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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Hosea 8

 

 

Verse 1

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos .] Abruptness indicating sudden judgment. Eagle] Swift and alarming (Deu 28:49). He] Shalmanezer, king of Assyria. House] Not the temple, nor land, but Israel viewed as the residence of God and one family (Num 12:7; Jer 12:7).

HOMILETICS

A CORRUPT CHURCH.—Hos

Judgment is again threatened upon Israel for their sins. They were corrupt notwithstanding all profession to the contrary. They had forsaken God and cast off all good; they had changed the civil government, and maintained the golden calf, and were bringing upon them destruction swift and sure. Taking the house of God as meaning the family of Israel, the professed people of God, we have a corrupt Church endangered and warned.

I. The sins of a corrupt Church. "They have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law."

1. The covenant was broken. In condescension God made a covenant with them, to which they consented, and for the keeping of which he promised them rewards. They transgressed not the mere command, but their own original contract; revolted from their allegiance; and in effect declared that they would no longer be God's chosen people. They acted foolishly and deceitfully.

2. The law was transgressed. Divine authority was disregarded. Their sins were malignant and defied the bounds of law. All sin is lawless. When men break their own, God's laws cannot bind them. Those who have no respect for human stipulations will have no regard for Divine covenants. Israel were the professed children of God, yet how grievously they sinned. "God help me, my own children have forsaken me," cried James II. He could bear the defection of a kingdom and the desertion of an army, but burst into tears and wept in agony at the disloyalty of his family.

II. The danger of a corrupt Church. 1. Its sins are great. The sins of a people who profess much, the defections of a Church which belongs to God, are more aggravating than ordinary transgressions. Israel were guilty of apostasy from God and sins against their neighbour. The Church can have no pretence of ignorance, nothing to excuse or extenuate her sins. She has the covenant, the law, and the gospel. "Woe unto thee, Chorazin; woe unto thee, Bethsaida," &c.

2. Its danger is imminent. "He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord." Their fair titles and exalted privileges will not keep off the stroke. Enemies are ever prepared to execute judgments. The eagles gather where the carcass is found. The destruction is—(a) near, (b) swift, (c) certain, and (d) violent. Swift as an eagle swooping on its prey does retribution come upon false professors and conventional churches (Deu ; Isa 5:26).

III. The warning of a corrupt Church. "Set the trumpet to thy mouth." So God bids Isaiah, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet." As the sound of a war-trumpet would startle a sleeping army, so God would have religious teachers to rouse a sleeping Church. They are "watchmen," and must warn of coming judgments. There must be no cowardly silence, when the house of God is imperilled by sin and destruction. Augustine prayed, "Lord, deliver me from other men's sins." David cried, "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness." Men are asleep, and the danger is nigh. The trumpet must neither be silent nor give any uncertain sound. "Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head."


Verses 2-5

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . We] Heb. joins Israel with the last clause, "We know thee, we Israel," a plea of descent to move God to mercy; but hypocrisy, the cry of fear and not love. Dead knowledge cannot deliver.

Hos . Cast off] implies dislike, the breaking of relative bonds. Good] (tob) may include God, the supremely good, and all the blessings of salvation. Pursue] in retribution for rejecting God.

Hos . Kings] The self-authorized schism from the house of David. All their princes not from God. Many and violent were the usurpations and dethronements. Knew] Approved (Psa 1:6; Mat 25:12). Idols] and calf-worship a further sin. They] i.e. the gold and silver, as Hos 8:6 [Keil]. Lit. that he may be cut off. The whole people destroyed [Pusey]. Though forewarned, yet heedless (Jer 7:15; Jer 44:8).

Hos . Cast off] disgusts. Israel had cast off God; calf-worship would cast off them or be the means of God casting them off. How long] Lit. how long will they not be able innocency to endure (cf. Isa 1:14; Psa 101:5); they were incapable of purity before God (Jer 19:4).

VAIN RELIGION.—Hos

Israel in the hour of need call upon God, plead their knowledge of him as the covenant people, and depend upon help for the sake of their relationship to him God denies this claim, and will reject all who honour him with their lips merely, when their hearts are far from him. Knowledge without practice is all in vain. God will not own those who only profess, who cry, "My God," and do not forsake iniquity.

I. The religion of natural descent. "We Israel," the seed of Jacob, who was called Israel. This was the boast of the Jews. "We be Abraham's seed." Natural relationship and noble birth avail nothing before God. Yet men boast of their ancestry and pious parents, and trust God will regard them on that account. God has a peerage of his own. The grace of God can create children of Abraham from stones of the wilderness: the outcasts and the heathen. "Whose son art thou" spiritually? The son of God, or the son of the Devil? "He is a Jew which is one inwardly."

II. The religion of formalism. "My God, we know thee." Knowledge is a necessity, and may be acquired by all. The knowledge of God is within the reach of every one. There is no excuse for ignorance of God. But many profess and use the name of God who do not know him; orthodox in their creed, but sinful in their life. "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him." They cry, "Lord, Lord," in their devotions, but in their lives are sinful and iniquitous. The religion of many is mere profession and words; a matter of form and ceremony. We as a nation say, "My God," boast of our morality and knowledge, build temples to God and swear by his altar; but our conduct contradicts our profession. To know God's will and do it not involves greater punishment; to possess great advantages and not to use them brings greater responsibility at the judgment-day. "Many," presumptuously boasting of their profession and work, "will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?"

