make another man lay hold of Christ. Nay, God Himself does not do it by compulsion. He hath respect unto man as a reasoning creature. Love is the power that acts upon men. God draweth no man contrary to the constitution of man, but His methods of drawing are in strict accordance with mental operations.
1. Some are drawn to Christ by seeing the happiness of true believers.
2. Another cord of love is the sense of the security of God’s people, and a desire to be as secure as they.
3. Some will tell you they were first drawn to Christ by the holiness of godly relatives.
4. Not a few are brought to Christ by gratitude for mercies received.
5. Some have been caught by becoming convinced that the religion of Christ is the most reasonable religion in the world.
6. A far larger number, however, are attracted to Jesus by a sense of His exceeding great love.
7. The privileges which a Christian enjoys ought to draw some of you to Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God’s goodness to His people
Let us see what this goodness did for Israel, and what it does still for God’s people. Three leading articles.
I. Attraction. “I drew them.” God attracted the Jews to Himself as their Lord and portion by conviction and affection. The attraction is to Him as well as by Him. In pushing and driving you urge a thing from you; but in drawing it you bring it towards you. God’s aim is to bring us to Himself. This aim regards the state that we are previously in--a state of distance and alienation from Him. As in this state we see his sin, so we equally see his misery, for with God is the fountain of life, and we can never be happy save as we are near Him. Look at the manner in which this attraction is accomplished. “With the cords of a man.” That Is--
1. “Rationally. Hence religion is called a reasonable service.”
2. Affectionately. Love is the supreme attraction. There are four heads of goodness which are peculiarly attractive and powerful.
II. Provision. “I laid meat unto them.” Meat means food generally. To show the plenitude and riches of the Gospel provision it is represented in the Scriptures by a feast. The provision is found in the Scriptures. It is “laid unto you in the preaching of the Gospel.”
III. Emancipation. He takes off the yoke from our jaws. What yoke?
1. The yoke of Judaism.
2. Of popery.
3. Of persecution.
4. Of bigotry.
5. Of ignorance. (William Jay.)
A weeping willow stood by the side of a pond, and in the direction of that pond it hung out its pensive-looking branches. An attempt was made to give a different direction to these branches. The attempt was useless; where the water lay, thither the boughs would turn. However an expedient presented itself. A large pond was dug on the other side of the tree, and as soon as the greater quantity of water was found there, the tree of its own accord bent its branches in that direction. What a clear illustration of the laws which govern the human heart. It turns to the water--the poisoned waters of sin, perhaps--but the only streams with which it is acquainted. Remonstrate with it, and your remonstrances are vain. It knows no better joys than those of earth, and to them it obstinately clings. But open to its apprehension fuller streams, heavenly water; show to it some better thing, some more satisfying joys; and then it is content to abandon what it once worshipped, and turns its yearning affections heavenward. (J. A. Gordon, D. D.)
My people are bent to backsliding from Me.
How singular is the moral condition of a believer bent on backsliding. It is not a mere vacillation between God and mammon, holiness and sin, but a steady leaning, an earnest leaning toward the latter.
I. Who are they who are bent on backsliding?
1. The first mark is a neglect of secret and family prayer. The neglect of one kind of prayer usually follows neglect of the other kind.
2. Habitual neglect of the Bible. Whoever walks closely with God takes delight in His Word. It is a bad sign when the Scriptures are read only from a conviction of duty.
3. Backwardness or reluctance in efforts to do good. Does a civil, political, or pecuniary enterprise awaken an energy and zeal which you never evince for the Saviour’s cause? If so, what does it indicate?
4. The undervaluing of religious ordinances. Lightly to esteem the house of God, its praises, prayers, instructions, hallowed associations, indicates a backsliding heart. Other marks of a backsliding believer are,--censoriousness; high regard for gaiety and fashion; preference for vain amusements and frivolous company.
II. The guilt which this moral condition involves.
1. Every such professor is acting the part of a hypocrite. We may not charge him with wilful hypocrisy, we may with practical hypocrisy.
