Hosea 5

 

 

1  Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye

ear, O house of the king;” -  The persons here addressed comprise all

the estates of the realm — priests, people, and princes. The house of Israel

is the northern kingdom; and the house of the king is the members of the

king’s family, of his court and of his government. Thus the rulers and the

ruled, the spiritual teachers and the taught, are comprehended in this

address. Neither priestly office, nor popular power, nor princely dignity

was to be exempted. But, though all are summoned to give audience, the

heads of the people, the men of light and leading, are first arraigned. For

judgment is toward you, as the clause is correctly rendered; not, “it

devolves on you to maintain judgment,” as some understand it. It had,

indeed, been the province of the priest to teach, and of the king to execute

the judgments of God in Israel; but now they are themselves the subjects of

judgment. Judgment was now to begin at the house of the king and of the

priest (see I Peter 4:17); God was about to execute judgment upon them — the

judgment from that judgment-seat where justice never miscarries, and where

no mistake is ever made. The cause of this is assigned – “because ye have been

a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.” Instead of being

safeguards of the people, they had been a snare to them; instead of being

true leaders, as God had intended them, they had misled them; instead of

contributing to their security, they had seduced them to sin and so helped

to prepare them for destruction; they had been a snare to entrap and a net

to entangle. East as well as west of the Jordan their evil influence had

wrought ruin. Mizpah, now es-Salt, was on the east of the river among the

hills of Gilead, where Jacob and Laban entered into covenant; Tabor, like a

solitary cone or sugar-loaf, rises up from the plain of Jezreel, or Esdraelon,

on the west of the river. On the wooded slopes of Tabor and the beacon-hill

of Mizpah game, no doubt, abounded and found covert, and hence the

origin of the figure here used; but they had probably become scenes of

idolatry or wickedness.

 

2 “And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, (or,

profuse in murders or in sacrifices, or in dealing corruptly), though I have

been a rebuker of them all.” -  (rather, but I am [bent upon] chastisement for

them all). The literal rendering of the first clause is, slaughtering they have

made deep, which is an idiom analogous to “they have deeply revolted;”

literally, “they have made revolting deep” (Isaiah 31:6). The slaughtering,

though understood by Wunsche of sacrifices, is rather meant

of the destruction and carnage which the revolters caused to the people.

Rashi explains it literally in this way: “I said, Every one that goes not up to

the stated feasts transgresses a positive precept; but they decree that every

one who goes up to the stated feasts shall be slain.” This seems to imply

that liers-in-wait were set probably on Mizpah and Tabor, the places

mentioned in the preceding verse, to slay the Israelites that were found

going up to the feasts at Jerusalem. Aben Ezra, taking this second verse as

continuing the sentiment of the first, interprets as follows: “Ye have been a

snare on Mizpah that ye might not allow them to go up to the feasts to the

house of the Lord; and to slay (victims) in the usual way.” The revolters or

apostates he takes to be the worshippers of Baal (the modern equivalent

to me, and this is no stretch of the imagination, is those who condone and

champion the tenets of THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION

who lie in wait, in the courts, to ambush anyone who would venture to espouse

God’s side in the public arena – CY – 2012).They made deep,” he adds in his

exposition, “the snares, those that are mentioned, that passersby

might not see them; but I will chastise all of them for this evil which

they have done, since it is not hidden from me why they have hid (made) it

so deep.” The slaughtering is thus understood by Aben Ezra of slaying the

sacrificial victims. Similarly Kimchi interprets thus: “He says that the

revolters who are the worshippers of idols, who depart from the ways of

God — blessed be he! — and from his service, like a woman who is a

revolter from under her husband, have made deep their revolt, slaying and

sacrificing to idols.” He would understand the slaughtering neither of

victims with Kimchi and Aben Ezra; nor of literally slaying Israelites to

prevent persons going up to Jerusalem, the proper seat of Jehovah’s

worship; but of the destructive consequences which the conduct of these

apostates brought on the people. The work of chastisement God now takes

in hand in good earnest. Droppings of the coming shower there had been;

but now the full flood is to descend, for God presents Himself to THE

MISLEADERS and to THE MISLED alike under the sole aspect of rebuke.

“I,” he says, “am chastisement” (give myself to it). A like form of expression

occurs in Psalm 109:4, I am prayer;” that is, am a man of prayer, or give

myself to prayer.   royal.  Thus Kimchi explains the idiom: “The prophet says,

Say not that no man shall correct and reprove them, therefore they sin; for I

am the person who reproves them all, and day by day I reprove them, but they

will not hearken to me. But raani moser wants the word ish, man, as (in

Psalm 109:4) raani tephilah, which we have explained raani ish tephilah.”

 

3 “I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me:” - All attempts

at concealment are vain, though sinners try ever so much to hide their sins

from the Divine Majesty. However deep they dig downward, God will

bring their evil doings up and out to the light of day and punish them.

(“For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid,

that shall not be known.  Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in

darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in

the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”  - Luke 12:3-4 -

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and

men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the

light, lest his deeds be reproved.”  - John 3:19-20) – “for now, O Ephraim,

thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.”  Israel is the northern

kingdom, and Ephraim, being the most powerful tribe, is often identified

with Israel; here, however, they are distinguished Israel is the kingdom

as a whole, and Ephraim is its leading tribe. This powerful tribe, ever envious

of Judah, was the ringleader in the calf worship of Jeroboam and other

idolatries; and through Ephraim’s evil influence the other tribes, and so ALL

ISRAEL, WERE DEFILED!

 

4 “They will not frame (literally, give, direct) their doings to turn unto their

God:”  In this verse their evil doings are traced to an evil spirit of whoredoms

that is, of idolatries, which impels them blindly and resistlessly to evil, while at

the same time it expels the knowledge of God. This first clause is differently

rendered. The textual rendering of the Authorized Version, as above, denotes

their total and absolute refusal to repent or to bring forth fruits meet for

repentance.  The actions are an index of the state of the heart, but neither the

thoughts of Israel at this time, nor their deeds which indicated these thoughts,

were in the direction of repentance. In heart and life they were impenitent.

This rendering is supported by most of the Hebrew commentators. Rashi says,

“They forsake not their evil way;” Aben Ezra,” They perform not works so as

to turn.” Kimchi also gives an alternative sense: “Or the sense of the words is

thus: They cling so closely to their evil works, that even should they for once

conceive in their heart the idea of turning, they immediately repent them of it.”

