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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Hosea 8

 

 

Verses 1-14

Threatened Destruction

Hosea 8:1-4.

"Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law" ( Hosea 8:1).

The Lord pursues the evildoers, not in a spirit of vengeance, but in a spirit of expostulation, to be followed by such penalty as the evil deeds have provoked and deserved. When he commands the prophet to set the trumpet to his mouth he regards the prophet in the capacity of a watchman, whose function it was to notify the coming of God amongst the children of men in some form of judgment. Isaiah was commanded in similar terms—"Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet." The trumpet called men to war, or alarmed them in periods of danger, or summoned them to concerted action on signal occasions. We are not to look upon the office of watchman as extinct. The term may indeed be applied to all trustworthy and vigilant leaders of society; we look to them to tell us the signs of the times, and to give us the signal either for flight or battle. When ministers of religion keep silent in the presence of social dangers or public calamities, they are not to be flattered as if they were exercising a wise prudence; they are to be condemned as unfaithful watchmen who consult their own interests rather than seek to defend and consolidate the welfare of the community. There is a great temptation to be silent in the presence of the wicked, for oftentimes the wealth of this world is in the hands of ungodly men, or it lies in their power to inflict great injury upon those who oppose their malignant will. It is under such circumstances that ministers of Christ are to show their intelligence, their fortitude, and their self-control. On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that neither political nor religious ministers are to unduly excite themselves about trivial subjects, or expend their strength in the consummation of frivolous purposes. There is a sad lack of proportion in any method or economy which expends energy upon objects unworthy of much consideration.

In the case before us it is the house of God that is in peril Strictly speaking, "the house of the Lord" relates to the Temple, because in that place the Lord had been pleased to record his name. We find it pointed out, however, with clearness that the expression "the house of the Lord" is not confined to what we understand by the word temple or sanctuary: for example, in Jeremiah 12:7 the Lord says, "I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies;" and in Jeremiah 11:15 we read, What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many?" In these instances by the "house" of the Lord we are to understand the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem. The title "God"s house" should be preserved through all generations as peculiarly distinctive of the sanctuary; it is a larger and older title than the term "temple." In describing all his own people the Lord says, "My servant Moses is not Song of Solomon , who is faithful in all mine house"; by "all mine house" we are to understand the whole Church of God, the whole Israel of the Most High. Even when the ten tribes had no longer any portion in strictly temple worship, when, indeed, they had fallen into a base apostasy, God did not regard them as absolutely detached from his house, for he says, "For the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house."

The image by which the prophet represents the oncoming vengeance of God is most energetic and vivid—"as an eagle against the house of the Lord." Primarily the eagle typifies the destructive irruption of Shalmaneser, who came down furiously; and bore away in mocking triumph the ten tribes. The "eagle" includes also Nebuchadnezzar, and, according to some interpreters, it includes the Roman eagle, the ensign of Roman arms. Whatever be the local and particular references as to the eagle, the great principle remains from age to age that God comes to judgment in various forms, always definitely, and, as we shall see, always intelligibly, not only inflicting vengeance as a sovereign whose covenants have been outraged, but condescending to explain the reasons upon which his most destructive judgments are based. Thus we read, "Because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law": the covenant had been broken by idolatry, and the law had been violated by social sins. It is needful to mark this distinction with great particularity, because it shows the breadth of the divine commandment. God is not speaking about a merely metaphysical law—a law which can only be interpreted by the greatest minds, and put into operation on the sublimest occasions of life; he is speaking about a law which had indeed its lofty religious aspects, but which had also its social, practical, tender phases, in whose preservation every Prayer of Manasseh , woman, and child in the kingdom ought to be interested.

It is important also to remember that God"s law is always man"s defence. We are not dealing with an Oriental prince who has made laws for his own preservation, but with a divine Father who never makes a law that has not a distinctly human aspect, and that is not enriched with a distinct redemptive purpose towards the human family. We might suppose that sin was a metaphysical mystery; something, indeed, for which the sinner himself was hardly responsible, because he did not know either the beginning or the end of his action. God, however, has made it clear that sin is always a crime; that is to say, not only a metaphysical offence, but a practical outrage, or a practical loss. Whoever sins against God sins against his own soul, and not only sins against his soul considered as a metaphysical entity, but sins against himself as a person who is environed and governed by beneficent laws. Once let those laws be violated, and the man does not only suffer metaphysically, or go down in some practical quantity or quality, but he actually suffers in body and estate, sometimes apparently, and always really.

"Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee" ( Hosea 8:2).

The Hebrew has been put thus: To me shall they cry, We know thee; we, Israel, thy people, know thee. A parallel passage may be found in the gospel of Matthew , "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" Israel always claimed to know God, and they were always rebuked for not really knowing him, but knowing him only in name or pretence or worthless vision. Our Lord was encountered by the declaration on the part of the Jews, "He is our God"; but instead of accepting that testimony Jesus Christ appealed to the moral condition and recollection of the pretenders—"It is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God. Ye have not known him:" here we have a common sophism exposed and denounced; here is profession of the most positive and blatant kind condemned as an expression of ignorance, and of something worse than mere intellectual ignorance. Israel professed that God had been accepted as the God of the individual and the nation, and yet Jesus Christ charges Israel with not knowing the God professedly so accepted. The charge applies to all religious profession. Do we understand the meaning of our own profession? Do we comprehend the full purpose of all the religious terms we use? When we recite a creed do we really pronounce a vital faith? This discrepancy between a set of formal words and the real meaning of the heart is the region in which temptation operates with deadliest effect. Everywhere Jesus Christ calls for reality: he will not have any of his people say more than they really believe. Even if part of a faith is spoken with energy, and the other part is spoken with some doubtfulness of tone, he would rather accept such a confession because of its reality, than he would receive a confession fluently uttered that did not rise from the innermost convictions of the heart. Always there has been a difficulty as between the utterance of the lip and the meaning of the soul. For example, in Isaiah we read, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." This process of hypocrisy still goes on. The creed is read in as loud a voice as ever, but there is no soul in the tone of the reader. God will not be honoured by dead letters, he will not receive literary worship; he looks for the spiritual worshipper, and not for the mechanical form. Here is a test to which every soul may subject itself,—here, indeed, is the throne of judgment before which every man may try the reality of his own religious beliefs and utterances.

"Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him" ( Hosea 8:3).

The word "cast off" does not imply a merely mechanical or even intellectual action; that term is deeply tinged with moral significance, literally meaning, "to cast off with abhorrence." Israel not only cast off God, but abhorred all things good,—him who is good, and the thing which is good; for the word here employed includes both the person and the object. When a man rejects God he rejects all things good. He may not know it, he may even deny it; but he must be brought by consideration or by experience to know that to cast off the Fountain is to cast away the stream; to shut out the sun is to shut out the light; to forsake God is to accept the sovereignty of evil and darkness. What is the consequence of such off-casting? The consequence is stated in plain terms—"the enemy shall pursue him." The local reference is to the Assyrian, but the general reference is to the spirit of the law, the spirit that has been turned into an enemy by evil behaviour. "The way of transgressors is hard." "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished." "Be sure your sin will find you out." "Whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him." The Bible is full of the revelation of this doctrine. We are not to consider the doctrine as one of mere retaliation, but as one of natural and inevitable consequence. The punishment which follows sin is a proof of the goodness of the law which would guard men against it. Fearful are the consequences which flow from sin, even in the sense of deprivation. Were there no definite or positive punishment inflicted on account of sin, yet the deprivation of blessing which follows the downfall of the soul would itself be overwhelming. No longer does the soul see light, or hear music, or respond to love, or enter into sympathy with the spirit of progress; doors are shut, lights are extinguished, voices are silent; all that made life a joy and a triumph, a victory and a hope, is taken away, and the sinning soul sits down in darkness, in sackcloth and ashes, mourning an irreparable, an infinite loss.

"They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off" ( Hosea 8:4).

The whole history of Israel is a history of protest against Prayer of Manasseh -made kings. God declared to Jeroboam by the mouth of Ahijah the prophet that he would rend the kingdom out of the hands of Song of Solomon , and give ten tribes to Jeroboam, and would take him, and he should reign according to all that his soul desired, and he should be king over Israel. After the ten tribes had made Jeroboam king, another prophet said to Rehoboam and the two tribes, "Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing is from me." God has thus overruled human institutions, and made them contribute to the extension and authority of his own kingdom. The desire for kings was not a legitimate desire, yet it was granted, and notwithstanding all the evils which have accrued God has used the regal institution for beneficent purposes.