2. Their influence goes to depress the standard of piety which the Saviour has fixed, to adulterate that system of truth and duty which He has given as the hope of the Word. Christianity is a holy religion. What we charge upon every Christian professor whose heart is bent on backsliding, is the guilt of adulterating this holy religion, and depressing, so far as his influence goes, its Divine standard of duty. What is it we are doing when we put a base alloy into the gold of heaven? Inter mingling principles of selfishness with those of a heaven-born beneficence. Of course, no Christian could intend to perpetrate so audacious a crime. The inten tion to work such mischief is not charged upon any one. Yet all this mischief is involved in the course pursued by every backslider.
3. The backslider retards the progress of Christianity in the world. He cuts the sinews of its strength; he takes off its chariot wheels.
4. While bent to backsliding you cannot be depended on in religion. You are not reliable persons. You prove recreant to duty. Christianity may well exclaim in reference to many of its professed votaries, “Deliver me from my friends.”
III. The consequences of continuing in this guilty course. There are two rods in the hand of God for offenders, the rod of discipline and the rod of retribution. The former is to correct, with a view to reclaim the offender. The latter is to punish the incorrigible, with a view to vindicate and maintain His outraged authority. With the rod of discipline come oftentimes desolation, rebuke, discomfort, darkness and barren ness in spiritual experience.
1. The first appliances which God will use are disciplinary. The first consequence to be apprehended by a backslider--whether an individual or a Church, is outward rebuke.
2. Another consequence is the discomfort of the forsaken soul: its restless condition, the possibly deep gloom which may settle like night upon it. It must be unhappy when comforts are with drawn, with a grieved departing Saviour, the sweet influences of His grace, as well as the joyful assurance of blessedness hereafter.
3. The last consequence relates to the future world. It takes hold of retribution. Unless you repent and do your first works, you must perish. There is no talismanic charm about the name of Christian, or about a profession of religion which can rescue the hopeless back slider. He must lie down, like other sinners, under the wrath of God. And connected with this consequence to yourselves are melancholy consequences to the unconverted in your families, and in the community. How seldom a sinner repenteth while the Church is far from God! (E. Strong.)
Two explanations of this sentence are given.
1. The word teluaim signifies “perplexed.” The people would suffer a just punishment through being anxious and looking around them, and yet finding no comfort; for this would be the reward of their defection or apostasy.
2. God here complains of the wickedness of the people, as of those who deliberated whether they ought to repent. They then take suspense for doubt. “My people are in suspense.” They debate on the subject as on a doubtful matter, when I exhort them to repent, and they cannot at once decide what to do, but alternate between divers opinions, and now incline to one thing and then to another; as if the subject itself made it necessary for them to deliberate. (John Calvin.)
I. A certain course described. “My people are bent to backsliding from Me.”
1. What this fact proves. The doctrine of human depravity.
2. What it involves.
II. A certain feeling indicated. “How shall I give thee up?”
1. Its nature. It was a feeling of perplexity.
2. Its causes. His back sliding children deserved to be punished; hut He waiteth to be gracious, and is ready to forgive.
III. A certain resolution formed. “I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger.” This should--
1. Excite our astonishment.
2. Kindle our gratitude.
3. Subdue our opposition.
4. Dissipate our fears. (Author of “Foosteps of Jesus.”)
In the west of Scotland when you travel, sometimes when the furnaces are all in full blast, furnace after furnace flings its reflection on the sky. You see the molten metal flowing into the mould. As you look from the carriage windows you see dusky figures flitting about, all activity; but when the furnaces are damped down for a strike or for dull trade, what a misery it is to go through these manufacturing districts and behold idleness. The flames have been damped out, the men are not working, but lounging about at street corners; women and bairns, sad at heart; wheels still; hammers ceased hammering. It is the same way, maybe, with your soul. You have damped out the furnace of Christian activity. God knows it. Why, when you were a young man, you had dozens of furnaces in full blast for God. You gave tracts, you spoke to your fellows, you took a class in the Sabbath school, you gave of your money, you prayed and agonised; and all is shut up, and you know it. You’re asleep; you do nothing for God now. (John Robertson.)
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?
