Hosea 14

 

The foregoing part of this book abounds with denunciations of punishment; this closing

chapter SUPERABOUNDS WITH PROMISES OF PARDON!  Wave after wave

of threatened wrath had rolled over Israel and come in unto their soul; now offer after

 offer of grace is made to them.

 

1 “O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God;” -  The invitation to return implies

previous departure, or distance, or wandering from God. The return to which they

are invited is expressed, not by la,, to or towards, but by r[, quite up to,

or as far as right home; the penitent, therefore, is not merely to turn his

mind or his face toward God, but to turn his face and his feet home to

God; he is not to go half the way and then turn aside, or part of the way

and then turn back, but the whole way; in other words, his repentance is to

be complete and entire, wanting nothing, according to the statement of the

psalmist, “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73:28).  As

punishment was threatened in case of obstinate impenitence, so mercy is promised

on condition of THOROUGH REPENTANCE -  “for thou hast fallen by

thine iniquity.”  A reason is here assigned for the preceding invitation; ka-shalta

is properly “thou hast stumbled,” “made a false step,” fallen, yet so that recovery

was among future possibilities. The same thought may be included in the fact

that Jehovah continues to call His erring people by the honored and

honorable name of Israel, and to acknowledge Himself their God. Further,

many and grievous were the calamities into which by their fall they had

been precipitated; neither were any to blame but themselves — their

iniquity or their folly was the cause, nor was there any one to lift them up,

now that they lay prostrate, SAVE JEHOVAH!   After referring to the

desolation of Samaria and the ruthless destruction of its inhabitants, as portrayed in

the last verse of the previous chapter, Jerome adds, “All Israel is invited to

repentance, that he who has been debilitated, or has fallen headlong in his

iniquities, may return to the physician and recover health, or that he who

had fallen headlong may begin to stand.” The penitent is to direct his

thoughts to Jehovah; to Him as Center he is attracted, and in Him he

finds his place of rest; nor is there other means of recovery or source of

help.  Thus Kimchi says, “For thou seest that through thine iniquity thou hast

fallen, therefore it behooves thee to return to Jehovah, as nothing besides

can raise thee from thy fall but thy return to him.” “There is none,” says

Aben Ezra, “can raise thee from thy fall but the Eternal alone.”

 

2 “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: Words alone are vain. Yet, in the

order of nature, words are the expression of thought and sentiment and resolve.

Especially must words uttered to Heaven be sincere and truthful; for He is the

Searcher of hearts, whose favor the sinner beseeches with contrition and with

confidence. Let it, then, be understood that the words here suggested as suitable

for the repenting sinner’s address to God are the utterance of deep emotion and

sincere resolution.  “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: These words

encourage Israel to express prayer for pardon and confession of sin — the audible

sound of the heart’s desires. There is an allusion, perhaps, to the requirement of the

Law:  “None shall appear before me empty.” (Exodus 23:15; 34:20; Deuteronomy

16:16).  Not outward sacrifices, but words of confession, were the offering to be

presented. Thus Cyril eloquently explains it: “Ye shall propitiate the Deity,

not by making offerings of riches, not by dedicating gold, not by honoring

Him with silver vessels, not gladdening Him by sacrifices of oxen, not by

slaughtering of birds; but ye shall give Him discourses and wish to praise

the Lord of the universe, appeasing Him.” To the same purport is the

exposition of Aben Ezra: “He desires not from you, when ye go to seek His

favor, treasures or burnt offerings, only words with which ye are to

confess;” so also Kimchi: “He does not require of you on your return to

Him silver or gold or offering, which the Israelites lavished at great expense

on their idols, but good works with which ye are to confess your

iniquities  - “say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us

graciously:” -  On turning to the Lord with their whole heart, not with their

lips only, they are furnished with a form of sound words which God by His

prophet puts into their mouth. Elsewhere a formula is prescribed, thus:

“Publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of

Israel (Jeremiah 31:7); compare also Isaiah 48:20; Psalm 16:3; I  Chronicles

16:35.  The position of lk; before the verb creates a difficulty and causes

Diversity of rendering; for example:

 

·        besides the ordinary rendering, which takes kol as holding its peculiar

position by an hypallage, there is a modification of it: “All take away of

iniquity.”

 

·        Some supply mem, and translate accordingly: “From all take away

iniquity.” Kimchi explains it as a transposition: “All iniquity forgive,”

understanding le, “Forgive to every one iniquity.” The object of the

separation may be for greater emphasis.

 

In like manner, the following clause is also subject to diversity of translation and

interpretation.

 

·        There is the rendering of the Authorized Version, which appears to supply le

before tov: “Receive us for good,” viz. in bonam partem, or graciously; or,

receive our prayer graciously.”

 

·        Another rendering or exposition is: “Take what is good (of thine own

to bestow it on us);” thus in Psalm 68:18, God is said to receive gifts

among men, i.e. for distribution among men, and hence the apostle,

in Ephesians  4:8, substitutes e]dwken - edokengives -  for e]labe

elabereceiveth - and thus expresses the sense.

 

·        The literal sense is the correct sense, namely, “and receive good:”

“And receive good,” says Jerome, “for unless thou hadst borne away our

evil things we could not possibly have any good thing to offer thee, according

to that which is written, ‘Cease from evil and do good’” (Isaiah 1:16-17).