The marginal rendering also yields a good sense; it is, Their doings will not suffer

(allow) [them] to turn unto their God. The pronominal suffix for “them” is

wanting, yet it may be dispensed with, as the appending of it to “doings”

and “God” makes the sense sufficiently explicit. It is favored by Ewald,

Keil, the Targum, and Kimchi, who explains: “Their evil works do not

allow them to return to their God, as if he said, To such extent have they

multiplied transgression that there is no way left them to return, until they

receive their punishment.” Such and so great was the power of their evil

habits that they could not break them off or break away from them by

repentance; or so intimately connected is a change of heart with a change

of life that, in the absence of the latter, the former is impossible. According

to either rendering, the reason assigned is contained in the next clause: “for

the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not

known the Lord.”  So overmastered were they, as though by some fiendish

spirit that held them in check and exercised despotic power over them, that

they rushed headlong down the steep incline, like the Gadarene herd of

swine, which, when the unclean spirits entered into them, ran violently

down a steep place into the sea (Matthew 8:28-34). Neither was there any

counteracting force to turn them back or reverse their course. Such a force

might have been found in the knowledge of God, of His covenant mercy,

of His power, love, grace, and goodness (Holy Spirit – in our day - CY – 2012).

But this was wanting, and the absence of this knowledge at once increased

their  impenitence and aggravated their guilt.  It was Israel’s privilege and Israel’s

duty to know the Lord; for He had revealed Himself to them as to no other

nation; He had given them His Law, He had made them depositaries of His

truth and the conservators of His living oracles; their ignorance, therefore,

was altogether inexcusable, while it evinced greatest ingratitude to Jehovah,

who had taken them into covenant with Himself, and declared HIMSELF

TO BE THEIR GOD!

 

5  “And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face:   This may be understood:

 

  • of Jehovah, who was Israel’s glory, as we read in Amos 8:7  of “the

excellency of Israel.” This explanation suits at once the sense and the

context. They knew not God, notwithstanding the special advantages they

enjoyed for that knowledge; they had no liking to the knowledge of God,

they did not concern themselves about it; and now Jehovah, who should

have been their excellency and glory, but who had been thus slighted by

them, will testify against them and bear witness to their face by judgments.

 

But another interpretation recommends itself as equally or more suitable.

 

  • This interpretation understands “pride” more simply to mean the

prosperous state and flourishing condition of which Israel was proud, or

rather, perhaps, the haughtiness of Israel, owing to those very

circumstances of worldly wealth and greatness.

 

This vain pride and self-exaltation was the great obstacle in the way of their turning

to the Lord. If this sense of the word be accepted, the verb had better be rendered

“humbled,” a meaning which it often has; thus, “humbled shall be the pride

of Israel to his face” (that is, in his own sight). Such is the translation of the

Septuagint:  Tapeinwqh>setai hJ u[briv tou jIsrah>l eijv pro>swpon

aujtou~ - Tapeinothaesetai hae hubris tou Israel eis prosopon autou

The pride of Israel shall be brought low before his face  -  while the

The consequence of Israel’s pride was the fall here mentioned. The ten

tribes composing the northern kingdom fell into gross and grievous sin, and

therefore also into long-suffering and sore sorrow. Even Ephraim, that

tribe pre-eminent for power as for pride, and the perpetual rival of Judah,

shall fall as well as and with the rest. Judah also, that is, Judah proper, and

Benjamin, participating in the same evil course, fell like Israel into sin,

and, though more than a century later, into ruin.  (See Jeremiah 3:7-11)

 

 

        God Arraigns the Sins of Princes, Priests, and People (vs. 1-5)

 

Israel’s degeneracy had been very great and their sins very grievous. Though there

is no formal catalogue given of those sins, yet they are incidentally exhibited in the

 reproofs and rebukes which follow.

 

  • ALL CLASSES ARE ADDRESSED BY THE DIVINE WORD. It is

directed to the high and to the low alike; to the rich and to the poor; it

speaks to every grade in society and every rank in life; there is none so high

as to be above its teaching, and none so lowly as to be beneath its notice.

To sovereigns as to the meanest subjects of their realm; to magistrates and

men in authority, as well as to those under their jurisdiction, the warnings

and admonitions of Scripture reach. To all, of every class and condition,

of every caste and clime, the Divine Word is offered as a light to their test

and a lamp to their path.  (Psalm 119:105)

 

  • ALL CLASSES ARE AMENABLE TO THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS.

The judgments of God are denounced against ALL WORKERS OF

INIQUITY  — from the poorest and meanest of the people to the priests who

should be their instructors and examples, and to the princes and principal

men, who should not only rule and guide, but protect and preserve them

to the utmost of their power. And yet there is a distinction; for those who,

through their exalted position or extensive influence, seduce others to sin,

expose themselves to sorer condemnation. But, while those who entrap

others into sin are doubly guilty, the persons entrapped are not on that

account guiltless. (“my people love to have it so” - Jeremiah 5:31).

Subjects sometimes suffer through the mistakes of their sovereigns;

but when subjects and sovereigns are both involved in guilt,

they must expect to have their respective share in punishment. When God

has a controversy with a people, and His judgments are approaching, it is a

time for serious consideration and solemn reflection. Hence we have a

triple call to attention in this first verse:

 

Ø      “Hear ye this,”

Ø      “hearken ye”,

Ø      “give ye ear.”

 

It was an earnest time and an emphatic call; for God “will at last force

audience and attention from the most stubborn.”

 

  • ALL CLASSES HAD PERVERTED THE WAY. The revolters (v.2) seem

to have belonged to all ranks and to have comprehended all classes. If the

“slaughter” which they made refers to the slaying of sacrifices (Is there

not a smidgeon of sympathy by animal rights’ activists today? – CY – 2012),

it is spoken of with contempt, because those sacrifices, whether from defects

in their own nature, or imperfection in the manner in which they were offered,

or the wrongness of the motive with which they were presented, were

unacceptable to God. Accordingly he speaks of them disparagingly; for

though the prophet spake of sacrifices, he no doubt called sacrificing in

contempt killing; as though we should call the temple the shambles, and

the killing of victims slaughtering.” If, on the other hand, the slaughter

referred to be understood literally of actual murder, the criminality is still

greater, and they bear the brand of red-handed assassins. In either case, the

idiom employed is a very energetic mode of expression “The slaughter they

have made deep,” or, “they have gone deep in slaughtering,” conveys the idea

of the great length to which they had gone, either in sacrifices to idols and

contrary to legal appointment, or in murderously shedding blood, or even

in the more modified sense of causing destruction. They had gone to an

extreme in the direction indicated, whichever sense is assigned to

slaughtering. It is not so much that they hid their doings deep, as that they

went deeply into their works, or sunk deeply in their sin. Further, the

aggravation of their sin consisted in its being without excuse. They could

not plead ignorance, for they had had line upon line, and precept upon

precept (Isaiah 28:13). They could not say that they had been left to

themselves without let or hindrance, for had they not enjoyed the instructions

and admonitions of those prophets of God whose sphere of labor lay in the

northern kingdom? Warnings they had had from Ahijah, Elijah, Elisha,

and others; corrections moderate in measure and salutary in design they had,

no doubt, been favored with. Yet all had been to no purpose; they sunk

deeper and deeper in the slough of sin, so that their sin had become exceeding

sinful.