III. The religion of merit. The spirit of the text is a spirit of pride and superior merit. We are Israel and we know thee, and have therefore a claim to thy mercy. God answers the plea in Hos . Israel indeed! then why cast off good, and sin against me! You have no plea to urge and no merit to secure my favour. It was a plea of hypocrisy and fear. There is a fearful tendency in men to cling to good works, and hope to merit Divine mercy through religious duties. They mention benevolent deeds, devotional forms, and social morality, in hope of procuring God's favour. The Papist repeats his prayers, counts his beads, and makes his stated confessions, and feels that he is at peace with his Maker. The Protestant paces the round of religious duties in self-righteousness and pride, and soothes his soul with the hope of heaven. Merit we have none. The most holy and devout only do their duty. There are no works of supererogation. Salvation is of grace, not by works, lest any man should boast.

Therefore, Jew,

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,—

That in the course of justice none of us

Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy,

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy.

FORSAKING GOOD AND PURSUING EVIL, THE SUREST WAY TO RUIN.—Hos

These words declare the true position of Israel. They were only Israel in name, and not in reality. They had cast off God, and with him everything good. They set up their own kings and institutions, did not seek to please, and were therefore disowned of God. Like sinners now, they pursued ways, the ends of which were death, and were so infatuated in their folly, that they seemed to act with a view to be "cut off" and utterly rejected.

I. The abandonment of good. "Israel hath cast off the thing that is good."

1. God, the chief good, was cast off. He was forgotten in his law, resisted in his demands, and forsaken in his worship. A thing cast off indicates supreme contempt, utter abhorrence. We neither think of it nor care for it. This casting off of God—(a) Is most unreasonable. It is to forget our highest interests and wound our own souls; to offend our best friend, and involve ourselves in the greatest misery, (b) Is most ungrateful. "Is not God thy father that hath made thee?" Should we, then, despise a father's love and reject our greatest benefactor? "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken. I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me."

2. All good was cast off. It is good to draw near to God (Psa ), and is best for us to do so, and therefore perilous to forsake God. It is our honour, peace, safety, and riches to love and worship him. Those who are far from him, those who reject him, cast off all that is good. They despise good in this world and in that which is to come. How sad the condition when men say, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? Who is the Lord, that we should obey his voice?"

II. Evil pursued. Forsaking God opens up the way to the pursuit of evil. Spiritual good is the only safeguard of the soul. Cast off this, and you open the way for the ravages of sin. Israel had committed two evils.

1. They were guilty of civil apostasy. In founding the kingdom by Jeroboam, and in successive rule, they had set up kings without Divine authority (1Ki ). They rebelled against the royal house of David, encouraged successful conspiracies, and sought their own selfish ends. Men now in family affairs, national politics, and religious life, set up their own and consult not God's will. They do not acknowledge God in all their ways; they act without his license and approval. As they begin, so they continue. They made and removed princes, as the Roman armies did emperors of old. In the "vicissitudes of families" and nations we have the rise and the fall of the mighty; the misfortunes of all who live and rule without God. Self-will will ever bring self-destruction. But God, whose power we cannot resist, and whose wisdom we should not dispute, will accomplish his own will in the affairs of men.

2. They were guilty of religious apostasy. "Of their silver and their gold have they made them idols."

1. This idolatry was encouraged by nobility. The kings and princes whom they set up patronized their customs and pleased their minds. They were ambitious in their aims, thought themselves absolute and free in their rule, and sought to gratify their own lusts.

2. This idolatry was supported by wealth. The gold and silver which God gave were devoted to the making of the calves or the support of their worship. One sinful change brings another. Civil rebellion must be upheld by ecclesiastical defection. Usurp the throne of men, and the next step is to set up idols on the throne of God. Withhold talents and wealth from God, or be niggardly in maintaining the true, and you will be lavish in upholding a false religion and a selfish scheme. Men employ their wealth against God; are constantly setting up their own kings, casting off Jehovah, and ungratefully abusing the gifts of his providence and grace.

III. Certain ruin results. The course men pursue will determine their fate. Fallen angels cast off allegiance to God, and were driven from him. Many devout men, once true worshippers of God, have fallen into sin and idolatry. The gods you make will govern your life, fashion your character, and determine your destiny. Forsake all good and cast off God, you imperil your soul. Such conduct is ruinous and most destructive, attracts God's vengeance, and brings down his wrath upon the sinner. If they forsake him he will turn his back upon them, and "woe unto them when I depart from them." "Woe" in trial and distress, "woe" in the hour of death, "woe" in the eternal world. "Woe unto the wicked, for it will be ill with them."

1. This is the fulfilment of God's word. God denounced a curse upon them if they forsook him (Deu ; Deu 28:25).

2. This is the natural retribution of Divine providence. All the idols of men—wealth, ambition, and beauty—will fail them in the hour of need. They will be "cast off" by the gods in whom they trusted. "Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off." But "the Lord will not cast off his faithful people, neither will he forsake his inheritance."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . Cry, My God. Men are ready enough to cry to God in affliction, when they forget him in health. Trouble drives the stoutest sinners and the most corrupt Church to prayer. "But religion, which is the best armour, is the worst cloak; and will serve hypocrites as the disguise Ahab put on, and perished" [Trapp].