God was never consulted as to the rules of the kingdom constituted by the ten tribes. The ten tribes were indeed atheistic; as for Jeroboam, he no sooner received the kingdom than he set up a rebellion against God. This contest between the human and the divine is not confined to Judah or Israel, or to any section of the tribes: we read in the Acts of the Apostles, "Against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." A marvellous conjunction of forces this, and yet not without a practical aspect, which our own experience enables us to appreciate. We are not to consider that Deicide was determined upon by the counsel of God, but that it was declared as an outcome or revelation of the human heart. God took no pleasure in the kings of Israel, for they were not from him. With the exception of Jehu and his house, all the kings of Israel may be described as atheistic. The kingdom of Israel lasted223years, eighteen kings reigned over it, representing ten different families, and it is on record that no family came to a close except by a violent death. Locally, this is all past and gone, but spiritually the whole action is alive to-day. "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous." "If any man love God, the same is known of him." "Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."


Verses 5-14

The Calf of Samaria

Hosea 8:5-14

"Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: bow long will it be ere they attain to innocency?" ( Hosea 8:5).

The history of this calf is recorded in the early books of Scripture, and is referred to again and again in the course of the revelation. "They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image"; "The king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan." As Israel had cast off God, or good, in abhorrence, so the calf had cast off Israel as a thing that was detested. So it must be with all the idols made by men"s hands. The history of idolatry is a history of failure. We need not go to heathen forms, or pagan ceremonies, or plunge into the darkness of savage life, in order to know what is meant by idolatry, for we ourselves daily practise it; and even in the midst of our spiritual worship there may be a subtle action operating upon the heart, seeking to seduce it into false trust and homage. It is marvellous that men learn so little from the history of their own race; it is still more marvellous that a man seems to learn next to nothing from the development of his own consciousness. We have seen money take wings unto itself and flee away; we have seen attractive forms wither and decay; we have seen the strongest associations of friendship dissolved or turned into positive enmities; we have observed how health is sapped, and how the strongest man but delays for a moment or two the accomplishment of his journey to the tomb; yet we go on worshipping at false altars and soliciting help from false sources, as if there were no history behind us to tell us the truth, to remind us of our errors, and to point the most useful morals. It should be regarded as the simplest truism in philosophy that only he who worships the true God can offer true worship; yet because God is invisible, or supposedly distant from us, we seize the seen, and the near, and the apparently strong, and offer bribes to things temporal. The heart must be cleansed of all this false trust, and be led in simple, humble, childlike trustfulness to cast itself upon the living God, caring only for pureness, and leaving all consequences in the hands of him who is the righteous Judges , and who never can confound the good with the bad.

When God speaks of his anger being kindled against sinners, he condescends to use a human form of speech, that he may make his meaning the more clear. God is not the victim of his passions; he simply adopts human forms that he may penetrate into our human understanding, and give men some faint conception at least of his spirit and attitude towards all things evil. Society must punish the evildoer. Society does not become angry in the sense in which an individual may become passionate; yet society must burn with a holy indignation if it would rightly treat the practice of evil. The dignity of the divine anger is guaranteed by the dignity of the divine nature. It is not an ebullition of passion; it is the expression of an eternal and sensitive righteousness. The Lord asks a remarkable question at the conclusion of this verse, "How long will it be ere they attain to innocency?" The expression is elliptical. We are accustomed to such expressions in the Bible; for example: "Him that hath an high look, and a proud heart, I cannot"—we can easily perceive what word should be filled in here: the Hebrew reads literally "I cannot," we ourselves supply the word "suffer." Again, "New moons and sabbaths, I cannot"—that is all the Hebrew says, but in saying so little it seems to say more than if the sentence had been rhetorically rounded; it is as if the speaker had turned away in an attitude of deprecation with an expression of abhorrence upon his face and in his whole posture, leaving his meaning to be put into formal words by those who saw his action and heard his tone. The meaning of the question would seem to be this: What madness on the part of these people, that, though I create for them a place of repentance, although I make a standing-ground for them before me, they will not endure to return to health of soul; they reject not only a law, but a gospel; not only an ordinance, but a Cross; not only obedience, but pardon. This is one of the mysteries of the moral nature of man. As an intellectual proposition it is incredible; if it had not been proved by human experience it would have been scouted by human speculation.

