Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. EPHRAIM WAS ONCE ALIVE. He had been so, both spiritually and temporally. The time was when the tribe of Ephraim, and the other nine tribes over which it cast its shadow, contained many God-fearing families. Joshua, the illustrious hero who led the Hebrews into Palestine, was of this tribe; and to him, doubtless, it owed not a little of its subsequent eminence. The "life" which once dwelt in Ephraim was reflected in:
1. God's mercies towards him. (Vers. 4, 5.) The Almighty set his love upon Israel; and "in his favor is life" (Psalm 30:5). God had manifested himself to his people in the Exodus from Egypt. He "did know Ephraim in the wilderness;" he visited him there in pity and love - revealing his will at Sinai, feeding the people with manna, bringing them water out of the rock, leading them by the cloudy pillar, and delivering them from their enemies. He "led Joseph like a flock," and at last "made him to lie clown in the green pastures" of Canaan - a land which was "the glory of all lands." The Lord had set up his tabernacle in Ephraim; for Shiloh was a city of that canton, and the sacred tent remained at Shiloh for upwards of three centuries.
2. His own influence. (Ver 1.) "When Ephraim spake, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel." In the early days of the nation Ephraim had been the most powerful of the twelve tribes. Long before the lamentable disruption of the Hebrew state, it had exercised a sort of control over the others. It had a high reputation, and commanded unfeigned respect. At length Ephraim became itself a kingdom, and as such seemed for a time strong and prosperous, and was regarded by Judah as a formidable rival.
II. EPHRAIM IS NOW DEAD SPIRITUALLY. Spiritual life consists in union with Jehovah, and is maintained by communion with him. But sin separates from God, and gradually kills the life of the soul. Now, Ephraim in his prosperity had apostatized from God. The Divine complaint is, "They have forgotten me" (ver. 6). Although the people owed everything to God, they allowed the very abundance of his gifts to become the means of withdrawing their hearts from him. In the time of Hoses the nation was really "dead in trespasses and sins." Again, in this passage, the prophet laments the manifestations of this state of death.
1. The Baal-worship. (Ver. 1.) "When he offended in Baal, he died." The introduction of the Phoenician idolatry involved Israel in spiritual ruin. The rites of that idolatry were in the highest degree obscene and cruel; and by the Law of Moses every breach of the first commandment was to entail terrible penalties. Yet, notwithstanding all, Israel went aside to serve Baal and Ashtaroth, and thereby became morally degraded and spiritually destroyed.
2. The image-worship. (Ver. 2.) Although Jeroboam's sin (1 Kings 12:28) was manifestly distinct kern that of Ahab (1 Kings 16:81-88), and in itself by no means so heinous, it had yet been the beginning of the evil disease which, under Ahab and Jezebel, culminated in the spiritual death of the nation. Image-worship is idolatry; and the "kissing of the two golden calves had led to the multiplication of idolatrous images all over the land. The people in their blindness were addicted in their private life to all manner of will-worship." How melancholy that Ephraim should forsake Jehovah to bow down to manufactured gods - "all of them the work of artificers"!
3. The self-worship. (Ver. 6.) Ephraim abused his prosperity to such an extent that his heart became at once steeped in materialism and elated with pride. He minded earthly things. His "pasture became everything to him; he was greedy, and could never have enough. Jeshurum waxed fat, and kicked" (Deuteronomy 32:15). Selfishness and insolence and tyranny were born of Ephraim's abundance; he became puffed up with self-sufficiency, forgot Jehovah his God, and "died."
III. EPHRAIM WILL SOON BE DEAD OUTWARDLY. As the dissolution of the body follows death, so the temporal ruin of a state is the natural result of its moral decay. In cherishing his pride and pursuing his idolatries, Israel was busily digging his own grave. As his wealth and power increased, he steadily deteriorated in moral fiber, and thus gradually lost his prestige and reputation. So:
1. His destruction shall be swift. (Ver. 3.) This part of the prophecy probably belongs to the time of Hoshea, the last of the kings of Israel, who was "cut off as the foam upon the water," and in whoso day the unhappy Ephraimites were carried away into Assyria. The captivity, therefore, was now at hand. The suddenness of the impending transplantation is indicated by four similitudes - "the morning cloud," "the early dew," "the chaff," and "the smokey." Such is the result of the prosperity of nations which continue to be incurably wicked; the time comes at last when the whole fabric of the commonwealth suddenly falls to pieces
2. It shall be dreadful. (Vers. 7, 8.) Here also there are four comparisons - a "lion," "a leopard," "a bear," and "the wild beast." These shall come down upon the flock in their fat "pasture," and devour them. It is remarkable that the same fern beasts reappear in Daniel's vision of the four world-empires (Daniel 7.), and that they are combined into one bestial form in "the wild beast" of the Apocalypse (Revelation 13:1-3). Alas! Jehovah, who has been the Shepherd of Israel, is now compelled to become Israel's Devourer! He will send the Assyrian - strong as a lion, fierce as a leopard, and savage as a bear - to tear the very heart of the nation. Thus would Israel "destroy himself" (ver. 9), being carried away into sudden exile and total oblivion
1. "Righteousness exalteth a nation" (ver. 1).
2. "The Lord is a jealous God;" "His glory he will not give to another, neither his praise to graven images" (vers, 2, 8)
3. God destroys our idols that we may learn to "kiss the Son;" for he is "the true God and eternal life," and "there is no Savior beside him" (veto. 3, 4).
4. The dangers of material prosperity to all who neglect those means of grace which make prosperity safe (ver. 6).
5. "Pride goeth before destruction" (ver. 6).
6. The great moral evils of our age (intemperance, impurity, profanity, infidelity, social disorders, etc.) constitute a call to God's people to more faith and prayer and Christian activity. - C.J.
I. THE FIRST FALSE STEP. (Ver. 1.) It is the first false step in sin which needs specially to be guarded against. Israel's first false step as a separate kingdom was the denial of God's spirituality, and the breach of his commandment, in the setting up of the worship of the calves. This was:
1. Trespass in a fundamental article. It was practically the denial of the Godhead. It made God like - not to corruptible man-but, worse, to four-footed beasts (Romans 1:23). They called their worship still Jehovah worship, but God repudiates it as in no sense his. It was really Baal-worship. God gives the sin its right name
2. The admission of a wrong principle. The principle was that of self-will in religion. Setting aside God's commandment, Ephraim claimed to organize his worship after his own heart. He would have no law but his own will. It was to gratify himself that he had set up an independent kingdom. It was to gratify himself that he now set up the golden calves. The adoption of a wrong principle by an individual or nation is the sowing of a seed out of which is sure to spring ulterior mischief. Israel reaped from this seed of self-will, sown in the heart of the constitution, an unforeseen harvest of evil and woe.
