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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Hosea 8

 

 

Verses 1-14

Chapter 8

A Vessel Wherein Is No Pleasure

God seems almost to exhaust figurative language in describing the unhappy condition of His deluded people, their hearts set on wandering from Him who was their only real good. We have already contemplated them in their wretchedly fallen estate, under the expressive symbols of an adulterous wife, a wine-inflamed drunkard, a backsliding heifer, troops of robbers, a leavened mass, a cake not turned, a silly dove, and a deceitful bow. Now they are warned that because of their sins they shall be scattered among the nations as “a vessel wherein is no pleasure.”

This was the logical result of the covenant at Sinai, where they pledged themselves to obey all the words of the law, which promised blessing to all who kept it, but invoked a curse upon the violators of its precepts. According to this chapter, Israel had broken it at every point. Therefore, on that ground, they had nothing to claim. That God had wondrous resources of grace, yet to be manifested, the final chapter makes abundantly plain; but they would only come into the good of it when they owned their sin and gave up all pretension to merit.

The prophet, as it were, sounds the trumpet to summon the whole congregation into the presence of the Lord, that they may face the reality of their condition as a people who have transgressed the covenant and trespassed against the law (ver. 1).

In the second verse, we might understand a hint of future restoration: “Israel shall cry unto Me, My God, we know Thee.” But it seems rather to imply their unconsciousness of their true state at that time, and during the years of their wanderings while under God’s hand. With amazing effrontery, they cry, “My God, we, Israel, know Thee,” as the R. V. puts it; while all the time they go on in their folly, having cast off the thing that is good, and so are driven before their enemies. They set up kings after their own heart, and make princes without asking Jehovah’s counsel. Idolatry too is everywhere nourishing, and the temple service but a mockery (vers. 3, 4). Thus do they profess that they know God, but in works deny Him. How easy it is, alas, to fall into the truly lamentable state of soul here depicted! How many today talk of being the people of the Lord, or being “in the line of the testimony” (to use a vainglorious phrase popular in certain quarters), while all the time condoning unrighteousness and walking in disobedience to the Word of God. In His time our Lord had to say: “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not after their works: for they say, and do not”-they could preach to others fairly well according to the Law, but their practice was the true indicator of their soul’s condition-and how far from God! It should ever be remembered that while it is of prime importance to be in a right position as to ecclesiastical and other lines of truth, a merely correct position is a poor thing if there be not likewise a right condition of soul. Neither can be neglected without loss; but nothing can be worse than to be priding oneself on “maintaining divine ground,” and going on “in the line of the testimony,” while the life is denied and the heart is insubject to the truth.

But the soul that turns from the living and true God to idols, of whatever nature, will learn at last what it is to be bereft and forsaken when help is most needed. The calf of Samaria cast them off. As with the priests of Baal in Elijah’s day, they cried, but there was none that answered, nor any that regarded. And how could it be otherwise, when the work of their own hands was that in which they trusted! (vers. 5, 6).

Thus, having sown the wind, they had to reap the whirlwind, as many a soul has done before and since. Yet how slow we are to learn! Theoretically, all saints know that there can be no real blessing apart from walking with God; but experimentally, how easily most of us are lured aside, and led after other gods, when some opportunity seems to present itself for profit or advantage! But at last all have to realize that the only result of such sowing will be disappointment and sorrow. “The bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up” (ver. 7).

Apply this to every department of life, and it will be found to be a rule to which there are no exceptions. Apparent success may seem to follow upon disobedience, but “the end is not yet.” We may fancy God and His Word can be disregarded, but we shall prove in bitterness of soul that it is an evil thing indeed to choose our own path.

How many a broken-hearted wife could be cited as an example of the principle here enunciated; or how often a wretched and unhappy husband becomes a living illustration of it! God has plainly forbidden unequal yokes. The Word is clear, and the young saint has it pressed home upon the conscience. But one who seems to promise well as a suited life-partner crosses the path. Esteem develops into affection. Affection ripens into love. A proposal of marriage is made. Then begins a period of doubt and vacillation. God’s Word is plain enough, but its clear precepts are forgotten. Amiable qualities are remembered. The fact that the other party is unsaved is glossed over. A readiness to go to the meetings of Christians, a willingness to listen to the Scripture, is magnified into a persuasion that a work of God has begun in the soul; and at last the other party, only too readily, is drawn into the snare. An unequal yoke is entered into, and a lifetime of regret follows. In by far the majority of cases the seeming interest in divine things passes away with the first few weeks of married life, and then, even if open opposition is not developed, a cold, studied indifference ensues in regard to eternal things that no kindness or consideration can cover up. Thus the child of God is doubly wretched as the sense of disobedience comes home to the, at last, awakened conscience; and the realization presses upon the soul that the one so loved has no concern about God or His Christ, and that, if not soon awakened and saved, two who loved each other on earth must be separated for all eternity.

And so in many other ways the same sad law is fulfilled, whether in business, social, or religious life. Oh that we might learn from what God has so plainly put before us in His Word, and from the unhappy experiences of thousands, the danger of trifling with conscience, and with the truth which sanctifies the obedient soul!

It was because of refusing thus to obey His Word that God had at last to say of His earthly people, “Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure” (ver. 8). This describes in one verse their history for over two thousand years. Driven out of their land, scattered among all nations, they have been as a vessel in which God could take no delight. In this, how opposite to Him who came to save them! “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” was the Father’s announcement when, at His baptism, He offered Himself as the One who came to “do always those things that please Him,” i. e., the Father. He is the vessel of God’s pleasure. Israel has become a vessel wherein is no pleasure. How marked the contrast!

It was in vain for them to turn to Assyria, or any of the surrounding nations. There could be no help for them while under the curse of the broken law. Like a wild ass, they had shown the untameableness of their nature. They knew not how to obey. So they must sorrow under the power of the Gentile oppressor whom God had made “a king of princes”-that is, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (vers. 9, 10; compare Ezekiel 26:7)-for God is evidently passing by the Assyrian, and has before His mind him to whom the Gentile dominion was first fully entrusted.

Ephraim had made many altars to sin, by offering sacrifice to demons, and not to God. His sin should return upon his own head (ver. 11).

The pith of all Jehovah’s controversy with him is declared in ver. 12: “I have written to him the great things of My law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” They were responsible to act in accordance with the written Word. They had failed to do so. Therefore the Judge was at the door. As with them, so it is with Christendom- never more manifest than at the present time- God’s Word is despised and set at naught on all sides. The end, therefore, cannot now be far off.

Having despised the Word, it was useless to bring offerings and to sacrifice and eat flesh before the Lord. He could not accept worship from a disobedient and gainsaying people. He remembers their sins, and must deal with them because of their rejection of His law. Morally, they should return to Egypt, as in fact actually a remnant did in the last days of Jeremiah. “For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples!” They cast His commandments behind their back, yet built temples where a pretended worship was offered. History repeats itself. The words might well describe what is so prevalent today. But the day of the Lord is coming; and, as of old, a fire shall be sent forth from God that will consume all the vain works of haughty men when the hour of Jehovah’s wrath shall strike (vers. 13, 14).

Be it remembered, responsibility is always increased in accordance as God’s truth is revealed. How solemn then the present moment, and how serious must be the results, if truth be held in the mind that does not change the life!

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hosea 8:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/hosea-8.html. 1914.

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