Thus also the words are translated and interpreted by Pusey: “When then

Israel and, in him, the penitent soul, is taught to say, receive good, it can

mean only the good which thou thyself hast given; as David says, ‘ Of thine

own we have given thee’’ (I Chronicles 29:14); while he adds in a note

on these words, “No one would have doubted that f yq means, ‘receive

good,’ as just before, yd yq means ‘take words,’ but for the seeming

difficulty — What good had they?” – “so will we render the calves of our

lips.”   This is more accurately rendered, “So will we render young bullocks,

even our lips.” The word shillem, to render, or repay, is almost technical in

its application to thank offerings or sacrifices in fulfillment of a vow; the best

animals for thank offerings were parim, or young oxen; but the lips, that is,

the utterances of the lips, consisting of prayers or praises, or both, are to

take the place of the animal sacrifices offered in thanksgiving. Thus the

psalmist says, “I will praise the Name of God with a song, and will magnify

Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or

bullock that hath horns and hoofs”  (Psalm 69:30-31).  The Septuagint, reading

yr]p] instead of μyr]p;, renders by karpo<n cei>lewn karpon cheileon

fruit of the lips  - to which the inspired author of Hebrews alludes, “By

Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,

that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks [margin, ‘confessing’] to His

Name;” or perhaps the reference in Hebrews is to Isaiah 57:19, “I create

 the fruit of the lips.” Further, as words of confession in v. 2 take the

place of sacrifices of sin offerings, so here words of thanksgiving replace

sacrifices of thanksgiving.

 

3 Asshur shall not save us: we will not ride upon horses:

neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our

gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.”  This was the practical

side of Israel’s repentance; this was bringing forth fruits meet for

repentance. Here was a renunciation of all hope of safety from the world

powers — both Assyria and Egypt. They would never again have recourse

to Assyria for help, nor to Egypt for horses; nor confide in their own

unaided power or prowess; while this renunciation of worldly power and

carnal confidences implied, as its opposite, unfaltering faith in the

protecting power and saving strength of Jehovah. All this was much, and

yet more was required; next to such renunciation of merely human aid, as

indicated, and its contrary, the recognition of Divine assistance, comes the

absolute and complete abandonment of their national and besetting sin of

idolatry. They have so far come to themselves and received the right use of

reason as to confess that the manufacture of man’s hands cannot be man’s

god, thus giving up with feelings of contempt and disgust the groveling sin

of idolatry with its attendant vices. Still more, they are penetrated with the

conviction that man without God is a poor fatherless creature, in no better,

if not in a worse, condition than that of a weak orphan child. They have the

consolation at the same time that for all such, on their return to Him, the

father of the fatherless and the God of the orphan has bowels of tenderest

compassion. To the presumed prayer of the penitent an answer overflowing

with mercy is promised at once, and by God Himself in the next section.

 

 

The Fallen Invited to Return  vs.1-3)

 

The history of Israel is the moral history of the world, at least in miniature.

 

·        HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF. The history of Israel repeats itself in the

history of mankind in general. Their history is the history of sin and of

salvation, of ruin and of recovery, of the mercy of God and of the

backsliding of man. Their bondage in Egypt represents the slavery of sin;

their rescue out of the hand of the oppressor, our redemption; their sojourn

in the wilderness, our pilgrimage on the earth, their entrance into Canaan, our

admission into the better country, even the heavenly; their backsliding from

time to time, our own wanderings of heart and life from the living God;

their return to the path of obedience, our repentance.

 

·        GOD’S READINESS TO RECEIVE THE PENITENT. The reproofs

for sin and threatenings of wrath scattered over the preceding chapters of

this book now give place to invitations to repentance and promises of

mercy. The former were a preparation for the latter. Not only so, even

interspersed with reproofs for sin we find most gracious calls to

repentance; alongside the threatenings of wrath are the most precious

promises. It is in this way that God wounds in order to make whole; when

He convinces us of sin, His object is to comfort us; when He brings to mind

our sin, it is that He may lead us to the Savior; when He proves to us our

ruin by sin, He is at pains to point us to the remedy and provide for our

restoration; having warned us of our danger, He urges us to the discharge

of duty. He deals with us as with Israel at the time to which the prophet

refers, showing us our fall and how we are to rise again; He urges us to

repentance, instructing us what to do and what to say, and encouraging us

withal by God’s willingness to receive us on repentance.

 

·        MAN’S FALL AND ITS CAUSE. In the passage before us the words

apply in the first instance to Israel; they had stumbled, such being the

meaning of the original word. Their stumbling-blocks were their idols; they

had forgotten the living and true God; they had proved ungrateful for His

benefits and unmindful of His favors. Despising the riches of His goodness

and forbearance, they had lapsed into gross idolatry; they had sunk deep

into that degrading sin, making molten images of their silver and idols

according to their own understanding, — all of it the work of the

craftsman. Their ingratitude for the Divine goodness made their iniquity

still less excusable, for according to the multitude of his fruit they increased

the altars, according to the goodness of his land he made goodly images.

No wonder the Majesty of heaven was provoked with that stiff-necked and

rebellious people. But the fall of Israel reminds us of the fall of man, and

leads us naturally to revert to the infancy of our race.