"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up" ( Hosea 8:7).

This was proved by the whole history of the people. The calf of Samaria was broken to pieces. There were indeed two calves, but as they represented one and the same thing they were called as one—the calf, not the calves; the calf once worshipped was broken in pieces, and was treated as so many chips or fragments for the purpose of kindling a fire. We say we shall reap what we have sown; but we must not omit from the reaping the element of increase. We reap, it may be, of the quality which we have sown, but we certainly reap with an awful increase. Men who sow the wind do not only reap the wind, they reap the whirlwind,—literally, a mighty whirlwind. Nor do they garner the whirlwind as men might garner a crop; the whirlwind is not theirs, they rather themselves belong to the whirlwind, they are blown away by it, they are as chaff before its violence, when they cry their voice is not heard, because of the answering tempest; when they put forth their hands in prayer they are carried away violently as those who have no helper. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." The apostle, even in this passage, does not omit the element of increase, for he adds, "He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption"—that is to say, he shall not only reap flesh, body, or dust, he shall reap each and all of them in its vilest form. There is a tone of contempt in the description which is given in this verse, "It hath no stalk;" although it looked well, yet there was no column of strength, there was nothing abiding; much was promised, but nothing came of all the promise; the seed should not send forth the corn with the ear; there should be no meal, there should be no satisfaction of hunger. The whole process is thus one of failure, disappointment, and mockery. The sinner is going to have a great harvest, and behold when he puts forth his sickle to reap he cuts down but handfuls of darkness! The sinner says he will make a universe of his own; he will construct it on his own pattern; he will govern it by his own laws; he will fill it with his own spirit; he will turn it to his own account; and behold the boaster is overthrown, and he lies down in humiliation and shame at the feet of the living God whose sovereignty he denied. All this is true, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found." "The arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholdeth the righteous." "The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment." Alas, all these great truths are proclaimed until they become so familiar as to lose much of their spiritual emphasis and accent. We are accustomed to this judicial thunder. For a time it would appear as if the enemy of souls were stronger than the Redeemer, for though we know the right we pursue the wrong, and although we confess in theological terms our errors, our sins, our shortcomings, and all our infirmities, we yet take our lives into our own hands as if we were invested with omnipotence.

"Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin" ( Hosea 8:11).

The Lord will not permit the plural form of any word which he has consecrated. The word "altar" is right, but the word "altars" is wrong. The word "temple" is permitted, but when Israel buildeth "temples" he offends against God. Ephraim became busily religious. It was not enough for Ephraim to have an altar; he must have an altar everywhere! Thus his very religion became irreligious. His piety became practical atheism. Ephraim tried to do what men are in every age attempting—to make up for the complete, solemn, grand, overwhelming idea of God by the creation of an endless number of petty and distracting details; hence we have creeds, standards, dogmas, forms, tests of orthodoxy, and other altars innumerable and unnameable. We should not pluralise God"s singularity. We must not attempt to complicate that which God has made strikingly simple; so simple that a child-mind can approach it and comprehend it. The altars which Ephraim built were to be unto him as occasions of sin. Where Ephraim meant to pray he was to find a new temptation created by his own evil genius. We are led astray by our own craftiness. Our theological wisdom often becomes the means of our practical impiety. We turn religion into a scheme, a plan, a philosophy, something which human genius can create, invent, administer, overrule, patronise, and thus we drag down an idea which ought to be infinitely transcendent within the limits of our own understanding, and within the influence of our own humiliating patronage. The time will come when men will be ashamed of their formal mechanism and creeds which they intended to be as altars and final tests of religious correctness. Let us beware of our inventions, for they come out of a heart that is not right; let us beware of our formal orthodoxies, for they may be the offspring of a cleverness that is itself perverted. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; there is one Mediator between God and Prayer of Manasseh , the Man Christ Jesus. God always insists upon the singular number; there is only one Name given under heaven amongst men whereby we must be saved; there is one cross, one atonement, one priesthood, one Revelation , one baptism of the Eternal Spirit. To split up the unity into diversity, and to find multiplicity in what was intended to be simplicity, is a temptation to which the human heart is constantly exposed; it brings its own stings and pains; it leads to confusion, humiliation, and disgrace.

"I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing" ( Hosea 8:12).