 

  • ALL DISGUISES OF SINNERS ARE TRANSPARENT TO THE

EYE OF OMNISCIENCE. Many are the pretences men make to cover

their sins, and artful the pretexts by which they seek to hide them. But

however men may strive to conceal their sins from their fellow-men,

however they may gloss them over so as to deceive their own souls, and

however they may cloak them, as though it were possible to cheat the

Almighty; yet all such artifices, by which they try to deceive their

neighbors, or blind themselves, or even escape the eye of Omniscience,

will prove miserable evasions, leaving them at last — even the

inmost thoughts and intents of their hearts — OPEN and  NAKED

BEFORE THE EYES WITH WHOM WE HAVE TO DO!

(Hebrews 4:12-13)    “The Lord seeth not as man seeth: for man

looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the

 heart” (I Samuel 16:7).  The sin of Ephraim, the premier tribe of Israel,

was known to God, and He pronounced it whoredom, spiritual whoredom,

that is, idolatry. The effect of that sin, which, originating with Ephraim,

infected all the other tribes of Israel, was not hid, and could not be hid,

from the omniscient One (neither can the pornographic nature of American

Society in her departing from Jehovah God – CY – 2012), and He

denounced it as defilement — pollution loathsome as sinful. Many a

specious excuse had been offered, we cannot doubt, for the worship of the

calves. Did it not originate with Jeroboam, that patriot king who came to

the rescue of the people, and delivered them from unjust and grinding

taxation? Was not Jerusalem too far distant from the center of the country

to be the gathering-place of the tribes? Was not Bethel a consecrated place

— a holy spot from that early time when Jacob had his wondrous vision of

the ladder connecting earth with heaven? Was not Dan conveniently

situated for the northern and remoter tribes? These, and such arguments as

these, might serve to palliate THE WILL-WORSHIP OF EPHRAIM

AND THE IDOLATRY OF ISRAEL!  But no; the eye of God saw through

it all; for now, whatever excuse might be alleged; now, whatever plausibility

might be employed; now, whatever veil might be thrown over their

procedure; — it stood out in its true colors, and in the sight of Heaven,

idolatry, defilement — sin in inception and sin in execution, sin in

act and sin in effect. Thus Omniscience is proof against all the plausible

pretexts with which men surround their sins by way of excuse, apology,

or palliation.

 

  • SINS, LIKE SORROWS, LOVE A TRAIN. (Does not misery love

company?  Does not “EVERYBODY DOING IT” make it more

reasonable?  “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed

speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them

to do evil.” – Ecclesiastes 8:11 – CY – 2012)  How often one sin leads

to another, and that, again, to many more! Sins not infrequently are linked

together. Israel by this time was bound by the chain of their own sins; and

the links of that chain were many. (The chains of habit are too light to be

felt until they are to strong to be broken – this is attributed to Warren

Buffet on the internet – CY – 2012)  Beginning our enumeration with

idolatry, we find in its wake impenitence, ignorance, insolence, and

iniquity in general.

 

Ø      It is bad enough when men fall into sin, but worse when they persist in

it; nor is there any real repentance unless there are fruits meet for

repentance (Matthew 3:8). But when men will not have recourse to any

of those outward means that might tend toward repentance, the

obduracy of their heart is extreme and their condition desperate.

Thus was it with Israel when they would not “frame their doings to

turn unto their God.” (v.4)

 

Ø      The alternative rendering of these words shows us THE SLAVERY

OF SIN.  Never was there a more cruel bondage than that of

INIQUITY. “Their doings will not suffer them to turn;” they have

put the yoke on their neck, and having worn it long they are loath to

part with it; and if they would they could not. “Can the Ethiopian

change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do

good, that are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23).  So in

Peter we read of persons having eyes full of adultery, and that

cannot cease from sin.”  (II Peter 2:14)

 

Ø      When men continue long in a course of sin, hardening themselves

against remonstrance and reproof, and holding out against all

inducements and invitations to repent, God may, and sometimes

does, give them up to JUDICIAL BLINDNESS  of one kind

or other. An evil spirit of idolatry or impunity, or both, had taken

possession of the people’s heart at this period. “A strong man

armed keepeth his palace — his goods are in peace” (Luke 11:21);

 so the infatuation of a particular course of sin, like a Satanic spirit

and with Satanic power, COMPLETELY OVERMASTERED

 and DOMINATED THEM!

 

Ø      Profession without practice is both hypocritical and vain. The Israelites

at this time had a profession of religion, for God is called “their God,”

which could only be by their profession, or owing to the original

covenant engagement, the conditions of which they had fallen away

from, or by reason of His long-suffering mercy waiting for their return.

It is, rather, the first of these that justified the use of the possessive

in this case. And that being so, they claimed to possess knowledge

of God; but “as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,

God gave them over to a reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28), or, as the

margin has it, “to a mind void of judgment.” Continuance in sin proves

men’s ignorance of THE TRUE CHARACTER OF GOD,  of the

beauty of holiness, of the hatefulness of sin, and of the dreadful

consequences of backsliding. The custom of sinning deprives men

of whatever knowledge of such things they had or seemed to have,

so that “he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that

 which he hath.”  (Mark 4:25)

 

Ø      This ignorance was evidence of their ingratitude. “The prophet,” says

Calvin, “extenuates not the sin of the people, but, on the contrary,

amplifies their ingratitude, because they had forgotten their God

who had so indulgently treated them. As they had been redeemed by

God’s hand, as the teaching of the Law had continued among them,

as they had been preserved to that day through GOD’S CONSTANT

KINDNESS, it was truly an evidence of MONSTROUS

IGNORANCE that they could in an instant adopt ungodly forms of

worship, and embrace those corruptions which they knew were

condemned in the Law.”

 

  • PROOFS AND CAUSES OF ISRAEL’S PRIDE. Ephraim’s pride and

envy of Judah produced the disruption and perpetuated it. Two privileges

of the birthright forfeited by Jacob’s firstborn had been shared by these

tribes. Joseph got the double portion in connection with Ephraim and

Manasseh; and Judah gained the pre-eminence. Though Judah was superior

both numerically and by largeness of territory in the land of promise,

Ephraim enjoyed countervailing advantages. All along from the blessing of

Jacob Ephraim was inspired with the hope of great things for himself and

tribe. The Ephraimites had the choicest of the land, and a central position

contributing to their influence over the other tribes. Joshua, the chosen

chief who had led the people into the land of promise and settled them in it,

sprang from Ephraim; Samuel, the last of the judges, was a native of

Mount Ephraim; for three centuries and a half the national sanctuary

remained at Shiloh, within the confines of the tribe of Ephraim; the men of

that tribe had highly distinguished themselves in the war with Midian,

securing the fords of Jordan and beheading the two Midianite princes, Oreb

and Zeeb, who had escaped at the head of fifteen thousand men. Nor were

they slow to assert their claims; such was their pride, that they could not

brook a subordinate position, but insisted on pre-eminence. Their self-

assertion and even unreasonable petulance were severely chastised by

Jephthah. For a time the superiority inclined or actually belonged to

Ephraim; but the preponderance given to Judah by the elevation of David,

and Solomon his son, completely turned the scale. Moreover, the

transference to Jerusalem, both of the seat of ecclesiastical authority from

Shiloh and of the civil capital from Shechem, deeply wounded the pride of

Ephraim, and greatly increased the rivalry with Judah. To the slight thus

put upon Ephraim there is a distinct reference in several verses of the

seventy-eighth psalm; thus, “God was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:

so that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which He placed

 among men” (vs. 59-60); and again,He refused the tabernacle of

Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: but chose the tribe of

Judah, the Mount Zion which He loved” (vs. 67-68).  For seven years

they held out against David; they were the strength of the Absalom’s

 rebellion; they abetted the usurpation of Jeroboam, and

accepted the idolatrous worship which, for political purposes, he

commended to them; and all from their pride and overweening estimate

of themselves, and envy towards their brethren of Judah.