 

Ø      Before the Fall. When we picture to ourselves, as far as the Scripture

record enables us, the place of our first parents in the state of pristine

innocence, we think of that lovely garden “planted eastward in Eden ;”

of its trees and shrubs; of its fruits and flowers; of the rivers that watered

it (Genesis 2:8-14); of its unclouded sky; of the genial warmth of the

glorious sun fructifying and beautifying it; of the dews that refreshed it;

of man its caretaker and cultivator of his pleasant position in that paradise,

placed there as he was to dress it and to keep it. To this must be added

the communion of the creature with the Creator, so close, so cordial,

and so confidential as that communion then must have been.

If Enoch, after sin and Satan had done their worst, still walked with God

(Ibid. ch. 5:24); if Abraham was called, not only the father of the faithful,

but the friend of God (II Chronicles 20:7: James 2:23); if God spake face

to face with Moses, as a man speaketh with his friend (Exodus 33:11); —

we may form some faint idea, and it is only a faint idea, of that heavenly

communion which man there enjoyed with his Maker as he walked in the

garden in the cool of the day.

 

Ø      After the Fall. We know how the scene was changed — suddenly and

shockingly changed. We have seen a picture designed to represent the

change which sin introduced into Paradise, and THE WRECK WHICH

INIQUITY WROUGHT!   In one part of the picture all is beauty, all is

loveliness; the sky is clear, earth beneath is charming; above, below,

around, everything appears inexpressibly happy, grand and gorgeous.

Man is the monarch of all; every bird of every wing is subject to him,

every animal of every species is submissive to his sway, even the

most savage beast of prey owns his sovereignty. The lion crouches

at his feet, he strokes the tiger with his hand. But no sooner has he

tasted the forbidden fruit than the sky is clouded, lightning flashes

with fearful fury, the elements are at war with him. The animals,

lately so meek and mild, rise in rebellion against him — the lion opens

his mouth in wrath, the tiger is wild with fury. Our first parents

themselves, shivering with horror, shuddering with fright, are hurried out

of Paradise.  A flaming sword prevents their return, and guards on every

side the tree of life (Genesis 3:24).  Such is the painting referred to, and

it pictures a dread reality. It points out how man fell, and how far he fell

from his state of primeval bliss, of fellowship with the Holy One, and of

Divine favor.

 

Ø      The cause of such a fall. Iniquity was the cause, as we here read of

Israel, “Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” In that iniquity there were

various elements; when analyzed it is found to be made up of several

component parts. There was the lust of the flesh, for the tree was good

for food; there was the lust of the eyes, for that tree was pleasant to the

eyes; there was the pride of life, it was a tree to be desired to make one

wise (Ibid. ch. 3:5-6; I John 2:15-17). “Ye shall be as gods, knowing

good and evil.” There was, in short, rebellion against the mildest

authority; there was disobedience to the most reasonable command.

 

Ø      Consequences of the fall are seen in posterity. When we read the

records of the ancient nations of heathendom, even the most enlightened

and polished, we cannot fail to be convinced of the deep degradation

into which man by iniquity had fallen. In Egypt, the cradle of civilization,

men worshipped animals and plants, and even reptiles (I saw on the

internet today the American agenda:  smoke pot, ban guns, kill babies –

CY – 2012). In Greece, with all its boasted intellectual superiority,

aesthetic tastes, and fine arts, men worshipped a host of false gods,

deified men, and even impersonations of the lowest passions and worst

vices that agitate the human heart; while of Athens itself it was said

that you could as easily find a god as a man in that celebrated city.  In

Rome men multiplied gods, for, in addition to the

national divinities, they readily admitted into their pantheon the gods,

however monstrous and motley, of the nations which they conquered.

Among the people of Israel in the prophet’s time the great besetting sin

was idolatry with all its foul accompaniments. In heathen lands at the

present day it is still the same; multitudes bow down to stocks and

stones, and call these vanities gods. Can anything afford clearer evidence

of the fearful fall of our race than this sottish idolatry of ancient and

modern heathen (America, under the influence of the ACLU, is

rapidly becoming heathenistic – CY – 2012), as also of the Hebrew

people, though so highly favored with the written Law, besides that

which they had in common with their heathen neighbors? We forbear

to speak of the gross impurities and SHOCKING IMMORALITIES

THAT GO HAND IN HAND WITH IDOLATRY!

 

Ø      Illustration of the Fall. Of manifold illustrations which the subject

admits take that of a stately tree. Its dimensions are mighty and

magnificent — its top waves high in air, its branches spread far

around, its leafy honors are luxuriant, its foliage umbrageous; it claims

or seems to claim supremacy over all the forest trees. But the axe is

laid to its root. You beg the woodman to spare that tree. It is vain,

however; he has made up his mind, and it is doomed to fall. Blow after

blow is struck; the sturdy strokes are redoubled; at length the root is

giving way, the top is nodding, the tree topples to its fall. One creak,

one crash, and the goodly tree is prostrate; ruin spreads the ground.

Ere long the branches wither and the leaves decay.  What a contrast

between that tree flourishing in the stateliness of its strength and the

loveliness of its life, and that same tree felled to the earth, its leaves

stripped off, its branches lopped, the whole a sad emblem of decay, a

solemn memorial of destruction! Such is the contrast between man

in his original purity, while standing by faith, and man at the present

day fallen by iniquity.