3. A fatal step. One false step is often decisive of a whole future, it was so with our first parents. Adam's sin determined the spiritual condition of the race. "In Adam all die" (1 Corinthians 15:22). It was so with this first false step in Israel. "When he offended in Baal, he died." He died:
(1) Morally. We die morally the moment we determine to take our own will rather than God's as the law of our life. Self-wall is the seed-principle of sin. It is a seed of death.
(2) As a nation. That was the step which settled Ephraim's future. It determined the direction of his after-way. Looking back from the end, it could be seen that this was the time when the fatal course was entered on. Virtually, this step doomed him. As Adam, on the day of his transgression, became a dying man, though he did net actually die till long after, so Israel, in this early sin, wrote out their sentence of death as a people.
II. SIN'S PROGRESS. (Ver. 2.) Sin, like strife, is in its beginning as the letting in of water. Israel, having admitted into its midst a wrong principle, went on from bad to worse. Idolatry spread in the nation. In the practice of this idolatry the people were:
1. Extravagant. "They have made them molten images of their silver." They lavished their wealth upon their idols. People are generally willing to spend extravagantly upon their vices.
2. Ingenious. "Idols according to their understanding; all of it the work of the craftsmen." Not content with the gods of their neighbors, they invented new forms of idolatry for themselves. They were ingenious in forming, adorning, and diversifying their idols. Nothing they could do, however, could make the objects of their ingenuity aught else than idols. "All of it the work of the craftsmen" - this only. And to this product of their own crafts they bowed themselves down. Men whose hearts are too proud to bow to God are ready to bow clown to idols of their own making (Isaiah 2:9).
3. Intolerant. "They say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves." The world will brook no refusal to worship at its shrines. E.g. the tyranny of codes of fashion.
III. VANISHING PROSPERITY. (Ver. 3.) Four images are employed to set forth the swiftness, suddenness, and completeness with which Ephraim's once lordly prosperity would vanish. These are
(1) the morning cloud;
(2) the early dew;
(3) the chaff driven by the whirlwind;
(4) smoke escaping from a chimney (or window).
Some of these things are:
1. Beautiful at first. The cloud hangs gay and gilded in the morning sky, and the dewdrop sparkles with a heavenly beauty as it catches the sun's rays.
2. Unsubstantial. The cloud, though fair, is a mere mass of vapor. The dew but borrows its sparkle from the light. The chaff is husk without substance. The smoke, rising at first in a solid-looking column, or in thick, heavy folds, is bodiless and without coherence.
3. They rapidly vanish. All the four metaphors represent something that "appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14). The cloud is gone while yet we gaze on it. The dew, drenching grass and flowers at dawn, soon dries up with the heat. The wind rapidly bears off the chaff. The smoke scatters, or is dispersed by the breeze, and vanishes. In combination, the figures point to different causes of vanishing. Internal lightness (chaff), dissipation of parts (vapor, smoke), external absorption (sun and air), strong forces of destruction (whirlwind). The whole show the short-lived nature of the sinner's prosperity. Its beauty is not abiding. It is substanceless. It is soon swept away.
IV. GOD, NOT BAAL. (Ver. 4.) The end of this judgment was, not utterly to destroy the people, but to drive them out of false confidences, and tend them to the right knowledge of God. It would bring them to see:
1. That God had been faithful to them, though not they to him. "Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt."
2. That there was no God but himself. "Thou shalt know no God but me." They worshipped Baal as God, but experience only showed that he was none.
3. That God was the only Savior. "There is no Savior beside me." Yet be was a Savior. He had sought to be their Savior all through. He would save them still, if they would but turn to him. - J.O.
I. TEMPTATIONS BECOME GROWINGLY NUMEROUS AND POWERFUL.
1. Circumstances are often in an increasing measure favorable to sin. The sinner puts himself in the way of stronger temptations.
2. Wicked companions and instigators to sin gain in boldness and persuasiveness. They learn by experience that no resistance need be anticipated.
3. Restraints are culpably removed. The practice of sin breaks down the fences which virtue sets up around the law-abiding and obedient.
II. RESISTANCE BECOMES GROWINGLY MORE FEEBLE AND FAINT.
1. Desire is strengthened by indulgence. Unbridled passion, ungoverned pride, insatiable selfishness, have everything as they would.
2. Shame is lessened. The reproach of conscience is silenced. Fear is quieted and stifled. The blush no longer rises to the cheek; and the tongue is habituated to falsehood, or profanity, or impurity, without any check.
3. Moral power is weakened. At first there is a contest within between the better feelings and the worse; but after a while there is no conflict, and the vanquished protest dares no longer assert itself.
APPLICATION. The picture thus drawn of the sinner's progress is so fearful, that the contemplation of it may well lead him who is on the downward road to pause. Facilis descensus Averni. The only hope lies in immediate and sincere repentance, and (by Divine grace) an urgent application for forgiveness, and for a new and better mind. - T.
I. DEFECTION FROM TRUE RELIGION EXCITES THE DISPLEASURE AND INDIGNATION OF THE ONLY TRUE GOD. There are many who refuse to admit that the supreme Ruler concerns himself with the conduct of men. And others consider that benevolence is so all-absorbing an attribute of Deity that they will not hear of punishment either in this world or in a world to come. The declarations of the prophet are utterly inconsistent with such views as these.
II. RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE WILL CERTAINLY ASSERT ITSELF IN THE CONDEMNATION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE IRRELIGIOUS.
1. There is national retribution, as the history of Israel and of every nation abundantly proves.
2. There is individual chastisement, as every human life in a measure may convince us.
3. The punishment inflicted upon the ungodly and impenitent is not limited to this earthly life, to this transitory scene of probation. - T.
I. IT IS DECEPTIVE. "Like the morning cloud." In Palestine and countries of the same latitude, dense clouds often appear in the morning, cover the heavens, and promise fertilizing showers that never come. The farmer whose land is parched by drought looks up with anxious hope as he sees them gather and float over his head. But they often pass away without a fertilizing drop, and leave him with a disappointed and anxious heart. A life without moral goodness is necessarily deceptive. It walks in a vain show, it deceives itself and deceives others; it is an acted lie from beginning to end. How many lives seem full of promise! They awaken as much interest and as much hope as clouds that float over parched lands; but they result in nothing but disappointment. Oh, what lives there are which are like clouds without water!
II. IT IS EVANESCENT. "The early dew that passeth away." In such latitudes, too, the copious dews that sparkle on the hedges and the fields soon evaporate and disappear. How transient is life! - not the life of the wicked only, but the life of the righteous as well; just like the dew, appearing for a short time, then gone for ever. The Bible abounds with figures to represent the transientness of human life - the grass, the flower, the vapor, the dew, the shadow. The millions that make up this generation are only as dewdrops, sparkling for an hour and then lost and gone!