God’s feeling in the face of man’s obstinacy
Many have been the ways adopted by God to communicate His thoughts and reveal His will to the human race. But in all, Divine truths were always represented in a manner most adapted to the constitution of the human mind. Three things suggested by the passage.
I. Man is able to resist God in the dispensations of his mercy. The supposition that man is governed by some Divine fate, that he is a passive being, destitute of a capacity to act in any way besides in accordance with the Divine will, has arisen partly from three sources.
1. Unacquaintance with the nature of the human will Man is so constituted as to be able to exercise authority not only over his own feelings, actions, and character, but also over the heart itself; he can regulate his disposition, so as to turn his whole soul to be a sanctuary to particular objects. Three reasons for this view.
2. Unacquaintance with God’s moral government--confounding the natural with the moral. God does not rule man with an irresistible force, but with motives of gentleness and love.
3. Misinterpretation of some particular portions of the Word of God.
II. That man’s resistance renders it necessary, on God’s part, to give him up.
1. The most applicable means is insufficient for recovering him.
2. The only means is insufficient to recover him.
III. There is an infinite, compassionate reluctance on God’s part to give up man.
1. The relation that exists between God and man renders Him reluctant to give him up. One is a father, the other is a child.
2. God’s knowledge of man renders Him reluctant to give him up.
3. God’s dealings towards man prove that He is infinite in mercy, reluctant to give him up. The most illustrious display of Divine mercy was the sending of God’s only begotten Son into the world. This mercy was displayed also in sending the Holy Spirit. Then if God feels so intensely for those who are strangers and aliens from Him, ought not the same compassionate feeling to characterise His Church universally? And if we are free agents, having control over our dispositions and actions, or endowed with capacity to choose the right and reject the wrong; and if we are the objects of Divine pity, is it not our most incumbent duty to pity ourselves by receiving God’s mercy, and obeying His commandments? (J. A. Morris.)
Justice and mercy in the heart of God
The Bible is pre-eminently an anthropomorphetic book. That is, it represents God through man’s emotions, modes of thought and actions. It is in the character of a father that these verses present Him to our notice. No human character can give a full or perfect revelation of Him. Yet it is only through human love, human faithfulness, human justice, that we can gain any conception of the love, faithfulness, and justice of the Eternal.
I. Mercy and justice as co-existing in the heart of the eternal. To give up to ruin, to deliver to destruction is the demand of justice. “Mine heart is turned within Me, My repentings are kindled together.” This is the voice of mercy. What is justice? It is that sentiment which demands that every one should have his due. What is mercy? A disposition to overlook injuries and to treat things better than they deserve. These two must never be regarded as elements essential]y distinct, they are branches from the same root, streams from the same fountain. Both are but modifications of love. Justice is but love standing up sternly against the wrong, mercy is but love bending in tenderness over the helpless and the suffering. In the heart of God this love assumes two phases or manifestations.
1. Material nature shows that there is the stern and mild in God.
2. Providence shows that there is the stern and the mild in God. The heavy afflictions that befall nations, families, and individuals, reveal His sternness; the health and the joy that gladden life reveal His mercy.
3. The spiritual constitution of man shows that there is the stern and the mild in God. In the human soul there is an instinct to revenge the wrong, often stern, inexorable, and heartless. There is also an instinct of tenderness and compassion. These came from the great Father.
II. Mercy and justice as excited by man in the heart of the Father.
1. The moral wickedness of Ephraim evoked His justice. Human wickedness is always stirring, so to say, the justice of the Infinite heart.
2. The filial suffering of Ephraim evoked His mercy. God calls Ephraim His son, and Ephraim was in suffering, and hence His compassion was turned.
III. Mercy struggling against justice in the heart of the Great Father. Even as the human father finds a struggle between what justice requires, and mercy pleads for, in dealing with his wilful son.
IV. Mercy triumphing over justice in the heart of the Great Father.
1. Mercy has so triumphed in the perpetuation of the race.
2. In the experience of every living man.
3. In the redemptive mission of Christ.
How comes it to pass that mercy thus triumphs? Here is the answer: “For I am God, and not man.” (Homilist.)