 

Ø      Greatness of the Fall. When the great Roman dictator had usurped the

liberties of his country and changed the republican form of government to

the imperial; when he had overcome all opposition, conquered all enemies,

and fully gained the mastery; when he had reached the summit of

popularity and power; — just then the daggers of the conspirators smote

him to the earth. He fell at the foot of his great rival’s statue. The friend

who spoke his funeral oration and improved the occasion did justly

magnify that fall, exclaiming, as well he might, “What a fall was there, my

countrymen!” But what, after all, is the fall of the warrior, or hero, or

emperor, even from the pinnacle of his fame and of his fortune, compared

with the fall of an IMMORTAL SOUL by sin,  dragged down into

the deep pit of perdition? The sight of the fallen warrior, as he sat amid

the ruins of Carthage, has furnished a subject for men to moralize on,

while historians have commented on the fact; and it is indeed sufficiently

impressive. The harmony that existed between the person and the place

was necessarily striking and even startling; the fate of the one was so

like that of the other, the downfall of the one was so similar to the

desolation of the other, that we scarcely know which of the two is

more entitled to the tear of pity or sigh of sympathy — the degradation

of the chieftain or the destruction of the city. Yet greater far are THE

DEGRADATION AND DESOLATION which THE BLIGHT

OF SIN brings upon  person or place.

 

Ø      Practical considerations. We need not travel far for proof of our fallen

state; we do not need to go back to our first parents except for the purpose

of tracing the evil to its fountain-head; we need not visit pagan lands,

whether past or present; we do not require to quit the lands of

Christendom. The condition of the Hebrew people as set forth by the

Prophet Hosea is one that often repeats itself in the experiences —

some of them sad enough — of everyday life. How many have fallen

by iniquity around us! How many are falling by iniquity at our very doors,

on this side and on that! How many have we known to begin life well,

but they fell by iniquity! The wrecks of the fallen are strewn on the right

hand and on the left. Some fall by drunkenness, some by lewdness,

some by want of rectitude and right principle, some by what the world

calls unsteadiness. If the sword slays its thousands, INIQUITY

SLAYS  its tens of thousands.

 

Ø      Personal duties. Several personal duties of much importance may be

learned from this part of the subject; these may be expressed in Scripture

language as follows: “Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall;”

“Give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these

things, ye shall never fall”  (II Peter 1:10); “Beware lest ye also, being

led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own

 steadfastness (Ibid. ch. 3:17).  Also pity the fallen; try to

lift them up; pray for the backslider who has fallen back from the

position he seemed to have attained, and seek to restore such a

one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest ye also be

tempted!  (Galatians 6:1)

 

·        THE RETURN OF THE PENITENT. Many motives, and those of the

most powerful kind, urge the sinner to return to God.

 

Ø      There is the character of the invitation. It is an earnest one, a precious

one, and a glorious one. It is the gospel reechoing through the past and

resounding about us at the present. This invitation proves the height,

 and depth, and length, and breadth of the DIVINE GOODNESS!

 

Ø      There is the Author of the invitation. It proceeds from the Friend

whom we have treated so ungratefully and so ungraciously; He comes

after us, as it were, calling and entreating us to return; He promises us

a hearty welcome when we do return; He assures us that His heart and

hearth and home stand open to receive us; His arms are stretched out

to embrace us.

 

Ø      There are the persons invited. The vilest are subjects of this invitation;

the oldest, the worst, the most wicked, are comprehended; they are

offered present pardon, they are assured of instant forgiveness, and

all without money and without price: “The Spirit and the bride say,

Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is

 athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life

 freely (Revelation 22:17).  Oh, then, since God is waiting

and willing to be gracious, let not the sinner ignore that goodness, nor

regard it with insensibility, nor trample underfoot His great mercy

(Hebrews 10:29), nor treat His gracious overtures as the idle wind

that passeth by; but allow himself to be led by the goodness of

 God to repentance.  (Romans 2:4)

 

·        THE MODE OF RETURNING TO GOD. We are to take with us

WORDS  as the worshipper in the olden time did not go empty-handed, but

brought with him an offering when he went to worship God.

 

Ø      The words we are required to bring are words of confession, like the

poor prodigal when he said, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven,

and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son”

(Luke 15:18); like the contrite publican when he cried, “God be

merciful to me a sinner.”  (Ibid. ch.18:13).  If we thus confess

our sins, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to

cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

 

Ø      There must be petition as well as confession; our words must be

words of earnest pleading. Nor are we left without instruction on this

head; suitable petitions are suggested, and the very words put in

 our lips.  There is, according to the Authorized Version, a petition

for forgiveness and one for favor. The former is, “Take away all

iniquity;” for it is iniquity that has wrought our ruin, it is sin

that is the source of all our sorrows; take it away, for by it we

have fallen. Take it all away:

 

o       the guilt of it,

o       the defilement of it,

o       the dominion of it,

o       the love of it, and

o        the practice of it.

o        

Ø      Take it all away and forever, for it is only thus we can be saved; only

thus our souls are washed and justified and sanctified in the

 Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. The second

part of the petition pleads for favor; it is, “Receive us graciously;” that is,

receive us into thy favor, thy family, and thy service. Receive us

graciously, that is, gratuitously, of thy free favor and sovereign grace;

not on the ground of innocence, for:

 

“Not in our innocence we trust —

We bow before thee in the dust:

And THROUGH OUR SAVIOUR’S BLOOD ALONE

We seek acceptance at thy throne.”

 

Ø      Not on the ground of merit, for we have sinned and merit only wrath;

not on the ground of price, for we have nothing to pay:

 

“Nothing in our hand we bring,

Simply to thy cross we cling.”