 

  • THE HUMILIATION OF PRIDE, OR ITS TESTIMONY.

 

Ø      This overbearing spirit of Israel as a nation, and of Ephraim its kingly

tribe, was sorely crushed, and the pride of both sadly humbled, when,

as had been foretold, they first went into captivity.

 

Ø      The other rendering of testify is well explained by the following

observations of Pusey: “They could not give up this sin of Jeroboam

without endangering their separate existence as Israel, and owning the

superiority of Judah. (Is this not what is the current problem of

Democrats and Republicans in Congress today?  “Then were the

people of Israel divided into two parts:  half of the people

followed Tibni the son of Ginath to make him king; and half

followed Omri– CY – 2012).  From this complete self-surrender

to God their pride shrank and held them back. The pride which Israel

thus showed in refusing to turn to God, and in PREFERRING

THEIR SIN TO THEIR GOD!  itself, he says, witnessed against

them, and condemned them.”

 

Ø      It must have been an addition to Israel’s calamity that they had been a

snare to Judah, and helped to drag them down into the same

slough of sin, and EVENTUALLY INTO THE SAME

CATASTROPHE  with themselves.

 

Ø      But how are we to account for the seeming contradiction between the

safety previously promised Judah and the calamity now denounced?

Calvin’s reply to a similar inquiry is pertinent and plain. “The prophet,”

He says, “speaks here not of those Jews who continued in true and

Pure religion, but of those who had with the Israelites alienated

themselves from the only true God and joined in their superstitions.

He thus refers here to the degenerate, and not to the faithful Jews;

for to all who worshipped God aright salvation had been

already promised.”  (Dear Reader:  ponder this:  – “Then they

 that feared the LORD spake  often one to another: and the

 LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance

was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and

 that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine, saith

the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels;

 and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that

serveth him.  Then shall ye return, and discern between the

righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God

 and him that serveth him not.” (Malachi 3:16-18);  - As a

sequel to Ecclesiates 8:11, cited above – “Though a sinner do

 evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely

 I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which

 fear before Him:  But it shall not be well with the wicked,

 neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow;

because he feareth not before God”  (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13).

                        In addition:  “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well

                        with him:  for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.

                        Woe unto the wicked!  It shall be ill with him:  for

                        the reward of his hands shall be given him”  (Isaiah 3:10-11).

                        Finally:  When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered

 at the voice:  rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled

 in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he

cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be

in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields

shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold,

 and there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in

 the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The LORD

 God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet,

 and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.”

(Habakkuk 3:16-19)

 

In vs. 6-10 the prophet details the unavailing and ineffectual efforts of

Israel to avert, or at least escape from, the threatened judgments.

 

6 “They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek

the Lord;” -  In this way they attempt to break, if not prevent, their fall. With

numerous and costly sacrifices they endeavor to propitiate Jehovah. With

sheep and goats out of their flocks, and with bullocks and heifers out of their herd,

they try to make reparation for the past or to secure present and

future favor.  But in vain. Israel might go to Bethel and Judah to

Jerusalem; but to no purpose - “but they shall not find Him; He hath

withdrawn Himself from them.”  Their repentance came TOO LATE

or when it did come it lacked sincerity; or it was a wrong motive which

prompted it — fear of approaching calamity and not love to their Creator;

or their sins ran parallel with their sacrifice.  Forgetting that OBEDIENCE

IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE,  they cherished a disobedient spirit or

continued in their course of disobedience notwithstanding their outward

sacrificial service. For one cause or other they fail in their efforts to find Him;

for, instead of being a present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1),

He has withdrawn beyond their reach; He has removed the

Shechinah-glory of His presence FROM AMONG THEM and He has

loosed Himself from all those ties that once bound Him in mercy to them, just

as a husband frees himself from all responsibilities and disarms all liabilities on

behalf of a faithless partner whom he has been forced to divorce. And such

is the specific reason assigned in the next verse.

 

7  “They have dealt treacherously against the Lord: for they

have begotten strange children:” -  This may refer to intermarriages with

idolaters, when the offspring of such forbidden unions DEPARTED

STILL FURTHER FROM THE WORSHIP OF JEHOVAH  or the

children of GODLESS JEWISH PARENTS  reflected yet more the

wicked works and ways of such parents. In consequence of the infidelity

of the wife, the children were not the offspring of lawful wedlock or conjugal

union; in other words, they were children of whoredom — an adulterous

generation. Israel’s infidelity to the holy covenant had as its result a graceless,

godless race — children strange and supposititions in the spiritual sense –

“now shall a month devour them with their portions.” 

 

  • If “month” be the right rendering, it is a note of time like “the day of the

Lord;” and the sense is that a short time shall see the end of them

Not only of their persons, but their properties, that is, their hereditary

Portions in Palestine.

 

  • But if “new moon” be the correct translation, the new moon, or sacrificial

feasts celebrated at that season, will only ruin, not relieve, them. Their

sinful sacrifices and vain oblations, on which they now placed their

reliance, will procure, not their salvation, BUT THEIR PERDITION!

 

8 “Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah:” -  Intimation

had been given in the preceding verse that the period of their fast-approaching

destruction was at hand; that, as Kimchi expresses it, the now moon would soon

come at which their enemies would destroy them. Now he pictures them as already

on the march, and just advancing to execute the work of destruction; while the terror

and alarm consequent thereon are here presented with great vividness, but at

the same time with much brevity. A similar scene is depicted at full length

by Isaiah 10:28-32, where the line of the Assyrians’ march seems to be

indicated, if, indeed, it be not a poetic representation of it, which the

prophet gives. Thus from Aiath (el-Tell) to the pass of Michmash, now

Mukmas, where he lays up his baggage; forward to Geba, where they

quarter for the night; then on to Nob, where he halts in sight at the holy

city, and scarce an hour’s march distant. The alarm was to be sounded with

the shophar, or far-sounding cornet, made of curved horn, and the

chatsotserah, or straight trumpet, made of brass or silver, used in war or at

festivals. This signal of hostile invasion was to he sounded in Gibeah, now

Tuleil-el-Ful, some four miles north of Jerusalem, and in Ramah, now er-

Ram, two miles further distant. Both these towns, situated on eminences,

as the names denote, belong to the northern boundary of Benjamin. The

overthrow of the northern kingdom is thus presented as an already

accomplished fact; while the invading host has already reached the frontier

of the southern kingdom – “cry aloud at Beth-aven, after thee, O

Benjamin.”  This cry is the sound at  the war-signals already mentioned, and

the repetition intensifies the nature of the alarm and the urgency of the

case. Beth-aven was either Bethel, now Beitin, on the border of Benjamin,

or a town nearer Michmash, belonging to Benjamin. The meaning of the

somewhat obscure words in the concluding clause can give little trouble,

when read in the light of the context. The sounding of the alarm of war

indicates with tolerable plainness what was coming behind Benjamin; nor is

there need to supply the words, “the enemy rises behind thee,” with same,

or” the sword rages behind thee,” with others. The signals announce the

foe as arrived at the frontier of Judah. The enemy is close behind thee,

Benjamin, in close pursuit after thee, upon thy very heels.