Divine forbearance towards sinners
The long-suffering of God, His patience toward sinners, His unwillingness to punish, His readiness to pardon, form conspicuous parts of the Divine character, as set forth to our view in the sacred writings. The text describes a strong and tender struggle in the mind of God between the opposite and contending claims of justice and mercy: and in the end represents the latter as prevailing, mercy rejoicing against judgment. We are not indeed to suppose that a struggle ever really takes place in the Divine Mind. He does but speak to us after the manner of men. Ephraim had done everything to provoke the Lord to anger. Forgetful of all that He had wrought for them, and of all which they owed to Him, they had left His service, renounced His worship, and had given themselves up to the most shameful idolatries. Mercies and judgments had been employed to reclaim them, but in vain. And now, what could be expected but that they should be dealt with according to their deserts? But no--such is the sovereignty of Divine mercy, that instead God says, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?” Attend--
1. To the debate which is represented between justice and mercy.
2. The determination of the debate. After a long struggle mercy prevails.
3. The ground and reason of this determination: “For I am God, and not man.” He who is God, and not man, alone could overcome the difficulty.
Draw some profitable reflections.
1. How exactly does the view here given of the Divine mercy and forbearance, in this particular instance, agree with the general representations of them in Scripture. Illustrate times before Flood. Israel in wilderness. The spiritual redemption of man.
2. How greatly do these views increase and aggravate the sinfulness of sin. Sin is rebellion against a just and rightful Sovereign. It is robbery committed against a good and a gracious Master. It is ingratitude to a most kind and bountiful Friend and Benefactor. Sin is despite done to the richest mercy and tenderest compassion. If God were not so very merciful, sin would not be so exceeding sinful. How great must be the guilt of those who disregard the mercy offered in the Gospel I
3. What great encouragement does the subject give to every humbled and penitent sinner! Such are apt to be full of doubts and fears. They cry for mercy, but cannot believe that they shall find it. Was God so unwilling to give up even penitent Ephraim? And will He be unwilling to receive and pardon penitent offenders? Surely He feels for you the tenderest pity. He will meet you with loving-kindness. (E. Cooper.)
The Holy One
The holiness of God is at once a ground why He punishes iniquity, and yet does not punish to the full extent of the sin. Truth and faithfulness are part of the holiness of God. He will keep His covenant. But the unholy cannot profit by the promises of the All-Holy. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim
There is nothing more inspiring in human history than the long, hard struggle of the Lord against the proclivities of the Jewish people. How this struggle of evil against God arose, what are the conditions of the Divine and the creature nature which render it possible, and render it possible that it should be prolonged, we may never be able to settle. But the fact of the struggle is clear as the sunlight. We are resisting God’s will; we make life a ceaseless struggle against His will. God has created free men; all the burden of their activity, all the possibilities of their development He accepted ill the hour in which He created them free. He parted as it were with a power, a power to rule all things by His decree. A free spirit cannot be ruled by a decree. There is a new sphere of existence created, in which God’s Spirit, in communion with free spirits, alone has power to sustain His sway. And this Spirit may be grieved, wounded, resisted even unto death. “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone,” may proclaim that the resources of the Divine patience and love are exhausted. And yet, was that sentence final? Certainly, in Hosea’s time, Divine patience was not exhausted. Is it even exhausted yet? The answer is found by considering, with some fulness of detail, the history of the long-suffering of God with His ancient Church. (Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
God’s dealing with sin and sinners
It is important that we acquire and cherish right views of the character of God, and the modes of His dealing with the children of men. We cannot fully comprehend the Divine Being. It may happen that the aspect which is most attractive is just that which we most fail to see. Revelation makes known to us that He is not regardless and indifferent to what takes place on earth, and not unmindful of the welfare of the beings His hands have made. He is the Father of our spirits. We read of God as a God of justice, and we are in danger of thinking of justice as unallied with and untempered by mercy. But He is also merciful. He delighteth in mercy. The aspect of God, brought before us in this text, is that of God reluctant to inflict deserved punishment, suffering deep, disquietude and longing because of the waywardness and sinfulness of men. Man s alienation and rebellion causes grief and regret to God.