 

Not on the ground of works, for we are saved solely of the

 DIVINE MERCY according to the riches of His grace in

Christ Jesus.  (Ephesians 1:7)

 

Ø      There are words of thanksgiving. The calves, even the lips, are the

thank offerings and service of the lips in general; nor do these differ

aught from the fruit of the lips.

 

o       Thanksgiving,

o       praise,

o       prayer,

o       self-dedication, and

o       self-surrender

 

ARE ALL EXPRESSED BY THE LIPS, and are thus

their offerings, or their fruit.

 

“Nay, rather unto me, thy God,

    Thanksgiving offer thou;

To the Most High perform thy word.

    And fully pay thy vow:

And in the day of thy distress

    Do thou unto me cry;

I will deliver thee, and thou

    My Name shalt glorify.”

 

·        FRUITS MEET FOR REPENTANCE. These in the present instance

consist in the complete rejection of carnal confidences and sole dependence

on God. The penitent Israelite renounces all confidence in worldly policy,

and worldly allies as secured by such policy — the Assyrian and the

Egyptian alike. He renounces his idolatrous practices and superstitious

devotions; and, depending no longer on foreign help, or objects and

observances of idol-worship, or domestic resources, he places his entire

and undivided trust in the living God. Henceforth the rule of his conduct

and motto of his life may be conceived as summed up in the words of the

psalmist: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will

remember the Name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).  It has been

well said that “there is no sin more usual among men than carnal confidence;

to lean on our own wisdom, or wealth, or power, or supplies from others

(We are taught “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not

unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him

and He shall direct thy paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6); to deify counsels

and armies, or horses and treasures, and to let our hearts rise or fall, sink

or bear up within us, according as the creature is helpful or useless, nearer

or further from us; as if God were not a God afar off, as well as near at

hand.” This was one of Israel’s great sins, and which on repentance is

renounced. This is a common sin, and one which all must renounce,

trusting, not in an arm of flesh, but sanctifying the Lord alone in our hearts.

It is when we feel our condition in this world to be one of orphanage, of

weakness, destitution, desolateness, and distress, that we repose trustfully

and securely in the Divine mercy and gracious fatherhood of God.

 

 

Verses 4-7 describe the happy result of Israel’s penitence and God’s merciful response

to Israel’s prayer.  The pardon sought is secured, and that for the greatest sin — that of

backsliding, and so for all minor trespasses. The acceptance prayed for is presently

and plentifully vouchsafed. The dark storm-cloud of God’s wrath is dispersed and

dispelled forever.

 

We next learn the fullness of God’s forgiving love and His superabundant

mercy to them that trust in Him. By the most pleasing figures we are taught

what God promises to be to His people; what they themselves become; and

what a blessing they prove to others.  There is a  pictorial character in

Divine teaching.  We find great variety as well as great beauty in the lessons of

the Bible. There is great variety, for all nature, animate and inanimate, is laid under

contribution to supply fit illustrations of Divine things; there is great beauty, for the

loveliest objects above us, around us, and beneath us are employed for this

purpose. (I recommend typing in Fantastic Trip in your browser and take about

a ten minute journey outward and inward in God’s great Creation – CY – 2012)

In the passage before us there is a cluster of lovely natural objects

employed in this manner to set forth spiritual truths with all the reality of

nature and all the vividness of life. Here we read of the dew, the deep-rooted

and everlasting hill, the lily, the tall tree with umbrageous foliage,

the olive ever green, and Lebanon ever fragrant. We read also of the

springing corn, the blooming vine, and wine of aromatic odor. These, it

must be acknowledged, are beautiful figures, and the facts which they are

intended to convey are equally blessed. But what enhances the beauty and

the blessedness is the circumstance that the persons to whom these facts

and figures have reference are those very persons who had erred and

strayed from the Lord their God — even Israel who had fallen by their

iniquity, Israel who had sadly backslidden, Israel who had grievously

provoked the just anger of the Almighty; but Israel repenting and returning,

praying and pleading, giving up their false refuges and casting aside

 their false gods. Oh how cheering and encouraging that God welcomes His

erring children to return! Like the father in the parable (Luke 15), He runs to

meet the prodigal, He casts the arms of His love around him; He receives the

penitent to His fond embrace, laying aside the wrath that had been provoked;

He bestows the love that had been undeserved; He forgives the sins that had

been committed; He foregoes the punishment that had been incurred; and,

physician-like, He heals the backslidings great and manifold.

 

4 “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for

mine anger is turned away from him.” The penitential prayer put in the

mouth of the people receives in this verse a gracious response; words of

contrite confession are echoed back in accents of compassion and

consolation. When thus penitent and prayerful they returned to the Lord,

He promises them favor as well as forgiveness, so as to heal the moral

malady under which they had long labored, remedy the evil effects of their

apostasy, and withhold the stripes He was going to inflict. Meshubhatham

means their turning away from God and all included therein —  defection, rebellion,

idolatry, and other sins. The disease would be healed,  and its consequences averted.

Some, however, understand the word, in a good sense, to mean “conversion ‘ or

the converted,” the abstract being put for the concrete; the blessing is thus promised

them when they turned or returned to God.