III. IT IS WORTHLESS. "As chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor." Like chaff stowed away from the threshing-floor. Chaff, empty, dead, destined to rot. How empty the life of an ungodly man! The life of the righteous is grain - it will grow and flourish; but that of the wicked is only chaff. It is destitute of moral vitality. "Driven away." "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, whilst the righteous hath hope in his death." The wicked die reluctantly, they hold on to the last; it is only the strong storm of death that bears them off.
IV. IT IS OFFENSIVE. "As the smoke out of the chimney." The ancient houses of Palestine were without chimneys; the smoke filled the houses, and smoke is a nuisance. A corrupt life is evermore offensive to the moral sense of mankind. To what conscience is falsehood, selfishness, carnality, meanness, and such elements that make up the character of the wicked, at all pleasing? To none. The aroma of a corrupt life is as offensive to the moral soul as "smoke out of the chimney."
"Like to the falling of a star,
I. THE VANITY AND INSUFFICIENCY OF ALL EARTHLY HELPERS.
1. As Israel, when seeking help and deliverance from the deities of the heathen, ever found such a refuge vain, so will all men who look elsewhere than to the Most High experience certain and bitter disappointment. "The idols of the heathen have ears, but they hear not... they that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them."
2. Even the best-intentioned of human friends and counselors are powerless to aid and save. The lesson has to be learned afresh by every generation that the help of man is vain. "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put your confidence in princes."
II. THE SOLE SUFFICIENCY OF GOD AS A MIGHTY SAVIOR.
1. He has wisdom to devise appropriate means of deliverance. Many an instance in Israel's history might have been quoted, in order to produce this conviction. And we, as Christians, have the one supreme evidence of God's infinite wisdom in the provision of spiritual and eternal salvation in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is the wisdom as well as the power of God.
2. The heavenly King has the disposition to deliver. Salvation is not only his prerogative; it is his delight. Mercy and compassion animate him in his treatment of the children of men. "God so loved the world," etc. There is no pity like Divine pity.
3. For an all-sufficient authority and efficacious power to rescue man from sin and death we must look above. The Eternal is "mighty to save." And in appointing his Son to be the Savior, he has laid help upon One who is mighty -
"So strong to deliver,
I. THE OCCASION OF DIVINE REMEMBRANCE.
1. To Israel and to humanity (for of the race at large was the chosen people a type) God reveals himself when help is sorely needed. In the wilderness the people hungered; they thirsted; they were in danger from many perils of the way; they were opposed and harassed by many foes; they were beset by frequent perplexities; they were cast down by many fears. Similarly, this race of mankind was without any supply for its sorest needs, without any deliverance from direst dangers and mightiest and most malignant foes, when the eternal Father "remembered us in our low estate."
2. It was an occasion when all other resource and hope were vain. In this respect the tribes in the desert were representative of humanity. "I looked, and there was no helper."
II. THE FRUITS OF DIVINE REMEMBRANCE.
1. The thoughtfulness of God supplies his people's wants. Israel's hunger was met by manna; Israel's thirst by water from the rock, etc. So "the Lord hath been mindful of us." Every spiritual want is supplied in the gospel, where is living water, heavenly bread, etc.
2. Adversaries are overcome by the interposition of the Most High. He who vanquished Israel's foes led captivity captive, and secured salvation for all who trust in him.
3. Difficulties are removed by Divine intervention.
4. Courage and hope are inspired in the breasts of the timid and downcast.
5. Gratitude, piety, and devotion are enkindled in the souls of those who are set free and rescued by the interposition of a merciful and mighty Savior.
APPLICATION. The gracious knowledge and remembrance of God, leading to merciful interposition on our behalf, should incite us to think upon and to remember him "who led his people through the wilderness; for his mercy endureth forever." - T.
I. Here is mercy IN BENEFICENT ACTION. "I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, so were they filled." What mercy did the great Father show the Israelites in the wilderness! The wilderness was a trying region (Deuteronomy 8:15; Jeremiah 2:6). How constantly the Almighty interposed on behalf of his people! He gave them water from the rock and manna from the clouds. He fought their battles, guided them through perplexities, and helped them in every exigency and trial. The hand of mercy was ever outstretched on their behalf, supplying them with all that they required. In truth, mercy gave them, not only necessities, but luxuries. "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked." Thus mercy is treating us now, giving us "all things richly to enjoy" in nature, and offering to us all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. The bright side of mercy gleams on us in this life, lights up our path and cheers us on the way.
II. Here is mercy IN RIGHTEOUS DISPLEASURE. "They were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me." Observe:
1. The cause of the indignation. "They have forgotten me." They abused his mercy. His mercy led them to self-indulgence, the pampering of their appetites, the gratification of their lusts, and the fostering of indolence and pride. Alas! how often the mercies of God in providence are abused I Whilst they should lead men to repentance and to a higher life, they lead them to worldliness and impiety. Because of this, mercy becomes indignant, the oil breaks into flame.
2. The severity of the indignation. "Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them: I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them." What terrible words are these! As a lion, savage and strong; a "leopard," crafty and vigilant, watching an opportunity to wreak destruction; a "bear," bereaved of her whelps, terribly exasperated and heartless ; - he "will rend the caul of their heart." It is said the lion always aims at the heart of the beast he falls upon. "Devour them like a lion; the wild beast shall tear them." What does all this mean? It does not mean that the Almighty is carried away by a savage impulse, that he has, in fact, aught of passion in him. No, but it means that after his mercy has been abused it will assuredly become the destroyer. Mercy abused becomes a determined, resistless destroyer. A plant that is not strengthened by the sunbeam is scorched; the soul that is not saved by mercy is damned,
"Thy mercy, Lord, is like the morning sun,
Deuteronomy 8:10-18; Deuteronomy 32:15), when Israel became prosperous, he forgot God, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation. The exaltation of Baal was itself an act of self-will - a species of self-exaltation. The egoistic principle, however, had more direct manifestations. We have in these verses -
I. GOD KNOWN IN ADVERSITY. "I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought" (ver. 5).
1. God knew Israel, in the great care he exercised over the nation, leading it, providing for its wants, protecting it, and showing it manifold tokens of his goodness.
2. Israel knew God. The nation was never nearer to its God than during these years of severe trial and hourly dependence. It believed in him, waited on him, trusted him, and was - at least latterly - willing to serve him. Adversity had its uses. It did the people good, It made a strong nation of them, fit to conquer and occupy Canaan.
II. GOD FORGOTTEN IN PROSPERITY. (Ver. 6.) As the people grew prosperous, they forgot God. The stages are:
1. Sense of repletion. "They were filled." Satisfied with the good things of earth, they did not feel the same need of God's blessing. They had not the same sense of dependence.