I. God’s back wardness to punish sin. The very strength of God’s love for His creatures kindles His indignation against that which works their ruin, whilst regard for His own character and government necessitates the punishment of the ungodly and impenitent. One great difference between God’s anger and man’s is this,--whilst man’s anger is soon kindled, God is “slow to anger, and of great mercy.”
II. God’s yearning disquiet for the salvation of men. Of this the words of the text are an earnest expression. (Joseph Shillito.)
God unwilling to abandon the sinner
The making of His creatures happy, according to their capacities of happiness, is highly pleasing to God. The Divine nature is all love and benignity. The sun and light may be as soon separated as God and goodness, the Deity and loving-kindness. If He withdraws His favour from any people, it is all along of themselves, not the least defect of goodness in Him. It is wholly owing to their rendering themselves unmeet to be any longer partakers of His grace and favour. God is always inclined to do good to His creatures, but He is often under the necessity of being very severe. Still, He ever designeth a general good in the judgments He executeth. Men’s learning of righteousness is God’s designs in His judgments. Then God inflicts His judgments, not out of free choice, but from constraint, and with a kind of unwilling willingness. In the text we see that, highly as they had incensed the great God against them, He nevertheless makes good, when one would least expect He would, that saying of the son of Sirach, “As is His majesty, so is His mercy.” In the text He seems to say, “How can I find in My heart to be as bad as My word in executing such fearful threatenings?” Nothing less than apparent necessity can prevail with the infinitely good God to make His creatures miserable; and this further appears by the following considerations.
1. God’s earnest and most pathetical exciting of sinners to turn and repent, that iniquity may not be their ruin, is of itself sufficient to assure us hereof.
2. ‘Tis God’s ordinary method to give warning to sinners before He strikes. He wants reformation and repentance to stay His hand and prevent the blow. Illustrate by the warning of Noah’s ark, and the warnings sent by the prophets, etc. Signs of the times are God’s warnings nowadays.
3. It is God’s usual course to try a wicked people with lighter judgments first, before He brings the heaviest upon them.
4. When God determined to pour down the vials of His vengeance upon a wicked people, He sometimes plainly intimated that He did it not, until their wickedness was come up to such a height as did necessarily call for them.
5. It is likewise apparent that God Almighty is most backward to the destroying of a wicked people, or putting them into miserable circumstances until necessitated, in that He hath again and again declared His being diverted from so doing by such motives as one would think could have but very little influence upon such a Being as He is, or rather none at all. The following are some of these motives.
The Gospel in Hosea
Hosea appears again and again to contradict himself. In one line he is denouncing a ruinous and final doom; in the next, with a voice that breaks with tenderness, he is promising a day of golden restoration. Does it not sound like a feeble absurdity to say that both sets of declarations can be fulfilled? Yet fulfilled in some ideal way I believe they are. Surely the prophet recognised that there were positive contradictions in life,--life and death, light and darkness, blessing and’ cursing, the flame of wrath and the dew of blessing; and leaving these contradictions as he found them, he yet believed that God is a God of love, that mercy shall somehow or somewhere triumph over justice, that God will smite sin, and yet will spare. Hosea’s was a real and not a sham message, and it was a message full of comfort; and still more full of comfort was the reason, “for I am God, and not man.” The deepest consolation of life lies in this, God and not man is the judge. God is the Father of the prodigal. Christ was the friend of publicans and sinners; and in the revelation of God throughout all the Scripture, as in the words of Christ, we find always side by side with the awful certainty of retribution, the unquenchable beams of love and hope. But Hosea had learned his lesson, as so many are forced to learn it, in sorrow and anguish. He tells us his secret in the first three chapters. These explain the varying of emotions in almost every verse of the prophecy; and they also explaln why this prophet seems to see more deeply than all others into the heart of the love of God. The sorrows of life come to us all though they seem to come in different measure; but the point for us to observe is how differently they affect the wise and the foolish The holy submissiveness of Hosea’s life taught him the one great lesson without which he would never have become a prophet at all. This lesson, -- If the love of man, the love of a husband for a wife, of a father for his child can be so deep, how unfathomable, how eternal must be the love of God! To what sunless depths, to what unfathomed caverns can the ray of that light penetrate I In this is a message of hope for individual souls. (Dean Farrar.)
