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Hosea 2:14-23 -

Sympathy with Israel in spite of their sins.

The laken which introduces Hosea 2:14 is rendered by some " notwithstanding, " and this is what we might expect; but it is opposed by linguistic usage. We muse adhere to the ordinary translation, which is "therefore." The word thus translated tends to exalt our idea of God's goodness. Israel had sinned and forgotten God; the "therefore" we would expect, and the inference we would draw is God ' s final and forever abandonment of such a sinful, God-forgetting people. Not so, however. Israel had sinned by idolatry, and sunk into a depth of misery from which they were utterly unable to extricate themselves. But their extremity is God's opportunity; their misery appeals to God's mercy; and what man could not do, and man would not do if he could, God does, lifting Israel up out of the pit of misery into which, through sin and forgetfulness of God, they had plunged. Not their desert, but their distress, turned the eye of Divine compassion upon them. "His ways are not as our ways, neither are his thoughts as our thoughts." "He hath not dealt with us," says the psalmist, "after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." He had indeed dealt with Israel in wrath, tad prepared the people to put away their idols, and now, to prevent them giving way to despair, he deals with them in mercy.

1. "This 'therefore' has a strange and wonderful 'wherefore' if we dwell on what precedes: 'She went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will allure her:' there needs, indeed, a 'behold' to be put to this 'therefore.'... The right knowledge of the fullness, and riches of the grace of the covenant will help us out of this difficulty, and tell us how these two, the greatness of man's sin and the riches of God's grace, may have a connection one with another, and that by an illative 'therefore.'"

2. The allurements of God are

3. He speaks comfortably to his people, literally, to their heart. Man can only speak to the ear, God speaks to the heart; yet God's words in man's mouth are brought home by the Holy Spirit to the affections, and so to the comfort of man's heart.

4. Whether, then, the wilderness state be one of afflictive dispensations or of merciful deliverances, the power of Divine attraction is experienced and Divine consolations are enjoyed.

I. RELIEF IS THE FIRST MANIFESTATION OF THIS MERCY . That relief is described in terms calculated to remind them of God's gracious dealings with their forefathers, and to recall his merciful deliverance of them out of Egypt.

1. Several incidents connected with their redemption out of the land of bondage are laid hold of by the prophet and impressed into his prediction, which is thus rendered beautifully vivid and picturesque, of future deliverance. Among these incidents, which give such a life-like coloring to the prophecy, are God's persuasion of Israel through his servants, Moses and Aaron; their exit from Egypt, and entrance into the wilderness on the way to Canaan; his cordial and comforting dealings with them in the wilderness, when he gave them that fiery, yet just and good and holy Law, instructed them in the ways and means whereby they might worship him acceptably, and took them into covenant with himself.

2. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of the wilderness becoming a fruitful field, and again of the wilderness and solitary place being gladdened, and of the desert rejoicing and blossoming as the rose. Whether, then, the wilderness itself shall bloom with vineyards for Israel, or whether, on emerging from the wilderness, they were to be put in possession of vineyards in the promised land, the promised blessing of restoration remains the same; while the responsive song of praise and thanksgiving, such as Moses and the men el Israel sang for the glorious triumph at the Red Sea, and in which Miriam and the women of Israel responded, shall be repeated on the occasion of Israel's rehabilitation in their former inheritance.

3. A remembrancer of a practical kind is interjected, if we are to understand Achor rather appellatively than locally. That remembrancer of Achan's sin, and Israel's suffering in consequence, teaches the lesson sometimes difficult to realize, that the bitterest sorrow becomes the source of sweetest comfort to penitent souls. God subjects his people to humbling providences in order to make them contrite; he awakens within them painful convictions, to prepare them for heavenly consolations; he tries them by distressing circumstances, but it is by way of wholesome discipline; by all their wanderings in the wilderness he humbles and proves them in order to do them good at the latter end. If, too, like Israel, we put away sin, the accursed thing within us, we may confidently hope for God's presence with us, and power to prevail over all enemies around us. Mortifying sin expels the troubles kern the camp; " trouble for sin, if it be sincere, opens a door of hope, for that sin that truly troubles us shall not ruin us."

II. REVIEW OF GOD 'S DEALINGS WITH ISRAEL . In the strong language of prophecy, Israel had been married to God, but had proved unfaithful; going after other lovers, and thus committing spiritual adultery, which is idolatry. Her unfaithfulness had exposed her to the just judgments of God, issuing in her captivity.