Hos . Casting off God. First, the good God, who is good, original, universal, all-sufficient and satisfactory, proportionate and fitting to our soul. He both is good and doeth good (Psa 119:68), and that both naturally, abundantly, freely, and constantly (Psa 86:5). Israel cast, or rather kicked him off, as the word signifieth. So do all gross hypocrites; they are rank atheists, practical atheists, though professed Christians. Secondly, they reject Christ as a Sovereign, though content to have him a Saviour. They will not submit to the laws of his kingdom, nor receive him in all his offices and efficacies. Thirdly, hypocrites reject the good Spirit of God, the fruit whereof is all godliness, righteousness, and truth (Eph 5:9). When God striveth with them, by yielding to Satan's suggestions they grieve that Spirit, by grieving resist him, and by resisting quench him, and by quenching him oppose him maliciously and do despite unto him, and so cast themselves into the punishing hands of the living God (Heb 10:29; Heb 10:31). Lastly, they cast off the good word and true worship of God; those right judgments, true laws, good statutes and commandments (Neh 9:13); they put the promises far from them, and judge themselves unworthy of eternal life (Act 13:46); they hate instruction, and cast God's words behind them (Psa 50:17). In a word, "he hath left off to be wise, and to do good; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil" (Psa 36:3-4) [Trapp].

I. The thing cast off—"Good,"—God, Christian worship, the Scripture. Despising them, throwing them away as worthless, putting them out of sight as obnoxious. Many boasters of the law did this practically. In these days many cannot endure practical duty and responsibility, contemptuously treat and despise the law of God, as Moses indignantly dashed it on the ground. II. The spirit indicated.

1. Pride.

2. Contempt of Divine authority.

3. Indifference to Divine truth.

4. Atheism of heart.

5. Deadness of conscience and all moral feeling. III. What this leads to. Sooner or later it leads to

(1) open transgression, and

(2) outward rejection. If men cast away the thing that is good there is no wonder when evils pursue and overthrow them (Psa ; Pro 5:14).

When men once begin to turn their back on their own happiness and on the way of God, they will still grow more averse from it, till they become to abominate and abhor it; and this fills up the measure of their iniquity. God will not let sin thrive in their hands, but will send on judgments, and let them feel their loss in their strokes who would not see their prejudice in forsaking what was good [Hutcheson].

Hos . Set up kings. Such were all their kings except Jehu and his house. During 253 years, for which the kingdom of Israel lasted, eighteen kings reigned over it out of ten different families, and no family came to a close, save by a violent death. The like self-will and independence closed the existence of the Jewish people [Pusey].

In the government of nations and the choice of rulers, in family duties and in individual life, God should be consulted and pleased. For he can put down what we set up, and set up what we put down.

Hos . Cast thee off. Rejected by one's own God, disappointed in one's own choice! If Samaria had been firm and faithful to the God of Israel it would have been of great service, a powerful help in need; but the calf was a broken reed, a miserable comforter. So this will ever be the case. Beauty and fame may fade like flowers. Riches take unto themselves wings and fly away. Idols will be shivered to pieces, and the men who trusted on them disappointed for ever. All fail and nothing abides, have God, the only true and permanent good.

"O Cromwell, Cromwell,

Had I but served my God with half the zeal

I served my king, he would not in mine age

Have left me naked to mine enemies."

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8

Hos . Hope. There are few men, even among the most worldly, who do not expect to be converted before they die; but it is a selfish, mean, sordid conversion they want—just to escape hell and to secure heaven. They desire just experience enough to make a key to turn the lock of the gate of the celestial city. They wish "a hope," just as men get a title to an estate. No matter whether they improve the property or not, if they have the title safe. A "hope" to them is like a passport, which one keeps quietly in his pocket till the time for the journey, and then produces it [Beecher].

Hos . Casting off good. When children get high notions and despise home, when they throw off parental authority and restraint, they become wayward and self-willed; make the path of life difficult, which their parents had pioneered and made easy. So one who casts off the fear of God and sets up his own, or the authority of others, insults his Maker and injures himself, makes his future miserable, and may be cast off himself at last.


Verse 5-6

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . For] The reason of displeasure. It also] The calf as well as the kings set up, made by Israel, not by God. It deserved not their homage, no creature can be God; idol worship therefore folly in the extreme.

Hos . Wind] an image of labour in vain, from which ruin springs as naturally as harvest from evil sowing; as the wind becomes a tempest (Pro 22:8; Gal 6:7). Whirlwind] Intensive form, a mighty whirlwind. Three things first—no stalk, no yield, devoured by strangers. Israel's efforts in every direction were fruitless.

HOMILETICS

IDOLATRY ITS ORIGIN, EFFECTS, AND DESTINY.—Hos

These words describe the cause and nature of Israel's sin, and justify God's anger against them.

I. Idolatry in its origin. Idols are the device of man. "The workman made it." Man in his natural and primeval condition had a knowledge of God sufficient for the condition in which he was placed. But sin alienated him from God and robbed him of fellowship with God. There is a natural tendency in man to embody in living forms (eidola) the image of God, to imagine and honour other gods. Dissatisfied with the law, and forgetful of the claims of the true God, he has wandered in the conjectures of reason and the creations of fancy; in the beasts of the field and the fish of the sea, in all the lights of heaven and in all the elements of nature, he beheld the movements of a false deity; and associated vague notions of power and wisdom with the realities by which he is surrounded. Hence the creation of gods many and lords many. They are things made, the work of men's hands. "They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not." They are not gods, but vanities, and have become a crime and a curse to heathendom. "They that make them are like unto them, so is every one that trusteth in them." But "from Israel was it also," who boasted of the knowledge and law of God. Israel knew her sin, and felt that calf-worship was not the worship of Jehovah. This rendered her inexcusable and aggravated her guilt. Now among people to whom the oracles of God are committed, even in the Christian Church, we have idolatry. Men cut and carve gods of their own fancy. The wife of their bosom, the child of their loins, may be a god. An image of gold or of clay;—business, fame, and success, may be set up, take the place of God in our affections, and unduly absorb homage and attention due to God. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