Moderation in Divine judgments
1. God’s mercy interposing on the behalf of sinners doth produce not only good wishes but real effects to them.
2. God’s mercy towards His sinful people, doth not see it fit to keep off all effects of His displeasure, or leave them altogether unpunished.
3. When a sinful people are under saddest temporal judgments, yet so long as they are in the land of the living, they are bound to reckon that their condition might have been worse if all God’s just displeasure were let out.
4. The Lord’s moderating of deserved judgments, if it were but to preserve a people from being utterly consumed, is a great proof of God’s mercy, and ought to be acknowledged as such.
5. It is the great mercy and advantage of the Lord’s sinful people that they have to do with God, not with man, in their miscarriages. (George Hutcheson.)
A father’s solicitude for the erring
A number of years ago, before any railway came into Chicago, they used to bring in the grain from the Western prairies in waggons for hundreds of miles, so as to have it shipped off by the lakes. There was a father who had a large farm out there, and who used to preach the Gospel as well as attend to his farm. One day, when church business engaged him, he sent his son to Chicago with grain. He waited and waited for his boy to return, but he did not come home. At last he could wait no longer, so he saddled his horse and rode to the place where his son had sold the grain. He found that he had been there and got the money for the grain. Then he began to fear that his boy had been murdered and robbed. At last, with the aid of a detective, he tracked him to a gambling den, where he found that he had gambled away the whole of his money. In hopes of winning it back again he had then sold the team and lost that money too. He had fallen among thieves, and, like the man who was going to Jericho, they stripped him, and then cared no more about him. What could he do? He was ashamed to go home and meet his father, and he fled. The father knew what it all meant. He knew that the boy thought he would be very angry with him. He was grieved to think that his boy should have such feelings toward him. That is just exactly like the sinner. He thinks, because he has sinned, God will have nothing to do with him. But what did that father do? Did he say, “Let the boy go”? No; he went after him. He arranged his business, and started after the boy. He went from town to town, from city to city. He would get the ministers to let him preach, and at the close he would tell his story. “I have got a boy who is a wanderer on the face of the earth somewhere.” He would describe his boy, and say: “If you ever hear of him, or see him, will you not write to me?” At last he found that he had gone to California, thousands of miles away. Did that father even then say, “Let him go”? No; off he went to the Pacific coast, seeking his boy. He went to San Francisco, and advertised in the newspapers that he would preach at such a church on such a day. When he had preached he told his story, in the hope that the boy might have seen the advertisement, and come to the church. When he had done, away under the gallery there was a young man, who waited until the audience had gone out; then he came towards the pulpit. The father looked, and saw it was his son, and he ran to him, and pressed him to his bosom. The boy wanted to confess what he had done, but not a word would the father hear. He forgave him freely, and took him to his home once more. Oh, prodigal, you may be wandering on the dark mountains of sin, but God wants you to come home! The devil has been telling you lies about God; you think He will not receive you back. I tell you He will welcome you this minute if you will come. Say “I will arise, and go to my Father.” There is not one whom Jesus has not sought far longer than that father. There has not been a day since you left Him but tie has followed you. I do not care what the past has been, or how black your life, He will receive you back. Arise, then, O backslider, and come home once more to your Father’s house. (D. L. Moody.)
Ephraim compasseth Me about with lies.
Beset round with lies
By lies understand false worship, for that is a lie with false pretences; they put fair glosses upon things, but all are but lies; they have beset Me with politic shifts of their own devising. They not only seek to blind men, but they would (if it were possible) deceive Me, saith God. And indeed, when men seek to blind their own consciences, what do they but seek to deceive God? In the very act of worship they are false.
1. Many, in their prayers, in the solemn act of worship, beset God with lies. Can God be deceived? No, but they did what lay in them to deceive Him; if it were possible for God to have been deceived they would have deceived Him.