 

9 “Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke:” -  The day of rebuke

is the season when God rebukes sin by punishment; the punishment in this case is

no slight rebuke or temporary chastisement. On the contrary, it is extreme in

severity and final in duration. Famine, or pestilence, or war might lay a

country desolate for a time, and yet relief might soon ensue and recuperative

power be vigorously developed. NOT SO HERE!   Ephraim is made

more than desolate partially and for a short period; it becomes a desolation

“an entire desolation,” as the words literally mean. In this desolation the

other tribes would be involved. Nor was the menace lightly to be regarded

or treated as meaningless; it was firm — well grounded as the word of the

Eternal, and IRREVERSIBLE AS HIS DECREE!

 

10 “The princes of Judah were like them that remove the

Bound:” -  The individual who had the temerity to remove his neighbor’s

landmark was not only guilty of a great sin, but obnoxious to a grievous

curse. Thus Deuteronomy 19:14, “Thou shall not remove thy neighbor’s

landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance;” and again

Ibid. ch.27:17, “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbor’s landmark.

And all the people shall say, Amen.” The removal of the landmark

characterizes the conduct of men entirely regardless of the rights of others

— utterly reckless. The Jewish nobles, the king’s ministers and high

officers of state, are compared to those who remove the landmark,

disregarding alike what was due to their fellow-men and to their God. The

Jewish commentators differ in their exposition between tact and figure —

some of them taking the removal of the boundary as a matter of fact, the

caph being for confirmation; thus D. Kimchi; while I. Kimchi explains it of

the rejection of the appeal for justice against removers of landmarks; others

understanding it figuratively, and the whole AS EXPRESSING GENERAL

LAWLESSNESS,  thus Rashi: “Like a man who removes his neighbor’s

landmark, just so they hasten to hold fast the ways of Israel their

neighbors… according to the literal sense, They grasped at the fields; but

this, in my opinion, is harsh, for then the prophet must have written merely

ygysm, and not ygysmn.” Similarly Aben Ezra: “They exercise violence

towards those who are in their power, whilst they are like those who

secretly remove the landmark.” The people of Judah had also sinned, and,

like Israel in sin, THEY RESEMBLE THEM IN SUFFERING!  -

“therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.” The word

“wrath” here is from a root which signifies “to overflow;” it is thus THE

OVERFLOWING OF DIVINE INDIGNATION, while the outpouring

thereof denotes the full flood of wrath that will overwhelm THOSE

LAWLESS LEADERS   of a misguided and misgoverned people.

The execution of the threatening was reserved for the Assyrians.

who, under Tiglath-pileser and Sennacherib, invaded and laid waste the

land. And yet those judgments, though so severe and plentiful, were not to

end in total and lasting devastation as in the case of Israel. The following

vs. 11-15 teach the inevitable nature of the judgments that were coming

upon both Israel and Judah, and from which NO EARTHLY POWER

COULD DELIVER THEM!   The only relief possible depended on

their seeking God in the day of their distress.

 

 

No Place Found for Repentance (vs. 6-10)

 

They would seek the Lord with sacrifices from the flock and from the herd,

but they would not find Him; they multiplied sacrifices, but the Lord had

withdrawn Himself. Thus in the New Testament we read that Esau found

no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears;”

or, according to the Revised Version, “even when he afterward desired to

inherit the blessing, he was rejected (for he found no place of repentance),

though he sought it diligently with tears”  (Hebrews 12:17).  In one of our

Lord’s parables — the parable of the ten virgins — we read that after those

who were ready had gone in with him to the marriage, “the door was shut”

(Matthew 25:10).  This brief sentence is in one aspect of it among the most

impressive and solemn in the whole Word of God. The sentiment conveyed

by it is somewhat, indeed much, akin to that of the statement of the prophet

in reference to Israel.  (Also, consider:  “And the angel…..sware by Him

that liveth for ever and ever…….THAT THERE SHOULD BE

TIME NO LONGER:” – Revelation 10:5-6 – TODAY IS THE

DAY OF SALVATION -  see How to be Saved - # 5 – this web site –

CY – 2012)

 

  • IT IS IMPORTANT TO REALIZE THE NATURE OF SUCH

WITHDRAWAL. The loss of earthly friends or their estrangement

from us is much to be deplored; how much sadder it is when we

FORFEIT THE FAVOR OF HEAVEN and God withdraws

Himself! On earth friends may, from misconduct on our part, or

misconception on their part, or misrepresentation on the part of some

intermeddler, or misapprehension of one kind or other, shut the door

against us, or we may shut the door against ourselves. But however

such an event is to be regretted, still a proper understanding may reopen

the once friendly door, or time may unbar it, or the kindly interposition

of mutual friends may again open it; or, failing all this, another door

may be opened in its stead, and other friends replace those whose

friendship has been lost, or even better friends may be raised up in their

room. But when the Lord shuts to the door and withdraws Himself,

 no interposition shall unbar it, no time reopen it, no explanation ever

fling or force it back; nothing shall ever be able to remove the bar that

closes it (“And beside all this, between us and you there is a

great gulf fixed:  so that they which would pass from thence

to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come

from thence.”  - Luke 16:26). Once shut, it is shut forever; once closed,

it never opens; once locked, no key can enter its wards; once bolted,

THAT BOLT REMAINS AN EVERLASTING FIXTURE!

 

  • IT IS WELL TO REFLECT ON THE TIME WHEN GOD

WITHDRAWS HIMSELF AND IS NO LONGER TO BE FOUND.

There may be some difficulty in ascertaining the precise times when God

withdraws Himself and is no longer found.

 

Ø      One thing, however, is abundantly certain, that in the case of sinners

who live and die in sin, impenitent and unpardoned, this withdrawal

takes place AT DEATH  for there is neither knowledge nor device in

the grave (Ecclesiastes 9:10).  Then:

 

o       the day of grace is concluded,

o       then the time of probation ends,

o       then the means of salvation terminate,

o       then the space for repentance is past, and

o       God has forever withdrawn Himself.