2. Uplifting of heart. "Their heart was exalted." Prosperity tends in this direction. It uplifts the heart. It makes the possessor of wealth proud, self-sufficient, arrogant.
3. Forgetfulness of God. "Therefore have they forgotten me." This was their base ingratitude. Yet the sin is common. The more we receive from God - so perverse and prone to depart are we - the more ready we are to forget him. We feel as if we were independent. We are full. We reign as kings without him.
III. THE PENALTY OF SELF-EXALTATION. (Vers. 7, 8.) Pride in the creature is the sin which more than any other provokes God to wrath. The Greeks, with just discrimination, viewed the gods as specially wroth with the man who unduly exalted himself. Υβρις never failed to bring down on the unhappy mortal who was guilty of the sin "swift destruction." God here likens himself to the wild beasts that tear the flock - so fierce and unsparing is his anger. He will be "as a lion," "a leopard," "a bear bereaved of her whelps." Strange images to apply to him whose name is Love! But love, outraged and grieved, is the most vehement and fierce of all passions. God's love, because it is intense and real, is not to be trifled with, and, when roused to anger, is terrible to encounter. Better meet wild beasts of the forest than fall into the hands of the living God. - J.O.
I. THE CAUSE OF FORGETFULNESS OF GOD.
1. Generally speaking, this sin arises from absorption in earthly pursuits and pleasures.
2. Particularly it may be learned from this passage - and the lesson is enforced by daily observation - that prosperity is the occasion of irreligion. The more this world's good is sought and prized, the more it often proves to be the case that the great Giver of all good is forgotten.
II. THE SIN AND GUILT OF FORGETTING GOD.
1. This appears from human dependence upon the Maker and Ruler of all.
2. And from the consequent indebtedness of the creature to the Creator. To him men owe all they have, and it is the basest ingratitude to forget the one Divine Benefactor.
3. And from their responsibility to God. Life has to be accounted for, at last, before him who gave it as a sacred trust. If the trust has been abused, such abuse is sin, and sin of the deepest dye.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF FORGETTING GOD.
1. Moral deterioration will certainly follow. The soul from which God is banished is degraded and ruined by the absence of what alone can dignify and bless.
2. Judgment cannot be escaped. If men forget God he will indeed remember them, but he cannot remember them "for good." - T.
I. ISRAEL'S RUIN. This is referred to, both as regards its origin and its most recent manifestations.
1. The ruin began with the revolt from the house of David. Ephraim's proud determination to become politically independent of Judah was the root-sin from which sprang the corruption of his religion and the immorality of his whole life. In following Jeroboam, Samaria "rebelled against her God" (ver. 16), and entered upon a career which resulted in moral suicide. She rejected her only true "Help" when she said, "Give me a king and princes" (ver. 10). The kings of the ten tribes could not save the people; for Jehovah, the King of Israel, did not acknowledge their royalty. Neither Jeroboam I., nor any of the princes of the house of Omri, or of the dynasty of Jehu - not to mention the military usurpers who afterwards snatched the crown from one another - had fulfilled the true function of a king as being a shepherd of the people. Despite the seemingly splendid reign of Jeroboam II., the history of the northern kingdom was all along one of misfortune, degradation, and self-destruction. Israel "destroyed himself" with the weapons of pride and idolatry, sensuality and anarchy.
2. The ruin was perpetuated through his refusal to repent. This seems to be the idea presented in ver. 13. Hosea had prophesied for upwards of half a century during the last long agony of his country; and during that period God had sent many calamities upon Israel, which were graciously fitted, like labor-pains, to induce the new birth. The latest of these travail-pangs are now imminent; but still Ephraim delayed thorough repentance, cleaved obstinately to his sins, and refused to be "born again." The Lord desired that Ephraim's "sorrows should suddenly cease, through the birth of a new Israel; but the people were joined to idols," and thus - meantime at least - there could be no recovery from the ruin into which they had fallen.
II. ISRAEL'S RETRIBUTION. The sin of the nation accumulated gradually. And the justice of God "retained" it, and pronounced punishment on it, and kept the punishment in store (ver. 12). Notwithstanding the distresses of the last two generations, which Hosea had witnessed, and from which he had himself suffered - including now, it may be, the seizure and imprisonment of Hoshea, the last unhappy king of Israel (ver. 10; 2 Kings 17:4) - there was still a load of stern wrath waiting to discharge itself upon the guilty commonwealth.
1. Ephraim has been punished through his kings. (Vers. 10, 11.) The whole nineteen were apostates from Jehovah, and under them the cup of the nation's iniquity was slowly filled. The very "giving" of each monarch in the providence of God was a mark of his anger; indeed, many of them gained the throne as the result of military revolt and assassination of the preceding sovereign, whom God thus "took away in his wrath."
2. The kingdom itself is now to be destroyed. (Vers. 15, 16.) The once "fruitful" Ephraim is about: to suffer an irretrievable blight. The Assyrian power, like the hot blast of the simoom, shall blow upon his land, and for ever dry up the springs of its fertility. Samaria, its capital city, after a protracted death struggle of three years, shall be subdued and devastated by Sargon, the successor of Shalmaneser. The treasures of the city shall be plundered, and its inhabitants cruelly murdered or dispersed among the heathen. Scarcely any trace will be left of the once proud and luxurious kingdom of Ephraim. The sentence of political extinction pronounced against that state is irreversible.
III. ISRAEL'S RESURRECTION. The proper names "Hosea" and "Hoshea" mean help or salvation. In King Hoshea, however, there was no help during the final extremity of the national peril; but the venerable Hosea still lived, and announced that the Lord, whose word he had so long spoken to a disobedient nation, was still ready to become Israel's "Help" (ver. 9), notwithstanding all the wretched past. Although constrained passionately to denounce the sin of his people and to forewarn of the coming desolations, the prophet intimates that these dire punishments are also paternal chastisements, sent by Jehovah to arouse the people, and induce them to return to his service. The Divine heart is still full of tender compassion for Israel. The Lord cannot allow the nation utterly to perish. On the other side of the dreadful judgments and the long dispersion, there will be a recovery so glorious as to be called a resurrection. "What shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:15). This ultimate restoration is announced in the splendid apostrophe of ver. 14. - a passage which the Apostle Paul, following the Septuagint, quotes towards the close of his sublime argument for the certainty of the resurrection of the saints (1 Corinthians 15:55). In its original sense, however, this song of triumph refers to the deliverance of the posterity of Ephraim from their national doom. The ten tribes shall be carried captive, and shall become politically dead and buried; but the time is coming when God will raise them up spiritually, and restore them to his favor. This brilliant promise received no appreciable fulfillment in the return of a few exiles of Ephraim and Manasseh along with the first colony of Jews who went up from Babylon at the close of the seventy years' captivity. The oracle clearly refers to Messianic times. It is in line with the general run of those Scripture prophecies which anticipate the national conversion of Israel, and announce the Lord's unchangeable purpose to effect it (cf. ver. 14, last clause, with Romans 11:29). And, as Israel was a typical nation, this paean of victory might well be used, as Paul uses it, to celebrate the triumph over death and Hades which the Messiah has already achieved in his own person, and which he wilt by-and-by repeat in the general resurrection of his people.