A very notable word is this word "written." It is everything to have definite law put down in definite expression, and to have it written, so that it can be made matter of immediate and final reference. The term is the more important that the grammar may be so altered as to give the present instead of the perfect tense; then the statement will read, "I write to him the great things of my law." By "great things" understand manifold things; God had written again and again; he had repeated his law in every possible form; it was written in history and Psalm , as well as in statute and in precept. The law itself never altered, though the form of its presentation underwent various changes. The words of the law were not as old as Moses; they were in their moral claim no older than the child who at that moment was listening to them. This is the peculiarity of eternal truth. It is not a time-quantity. It is old, yet new; it is from everlasting, yet it is the marching order of this day. Being the Word of God, it cannot be changed as to its spirit and substance; it can only change verbally or temporarily; the seed is eternal, the blossom and the fruitage may often take upon themselves the climate of the age which is passing over them. Being written, the people could not plead the excuse of ignorance. Apart from a written law, the people might have complained that they had no authoritative moral standard to which to appeal. Hence the use of the Bible. The Bible is full of laws, hints, suggestions, initial views of providence and life; the wise teacher is always able to appeal to the law and to the testimony, not as to mere letters, but as to letters symbolic of all comprehensive and ever-enduring principles. We are not to degrade the Bible into a charm or the emblem of a superstition; we are not to make an idol of its mere letter; our business is to search the Scriptures, penetrate the Scriptures, lay bare the inner meaning of the Scriptures, so that we may find the very mind and heart of God in all their revelations. Nor could the people plead insufficiency, for the commandment of the Lord is exceeding broad. The law was written manifoldly; for it touched upon every point; it covered the whole expanse and need of life; nothing was left to the mere invention of men; even conscience was not called upon to perform any trick or miracle in order to eke out the insufficient law of heaven. All that was necessary for moral inspiration and moral guidance was laid down explicitly in Holy Scripture, then known by the name of law. Seeing that the people could plead neither ignorance nor insufficiency, the interesting question arises, What then did they plead? The answer is given in the latter part of the verse, "They were counted as a strange thing." The meaning here is hardly patent. The people were now to make out that the law had become foreign to them; it was a foreign yoke, a foreign bond, a foreign language. But more than this may be involved. The people regarded the law as a thing outworn—out of keeping with the spirit of the age—well enough for the time and the circumstances. This is precisely the danger to which the Bible is exposed now. It is acknowledged to be a very wonderful book, to contain many amazing and glorious truths, and indeed to be for the time of its production the marvel of the world. But people resist the idea of its being imposed upon them as a binding law. They say it belonged to another people; it is foreign to them; it is a "strange thing"; they are willing to admire it as a literary wonder, quite a phenomenon, and to give unto it honours due to ancient excellence. But on no account must it now be made a living thing, a living voice, a living law! Those who are under the Gospel profess that they have entered into liberty from the law; that liberty is often a liberty to sin rather than to be more noble and more morally beautiful. Great dangers lie around this line of thinking. God protests that he has not written the Bible as a thing of ancient times, but that he is writing it now, writing it every day, writing it as a direct message to every soul. We lose everything when we lose the modernness of the Bible. It may be perfectly true that man cannot live by rules a thousand years old; but in the case of the Bible the rule is not a day old in any sense that divests it of immediate dignity and claim and pertinence; it is the last utterance of God; the breath with which he uttered it is still warm upon the ear of the listener.

"They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the Lord accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt" ( Hosea 8:13).

The point to be noted here is that the people in offering their sacrifices supposed themselves to be giving gifts unto God. They were the victims of what is now a popular sophism, namely, that worshippers are always giving. The people in the days of Hosea regarded their offerings as so many donations, which showed their liberality; and yet they felt those offerings to be taxations, penalties. They gloried in their sacrifices as if they were conferring some honour or obligation upon God. The Lord on his part denounced them, would not accept them; he remembered the iniquity of those who sacrificed, and visited their sins upon them. What they meant, or should have meant, as a sacrifice, became nothing but mere "flesh" under their impious hands; the sacrifice was not offered in the proper spirit, and therefore it was never transmuted into a holy and acceptable offering. It is the same with our prayers. When we pray perfunctorily, pray in mere words, pray only formally, as if we were doing a duty which we would gladly escape, then our words, how eloquent soever they may be from a rhetorical point of view, are never sublimated into prayer, and never find their way to heaven; they are words, words only, empty letters, carrying no magnetism of the soul, no fire of the heart, and they fall back upon the listener, not as answers, but as reproaches. The people in the days of the prophets actually ate the flesh which they offered as sacrifices. They thus profited by what appeared to be an act of benevolence, an act of worship, or an act of giving. Here was an instance of making religion an investment, a profitable speculation; giving away with one hand, and taking back with the other. What was the upshot of all this in the days of the prophet? His answer Isaiah , "They shall return to Egypt." They were not to return to Egypt again of their own mind; that had been distinctly forbidden by God, But there was a threatening which their souls might have heard to the effect that if they disobeyed the Lord, he would bring them back to Egypt, by the way whereof he spake unto them, Thou shalt see it no more again. Remember that though we may tamper with our religion, may build many altars, and offer sacrifices either in a spirit of grudging, or in a spirit of investment, God"s law carries within itself inevitable and appalling penalties.