 

Death seals the sinner’s doom irreversibly; the last opportunity

is gone, and for ever; prayer is then powerless and penitence

hopeless. There remains only the dooming, damning sentence,

“I know you not whence ye are” (Luke 13:25).  Hollow-hearted

hypocrites ye must have been, workers of iniquity, and nothing more

and nothing better, false professors, fruitless fig trees, cumbering and

cursing the rich vineyard soil. Children of God ye never were; I never

owned you as such; I cannot do so now. And thus He withdraws,

leaving them to their fate.

 

Ø      But even before death this withdrawal may take place, at least in a

certain sense. We are warned in Scripture that the Spirit will not always

strive (Genesis 6:3).  To the Israelites of old He swore that they would

never enter into His rest (Hebrews 4:2-3), and so a whole generation

of them was excluded from the land of promise; in reference to which

the inspired penman utters the solemn warning, “Let us labor therefore

 to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of

 unbelief” - Ibid. v.11 – (“disobedience,” Revised Version and

margin). In this very book God’s abandonment of Ephraim and

consequent withdrawal are affirmed. “Ephraim is joined to his idols:

let him alone” (ch. 4:17).  Let us, then, beware of provoking God

to withhold or withdraw the gracious influences of His Spirit, and thus

leave us to judicial blindness. LET US BEWARE OF SINNING

AWAY OUR DAY OF GRACE and in this respect outliving it.

 

Ø      We would not venture to limit the mercy of God, or set bounds to His

sovereign grace.

 

“While the lamp holds out to burn

The vilest sinner may return.”

 

But God at any moment may withdraw the breath of His Spirit, or

withhold the oil of His grace, and the lamp go out in everlasting darkness!

Pusey makes a very interesting distinction, as follows: “The general rule

of His dealings is this: that when the time of each judgment is actually

come, then as to that judgment it is too late to pray. It is not too late for

other mercy, or for final forgiveness, so long as man’s state of probation

lasts; but it is too late as to this one.”

 

  • IT IS OF MOMENT TO ASSIGN SOME REASONS WHY GOD

WITHDRAWS HIMSELF. This frequently takes place, we doubt not, in

consequence of men silencing conscience and stifling convictions.

Conscience may become callous or seared (I Timothy 4:2), and convictions

may wear gradually weak, nay: at length cease altogether. The same result

may be brought about by allowing any sin to have the mastery, and in

consequence of not seeking grace to resist it, or not summoning up resolution

to break its yoke.

 

Ø      The people particularly referred to by the prophet had not sought the

Lord in time. It was only when ruin stared them in the face that they

bethought themselves of seeking God; it was fear drove them to

His service.

 

Ø      They were only half-hearted in His service, and it was a divided

allegiance they rendered; but God claims the whole heart of His

worshippers, otherwise He will not be found of them.

 

Ø      Their repentance was not genuine; it appears to have been outward

sacrifice, not inward service. They brought their herds, not their

hearts; their flocks, not the feelings of their souls.

 

Ø      Their faithlessness had a prospective as well as present evil influence.

Their children, instead of being trained in the nurture and

 admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), inured to idolatry and

irreligion both by the precept and example of their parents, would,

as a matter of course, prove as faithless and godless, or more so than

they.

 

Ø      No wonder God set a time to ease Him of his adversaries and avenge

Him of His enemies (Isaiah 1:24). That time, a month, was certain,

short, and sudden.

 

  • GOD SPEAKS BEFORE HE STRIKES. God suffereth long with the

provocations of sinners. He warns them of the evil of their ways; He

apprises them of the ruinous consequences of their sinful courses.

 

Ø      He threatens before he inflicts the blow; He gives notice of His

judgments before they arrive. Dark clouds precede the coming

storm. Milder judgments are sent as precursors of more severe

visitations. It is of God’s mercy that men are not only informed of

their duty, but apprised of their danger. Ministers of the gospel

are to sound the alarm, that men may flee from the wrath to come.

 

Ø      When God’s judgments are near at hand, their approach has a startling

effect. Those who made light of them, or thought them far off, are

confounded and amazed; while this confusion may be reflected in the

very abruptness of the expression, “After thee, O Benjamin;”

at thy back comes the enemy — disaster, destruction, desolation.

 

Ø      The judgments of God, thus announced as near, at the very door, are

represented as sure. They are no mere menaces or make-believes;

they are not meant merely to alarm; they are dread realities, which

impenitent sinners can by no means escape or evade. “Among the

tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.”

(v.9).  To all notice had been given, so that no one could urge the

plea of ignorance on his own part, nor charge precipitancy on the

part of God. In His mercy He had made it known to all without

exception, in His truth He will make it sure. They had been warned,

called to repentance, chastened paternally; but they had despised all

this.  And the day of mercy is now past; the time of judgment is

come; THE FINAL DOOM,  fixed and irreversible, is announced.

(How sad the scripture “The harvest is past, the summer is ended,

AND WE ARE NOT SAVED.”  (Jeremiah 8:20 – CY - 2012).

When princes, MAKING THEIR WILL LAW trample on the

privileges of their people, or infringe the Law of God, or in any way

set aside sacred and solemn obligations, they incur a fearful

responsibility. When, not only by their edicts but by their example,

they set aside the enactments of Heaven, and encourage their subjects

to do likewise, they open upon themselves the flood-gates of Divine

wrath which God pours out upon them, like the waters of the deluge

on the guilty antediluvians. Pusey supposes that the reference to the

princes of Judah being “like them that remove the bound,” contains

some such allusion as the following: “Since the prophet had just

pronounced the desolation of Israel, perhaps that sin was that, instead

of taking warning from the threatened destruction and turning to God,

they thought only how the removal of Ephraim would benefit them by

the enlargement of their borders. They might hope also to increase their

private estates out of the desolate lands of Ephraim their brother.”

 

11 “Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment,” -  The expression retsuts

 mishpat is:

 

  • by some explained, “crushed by the judgment,” that is, of God,

according to which mishpat would be the genitive of the agent as mukkeh

Elohim. But “crushed of judgment” or in judgment is justly preferred by

others, the genitive taking the place of the accusative. Again, though the

combination of ‘ashuq with rutsuts is frequent, occurring as early as

Deuteronomy 28:33, the latter is the stronger term.

 

  • the oppression is not that which their own kings and princes practiced upon

their subjects, according to Aben Ezra, “Their kings oppressed and cheated

them;” nor the injustice practiced by the people of Ephraim among

themselves, as implied by the Septuagint  -  Ephraim altogether prevailed

against his adversary, he trod judgment underfoot.”

 

  • the reference is rather to Ephraim being oppressed and crushed in judgment

by the heathen nations around; thus Rashi explains, “Oppressed is Ephraim

ever by the hand of the heathen — chastised with chastisements;” so also

Kimchi, “By the hand of the heathen who oppressed and crushed them

through hard judgments.” The construction is asyndetous, like Song of

Solomon 2:11, “The rain is over, is gone.”