1. God destroys no man; every sinner is self-murdered (ver. 10).
2. Adequate temporal punishment for our sins often consists in the simple granting of our desires (vers. 10, 11; Psalm 106:15).
3. When God leaves a man, his prosperity withers (ver. 15).
4. The soul that forsakes God for an earthly portion shall be overwhelmed with regrets (vers. 13, 16).
5. Even while the Lord must denounce severe judgments, his love broods over the sinner, and remains invincible. - C.J.
Hosea 14:1, etc.). They saw that national disasters were impending, but attributed these to any other cause than their own sin; e.g. to the divided counsels of their leading statesmen, to neglect of the army, to the ambition of their rulers, to temporary reverse of fortune. The prophet says, in effect, "These would not be against you, if God were not; and he is no longer your Deliverer, because you have turned against him. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself!" This truth may be seen in the fall of other kingdoms - the Assyrian, Roman, etc. These were destroyed, not by an isolated detent, but by the moral deterioration preceding it, which had destroyed all recuperative power. If we should live to see England's decay - our land untilled, our docks empty, our mills and factories silent, our colonies torn away, our people crashed by a debt too heavy for them to bear - it will be due, not to this mistake of policy or to that unfortunate war, but to the fact that as a people we had forsaken righteousness and mercy. This deterioration will precede that desolation. It is true of individuals as of nations. If a man sinks into an abyss of despair or of vicious indulgence, it will be, not through the force of his circumstances, but through the worthlessness of his character. To such a one God says, "Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." In treating of self-destruction we will speak of
(1) its causes;
(2) its delusions; and
(3) its remedy.
I. ITS CAUSES. The importance of the subject is seen from the frequency with which its lamentable issues occur. "Wide is the gate, and broad is the road, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat."
1. Neglect of the means of grace. The Word which reveals God, the Son who declares him, etc. "This is life eternal, that they may know thee," etc. A man who denies himself food till he perishes of starvation, or refuses medicine till the disease proves fatal, practically "destroys himself."
2. Inward iniquity. The passions, the worldly spirit, the self-will, etc., which unfit for fellowship with God and prevent all desire for it, are the causes of spiritual ruin. These, and not death, are the true causes of destruction. When a dead tree is cut down as a cumberer of the ground, it is not the gleaming axe, which we can see and hear that destroys it. The tree is destroyed before the axe is laid at its root, and perhaps only after its fall will the cause of death be revealed.
3. Outward transgression. Show how sin committed leads to other sins, how the sense of shame dies out with the frequency of the act, how habits of evil doing grow till there seems no escape, and to all holy influence the man seems dead. Conscience says, "Thou hast destroyed thyself."
II. ITS DELUSIONS. Whatever, in a moment of despair, a man might do with his natural life, he would surely not destroy all hope of spiritual life unless the words were true, "The god of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not." Some justify their irreligiousness to their own consciences:
1. By referring to God's perfections; e.g. to his sovereignty ("If I am to be saved, I shall be"), or to his mercy ("God is too merciful to punish").
2. By referring to the condition of their fellow men. Of the godless, they urge they are so numerous that it is not credible that they should all be in the wrong; of Christians, they say that they are too scrupulous for ordinary society, or else that they are so inconsistent that religion cannot be of great worth.
3. By referring to their own state. If they are moral, they "thank God that they are not as other men are;" if licentious, they argue that they are "committed to do all these abominations;" if ignorant, they declare they are not scholarly enough to understand the teaching of the Church; if intellectual, they maintain that they require no spiritual illumination; if attentive to the externals of religion, their spirit is that of the Pharisee who said, "I fast twice in the week," etc.
III. ITS REMEDY. "In me is thine help." The Speaker is "the Lord Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength." He alone can save. When there was no eye to pity, he brought to men salvation. The remedy is to be found:
1. In the atonement Christ has made. "He was wounded for our transgressions," etc.; "The blood of Jesus Christ...cleanseth from all sin."
2. In the intercession he presents. "Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us."
3. In the grace he gives. When the Holy Spirit is come, "he wilt convince the world of sin," etc. The Spirit comes to cast out the strong man armed. By his grace he vivifies, purifies, sanctifies, until at last we shall stand faultless before God's throne. "Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name given under heaven whereby we can be saved."
CONCLUSION. In the text there are
(1) enlightenment for the ignorant;
(2) warning for the self-righteous;
(3) hope for the despondent; and
(4) a song for the redeemed. - A.R.
who, against the Savior and Helper, had resolved, as it were, upon spiritual suicide.
I. IN TURNING AWAY FROM GOD, MEN TURN AWAY FROM THEIR TRUE SAVIOR AND THEIR TRUE SALVATION. They often look upon the great and righteous Judge as their enemy, hostile to their pleasures and interests, and consequently imagine that they will secure their own welfare by forgetting and forsaking God. That this is a delusion is certain. In setting themselves against God, men set themselves against their help.
II. IN SEEKING THEIR OWN SELFISH ENDS, MEN ACCOMPLISH THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION.
1. Ungodliness is destructive of all peace of mind.
2. Ungodliness is destructive of character. They who live without God in the world deprive themselves of the highest motives to obedience, and ensure their own spiritual deterioration.
3. Ungodliness is destructive of all bright and blessed prospects for the future life. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Destruction, ruin, banishment from God, such is the doom which sinners work out for themselves. It is not the arbitrary appointment of the Supreme Judge; it is the self-inflicted fate. - T.
I. MAN'S NEED OF HELP. We need help from one another; and there is no member of society who is independent. The child is dependent upon the help of the parent, the master upon the help of the servant, etc. But all stand in need of moral, spiritual help, which none but God can bring. And there are special occasions and circumstances which bring home to us our need of help; e.g. when we feel our weakness in the presence of difficult duties, sore temptations, crushing sorrows.
II. GOD'S SUFFICIENCY AS THE HELP OF MAN.
1. We perceive this from the consideration of Divine power and resources. All things are at God's command and under God's control.
2. His pity and sympathy assure us of effective help. There are circumstances in which power and even-liberality are of little avail. The heart craves for the heart's sympathy. Of God we know that "in all our afflictions he is afflicted;" and Christ has revealed himself as "touched with a feeling of our infirmities." God makes himself known to men as their Help, and his assurance must be unhesitatingly and joyfully accepted.