1. From the fourteenth verse to the close of the present chapter, however, promises of mercy take the place of denunciation and reproof. Because of Israel's adultery God had threatened her with a bill of divorce; but now he allures her, that is, woos her again, as a young man a maiden whom he means to make his wife, and in the sequel actually renews that relationship, as we learn from the words, "At that day thou shalt call me Ishi"—"my Husband." He here dwells with complacency on his manner of dealing with her when alluring or wooing her in order to make her his wife. Having brought her into the wilderness, or a state of trouble and distress, and thereby humbled her, he wins her heart, not merely by pleasant words, but by most valuable presents.

2. These precious gifts are comfort, hope, and joy. These are the present manifestations of his love which he promises to bestow on Israel. He gives, or rather restores, the vineyards which had been forfeited; that is to say, he gives not only necessaries but delights, not only subsistence but abundance. Vineyards affording wine, which comforts and makes glad the heart of man, imply comfort, with the subsidiary notion of rest and peace, from the figure of men sitting restfully and peacefully under their own vine and fig tree. The second gift is hope . A door of hope, wide and effectual, is opened before God's people, and they are privileged to enter in. The third is joy, spiritual joy, so that they have good ground and a right disposition to celebrate with songs of joy the praises of their Maker, who is at once their heavenly Husband and gracious Benefactor.

3. We must, however, note the manner of bestowal. It takes place after much trouble and great abasement. He gives "her vineyards from thence," the reference being to the wilderness mentioned in the preceding verse. After difficulties and distresses in a land where they had been hardly bestead, and a condition in which they had been much straitened, they would have comforts of a most valuable kind. Further, the valley of Achor denotes the valley of trouble, and derives its name from having been the scene where God troubled the troubler of Israel, when Achan, who by his sin had troubled the host of Israel, was stoned to death. Sin is the soul-troubler still; and when sin is slain and forsaken, with sorrow of heart and bitterness of repentance, the door of hope flies open. Just as the valley of Achor was the door of hope to Israel, inasmuch as-it was the first place they got possession of on entering Canaan, and inasmuch as, valley of trouble though it was, it became the source of much good to them; so the valley of trouble and humiliation is often the opening up of hope and comfort to the believer. Conviction of sin causes trouble. The awakened sinner is troubled by a sense of guilt and fear of deserved wrath; but such troubling opens the door to conversion and comfort.

4. The history of Israel repeats itself in the history of God's people still.

III. RENUNCIATION OF IDOLATRY IS IN CASE OF ISRAEL ANOTHER RESULT OF DIVINE MERCY . He draws them, and they run after him; he makes them willing in the day of his power. Relief from suffering is followed by renunciation of sin; this is a blessed consummation.

1. Other lords had dominion over her, but now she renounces all these, and devotes herself to Jehovah alone. So with sinners when they give up the sin that does most easily beset them. No longer is some beloved lust the subject of their thoughts or the object of their affections; no longer are they wedded to sensuality, or avarice, or ambition, or worldliness, or pride, or passion, or sin in any form; their Maker is now their Husband-even the Lord of hosts, which is his name. Nay, more; they acknowledge God as their Lord and Master, and so he is; they look up to him as their Patron and Protector, and so he is; they confess his right of ownership so as to dispose of them according to his sovereign will and pleasure—and they do welt, for so he is.

2. But, above all this, they can come nearer to him and claim a closer connection; with holy boldness they can approach his throne with more confidence and less apprehension than Esther to her imperial husband, when she touched the golden scepter which he held out to her. The Church can address Jehovah not merely as Baali—"my Lord," but with true wifely affection as Ishi—"my Husband." Or, if the distinction we have intimated be disallowed, the name of an idol shall never again be put in the place of the living God, according to the injunction in Exodus 23:13 , "Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy month." So with whatever lust, or evil appetite, or sinful gratification, or vicious course we have had for an idol, let it not be once named among us.

3. But how is the change effected? It is God himself who by his grace brings it about. "I," says God, "will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth." The very name is to be treated with abhorrence ; it must never more be mentioned, but consigned to the oblivion of the past. God himself girds his people with strength for the sacrifice ; "for it is God which worketh in you both to will arid to work, for his good pleasure."

"The dearest idol I have known,

Whate'er that idol be,

Help me to pluck it from thy throne,

And worship only thee."

IV. RESTORATION TO PEACE LIKE THAT OF PARADISE . Once sin is renounced and man is at peace with God, he has peace with all around.