 

“because he willingly walked after the commandment.”   This clause assigns

the reason of Ephraim’s oppression. They evinced ready willing-hood in following:

 

  • the commandments of men instead of the commandments of God. Tsav

is thus understood by Aben Ezra, and in like manner Ewald explains it to

mean an arbitrary or self-imposed precept.

 

  • The Septuagint seem to have read wv;, equivalent to aw]v;, vanity, translating,

“for he began to go after vanities (tw~n matai>wn – ton mataion

pursuit of idols);” which the Chaldee and Syriac follow.

 

  • But it is rather the commandment of Jeroboam about the worship of the

calves which lay at the root of the nation’s sin. It is welt explained by

Kimchi: “Although the word ‘Jeroboam’ is wanting, so that he makes no

mention of it after tsar, such is the scriptural usage in certain places, i.e. to

omit a word where the sense is plain. For it was a well-known fact that in

that generation they walked not after the commandment, but after that of

Jeroboam; therefore he has abbreviated the word to indicate the

worthlessness, and used tsav instead of mitsvah.” Perhaps it may have

the concrete sense of the object of idolatrous worship.

 

12 “Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah

as rottenness.”  This verse is well explained by Calvin as follows: “The meaning

of the prophet is by no means obscure, and that is, that the Lord would by a slow

corrosion consume both the people; and that, though He would not by one onset

destroy them, yet they would pine away until they became wholly rotten.”

The two agents of destruction here named — the moth which eats away clothes,

and the woodworm which gnaws away wood — figuratively represent SLOW

BUT SURE DESTRUCTION!   They are found together in Job 13:28. Kimchi

explains the sense in like manner: “Like the moth which eats away garments, and

like the woodworm which consumes bones and wood, so shall I consume you.”

The pronoun at the beginning of the verse is emphatic: I your God, who

would have been your protector and preserver, whom you have sinfully

forsaken, and whose commandments you have arbitrarily set aside

even I am to you as the source of rottenness, and of slow but sure ruin.”

 

13 “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then

went Ephraim  to the Assyrian, and sent to King Jareb:” -  Both kingdoms

BECAME CONSCIOUS OF THEIR DISEASE AND DECLINE.

Ephraim felt its sickness or internal consumption, Judah its wound or

external corruption (mazor, a festering wound, from zur, to squeeze out);

they were both conscious of rottenness in their condition. That diseased

condition was rather SPIRITUAL APOSTASY than political adversity, though

these were connected as cause and effect. But, instead of applying to

Jehovah, Ephraim had recourse to Assyria and its king for health and help,

but in vain; for NO EARTHLY POWER COULD AVERT THE DIVINE

JUDGMENTS.  The punishment threatened in the twelfth verse prompts the

efforts to obtain succor mentioned here. The general sense of the verse is given

by Kimchi as follows: “When Ephraim and Judah saw that the enemies were

constantly invading and plundering them, they seek help from the King of

Assyria; but turn not back to me, nor seek help from me, but from flesh

and blood, which, however, cannot help them when it is not my pleasure.”

 

  • Some, as the Jewish interpreters, refer the first clause as a matter of

course to Ephraim, but the second to Judah; thus, Jerome in like manner

understands Ephraim’s visit of that to Pul, recorded in II Kings 15., and the

message of Judah to Tiglath-pileser (Ibid. ch. 16.); but an interval of thirty

years lay between the two events thus described as synchronous. Rashi

explains the former clause of Hoshea’s visit to Shalmaneser the King of

Assyria, and the second of Ahaz’s to Tiglath-pileser; Kimchi, again, refers

the former to Menahem visiting Pul, and the second of Ahaz to Tiglathpileser

(compare II Chronicles 28:21).

 

  • But Ephraim is the subject in both clauses, so that there is no need of a

supposed reference to Judah in the second. Calvin correctly restricts them

both to Ephraim, and accounts for the restriction as follows: “Why, then,

does he name only Ephraim? Even because the beginning of this evil

commenced in the kingdom of Israel; for they were the first who went to

the King of Assur, that they might, by his help, resist their neighbors, the

Syrians; the Jews afterwards followed their example. Since, then, the

Israelites afforded a precedent to the Jews to send for aids of this kind, the

prophet expressly confines his discourse to them.” He admits, however,

that the accusation had respect to both in common; or Ephraim may have

applied on behalf of Judah as well as for herself. There is much diversity of

opinion with regard to the word Jareb.” Some take it

 

Ø      for a proper name, either of an Assyrian king or of some place or

city in the country of Assyria. as the Septuagint, Aben Ezra, and

Kimchi; but the absence of the article is opposed to this, neither is

Jeremiah 37:1, “and Zechariah reigned as king” (vayyimloch

 melech), a proper parallel.

 

Ø      Others more correctly explain as a qualifying epithet to “king,”

that is, “pleader,” “striver,” or “warrior,” in ether words, a warlike

or champion king, like the epithet of swth>r sotaerdeliverer;

savior - among the Greeks. The indefiniteness in this case gives the

idea of majesty or might, as in Arabic; thus, “a champion king, and

such a king!”

 

“yet could he not (yet shall he not be able to) heal you (plural, and so Ephraim and

Judah), nor cure you of your wound.”  Whatever the distress was, whether arising

from hostile invasion or domestic troubles, those degenerate kings had recourse to

foreigners for aid. With the profitlessness as well as the sinfulness of such attempts

they are here sharply rebuked. Thus Calvin: “Here God declares that whatever

the Israelites might seek would be in vain. ‘ Ye think,’ He says, ‘ that you

can escape my hand by these remedies; but your folly will at length betray

itself, for he will avail you nothing; that is, King Jareb will not heal you.’”

 

The last two verses assign a reason for the powerlessness even of the mighty

Assyrian monarch to help; and that reason is the DIVINE IMPOSITION.

The irresistible Jehovah Himself  (the addition of the pronoun intensifies,

yet more its repetition) now interferes for the destruction of the apostate and

rebellious people.

 

14 “For I will be unto (For I am unto) Ephraim as a lion, and as

a young lion to the house of Judah:” - As we are taught in these words,

Jehovah’s mode of procedure is now changed. Before it had been slow and

silent, though sure destruction, as signified by the moth and woodworm;

but now it will be PUBLIC AND PATENT TO THE EYES OF ALL, as

well as decisive and powerful, as intimated by the comparison of a lion

and young lion. Nor is that all: lion-like – “I, even I, will tear and go away;

I will take away, and none shall rescue him.”  He will rend before removing

the preyA TEARING IN PIECES and then A CARRYING AWAY!   