3. The experience of "all saints" witnesses to God's power and willingness to help in time of need. - T.
I. SIN THE DESTROYER. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself." What connected with self does a man destroy? Not his mental faculties, not his conscience, not his moral responsibilities, These he cannot put an end to. But he destroys the liberty, the peace, the blessedness of his being. He can destroy all connected with his existence that can make existence tolerable or worth having. How is this done? By sin. Sin is the soul-destroyer. Every sin is destructive of something. From the eternal laws of moral mind men cannot commit a wrong act without the infliction of an injury to the soul, without blinding the judgment, deadening the sensibility, curtailing the liberty, drying up the affection, enfeebling the will. Sin is suicidal. "He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul." What is a sinner doing? Murdering himself. Every lying word, every dishonest act, every impure thought, every impious sentiment, every lustful gratification, is a deadly blow inflicted upon the soul. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." There is nothing arbitrary in this. "To be carnally minded is death."
II. GOD THE RESTORER. "In me is thine help." Who can restore a destroyed soul? God, and he only. He restores it:
(1) By extracting the poison of sin.
(2) By breathing into it a new life.
(3) By bringing it out into the salubrious atmosphere of truth.
(4) By affording it the most wholesome supplies and invigorating exercises. In me is thy help found. Yes, thou art mighty to save. - D.T.
I. ISRAEL THE AUTHOR OF HIS OWN DESTRUCTION. (Ver. 9.) It was a destruction:
1. For which he only was responsible. "Destroyed thyself." It was entirely the result of his own perverse actings. Had he taken God's way, all would have been well with him. But - so the words literally run - he was against God. He chose of his own will the way which God told him was the way of death. The sinner's ruin is entirely his own work. God refuses all responsibility for it. He has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth (Ezekiel 18:32).
2. Resulting from refusal of Divine help. "Thy help." This aggravated the sin. "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" (Jeremiah 8:22). God wished to be Israel's helper, but Israel would not let him. Sinners perish though salvation is within reach. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light," etc. (John 3:19); "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life" (John 5:40).
3. Which his self-sought helpers were unable to avert. Israel found in his hour of need the vanity of trusting to his earthly helpers. "Where is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities? and the judges, of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?" (ver. 10). Baal failed him (Hosea 8:5; Hosea 10:5); the Assyrian failed him (Hosea 5:13); his kings failed him (Hosea 10:3, 15). Thus it was demonstrated that God is the only Helper, that there is no Savior beside him (ver. 4). God in Christ is the only Hope of the sinner. He is an all-sufficient Hope, if the sinner will only be persuaded to apply to him. Instead of this, how many "refuges of lies" do men resort to I
II. ISRAEL PUNISHED BY THE GRANTING TO HIM OF HIS OWN DESIRE, (Vers. 10-12.) Often nothing will please the sinner but to get his own way. God, in wrath, sometimes grants the sinner his own way. When he gets it, he finds it to be to his hurt. This is illustrated in the case of Israel.
1. The desire for a king. "Thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes." The kingdom of Israel had its origin in self-will - was an embodiment of that principle. Rehoboam's rough answer afforded the occasion of revolt, but the desire of the northern tribes to have a king of their own was the real soul of the movement. It was a rebellion against the house of David. The people set up kings, but not by God (Hosea 8:4).
2. The desire granted. "I gave thee a king in mine anger." Partly as a punishment of the sins of David's house, and partly as a punishment of the tribes themselves, God granted the wish for a king. The rebellious spirit in which the separate kingdom was set up was chastised by the calamities brought upon the nation by its self-chosen rulers. There is a difference between granting a desire and approving of it. It does not imply approval that Jeroboam was designated beforehand by the prophet as the person to whom God would give the kingdom. God did give Israel its king, but it was "in anger." Doubtless had Jeroboam, on receiving the kingdom, walked in God's ways, his rule, as having a relative sanction from Heaven, would have been established (1 Kings 11:38). But it was obvious, both from the spirit of the man, and from the motives of the rebellion, and the temper in which it was carried out, that nothing of this kind could be expected.
3. The king given in anger taken away in wrath. "I took him away in my wrath." The northern monarchy brought only evil on the nation. The principle of self-will in which it originated wrought itself out further into state-idolatry, Baal-worship, frequent revolutions, intestine conflicts, alliances with Assyria and Egypt, sins and crimes of every description. The kings vied with each other in their wickedness. They set an example which their subjects were only too ready to follow. Thus wrath was prepared which at length swept them away like the whirlwind. Their king perished with them. The monarchy fell, never to rise again.
4. In the wrath which overtook the kingdom, hidden iniquity was brought to mind. "The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid." His whole career was remembered against him. Like a thing treasured up, put past, but not forgotten, it was brought forth at the appointed time for punishment. No sin escapes the remembrance of God. Unrepented of, it will have to be reckoned for in the judgment.
III. ISRAEL UNDULY DELAYING HIS CONVERSION. (Ver. 13.) The pangs of distress which came on Israel were, had he understood their end, meant for his salvation, They ought to have issued in a change of heart, and in "newness of life." While, however, he felt alarms, convictions, and compunctions for what be had done, Israel failed to come to the birth of a genuine conversion. He was an unwise son, who prolonged the birth-labor by refusal to come forth.
1. The delay of conversion is a cause of needless pain. How much better bad Ephraim come forth at once, instead of thus, as it were, lingering in the womb! Many delay their conversion by indecision, by unwillingness to part with some darling sin, by slowness of heart to believe God's promise, by the thought of what the world will say, what friends will say, etc., thus unnecessarily prolonging their distress, fear, and pains of conscience, and shutting themselves out from the peace, joy, and comfort of the new life of grace.
2. To delay conversion is to risk the loss of life. The infant, delaying to come forth, dies in the womb. Israel, because it refused to be taught by the sorrows which had come upon it, was, as regards the nation at large, to be destroyed. It would perish through its delay of conversion. Procrastination in spiritual child-birth is a cause of spiritual death Compunctions die away, the Spirit ceases to strive, anxiety disappears, the crisis passes and never comes back.
3. Israel's conversion, though long delayed, will yet take pace. A remnant of the people will be preserved, and these - though the process is slow and tedious - will yet be reborn to God. The nation will be recovered as from death (ver. 14).
IV. GOD THE RANSOMER EVEN FROM DEATH. (Ver. 14.) God's gracious purpose in the case of Israel, of the elect soul, of humanity, cannot be defeated. The words contain a pledge:
1. Of national restoration. Israel, though now cast away, will yet be recovered as from death (Hosea 6:2; Romans 11:15). God had promised to be the God of this people, and his love would triumph even over their unbelief and sin, Their recovery will have in it all the marvel of a resurrection.