"For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof" ( Hosea 8:14).

Israel had not only forgotten the law, but had forgotten the Lawgiver. Israel had not surrendered some highly spiritual or metaphysical religion—had not abandoned some finely-spun and hardly intelligible theory—but had actually forgotten his Maker, and had supposed himself to be made by his own hands. To such abasement may the mind of man come! First the mind surrenders a doctrinal position; then it gives up a practical duty; then it denies a moral obligation; then it dismisses God from the higher ranges of thought; and finally the mind forgets that it ever had a Maker at all! This is the downward path; this is the infinite incline! Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. Men do not generally give up their religion as a whole, instantly, furiously, and ostentatiously; little by little it slips from them, a line at a time, a point in a day, but the end of the process is depletion, famine, death. In the use of the word "temples" we come again upon the thought which we found in connection with the word "altars" in the eleventh verse. God had commanded one temple to be built, namely, that at Jerusalem, so that to add to the number of temples were itself a sin. Thus we are brought back to the doctrine that there may be an irreligious religion, an impious piety, a fussy and too energetic devotion that soon brings itself to the level of mere superstition. God charged the sin of idolatry upon Ephraim and the sin of self-confidence upon Judah. All this was done under the pretence of being excessively religious. God will tear away our vain disguises, and show us that in spite of an action that almost rose to the degree of violence we were in heart far away from himself, corrupting the simplicity of his law, and complicating the direct demands of his truth. God is consistent with himself when he says he will send a fire upon the cities that should devour the palaces thereof. Israel and Judah had forgotten their Maker, but God would not forget them. There comes a time in the history of the human soul when, nothing but vengeance can be understood. There is an hour in which the Gospel is no Gospel; its charm is gone because it cannot be appreciated by the deaf ear and the hardened heart; there is a time when music itself becomes but a knell of judgment. Against all such apostasy we are warned in faithful and tender language, under every possible form of expression, so that if by any means God may reach our souls, and arrest them in their downward career. If we will not listen to love we shall feel the sting of fire. If we will persist in building palaces for ourselves when God has made a house for us, the fire shall leap upon our palaces, and utterly devour all their strength and beauty.

Prayer

Saviour of the world, we bless thee for the Cross. We can never understand it, but we can feel its love. We need the Cross; all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way. There can be but one hope for us, and that hope we find in the Cross of Christ. God forbid that we should trust aught else; God forbid that we should glory in aught else. We are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; it suits the heart, it meets the agony of the spirit with healing, it saves the soul. We cannot find a light in the midnight of our self-accusation; there is no light in ourselves, there is no light in men, for we are all in one condemnation. There is a Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world; there is a Light above the brightness of the sun upon the Cross; to that Cross we look night and day evermore, and to that Cross no loving heart ever looked in vain. May thy Word be precious to us; always an old word, yet always new; always an eternal thought, always an immediate message. Lord, evermore give us this bread: if a man eat of this bread he shall hunger no more: Lord, in thine house there is bread enough and to spare, why should men perish with hunger? Feed the souls that love thee, and bring back the souls that are far away, that they may fill the vacant places at their Father"s table. Pity the poor, the weak, the wandering; pity those who have none to pity them; help the helpless; lead the blind by a way that they know not; and thus in all the providence of the day, and in the history of all time, magnify thyself, thou Son of Prayer of Manasseh , thou Son of God. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Hosea 8:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/hosea-8.html. 1885-95.

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