This well-known habit of  the lion finds its counterpart in the subsequent facts

of Hebrew history. The  northern kingdom was first rent or broken up by

Shalmaneser; subsequently the population were carried away into captivity; in

like manner the southern kingdom suffered at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

 

15 I will go and return to my place,” -  The figurative comparison with a lion

is continued.  The lion tears his victim and carries it away, then he retires into his

cave or den; so Jehovah, after bringing calamity upon Israel,

withdraws from the scene and retires to His own place in heaven, though

the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him. There, in that unapproachable

ether, HE IS INACCESSIBLE TO AND BEYOND THE REACH OF

THE GUILTY NATIONTHAT KNEW NOT NOR VALUED THE

FORMER TIMES OF MERCIFUL VISITATION!  - “till they

acknowledge their offence, and seek my face:” -  One remedy,

and only one, is left and that is found in penitence and prayer. Once

they find out their guiltiness and humble themselves in repentance, they may

hopefully seek His face and favor. Turning away from human help, and

supplicating the gracious help of the Divine presence, they are encouraged

by the prospect of relief and revival; while the means to that end are, no

doubt, painful, yet profitable – “in their affliction they will seek me

early.”   In THE SCHOOL OF AFFLICTION  they learnt penitence

and were brought to their knees in prayer!

 

 

God’s Judgments Differ Both in Degree and Kind (vs. 11-15)

 

Ephraim had obeyed man rather than God, and God gives them over to

man for punishment. The men who oppressed Ephraim acted unjustly, but

God, in permitting that unjust oppression, was exercising His prerogative of

justice. Neither could Ephraim palliate their sin by alleging compulsion on

the part of their rulers, nor throw, the blame entirely on the ungodly

commandment of an ungodly king, or those who might enforce it by pains

and penalties. They obeyed it, not by constraint, but willingly; not through

compulsion, but of a ready mind.

 

  • THE DESIGN AND NATURE OF MINOR AND MILDER

JUDGMENTS. The moth and woodworm may symbolize lesser

judgments. Such visitations frequently have for their object the repentance

and reformation of the people or persons so visited. God’s design in

sending them is gracious; His purpose is merciful. The process,

notwithstanding, is painful and the affliction grievous. It goes on silently,

so that little alarm is made; noiselessly, so that little apprehension is felt;

hence it is that grace is needed for men to know the time of such

visitation.  It proceeds slowly, so that time is allowed men to mend

their ways, and space given them for repentance. The judgments here

spoken of proceed gradually, and are designed to prevent greater.

Thus mercy is mingled with judgment; for judgment is God’s strange

work (Isaiah 28:21), while mercy is His darling attribute.

 

  • THE IMPOTENCY OF MERE HUMAN HELPERS. They felt their

sickness, they suffered from their painful wound, and became conscious of

rottenness in their state. They did not discern with equal clear-sightedness

the cause of that sickness, nor perceive the source whence that rottenness

proceeded. They were equally blind to the right way of relief. Had they

seen their sin in their suffering, God’s hand in their stroke, and His justice in

its infliction, they would have been nearer the right way to the remedy.

They sought help from the creature, not from the Creator; from the

monarch of Assyria, not from the King of kings, and yet he only distressed

them and helped them not. So with men too often in time of their distress.

They put confidence in human means, but find at last that they are leaning

on broken reeds; they hew out for themselves cisterns, but find too late

that they are broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Isaiah 36:6;

Jeremiah 2:13).  Not only so, by such sinful expedients they are in no

way bettered, but rather get worse, and increase thereby at once their

sin and their sorrow.

 

  • WHY THE SORER AND SEVERER JUDGMENTS ARE

RESORTED TO. The lion and the young lion are emblematical of the

severer judgments. God threatens to deal with the people of Israel and

Judah more rigorously than heretofore. “I will not be any longer like a

moth and a worm; I shall come like a lion to you, with an open mouth to

devour you.... I will rage against you as a fierce wild beast: your grievance

shall not now be from moths and worms; but you shall have an open and

dreadful contest with the lion and the young lion....”  Men, when they

attempt to oppose vain helps to the wrath of God, gain only this, that they

more and more provoke and inflame His wrath against themselves. After

God has first gnawed, He will at length devour; after He has pricked, He

will deeply wound; after He has struck, He will wholly destroy.

 

  • A RESPITE RESULTING IN REPENTANCE. The infliction of

punishment is represented as executed in lion-like fashion: he is not forced

to retreat, nor is there any possibility of rescue, nor does he retire stealthily

and with fox-like secrecy and cunning, but openly, powerfully, and

victoriously. When God visits with judgments, He comes forth out of His

place and men are forced to feel His presence; when His corrections are

completed, He returns to His place, and there, though He seems to take no

notice of, and to be far removed from, His people, He has taken His place on

the mercy-seat and is waiting to be gracious. God here speaks after the

manner of men; “for He neither so hides Himself in heaven that He neglects

human affairs, nor withdraws His hand but that He sustains the world by the

continued exercise of His power, nor even takes His Spirit from men,

especially when He would lead them to repentance; for men never of their

own accord turn themselves to God, but by His hidden influence.”

Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath

sent me draw him” (John 6:44).  Thus, when God had punished both

Israel and Judah by exile, He seemed to hide His face from them, as

though unmindful of them, and having neither care nor regard for them.

This hiding of His face ALLOWED TIME FOR REPENTANCE!

 His purpose was to induce them to repent and return to Him. This was

THE TRUE AND ONLY REMEDY!

 

  • MEN RETURN TO GOD BY REPENTANCE AND FAITH. The first

step men take as they return to God is confession of sin — “they

acknowledge their offence;” the first part in the process of healing is the

correct diagnosis of the disease and discovery of its cause. The second

thing required for reconciliation with God is to “seek his face.” (May

our attitude be “When thou sadist, Seek ye my face; my heart

said unto thee, THY FACE, LORD, WILL I  SEEK” (Psalm 27:8).

Thus repentance and faith go hand in hand; not that either of them is the

meritorious cause of pardon. The one is a condition — a suitable condition

or proper qualification for pardon; the other is the cordial acceptance of

pardon, or rather of that righteousness which is the true ground of pardon.

The mercy of God is transparent throughout the entire process, while a

practical realization of persons acknowledging their offence and seeking

the face of God is found in the case of Daniel, as may be seen by a perusal

of the ninth chapter of the book of that prophet.  (Daniel 9:3-19)

 

  • AFFLICTION SERVES AS A SPIRITUAL RESTORATIVE. During

the long and dreary period of the seventy years’ captivity in Babylon the

captives had a convenient season to repent of their sins and return to the

Lord; nor did they ever again  backslide into idolatry. During the present

prolonged dispersion of that wonderful people, many of them will repent of

their national rejection of Messiah and return to God, looking unto Him

whom their forefathers pierced (Zechariah 12:10) with tearful eyes; and

at the close of the period in question, though “blindness in part is

happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in,

all Israel shall be saved.” (Romans 11:25-26)

 

When we are under the convictions of sin and the corrections of the rod, our

business is to seek God’s face.... And it may reasonably be expected that

affliction will bring those to God that had long gone astray from Him, and kept

at a distance. Therefore God for a time turns away from us, that He may turn

us to Himself and then return to us.”

 

 

                                                Words for Thought

 

National Sin                Divine Withdrawal                 Divine Judgment                   

The Sharing of Sin     Fruits of Affliction                  National Depravity

Unfaithfulness            Too Late                                 Decay

 

 

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