 

The LXX. again, connecting meshubhah with yashav, to sit or dwell,

render it by katoiki>an katoikian -  I will heal their dwelling.  They are next

assured of God’s love, and that spontaneously (hb;d;n], the preposition le understood)

with readiness, willing and unfeigned.  God’s love is free, anticipating its objects,

not waiting to be merited or purchased, without money and without price; it is

also purest and most sincere affection, altogether unlike that feigned

affection sometimes found among men, who profess much love while their

heart goeth after their covetousness, or after some other and different

object from that pretended. Then follows an assurance that there is no

barrier to the exercise and no obstacle to the outgoing of God’s love; the

turning away of God’s anger from Israel is the ground of such assurance.

Some copies read mimmeni, my anger is turned away from me, instead of

mimmena; this, however, is erroneous, though the sense is not much

affected by it. The error may have arisen from a misunderstanding of

Jeremiah 2:35. Rashi explains the verse correctly: “After they have thus

spoken before me: I will heal them of their apostasy, and love them of my

own free will; although they themselves are not worthy of love, yet will I

love them freely, for mine anger has turned away from them.” Aben Ezra

says. “Backsliding is in the soul what disease is in the body, therefore he

uses the word ‘heal.’ But God proceeds to perform what He has promised;

He does not confine His goodness to words, He exhibits it in works, as the

following verses show. 

 

5 “I will be as the dew unto Israel:” -  The Jussive assumes different shades of

meaning, varying with the situation or authority of the speaker.... Sometimes, from the

circumstances of the case, the command becomes a permission: v.6.  ‘I will be as the

 dew to Israel: let him flourish, Ëy"w], and strike forth his roots as Lebanon’”

(Driver). In lands where there is little rain, the dew, falling copiously,

fertilizes the earth, refreshes the languid plants, revives the face of nature,

and makes all things grow. Thus the dew becomes the source of

fruitfulness. So God, by His Spirit’s grace, is THE SOURCE OF ALL

ISRAEL’S FRUITFULNESS -  he shall grow (margin, blossom) as the lily,” –

This comparison suggests many qualities, any one of which may characterize, or all

of which may combine in, the spiritual growth thus pictured. There is the purity

of the lily, the beauty of the lily, the fecundity of the lily, the perfume of the

lily, the rapidity of its growth, the stately slightness of its stem. We may

combine the rapidity of its growth; its fecundity, with regard to which

Pliny informs us that a single root produces fifty bulbs; its beauty, to which

our Lord refers in contrast with the glory of Solomon. But its root is weak,

and he, on that account perhaps, subjoins:  “and cast forth (margin, strike)

his roots as Lebanon.”  Whether it mean that the roots are as the trees of

Lebanon or the mountain of Lebanon itself, the thought expressed by this

comparison is stability. “As the trees of Lebanon,” says Jerome, “which

strike their roots as far down into the depths as they lift their heads up into

the air, so that they can be shaken by no storm, but by their stable

massiveness maintain their position.”

 

 

Return to God: Its Immediate Effects (vs. 4-5)

 

So soon as Israel shall return to Jehovah and offer the foregoing words of

self-condemning supplication (vs. 2-3), they shall receive a glad welcome

from Him “who delighteth in mercy,” and who will not “keep his anger for

ever(Micah 7:18).  The first clauses of this answer of blessing remind us that there

are three results of religious revival which begin to be experienced at once.

These are “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,” in the form of healing; “the

love of God,” in the gift of positive and full salvation; “and the communion

of the Holy Ghost,” as manifested in the enjoyment of Divine influence.

(II Corinthians 13:14)  The answer corresponds to the prayer of the penitents,

only that the blessings promised are even larger and richer than those which

have been asked.  “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly

above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).  “With the Lord there

is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.”  (Psalm 130:7)

 

·        SPIRITUAL HEALING. “I will heal their backsliding” (v. 4); or

rather, “their falling away; ‘ “their apostasy.” The Lord will remove the

injuries which His people’s apostasy has brought upon them, and will cure

them of the malignant disease itself. This blessing of healing includes:

 

Ø      the forgiveness of sin;

Ø      deliverance from its pollution;

Ø      the cure of the tendency to backslide; and

Ø      removal of the chastisements and sorrows which past guilt has

entailed.

 

How does God heal all these wounds? He does so BY THE APPLICATION

OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST!   That blood is the one unfailing salve for the

sinner’s conscience and heart, and it procures also his redemption from all

 future evil. All men, Jew and Gentile alike, who accept the gospel message,

receive such healing in our time; and in “the latter days” this gracious

promise shall be completely fulfilled in the national conversion of Israel, as

well as in the “coming in” of “the fullness of the Gentiles.”  (Romans 11:25)

 

·        FULL SALVATION.I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned

away from him” (v. 4). Jehovah’s wrath being gone, and His people’s

apostasy healed, His generous love is now free to go forth without restraint.

He finds in His people themselves, it is true, no cause why He should love

them. In himself the backsliding sinner is repulsive and unlovely; and the

only acceptable gift which he can bring when he returns is merely feelings

and words (v. 2). But, as a mother’s love for her child is not based

upon the child’s character, or upon the return which he makes for her

goodness, so also love is instinctive and natural to the Divine heart. He

loves freely, or spontaneously, just because HE HIMSELF “is love.”

(I John 4:8).  The Lord heals His people’s backslidings by discovering

anew to their souls the greatness of His tender mercy towards them. His

wonderful love leads Him first to be the soul’s Physician, and then to

become its Husband. His free favor bestows upon the healed one the

health of holiness, and continues to be the springing well-head of the

believer’s salvation.