II. Idolatry in its effects.

1. It is dishonouring to human nature. Man assimilates himself to the moral character of the object which he worships, becomes like the thing which he loves. He looks upon his God as the standard of virtue; abandons everything in life which offends; and desires favour by conformity to the will and character of his deity. The history of idolatry confirms this truth. When men have bowed down to the brutes, they have lowered themselves in the depths of vice. The more they worshipped the more they resembled the objects of their worship. Medhurst says that in China the priests teach this doctrine of assimilation. "Think of Buddha and you will be transformed into Buddha. If men pray to Buddha and do not become Buddha, it is because the mouth prays, and not the mind." Our character and conduct can never rise higher than our aims. If we follow earthly objects we become earthly and grovelling. The pleasure-seeker becomes light and frivolous; the mammon-worshipper sordid and mean. "My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit."

2. It is displeasing to God. "Mine anger is kindled against them." God here speaks after the manner of men to remind us of his claims. As men who incensed will execute their displeasure, so God will punish idolatry. It forbids his worship and denies his existence. It is degrading to his creatures and calamitous to the universe. Its temporal consequences have been awful to its votaries. What then must be its eternal? "They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed."

3. It is a hindrance to moral purity. "How long will it be ere they attain to innocency?" God is the fountain of all goodness, and his will the standard of all virtue. When God's will is rejected there is no check to moral pollutions, and no motives to moral purity. The knowledge of God is essential to holiness and progress! inseparable from the welfare of men: and necessary to extricate a fallen world from the evils of idolatry.

(1) Purity of heart is necessary to purity of life. This is only gained by the love and worship of a pure object. A sinful object defiles physically and spiritually. God is opposed to sin, revealed as our example, renews the heart, and satisfies the conscience in Christ. "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect."

(2) Purity of the object worshipped must therefore have sufficient influence to beget holy life. The mere representation of God, the presentation of a holy object would not touch the heart, change the opinions, and draw men from evil practices. A display of power and persuasion alone can overcome evil habits, wean men's affections from idols, and fix them on God. God has interposed by his Son and his Spirit, and sinners are converted from the error of their ways. We have one true and living God made known to us as the object of supreme love and regard. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."

III. Idolatry in its destination. "The calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces." In origin it is a thing of nought, the work of men's hands and ingenuity. In its end it shall be nought. Idolatry is a nullity, and is doomed to destruction by its inherent weakness and God's purpose.

1. Idolatry is doomed to destruction by its own weakness. With all its splendid rites and forms, its ancient priesthood and prevalence, it is coming to nought. It cannot satisfy the heart and the conscience. The heathens are closing their temples and pagodas, breaking their gods and forsaking their worship. Deserted by devotees, and their altars bereft of gifts and offerings, idols shall pine away and idol-worship perish by mere inanition. Idolatry in the old Roman Empire was thus destroyed, and this will be the process everywhere. Its seat is in the soul, and outward force cannot overturn it. But the gods of the heathen will be starved to death, by the failure of their revenue and offerings. "The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen."

2. Idolatry is doomed to destruction by the power of the gospel. God has purposed to send the gospel to all the nations of the earth. "As I live, saith the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with my glory." Nothing can frustrate this design nor rob the nations of this glory. What a conception! What is there in patriotism, philosophy, or philanthropy, to equal it? The mighty scheme, as a mere system of social government and social culture, stands forth in peerless grandeur. But how blessed that day when "a man shall cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats: to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . "How long." The hardness of heart and the stubborn holding out of the sinner a matter of astonishment even to God. Continuance in sin and aggravation of guilt only make the case worse. God's patience will end, and God's anger will be the hotter. By this powerful expression three things are intimated. First, that these Israelites were refractory and desperate; not only unclean, but enemies to innocency, such as could not abide it: they were inveterate and incurable, their diseases ingrained, and not easily stirred by any potion. Secondly, that God is most patient, who though he thinks overlong of the time that men continue in sin, and therefore cries, How long? &c., yet bears with their evil manners and inviteth them to better. Thirdly, that he will at length break off his patience and proceed to punishment, since there is no other remedy (2Ch 34:16; Pro 29:1) [Trapp].

The attainment of innocency. I. The thing to be attained—"Innocency." Man was originally innocent in body and soul, created in the image of God. But this holiness he lost through sin and can never perfectly, only comparatively attain it in this world. Sinless perfection is a delusion (1Jn ). II. The method of attaining it. "How shall man be just with God?" Our guilt is removed in Christ, our natures renewed by grace, and the Holy Spirit imparts Divine enlightenment and transforms into the Divine nature. Believers in Christ are justified before God. Their faith works by love, and overcomes sin and the world. All men may secure this privilege. III. The reason why men do not attain it.

1. Some despise and do not feel their need of it.

2. Others despond in seeking it. God is able and willing to save. Examples of men most degraded and abandoned encouraged. "How long," then, before you accept the proffered mercy and find peace with God!

Hos . Not God. Such is the bewitching nature of idolatry, though men pretend that they worship God in the image, and the deceitfulness of the human heart; that they are gradually led to deify their idol. God therefore proves that it is not God (Exo 32:4-5; 1Ki 12:28).

Whatever estimation men have of images, or whatever excellency or Divinity they conceive in or represented by them, yet it is sufficient to refute them, that themselves, who are but vain and empty things, gave all the excellency they have; for the workman made it [Hutcheson].