2. Of spiritual renewal. There is a spiritual death from which recovery is more difficult than from national death, or even from the death of the body. A nation, having played its part in history, and perishing, rarely recovers the life it has thus lost. It needs the power of God to restore national life to Israel. It needs a yet higher exercise of God's power to restore life to their souls, dead in long-continued unbelief. But every soul by nature is "dead in trespasses and sins," and needs a moral miracle to be wrought upon it to give it life. God alone can ransom it from death. Each conversion is a new triumph over him that hath the power of death.
3. Of bodily resurrection. Salvation would be incomplete if it left its subjects still under the power of physical death. This is clearer under the New Testament than it was under the Old, but it underlay the promise of salvation there also. Christ has made the truth perfectly distinct. He has, by his own resurrection, "brought life and immortality to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death meanwhile claims all as his prey. He reigns over all. He comes to men in innumerable forms of horror and anguish. His plagues are terrible. But Christ will rescue his own even from the power of this inexorable destroyer. Then, in their full sense, the words of the prophet will be fulfilled (1 Corinthians 15:55). - J.O.
I. MORAL MALADIES ARE NOT HEALED BY POLITICAL REMEDIES.
II. THE SPLENDOR OF KINGS IS NO COMPENSATION FOR THE MISERY OF THE PEOPLE.
III. EARTHLY AUTHORITY CAN ONLY BE EXERCISED WITHIN LIMITS APPOINTED BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
IV. A CORRUPT COURT IS AN EVIL EXAMPLE TO AN UNSTABLE POPULATION.
V. NO SECULAR - CIVIL OR MILITARY - POWER CAN AVERT THE CONSEQUENCES OF APOSTASY AND DEBASEMENT.
VI. KINGS THEMSELVES ARE SUBJECT, AS WELL AS CITIZENS, TO THE LAWS OF A RETRIBUTIVE PROVIDENCE. - T.
1 Corinthians 15:55), that although in our world "sin hath reigned unto death," it is the prerogative of the Almighty to rescue from the grasp of the grave, and even to abolish death itself. We may profitably consider some of the spheres within which the Lord has chosen to exercise this prerogative. The promise of our text applies to -
I. THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL Ever since the two captivities Israel has been, as it were, a dead nation The Jews have been dispersed over the world, and have not yet been able either to recover their national independence or to maintain their national worship But Hosea here assures his countrymen of future restoration and blessing, notwithstanding the final ruin of the kingdom of Ephraim. "The only meaning that the promise had for the Israelites of the prophet's day was that the Lord possessed the power even to redeem from death, and raise Israel from destruction into newness of life; just as Ezekiel (37.) depicts the restoration of Israel as the giving of life to the dry bones that lay scattered about the field" (Keil). But the future thus expressly predicted for Ephraim is more blissful than even Hosea, to whom this oracle was given, could readily, or perhaps possibly, conceive. Israel's restoration shall be spiritual. The captive Hebrews, so far and so long estranged from God, shall return to his favor. The very people who at last crowned their sinful career by "crucifying the Lord of glory" - a sin still more heinous than all the wickedness for which Hosea rebukes them - shall be made the subjects of a glorious future. "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10), and at last accept him as the Messiah. They shall become zealous and successful missionaries of the cross, and shall contribute largely to the bringing in of the world's jubilee (Romans 11:15).
II. THE REDEMPTION-WORK OF CHRIST. Students of the New Testament find a larger and deeper meaning in this glowing promise than that which would limit it to the resuscitation of Israel. To our consciousness the Lord, who is "the Plague of death," is Jehovah-Jesus. "He became incarnate" that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14, 15). As the great Teacher, he proclaimed himself to be "the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25); and he sealed this testimony by rebuking disease of every kind, and even raising the dead. Most of all, he was himself "obedient unto death;" and by his own decease upon the cross he has "ransomed his people from the power of the grave." Divine justice had put a dart into death's hand to slay us therewith for our sins; but Jesus, in dying for us, satisfied that justice, made adequate atonement for guilt, and received authority to take the dart away. By coming himself under the power of the grave, the Lord Jesus has "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). Of this victory his own resurrection upon the third day is an infallible assurance. In emerging from the grave as the risen Savior, Jesus revealed himself as "the Plague of death," and as the Source of spiritual life and Author of eternal salvation to his people. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20).
III. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE. Jehovah-Jesus is the Savior of the soul, and of the body also.
1. He redeems the soul from death. Is not the world of mankind like a vast graveyard, where men are lying "dead in trespasses and sins"? Sinful man is naturally destitute of the Spirit of life, and insensible to the beauties of holiness. He is unable to raise himself from the unclean tomb of his own evil lusts and passions. But, so soon as the voice of the Son of God speaks the word, "I will ransom them," the same almighty energy which gave life to Jesus himself, when dead, breathes new spiritual vitality into those for whom he died (John 5:21-27). "Because he lives, they shall live also" (John 14:19).
2. He shall redeem the body from death. The final ruin of the soul is called in Scripture "the second death" (Revelation 21:8); and, if the Lord Jesus can deliver from that, it is no wonder that he is also the Savior of the body. The order of redemption is that he redeems from the "second death" first; and thus the abolition of temporal death at the end of the world shall really be the destruction of" the last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:26). All men naturally regard "the king of terrors "as the most formidable and cruel of foes. The grave seems to the eye of sense only a despoiler (Proverbs 27:20). But it is the glory of Christianity that the Redeemer has robbed death of its sting, lighted up the under-world with his love, and given us the sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection. Faith sees hanging at the girdle of the Son of man "the keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:18). The grave is to the saints only an underground pathway to heaven, and "death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
"Death, thou wast once an uncouth, hideous thing:
1. The harmony of the Old and New Testaments in teaching that "unto God the Lord belong the issues from death."
2. Christ Jesus is the Lord, who by his Spirit exercises this prerogative, both as regards nations and individuals.
3. The alienation of the soul from God is a state of death - the most awful condition possible to man; and from that state he can only escape by being "born again."
4. The dissolution of the body is not death to the believer, but simply a lulling asleep in Jesus.
5. The doctrine that Christ is "the Resurrection and the Life" brings solid comfort in the hour of bereavement. - C.J.
I. DEATH AND THE GRAVE ARE BUT CREATURES AND MINISTERS OF THE ETERNAL. There is apparent among men a tendency to attribute to the forces of destruction an independent power, to regard death as a natural and necessary law of being. But the fact is otherwise; these are only agents used for a temporary and governmental purpose by the Lord of the universe.
II. DEATH AND THE GRAVE ARE TERRIBLE ONLY TO THE ENEMIES OF GOD. To such as resist and defy Divine authority it must needs be a depressing and terrible thought, that their power will speedily come to an end, and they leveled in the dust. But God's people need have no fear of their Father's messengers.