 

·        DIVINE INFLUENCE. “I will be as the dew unto Israel (v. 5).

This promise announces the reversal of the curse of barrenness recorded in

ch. 13:15. We think of Jehovah as being “the dew” in connection

with the gracious operations of His Spirit. He rewards the prayer and the

life of penitence, and evinces His free love to His people, by the gift of the

Holy Ghost, the Comforter. There are many points of analogy between the

descent of the dew and the work of the Spirit. The Divine dew, like the

natural, is:

 

Ø      Mysterious and heavenly. It has its source high above us.  The falling

of the dew is independent of man’s skill and power (Micah 5:7; Job

38:28); much less are the workings of grace the result of any human

process (John 3:3-8).

 

Ø      Gentle and silent. No one sees or hears the dew falling, and

experience alone has taught man that it is really an important force

of nature. Similarly the grace of the Spirit “cometh not with

observation (Luke 17:20). It works on in secrecy, and becomes

visible only in its beneficent results upon character and life.

 

Ø      Abundant. In Palestine the dew is so copious as to compensate to

some extent for the absence of rain. The Divine dew, in like manner,

is often seen to be most abundant, especially in a time of religious

revival. The work of the Spirit may influence for much good an entire

Church, or even a whole nation, so as to enrich its life as a Christian

 community.

 

Ø      Penetrative. The dew pierces the soil, and insinuates itself into the fibers

of every herb and plant; so the Holy Ghost, using the Divine Word,

pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit” (Hebrews

4:12), and searches through the whole nature of man, to purify and bless it.

 

Ø      Given daily. The grace of God, like the dew, is not given once for all,

but is day by day waited for, and day by day renewed. Yet doth it not

pass away, like the fitful goodness of God’s former people (ch.6:4), but

turns into the growth and spiritual substance of those on whom it

descends.

 

Ø      Refreshing and fertilizing. The dew produces verdure and fruitfulness.

So the constant presence of the Holy Spirit within the soul and in

 the Church is essential to spiritual freshness and usefulness. The clauses

that follow (vs. 5-8) show that this is the main point of the emblem as

employed here, and trace with exceeding beauty of poetic diction the

results of the Lord’s gracious activity when He comes “as the dew.

He shall so come in “the last days” — blessed be his Name! —

unto Israel,” i.e. to his ancient people; and not to them only, but to

the whole Israel of God, of every nation, who follow spiritually in the

footsteps of Abraham.  (“For he is not a Jew, which is one

outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward

in the flesh:  But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and

circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in

the letter;  whose praise is not of men, BUT OF GOD.”

(Romans 3:28-29)

 

6  His branches shall spread,” -  margin, go; rather, go on. This feature

in the representation denotes enlargement or expansion. The tender branches

(suckers) spreading out in all directions very aptly set forth the multiplication of

Israel or their growth and increase numerically. But branches straggling, crooked,

and ill-shaped would rather be a blemish than a beauty. It is, therefore, added:

his beauty shall be as the olive tree,” – The olive has been called the crown

of the fruit trees of Palestine, but besides, its fruitage so plentiful and useful, the

splendor of its green, and the enduring freshness of its foliage, make it a vivid

 picture of that BEAUTY OF HOLINESS or SPIRITUAL GRACES 

which it is here employed to represent. There is still an additional element of

interest pertaining to this goodly tree, namely,  “and his smell as Lebanon.”  

This signifies the fragrance of this beautiful tree of righteousness. The smell of

Lebanon is referred to in Song of Solomon 4:11, “And the smell of thy garments

 is like the smell of Lebanon.” What with its cedars, and spices, and fruit, and

flowers, and aromatic shrubs, and fragrant vines, Lebanon must perfume

the air with the most delightful odors. Thus acceptable to God and pleasing

to man shall Israel become. The commentators quote with commendation

Rosenmüller’s explanation of the individual features of this inimitable

picture: “The rooting indicates stability; the spreading of the branches,

propagation and the multitude of inhabitants; the splendor of the olive,

beauty and glory, and that constant and lasting; the fragrance, hilarity and

loveliness.” The simile changes into the metaphor; Israel, from being

likened to a tree, becomes the tree.

 

7 “They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as

the corn, and grow (margin, blossom) as the vine: the scent (rather, renown)

thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.”  There is some difficulty and

consequent diversity of rendering and explanation in connection with this verse.

If the tree be Israel in its collective or national capacity, the dwellers under its

shadow are the members of the nation, separately and severally, flourishing under the

widespread branches of this umbrageous tree. The word yashubhu is explained:

 

·        return, i.e. betake themselves to his shadow, which is incongruous,

for how could they be said to return to their own shadow or dwell securely

under it?

·        return to their native land, so the Chaldee, — this is somewhat better;

·        return to the worship of Jehovah, said of Israelites who had abandoned

it, not properly of Gentiles turning to that worship;

·        Rosenmüller, comparing Judges 15:19 and I Samuel 30:12,

explains it in the sense of coming to themselves, reviving.

 

Keil constructs yashubhu adverbially by a common idiom with yechayyu, and

translatesshalt give life to come again,” that is, “Those who sit beneath the shade

of Israel, the tree that is bursting into leaf, will revive corn, cause it to return to life,

or produce it for nourishment, satiety, and strengthening.” Similarly the Vulgate,

sustain life by corn.” This, however, must appear tame after the splendid promises

that went before.