The workman was rather a god to his idol, than it to him; for he made it; it was a thing made. To say that it was made, was to deny that it was God. Hence the prophets so often urge this special proof of the vanity of idols. No creature can be God. Nor can there be anything between God and a creature; and that which is not a creature is God. God himself could not make a creature who should be God [Pusey].

Broken in pieces. Deifying any creature makes way for the destruction of it. If they had made vessels and ornaments for themselves of their silver and gold, they might have remained; but if they make gods of them, they shall be broken to pieces [Mt. Henry].

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8

Hos . Idolatry. Travellers tell us that there is a tribe in Africa so given to superstition that they fill their huts and hovels with so many idols, that they do not even leave room for their families. How many men there are who fill their hearts with the idols of sin, so that there is no room for the living God, or for any of his holy principles [Bate].

Man, that aspires to rule the very wind,

And make the sea confess his majesty;

Whose intellect can fill a little scroll

With words that are immortal; who can build

Cities, the mighty and the beautiful:

Yet man,—this glorious creature,—can debase

His spirit down to worship wood and stone,

And hold the very beasts which bear his yoke,

And tremble at his eye, for sacred things. [Landon.]


Verse 7-8

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Swallowed] up as devoured by beasts of prey. Vessel] worthless and dishonoured (2Ti 2:20); and broken (Psa 31:12; Jer 22:28; Jer 48:38).

HOMILETICS

A PICTURE OF UNGODLY LIFE.—Hos

Israel is still threatened. Their continual labour is all in vain. They reap no reward, will be grievously disappointed, and not only the harvest, but they themselves will be devoured. Such will be the result of their ungodly conduct.

I. Laborious in its efforts. "For they sow the wind."

1. Effort is put forth by all men. They live and labour for good—seek to gain happiness and have a seed-time in life.

2. Painful are the efforts of the ungodly. They "plough iniquity," and practice it day by day. "They sow the wind," most earnestly and perseveringly, in hope of profit. Sinners are sore labourers. They put themselves to trouble and expense to make and worship their idols, to pursue their aims, but all in vain. They are labouring for the wind (Ecc ); "embracing a shadow; grasping the air; wearying themselves for that which hath no substance nor true felicity in it."

II. Disappointment in its results. "It hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal," &c. First no ear, or if an ear, no yield, or if it advance thus far, the enemy will devour the produce.

1. Vanity is reaped. He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity (Pro ). There is a harvest in sin, and men reap what they sow (Gal 6:7-8). Vanity, emptiness, and vexation result from sin. Satan is a hard task-master. His service is slavery and the wages miserable. "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?"

2. Divine retribution is reaped. "They shall reap the whirlwind." The wind sown and penned up in ungodly life, will be reinforced in strength and burst forth into a mighty tempest. Men sow and cultivate what at last will make them the sport and mockery of its resistless violence. They will be carried away with their own folly like chaff before the wind. The whirlwind will overthrow their dwellings, wreck their hopes, and drive them away in their wickedness. Sennacherib in olden time reaped the whirlwind (Isa ; Isa 10:24-25; Isa 30:31). Napoleon, robbed of empire, shorn of greatness, and driven into exile, reaped the harvest of his own sowing. Spain with its Inquisition, and France with its Black Bartholomew, countries remarkable for persecution, reaped the whirlwind in bloody revolutions and civil wars. The ungodly are consumed by Divine judgments in this life and by Divine wrath in that which is to come. "They that plow iniquity and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed."

III. Destructive in its end. "Israel is swallowed up." Not mere disappointment, but destruction will be the result of sin. Israel were carried away, the whole nation were swallowed up by foes. They lost their privileges and honour. Their land was devoured and eaten up by strangers. They were dishonoured by God, and despised by men as a broken vessel. Sin and idolatry in gross or refined forms will bring misery and degradation. They undermine the foundations of moral life, beget more place for vanity and more thirst for pleasure. Those who do not love and serve God will be given up by God. There will come, though long delayed, a terrible day of wrath, a harvest of whirlwinds to consume their glory and destroy their hopes. "Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . "They have sown."

1. Human life a sowing time. "Behold a sower went forth to sow." The relation of men one to another like that of seed and soil. Men are sowing by thoughts, words, and deeds. In each a permanent influence, a germ of imperishable life.

2. The kind of life—moral seed. Some sow good seed, others worthless seed. The pleasure-seeker and the man of the world, the hypocrite and the false professor, are sowing "the wind."

3. The accompaniments of life—the harvest. The harvest is good or bad, the same in measure and quality as the sowing. Men reap to-day what they had sown yesterday, will reap in eternity what they sow in time. God's laws are unchangeable and will never be reversed. "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting."

Not only may men expect to reap as they sow, but sinful and vain courses will bring further disadvantages, and raise violent tempests, either in the undertaker's conscience, or outward condition, or both; for "they have sown the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind" [Hutcheson].

Hos . Sinful courses persisted in may consume the Church, deprive of religious ordinances, and gratify the wishes of the enemy, who greedily devour God's people (Psa 14:4).

When professors decline in religion and despise God, then God will despise them before others. So long as Israel was consecrated to the Lord those who sought to injure her were injured themselves (Jer ); but when they made leagues with idolaters they were swallowed up by them. "For them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."

Dishonoured vessels.

1. A useless vessel. Empty of everything good, filled with everything bad, and taking the place of vessels more useful and worthy.

2. A broken vessel. Broken in credit and reputations, broken to pieces in hopes and fortunes; broken by their own conduct and by the judgments of God upon that conduct.