1. A scene of peace did once prevail on earth; it was in Paradise. In those Eden bowers our foreparents enjoyed sweet peace; they had peace with each other, peace and communion with God. Day was succeeded by night, and night melted into day; they slept, they waked, they walked; they kept that Paradisaical spot and dressed it. Above, around, within, the Divine favor brightly shone. No sound of discord was anywhere heard, nor did jarring note intrude. But soon as man broke the peace by turning rebel against God, the beasts, that till then had been subject to man and rendered him willing service, rose in fury and in fierceness against him. Man by sin turned a foe to himself, roused to rage the creatures before subject to him, and was at war with his fellow.

2. But when Israel returns to allegiance to God, the various sections of animate creation shall resume subjection to him. Wild beasts of the most savage nature, or bloodthirsty disposition, or venomous character, shall be at peace with him; the fowls of heaven, the winged emissaries of the evil one, that snatch the Divine Word out of the heart, shall lose the power of injury; enemies resembling the creeping things of the ground, however harmful before in enticing to low lusts, and leaving the slimy trail of sin behind, shall be restrained from hurtling. Not only so; the curse of war shall cease. Jehovah pledges himself by covenant to bless Israel with peace; but the promise carries us on to that happy day when the Prince of peace shall restore peace to the individual heart, peace to the domestic hearth, and peace to the human family throughout all the world.

3. When the weapons of war shall have perished, men shall' dwell, not only in safety, but security. They shall he fearless of every foe; fearless of all the powers of evil; fearless in life, for " perfect love casteth out fear;" fearless in death, and triumphant over the last enemy. May the good Lord hasten that time when

"No strife shall rage, nor hostile feuds

Disturb these peaceful years;

To ploughshares men shall beat their swords,

To pruning-hooks their spears.

No longer hosts, encount'ring hosts,

Shall crowds of slain deplore:

They hang the trumpet in the hall,

And study war no more."

V. RENEWAL OF THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT OR COVENANT . If we take this Old Testament picture and put it in a New Testament frame, or if we take this Old Testament flower and transplant it to the New Testament parterre, we shall realize the words of the apostle to the Ephesians, when he says, "Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.… This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church."

1. The betrothal is in righteousness, in truthful sincerity, without the suspicion of dissimulation on the one side or the shadow of hypocrisy on the other; in judgment, with due deliberation, not rashly, not unadvisedly, not through some sudden or fitful impulse; in loving-kindness, in outward acts of kindness and innumerable love-tokens; in mercies, in bowels of mercy; this is the source whence all those countless acts of kindness proceed, the fountain from which such abundant streams of love flow forth; in faithfulness, in stability on the part of God, "with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning," and steadfastness on the part of the saint. These are the precious stones in the wedding-ring which the bride, the Lamb's wife, receives—righteousness and judgment, loving-kindness and mercies, faithfulness—and thus the guarantee of a union that is to last for ever.

VI. REVIVAL OF PROSPERITY . In this part of the picture—and a beautiful picture is here presented to us—we see a specimen of the manifold wisdom of God, and of the many links in the chain of his providence. The boldness of the figure, and the beauty of the personification exhibiting the chain of second causes, and their connection with the great First Cause of all, have been much admired. When the people of God stand in need of, and prayerfully seek, outward comforts, "immediately the corn and the wine and the oil, as if they heard their complaints, shall say, O Lord, we would help Jezreel, and satisfy these thy servants. The corn shall cry to the earth, O earth, let me come into thy bowels; I will rot there that so I may bring forth fruit for this people. The vines and the olives shall desire the earth to receive them, to impart juice and nourishment to them, that they may refresh these reconciled ones of God. The earth shall say, Oh that I may receive the corn and wine and oil that I may be fruitful in my kind! but, ye heavens, I can do nothing except I have your influences, and the warm beams of the sun to make me fructify; come, therefore, and assist me, that I may bear fruit for Jezreel. And the heavens shall cry, Lord, we would fain help the earth, that the earth may help the corn and wine and oil, that they may supply Jezreel; but we can do nothing without thy hand; therefore hear us and suffer us to ram upon the earth, that it may become fruitful." Thus the creatures plead with each other for the saints of God; God hears the heavens, and the heavens the earth, and the earth the corn and wine and oil, and the corn and wine and oil supply abundance to the people of God.

1. If the creatures cry to one another for help to the people of God, shall we turn a deaf ear to the appeals of God's afflicted people when they cry for help to us? Or shall we refuse to hearken to the call of God when he summons us to help forward his cause and extend his kingdom?

2. If God hears his creatures when they cry to him for our support, what encouragement we have to believe that he will hear his own Son, when, as Advocate and Intercessor, he pleads on our behalf and in the presence of God for us!

HOMILIES BY C. JERDAN

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