 

Vivify; i.e. produce seed like corn, and rejoice in a numerous offspring

as from a seed of corn many proceed; according to this, “seed” ([r"z,) must

be supplied, and caph of comparison. The added clause agrees with this,

for the flourishing of the vine also symbolizes prolific persons (compare

Psalm 128:3). Further, the vine does not always flourish, yet, not like

the corn which after harvest ceases and is no more seen, its root remains,

and next year grows green and yields its fruit anew. The fame of the wine

of Lebanon is celebrated for its taste and fragrance. Kimchi cites Asaph, a

physician, as writing that the wine of Lebanon, of Hermon, of Carmel, of

the mountains of Israel and Jerusalem and Caphior, surpass all others in

flavor, taste, and for medicinal purposes.

 

8 “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?”

This is full, final, and for ever a renunciation of idolatry on the part of

Israel“I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree.

From me is thy fruit found.”  THIS IS GOD’S PROMISE,  that His eye is

fixed on Israel in order to look after him, care for him, and provide for

him, and to protect and prosper him; while the figure of a green fir tree is

the pledge of shelter and security. But, though the fir tree is evergreen,

IT IS FRUITLESS, and therefore it is added that God will prove the

 Source of fruitfulness, and supply all that His people shall or can

 ever need.  (“But my God shall supply all your need according to His

riches in glory by Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:19).

 

9 “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things?

prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right,

and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.”

This verse demands attention to all the prophet has written, whether for

warning, or reproof, or correction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16), or

encouragement to piety and virtue, and evidently alludes to Deuteronomy 32:4.

The ways of the Lord are those He prescribes for them to walk in, as also

the ways He takes in GUIDING, GUARDING and GOVERNING

MEN!   Like the dictates of the Word, so the dispensations of His providence

are to some THE SAVOR OF LIFE  and to others THE SAVOR OF

DEATH (II Corinthians 2:15-16), therefore it is added that, while the righteous

walk therein, the wicked stumble in them (compare Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

 

 

God’s Ways (v. 9)

 

“Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall

know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in

them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.” God has His ways, His

methods of action. He proceeds on certain principles in all His operations,

both in the realm of matter and of mind. The Infinite has a way of doing things.

 

·        HIS WAYS ARE TO BE STUDIED. “Who is wise, and he shall

understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them?” It is one

thing to know the works of a man, and another thing to know his ways, his

methods of action. He only knows a man who understands his way of

doing things. God’s ways are the highest subjects of study. It is said

that He made known His “way ‘ unto Moses, His “works ‘ unto the children

of Israel. The millions know something of His works; only the “wise,’’ the

prudent,” the initiated, like Moses, understand His ways (Revelation 15:3;

Matthew 11:25).  Brother, come away from the study of details, ascend into

the realm of principles. Men who understand God’s ways become prophets.

They can foretell the future.

 

·        HIS WAYS ARE RIGHTEOUS. “The ways of the Lord are right.”

 

Ø      They are right; THEY CANNOT BE OTHERWISE!  They are

right because they are His. He cannot do wrong; there is no law

external to Him, no law above Him. WHAT HE DOES IS

RIGHT BECAUSE HE DOES IT!  To say He does a thing

because it is right is tantamount to the assertion that there is

something independent of Him.

 

Ø      They are right; human conscience attests it. No conscience in

heaven, earth, hell, doubts the rectitude of God’s ways. If sinners

in hell felt they were wrong, they would feel no remorse for their

conduct. They are right ESSENTIALLY,  IMMUTABLY,

 EVERLASTINGLY, RIGHT!

 

·        HIS WAYS ARE TO BE PURSUED. “The just shall walk in them.”

They are not merely to be studied, but to be practically followed. You

cannot do what God does, but what you do you can do in God’s way

do silently, lovingly, beneficently. Walk in this way, the way of love and

usefulness.

 

·        HIS WAYS MAY RUIN. “The transgressors shall fall therein.” As

God moves in calm majesty and resistless force on His way, He crushes in

His march all who oppose Him. His chariot-wheels grind them into powder.

(Matthew 21:44).  Recipitur ad modum recipientis. What is received

influences according to the qualities of the receiver. “The same sun,” says

an old author, “softens wax and hardens clay. But of all transgressors those

certainly have the most dangerous fatal falls that fall in the ways of

 God, that split on the Rock of Ages, and suck poison out of the balm of

Gilead. LET THE SINNERS IN ZION BE AFRAID OF THIS!”

 

·        WISDOM IS TESTED BY THE ACCEPTANCE OR REFUSAL OF

GOD’S WAYS. “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things?

prudent, and he shall know them?”

 

Ø      The wise recognize the rightness of Gods ways. They are taught

of God to recognize this rightness. Plain as the truth seems that GOD’S

WAYS ALONE ARE RIGHT,  the natural heart is incapable of

receiving it (I Corinthians 2:14).

 

Ø      The wise show their wisdom by walking in Gods ways.

“The just shall walk in them.” Wisdom is a practical thing.

It implies THE ADOPTION OF THAT WHICH WE KNOW

TO BE RIGHT!   Wisdom is connected with UPRIGHTNESS!

It is the upright in heart — the just — who choose the right ways.

 

Ø      The unwise show their folly BY REJECTING GO’S WAYS!

This is their  RUIN! “The transgressors shall fall therein.”

                        (One has to put out an effort to live in sin because “the way of

                        the trangressors is hard!”   (Proverbs 13:15)

 

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