3. A vessel put to some vile purpose. Israel given to idolatry. Men dishonouring body and soul by sin, making them objects of loathing and disgust before others. "There are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth: and some to honour, and some to dishonour" (2Ti ). All men are vessels of mercy, or vessels of wrath fitted to destruction (Rom 9:22).

Such has been the history of the ten tribes ever since; swallowed up, not destroyed; among the nations, yet not of them; despised and mingled among them, yet not united with them; having an existence, yet among that large whole, the nations, in whom their natural existence has been at once preserved and lost; everywhere had in dishonour; the Heathen and the Mohammedan have alike despised, outraged, insulted them; avenging upon them, unconsciously, the dishonour which they did to God [Pusey].


Verse 9-10

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Assy-] to gain friendship and alliance. Wild ass] A comparison which shows their folly, not as a paramour burning in lust, but heady, obstinate, and undisciplined; outstripping the swiftest horse in pursuit of lust, hunger, and thirst. "Whilst even a wild ass, that stupid animal, keeps by itself, to maintain its independence, Ephraim tries to form unnatural alliances with the nations of the world, that is to say, alliances that are quite incompatible with its vocation" [Keil].

Hos . Hired] by presents. Gather] them among the nations. Now] They shall not go as suppliants, but captives; the nations will oppress and not help them (Eze 16:37). Sorrow] (not, as margin, begin). A little] The greater judgment, the deportation, suspended. Burden] Tribute imposed on Israel (2Ki 15:19-20).

HOMILETICS

THE FOLLY OF WORLDLY ALLIANCE.—Hos

A fourth sin is laid to the charge of Israel in seeking aid from Assyrians. This sin is reproved by two similitudes—a wild ass loving its freedom, and a harlot suing for paramours. It is folly to seek help in civil defection and religious apostasy.

I. The alliance is unnatural.

1. It is against the habits of nature. The wild ass, taken in its love for solitude, or its headstrong perversity in pursuing its lust, reproves this conduct. Israel was a holy people, separated from others for a special purpose, and intended to be the people of God. "Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." God's people should never mix up with worldly men. Their name and their nature should separate them from sin. They stand upon a moral elevation; to trust to worldly alliance and hire foreign aid is to sacrifice their principles and degrade their nature; to acknowledge the superiority of the world, and sink themselves below their true position. The sympathies and aspirations of the new man are with God and not the world. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

2. It reserves the customs of men. "Ephraim hath hired lovers." The ordinary way is for lovers to hire her (Eze ). When Churches are deserted, and professors are forsaken by God, they often go further wrong than others, more bent on wickedness than ordinary transgressors. What folly to purchase the aid of an enemy! what value is that affection which can only be enlisted by gold and hire? The world should be taught to admire the Church as a wise and understanding people; but when they despise their own dignity, they pay dearly for the alliance of "the nations." "The contrary is in thee from other women, in thy whoredoms, whereas more followeth thee to commit whoredoms; and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary."

II. The alliance is unfaithful. As a man should cleave to his wife, so Israel should cling to God. But how loathing and immodest to forsake God, to whom we are bound by marriage covenant, and tempt and hire other lovers! Such was the baseness of Judah, and such the unfaithfulness of many now. When God likens the idolatry of his ancient people to adultery and harlotry, the Christian Church of the present age should take the warning and remain faithful to God.

III. The alliance is destructive. "Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them." The sin of Israel brought its own punishment. They sought to secure themselves by hired kings, sent presents to them and made leagues with them against God's will: but their policy deceived them. God would gather those very nations, not to help, but to destroy Israel. When nations rely on hired levies, and Churches have recourse to ungodly powers, to save from anticipated judgments, God in just retribution makes these very powers the instruments of his purpose. Providing for their own glory and safety makes them easier prey to their enemies. There is no security but in God himself. "I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee."

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . A wild ass typical of the sinner.

1. In its disregard for its owner. "Neither regardeth be the crying of the driver" (Job ).

2. In its obstinate course. It is most unruly and stubborn, intense in its thirst and swift in its pursuit. Self-will, frowardness, and intractableness the complaints against Israel. Men now throw off God's yoke, seek to be free and uncontrolled, to pursue their folly without restraint. "The heart of man is fully set in them to do evil."

3. In its constant danger. "The wild ass is the lion's prey in the wilderness" (Sir ). Men who rush from God are exposed to danger from themselves and others in time and in eternity. Apart from grace, man after his hard and impenitent heart treasures up wrath against the day of wrath" (Rom 2:5).

Hos . Sin and sorrow. "Now will I gather them," &c.

1. The beginning of sin is the beginning of sorrow. Men do not believe this. It may be contrary to their experience and observation, but the fact is declared in God's word, and written in our moral nature and constitution. Now "they shall sorrow a little."

2. The end of sin will be the greatest sorrow. Israel sorrowed "a little" under the bondage and heavy taxes of Assyria, but their future punishment was the greater calamity. Now sorrow is a little, a drop before the storm, hereafter it will be a tempest. God suspends the greatest judgments to prove his compassion for men, give time for repentance, and opportunity to return to him. Here only we have "the beginning of sorrows;" what then will be the end "of them that obey not the gospel of God?"

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8

Hos . Love—

Our passions are seducers; but of all,

The strongest love. He first approaches us

In childish play, wantoning in our walks;

If heedlessly we wander after him,

As he will pick out all the dancing way,

We're lost, and hardly to return again. [Southey.]

Hos . Sin increased. Sin is like a stone which is cast into water, and multiplies itself by infinite circles [Basil]. All sin and wickedness in man's spirit hath the central force and energy of hell in it, and is perpetually pressing down towards it as towards its own place. The devilish nature is always within the central attractions of hell, and its own weight instigates and accelerates its motion thither [John Smith].