III. DEATH AND THE GRAVE HAVE BEEN ALREADY POTENTIALLY VANQUISHED BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. The Apostle Paul makes use of this language in expounding the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection, and sanctions the application of the language of Hosea to the triumph of the Divine Redeemer, when he arose from the dead and abolished death, and became the Firstfruits of them that sleep. The words are in this connection precious and consolatory to the Christian mind.
IV. DEATH AND THE GRAVE, WHEN THEY HAVE FULFILLED THEIR DIVINELY APPOINTED PURPOSE, SHALL FOREVER CEASE TO BE. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." The destroyer's turn shall come; the grave shall itself be buried; death shall itself be slain. From all fear of mortality the glorified saints shall be eternally delivered. And God shall be forever glorified in the reign of imperishable life. - T.
1 Corinthians 15:23) authorizes us to give it a wider application; and we may regard it as referring to death and Christ.
I. Here is the great CONQUEROR, called the "death and the grave." What a conqueror is Death!
1. Heartless, dead to all appeals.
2. Resistless. Bulwarks, battalions, castles, are nothing before him.
3. Universal, his eyes fastened on the world. Young, old, rich, poor, he has marked them all as victims.
4. Ever active. He does not pause a moment. Year after year, month after month, day after day, minute after minute, he works without a pause. Thousands fall before him every hour. This is the conqueror keeping the world in awe, filling our houses with mourning, our streets with funereal processions, our cemeteries with the dead.
II. Here is the great conqueror of the world CONQUERED. "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death I will be thy plagues, I will be thy destruction." I. Who? "I am the Resurrection and the Life: whoso believeth in me shall never die." How has he conquered Death? Not by weakening his power or arresting his progress, for he is as mighty and active as ever, but by stripping him of his terror. Mentally he overcomes him, swallows him up. He fills the souls of his people with such love to the infinite Father, such interest in the spiritual universe, such desire for a higher life, that they say, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." A few weeks hence, and spring will come forth as a messenger from the great fountain of life, and look abroad over the earth in winter desolation under the icy reign of death; and will say to every withered plant and buried germ, "I will ransom thee from the power of the grave." This Christ says to all dead souls.
"It is not death, to die; "It is not death, to close "It is not death, to bear "It is not death, to fling "Jesus thou Prince of life,
"It is not death, to close "It is not death, to bear "It is not death, to fling "Jesus thou Prince of life,
"It is not death, to bear "It is not death, to fling "Jesus thou Prince of life,
I. Reverses in human fortune are SOMETIMES VERY STRIKING. Ephraim was "fruitful among his brethren." The very name signifies fruitfulness. Its territory was most fertile, its people the most numerous.
(1) Its riches would give way to poverty. Ephraim was at once a rich and a Populous tribe; but see the change predicted: "His spring shall become dry.... He shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels." The enemy would invade the country, impoverish husbandry, check merchandise.
(2) Its populousness would give way to paucity. The enemy would reduce its numbers and almost depopulate it. "His fountain shall be dried up." How great the reverse! and yet such reverses in human history are frequent. Saul, Herod, Nebuchadnezzar, Napoleon, are a few amongst millions of examples. Constantly do we see men hurled from the sunny mountain of opulence into the gloomy valley of poverty. Such reverses should teach us:
1. To hold all worldly good with a very light hand.
2. To settle our interests on the good that is permanent. "Labor not for the meat that perisheth."
II. Reverses in human fortune are GENERALLY BROUGHT ABOUT BY SECONDARY INSTRUMENTALITY. "An east wind shall come, shall come from the wilderness." Nations, communities, and individuals may always trace their calamities to certain natural causes. If a kingdom decays, if a mercantile transaction breaks down, if a fortune is lost, man can generally trace the dispensation to some "east wind" - some secondary agent. This should teach us
(1) to study natural laws;
(2) to be diligent in checking all elements inimical to human progress.
III. Reverses in human fortune are UNDER THE DIRECTION OF GOD. The change in the fortunes of Ephraim, although brought about by a variety of secondary agencies, was nevertheless under the superintendence of the Almighty. Though a country may be ruined by civil wars, or foreign invasions, or pestilential atmospheres, or unfruitful harvests bringing on famine, still Divine intelligence foresees all, and Divine power overrules all. Both true philosophy and religion teach us to trace all the events of life to him. Some come directly from him; all are directed by him. Friendship and bereavement, prosperity and adversity, sickness and health, sorrow and joy - he is in all. "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away." Learn
(1) to acquiesce in his dispensations;
(2) to look to him for all that is good. - D.T.
I. THE FIGURE ANSWERS TO THE FACTS. (Ver. 15.) Ephraim was as a fruitful tree among his brethren. But:
1. The east wind would blight him. To this answers the statement that Samaria would become desolate. Ephraim fed on wind, and pursued the east wind; now its hot, scorching breath was his destruction.
2. His spring would become dry. To this answers the statement that mothers and children would be destroyed. These were the spring, the fountains of his fruitfulness. He would be dried up at his roots. The hope of revival through offspring would be cut off from him.
3. His treasures of goodly vessels would be plundered. This leaves the image of the tree. It returns to realism. Plundering would succeed victory. We may apply to sin. It blights the soul; robs it of its bloom and fruitfulness; dries up the springs of its life, which are in God; despoils it of its costly treasures of goodness, truth, holiness, affection, etc.
II. THE FACT IS NOT LESS TERRIBLE THAN THE FIGURE. (Ver. 16.) We are apt, in reading figurative descriptions of the doom of the sinner - the worm, the fire, weeping and gnashing of teeth, etc. - to break their force to our minds by the secret reflection that they are "only figures." "Only figures." But the figures surely mean something. And is the reality likely to be less terrible than the figures of it? The verse before us should warn us against this delusion. We have in ver. 15 the figure; we have the reality in plain terms here. Which is the more awful? The naked description of what will happen to Samaria greatly surpasses in terribleness all the figures that are employed to image it. And what was predicted actually occurred. - J.O.
I. THE SYMPTOMS OF REBELLION. These are:
1. The defiance of rightful authority. When God's Name is profaned, and God's laws are violated, and God's threatenings are despised, this is a sign that those who are bound to be loyal subjects are so far from fulfilling their obligations that they are in rebellion.
2. The substitution of another authority for that of the Supreme. Whether this be an idol, or a hierarchy of pagan deities, or some selfish, carnal, worldly principle, is of little consequence; the allegiance has been transferred.
II. THE WICKEDNESS OF REBELLION. Samaria's special sin was in rebelling against her God. It is the consideration that God has done everything for us; that he has regarded us as his own, and treated us with bounty, forbearance; and loving-kindness, that, in a word, he has every claim upon us; - it is this that brings home the charge of rebellion, and exhibits it in all its heinousness.
III. THE END OF REBELLION. This must be either
(1) submission with true repentance, or
(2) conquest and destruction. The Lord shall have the defiant rebels in derision, and break them with a rod of iron. - T.