2. Many also beset the business and affairs that they manage with lies. They plot with themselves how they may handsomely contrive to put together a goodly number of lies, that so they may beset men’s understandings. There are such cunning attempts in the world to beset the understandings of men, that men shall not know what to say to things; and yet, whilst they cannot tell how to believe them, neither do they know what to say, things are so contrived. Deceitful men think with themselves, If such a thing shall be questioned, then I have such a shift to put it off; and if another thing shall be doubted of, then I have such a report, and such a fair pretence, to make it good.
3. When men are once engaged in shifts and lies, they grow pertinacious in them, and there is little hope of their recovery. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)
Fraud and falsehood
The Lord complains “that He had been compassed with the falsehood and fraud of the people.” By these words He means that He had in everything found the multiplied perfidy of the Israelites; for this is the import of the word “compassed.” Not only in one way, or in one thing had they acted unfaithfully towards God; they were full of innumerable frauds, with which they surrounded God, like an army at a siege. This is what hypocrites are wont to do; not only in one thing do they endeavour to deceive God, but they transform themselves in various ways, and ever seek some new subterfuges. When they are caught in one sin they pass into another; so that there is no end to their deceit. He speaks of “frauds and falsehoods,” for they thought that they escaped, provided they covered themselves with some disguise, whenever the prophets reproved them. But God here testifies that they gained nothing by their craftiness. The prophet reprobates those specious excuses, by which people think they are absolved before God, so as to elude all the threatenings of the prophet. This passage teaches that men in vain make excuses before God; for when they contrive pretences to deceive God, they are themselves greatly deceived; for He clearly perceives their guiles and falsehoods. (John Calvin.)
But Judah . . . is faithful with the saints.
Faithful with the saints
1. With Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with Moses, with the prophets, with the forefathers.
2. Faithful with such as are sanctified, the true priests of God, that God has sanctified to Himself. Whereas Jeroboam took of the lowest of the people and made them priests to God, Judah would have no other priests but the sanctified ones of God.
3. Faithful with the people of God. For all of Israel that were holy, that were godly, that were saints, and were not detained by some special hand of God, went up from the Ten Tribes to Judah, to the true worship of God; now Judah entertained them, and used them well, and was faithful to them. But on the contrary, Israel, the Ten Tribes, were unfaithful, by using the saints of God evilly that would worship God according to God’s own way; they were cruel and oppressing and unfaithful to them, but Judah was faithful towards such, embracing and encouraging them. For us to go on in faithfulness, though we have none to join with, is a commendation; and the ways of God are excellent, whether any or no do join with us in them. But it is a great encouragement to be faithful with the saints; that is, to go on in those ways in which we see the saints walk: and to join with the saints, with such as are the choice saints of God, greatly encourages and strengthens the people of God in their way. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)
The faithful tribe
There is a striking analogy between the leading characteristics and facts of Church history under the Old Testament dispensation, and under the New. In both we see a chosen people, a redeemed people, a preserved people, and a perverse, rebellious, stiff-necked people. Nothing but immutable love and sovereign grace could have borne with their conduct. The great mass of nominal Israel of old were carnally minded. They degraded themselves with abominable idolatries. Just so do multitudes who pass for Christians in the nineteenth century, boasting of ancient pedigree, long succession, and exclusive right; wearing the name of Christian without possessing one spark of Christianity. The modem profession of Christianity has awfully apostatised from ancient orthodoxy, and set up idols throughout Christendom, worshipping the work of men’s hands according to the free will system. The great calamity of the present day arises from carnal men interfering with religion in any way, for in so doing they are sure to do mischief: if they legislate for it, they clog and fetter it; if they endow it, they curse it; if they even speak of it, they misrepresent it,--and can it be otherwise while they are destitute of it? Turn attention to the faithful tribe who, in the face of all the revolting and apostasy of the present day, may be said to rule with God, and deal faithfully with the saints. There is still such a tribe in Christendom. If the God of all grace would bestow upon His elect remnant a revival of vital godliness, Christian union, and fervent prayer, there would be nothing to fear from pope or infidel. Brethren, be of one mind. Electing love, Divine substitution, and invincible grace are our rallying-points. (Joseph Irons.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》