Verses 11-13

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Many] Israel should only have one altar (Deu 12:3; Deu 12:5). To sin] Altars made by them should be the source of their punishment; they shall go where there is nothing but altars.

Hos . Written] Lit. I write. Israel could not plead ignorance; no excuse for men now, with the written word. Great] Deu 4:6; Deu 4:8. Wondrous things (Psa 119:18; Psa 147:19-20), a great many things, expressing the care and condescension of God and the comprehensiveness of his word. All the greater is that guilt which regards these commands as strange, no concern of theirs, though specially for them.

Hos . Sacrifices] multiplied with the altars. Slain-offerings were presented for gifts. Offerings which should be burnt for me they slay and devour. They profaned the sacrifice, and were concerned only about the flesh. Rem-] Sins for which sacrifices were thought to atone. To Eg-] A type of renewed bondage, like that from which they were delivered; abandonment to abject condition (Deu 28:68).

HOMILETICS

AGGRAVATED GUILT.—Hos

"The prophet had first shown them their folly in forsaking God for the help of man; now he shows them the folly of attempting to secure themselves by their great show, pretences of religion, and devotion in a false way. God had appointed one altar at Jerusalem. There he willed the sacrifice to be offered, which he would accept. To multiply altars, much more to set up altars against the one altar, was to multiply sin. Hosea charges Israel elsewhere with this multiplying of altars as a grievous sin (Hos ; Hos 12:11)."

I. In multiplying altars. "Ephraim hath made many altars." Opposing the commandment of God (Deu ), strengthening the habit of sin (1Ki 12:30), repeating their own folly, and increasing their own punishment. "Altars shall be unto him to sin."

II. In despising the law. God had given the law, written and expounded it by Moses and the prophets, and continually renewed the knowledge of it, so that they had no excuse for their sin. God has written the law for us by his providence and gospel. His agency is ever fulfilling it; yet men deny it, count it a strange thing, a word with which they have nothing to do. The excuses which men make for rejecting it are not pleas, but sins in the sight of God.

III. In offering lifeless sacrifices. "They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings."

1. It was mere external worship. It was mere flesh, not a true sacrifice. External worship without internal ceremony, without sanctity, is like a dead carcase, not a living sacrifice. The Lord accepts it not.

2. It was mere selfish worship,—"and eat it." Sacrifices which should have been burnt for God they slaughtered and devoured. They were concerned only about temporal affairs. We cannot atone for contempt of God by forms of our own. "Dissembled holiness is double iniquity." There is only one sacrifice for sin; if that be rejected, sins will be remembered and punished. The devices of selfishness and will-worship can never avert, will only hasten, the penal consequences of sin. "The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination, how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?"

PERVERSION OF WORSHIP.—Hos

The passage leads us to notice the perversion of worship. This is one of the oldest, the most prevalent and the most hateful sins amongst mankind. Men have perverted worship, not only by making false gods, but by making false altars for the true God. There is only one altar in true worship, and that altar is Christ (Heb ). Two remarks in relation to false worship. I. It is a great sin. First, It is a very propagative sin. "Ephraim hath made many altars." "If men leave the rule," says an old author, "they know not where to stay, hence the multiplying of things thus amongst the Papists, five hundred altars in some one temple." How sublimely antagonistic the Jews were to the introduction of any altar but one (Jos 22:11), but now they had "many." Once admit a wrong thing in worship, and that one thing will multiply itself; superstition will give it fertility. The Romish Church is a sad illustration of this, and the Anglican Church in some sections is multiplying examples. Secondly, It is a self-punishing sin. "Altars shall be unto him to sin." The idea probably is, "As you have gone on persisting to multiply altars against my will, I will let you alone, you shall go on, your altars shall be a sin unto you." "That is, thus seeing they will have them, they shall have them; they shall have enough of them. They refuse to see the light, they are prejudiced against the way of God's worship; let them have their desires; let them have governors to establish by their authority, and teachers to defend by subtle arguments what they wish for; they multiply altars to sin, and they shall be to sin, even to harden them. This is the judgment of God, to give men their heart's desire in what is evil. And as it shall be to them for sin, so it shall be to them for misery, the fruit of sin." II. It is a sin against great light. "I have written to him the great things of my law," &c. They could not say they sinned in ignorance; God gave them directions most concise and abundant concerning the nature and object of true worship. Some translate the words—"I may prescribe my laws to them by myriads, they will treat it as a strange thing." First, God has given us laws concerning worship. Secondly, Those laws are oft-repeated. By myriads or by thousands. We have "line upon line," and "precept upon precept." Thirdly, These oft-repeated laws leave false worshippers without excuse [The Homilist].

HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES

Hos . Many altars. Altars to God, altars to man, altars to pleasure, &c. Sin its own punishment. It has fruit, and the fruit shall not only be gathered, but eaten. Men constantly live in the fruit of their own doings (Pro 1:31). Many altars, many sins, and many punishments. "As men are most fearfully plagued when they go on in sin and perish, so when they do not stand in awe of the sin of their course, it is righteous of God to make them feel how ill sin is and how displeased he is with it; for the words import that they shall be given up to that sin; and as they sinned and cared not, so the Lord would make it to be seen to be sin indeed, and make them feel how sad that is" [Hutcheson].

