Here in chapter 10, the people of Israel are charged with gross corruptions in the worship of God; and so they are threatened with the destruction of their idolatrous images and altars (verses 1, 2, 5, 6, and 8). They are also charged with corruptions in the administration of their civil government, and they are threatened with the ruin of that as well (verses 3, 4, and 7). Moreover, they are charged with imitating the sins of their forefathers, and with being secure in their own sins; and for this, they are threatened with smarting, humbling judgments (verses 9-11). In mercy, they are earnestly invited to repent and seek the Lord; and they are again threatened with ruin if they did not (verses 12-15).
A vine is valuable, but only for its fruit that it brings forth. What, then, was the real worth of Israel when they were not bringing forth fruit to perfection? They were bringing forth fruit only for themselves (verse 1), and their hearts were divided (verse 2). God is the Sovereign of the heart; He will either have all, or He will have nothing. If the stream of the heart would run entirely after God, it would run strongly; and it would overpower all that lay in its path. But as for the people of Hosea’s day, even their pretenses to covenant with God were false; their proceedings of justice were like poisonous hemlock (verse 4). They prided themselves on their prosperity with which they were blessed as a nation; but all earthly prosperity is nothing more than a collection of bubbles, which is soon destroyed like foam upon the water (verse 7). And when all those worldly supports and confidences give way, sinners will seek in vain to find shelter from that Judge Whom they have despised as a Savior (verse 8).
But God does not desire the death and ruin of sinners; and therefore, in mercy, He chastises them (verse 10). It is just and righteous for God to make people know what hardships mean, when they have indulged themselves in sinful ease and pleasure. But let them cleanse their hearts from all corrupt affections and lusts, and let their hearts and spirits be broken and contrite – and they shall reap the Lord’s mercy! (verse 12) Let them abound in works of piety toward God, and in works of justice and love toward one another; and herein they shall “sow to the Spirit.” Seeking the Lord ought to be every day’s work; but as verse 12 indicates, there are indeed special occasions when we should seek Him more than ever. If we sow in righteousness, we shall reap mercy – not as a payment of debt, but as a reward of grace. The gains of sin will yield the sinner no satisfaction; those who plow in wickedness shall only reap iniquity (verse 13). Sin brings cruel judgments upon a people (verses 14-15). And if we look for salvation and safety from sin in anything or anyone other than the Lord Jesus, we shall eat the fruit of lies; for our comforts and confidences in the service of sin will certainly fail us. But when we come and seek the Lord, our hopes in Him shall not deceive us!
It is in a short, sharp, attention-grabbing sentence that Hosea reveals the reason for Israel’s failure: “Their heart is divided.” The word heart is often used in the Scriptures to refer to the sum totality of one’s personality. The heart divided! We are surprised, and almost startled, by this word divided. The Hebrew word that is translated divided means “smooth.” How can that have any connection with “divided”? It has a reference to the smooth stones with which the people in those times would cast lots. In olden days, it used to be said sometimes that a man was dicing his inheritance away – the word dicing being taken from the instrument with which he was gambling. But the people in Hosea’s day used smooth stones to cast lots in dividing. And so this expression of their hearts being “divided” means that in the central realm of their personality, they were “casting lots” with the Lord. In other words, their hearts were gambling-houses in which they were playing God off against something else, and playing something else off against God, to see which would yield them the most profit.
This is a solemn thought, but let us now group together some words that are scattered across the Bible. The Psalmist spoke and said, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” “One thing!” Jesus spoke to a rich young ruler: “One thing thou lackest.” Again, He spoke to a woman who was caring too much about earthly things: “One thing is needful.” A short time later, one of the Apostles wrote, “One thing I do, forgetting the things behind, I press towards the mark.” One thing, one thing, one thing! Some people say, “I do not want to be a person of one idea.” Why not? It depends upon your idea. If your idea is big enough, you have no room for more than one! If the one idea is to dwell in the house of the Lord; if the one idea is to render absolute allegiance to Him, and to follow Jesus; if the one idea is to be so completely under His domination that you fulfill His purpose; if the one idea is to reach the goal, and to be His instrument of blessing to others – then you do not want or need more than one idea! The trouble with us is that our desire for variety puts the Lord on a list with “other things.” That is a divided heart, and it is a great spiritual danger. Let us pray in our own hearts, “Unite my heart to serve thee, O God.” “Unite my heart to fear thy name!” (Ps. 86:11)
Lord, we beseech You for grace so that our hearts may be united – and not divided – to fear Your name. We pray that our “one idea” may be to render absolute allegiance to You, to follow Jesus, and to be Your instrument of blessing to all whom You put in our path! Amen.
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