The same strings are harped upon in this chapter as in those before, although they generally produced a distasteful melody to the ears of the hearers. People do not like to be told of their sin or of their danger by sin; and yet it is necessary, and for their good, that they should be told of both. Nor can they better hear of either, than from the Word of God and His faithful ministers.
In the beginning of this message, the nature of the people’s sin is declared; they were guilty of making “idols according to their own understanding” (verse 2). This is a description of the “religious” action which follows close on the heels of a departure from God. The people of Hosea’s day did not cease to be “religious”; they merely replaced the worship of Jehovah with the adoration of Baal and all other manner of pagan idols. In the same way, when our modern evil society throws out God and the Bible, they are not throwing out “religion.” They are throwing out the Christian religion, and replacing it with a religion of secular, man-centered humanism! And as soon as they “liberate” themselves from the supposed “slavery” that God’s holy and moral standards impose upon their lives, it does not take long at all for anything and everything that is anti-God and anti-Bible to rush in and fill that void in society!
What is the cause of idolatry? Why have men – throughout the whole history of humanity – made idols for themselves? Idolatry is a false answer to the religious call of human nature. Humanity is created in such a way that it has an inherent necessity for God. Man instinctively knows that he was created to worship a Being that is higher than himself. But the reason why he turns to idolatry is because his vision of God is clouded. And thus it is that every human being who has ever lived – in their natural unregenerated state – has worshiped his or her own god. In every life, there is a ruling passion. Every person now living is devoting the force of their life to something or someone. If it is not the Lord, then it may be music, art, business, home, or family. Such ruling passion is the mainspring and secret of the life. No human being can any more live without it, than a watch can run if the mainspring is taken out.
When people have lost the vision of the true God, and construct a god for themselves, they do it according to their own understanding. They try to evolve within their own thinking an idea of God. They make idols like themselves – imperfect, debased, and polluted. And then as they worship them, they become more and more like the idols of their own creation – stupid and senseless. Such is the curse of idolatry, and this curse played itself out to the full in the case of the Israelites of Hosea’s day. And their sin of idolatry was made even worse by the consideration of the wondrous mercies and privileges which the Lord had bestowed upon them. He had not only taken care of the Israelites in the wilderness, but He also put them in possession of the Promised Land of Canaan (verses 4-5). But alas! Worldly prosperity feeds men’s pride, and makes them forgetful of their benevolent God (verse 6). Therefore, the Lord promised that He would meet His people in just vengeance – like the most terrible beast that inhabited their forests (verses 7-8). Blessedness and goodness that has been shamefully abused calls for greater severity.
But although the Lord’s threatenings went out against those who had gone astray after idols, this prophecy still contains a message of love and mercy for the repentant persons among them. What precious words we read in verse 9! “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.” Could it be possible to give a fuller account of the blessed Gospel in a more comprehensive manner? Israel had indeed destroyed himself, and so has every son and daughter of Adam. Every sinner has done so, and is guilty of soul-murder. But here comes the remedy – the only remedy: “In me is thy help!” And who is it that thus speaks? It is none other than the Lord Jesus. The entirety of salvation is brought into one short verse! Here is the great ruin, and here is also the great relief. Destruction is of ourselves; but salvation is in Christ alone. O for grace to continually remember this saving truth, so that our souls may have joy indeed!
Against Israel as a nation, ruin was prophesied. Woes that are more terrible than any from the most cruel warfare shall fall upon those who rebel against God (verse 16). From such miseries, and from sin (which is the cause of them), may the Lord deliver us! But He also spoke of a merciful and powerful interposition to save a remnant of His people Israel (verse 14). Yet this was only a shadow of the ransom of the true Israel by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He will destroy death and the grave! “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death,” He says. And He will not repent of His promise. His love shall have the ultimate triumph, in spite of all the difficulties and sins of His people.
Lord, we pray for You to work a work of repentance and revival in our modern evil society – which is quickly throwing out the Scriptures, and replacing it with a religion of secular, man-centered humanism! We beseech You to pour out Your saving grace upon us, so that Your holy and moral standards – as found in Your Word – may once again become the rule of our culture and our lives! Amen.
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