Hos . Scripture slighted. I. Divine in their origin. God the author—"I have written." "Given by inspiration of God"—the grandest and sublimest origin from whence anything can come Then regard its authority, love its truthfulness, and obey its precepts. II. Excellent in its nature—"the great things of my law." The word gives the idea of things heaped together, then greatness and increase from the overflow. Hence the contents of Scripture—

1. Are great, containing the great things of God (Act ).

2. Wonderful (Psa ; Deu 4:6; Deu 4:8).

3. Varied, or manifold (Eph ). III. Specific in its form. "I have written." Nature and philosophy teach us to record our laws and hand them down to future generations in a permanent form. A written revelation is necessary for all ages, and has manifold advantages above an oral one. God uttered his word at first, writes it afresh in the wonders of his providence, the work of his Spirit, and the preaching of the gospel. The Bible is a revelation of God's will, full and free, adapted to our wants and circumstances, and worthy of all acceptation. IV. Despised in its mission. Accounted, reckoned as or like a strange thing; as if an alien, or something with which men have no concern.

1. Some reject it as a revelation from God.

2. Others disregard it as a standard of duty.

3. By all it is neglected and unread. It is a book unknown, misunderstood, and despised. Men excuse themselves; consider the Scripture unreasonable in its demands, an enemy to liberty, progress, and science. But given by inspiration of God, profitable for doctrine and correction (2Ti ), the Bible can never be set aside as useless and effete. God writes to warn us of this danger and deprive us of excuse.

Hos . Many engage only in the external duties of religion. Disregarding God's rule, they fix up their own, and obey that no further than personal ends uphold them. All is not given to God; they must eat part and share with him. God will have all or none. The sacrifice must be burnt, and self devoted entirely to him.

God does not connive at sin—will remember and visit it with judgments here and punishment hereafter. "God seems to man to forget his sins, when he forbears to punish them; to remember them, when he punishes."

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8

Hos . Sin increased. Sin is like a stone which is cast into water, and multiplies itself by infinite circles [Basil]. All sin and wickedness in man's spirit hath the central force and energy of hell in it, and is perpetually pressing down towards it as towards its own place. The devilish nature is always within the central attractions of hell, and its own weight instigates and accelerates its motion thither [John Smith].

Hos . Scripture. I am of opinion that the Holy Scriptures contain more sublimity and beauty, more pure morality, more important history, and finer strains of poetry and eloquence, than can be collected from all other books in any age or language [Sir W. Jones]. There are many books which are good and sound, but, like half-pence, there goes a great quantity to a little amount. There are a few silver books, and a very few golden books; but I have one book worth more than all, called the Bible, and that is a book of bank-notes [J. Newton].

There is not a more evident testimony of a corrupt and depraved disposition than an irreverent treatment of sacred things, a contempt of anything that carries on it a Divine impression, or an obstinate neglect of any of those ordinances which the wisdom of God has appointed to support and preserve his religion in the world [Bp Gibson].

Hos . Sacrifice. He was a man who stole the livery of heaven to serve the devil in [Pollock].

Where the fear of God is, there is the keeping of his commands; and where the keeping of the commandments, there is the cleansing of the flesh; which flesh is a cloud before the soul's eye, and suffers it not purely to see the beam of heavenly light, and worship God upon such sacrifices.

The gods themselves throw incense. [Shakespeare.]


Verse 14

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Hos . Forgotten] Deu 32:18. Israel reared idol temples: Judah increased fortified cities; the sin of both, forgetfulness of God and deification of self as displayed in their buildings. God would destroy all these castles of security (Jer 17:27; Amo 2:5). Nothing can protect in judgment but the refuge, the hiding-place which he has provided.

HOMILETICS

CASTLES OF FALSE SECURITY.—Hos

The sin of Judah and Israel is here traced to one cause—forgetfulness of God. Though he made and established them as a nation, their self-confidence and idolatry led them to forsake and offend God, to build temples and palaces, which he destroyed by fire.

I. Men build temples in forgetfulness of God. "Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples." There was only one temple, to build more was to disobey God. Yet they build in professed recognition of God, act religiously, but sin wilfully. Giving land, building churches and benevolent institutions, not always a proof of religious prosperity.

1. Temples are built in superstition. Like the monasteries of the middle ages, for the remission of sins, the redemption of souls, and the honour of saints.

2. Temples are built in spite. Men have grievances, secede from other places and build for themselves.

3. Temples are built in the interests of sectarianism. All sects rival each other in this respect, and seek to cover the land with their churches and chapels. Temples built in forgetfulness of God, to commemorate man, are not required at our hands. "Ye have not looked unto the Maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago."

II. Men increase national defences in forgetfulness of God. "Judah hath multiplied defenced cities." Nebuchadnezzar erected Babylon in self-confidence and pride. Samaria and Jerusalem were strongly fortified, but destroyed at last. The strength of a nation depend not upon the skill of its parliament and the splendour of its fleets; nor the valour of its soldiers and the number of its fortifications. God alone is our defence; for he can "impoverish the fenced cities, wherein thou trustedst." Men who found empires and build cities in opposition to him can never succeed. The Roman Empire crumbled away by the weight of its greatness. The kingdoms of Alexander, Csar, and Napoleon came to nought. Babylon and Carthage, Macedon and Persia, Greece and Rome were built, prospered for a while, and then declined. The safety of a nation is in the moral conduct of its people and the guardianship of God. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8

Hos . Defence. When Nicephorus Phocas had built a strong wall about his palace for his own security, in the night time, he heard a voice crying to him, "O Emperor! though thou build thy wall as high as the clouds, yet, if sin be within, it will overthrow it" [Foster].

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hosea 8:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/hosea-8.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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