The closing words of the foregoing chapter gave us some hopes that God and His people, notwithstanding their sins and His wrath, might yet be happily brought together again. We were brought to hope that they would seek Him, and that He would be found by them. We concluded that chapter with an illustration of a door-latch being always left open, so that the lost and wandering child may receive a ready welcome upon his or her return to the Lord in repentance. And now this chapter opens with the prophet’s appeal to his people to return and enter through that unlocked door, and surely it is one of the most tender and beautiful appeals that can be found in the Bible. “Come,” he says, “and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up!” Every word in this verse is important and interesting; let us ponder well the golden sayings contained in it. For from whence should such a resolution or desire as this arise, except from the Lord’s grace working in the heart? How blessed it is to read this – especially after what we have gone through in the preceding chapters about God’s charge against His people for their revolutions against Him! Let us also observe how purely the Gospel is set forth here, in the reasons assigned for the sinner’s return; it is because He Who has torn is the only One Who can heal. The Holy Spirit that convinces of sin is the only One Who can be the Comforter, to convince our souls of the all-sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness to justify and save us.
“After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (verse 2). Here is an abundance of blessed things in this verse! Certainly the Prophet had an eye to Christ in His rising from the dead, Who is the firstfruits of the resurrection of those who sleep. But he also had an eye to the spiritual resurrection of every sinner who is made to hear the voice of Jesus and live! (John 5:25) And no doubt there is an eye also to the future resurrection of the body, by the same power.
“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth” (verse 3). Deliverance out of trouble would be to these people as life from the dead. God would revive them, and the assurance of this would engage them to return to Him. Let us admire the wisdom and goodness of God; for when the prophet foretold the deliverance of the Church out of her troubles, he also pointed out our salvation by Christ! And now that these words are fulfilled in Jesus’ resurrection, it confirms our faith. The returns of the favor of God are secured to us as firmly as the return of the morning after a dark night. He shall come to us like the early and latter rain upon the earth, which refreshes it and makes it fruitful. The grace of God in Christ is like spiritual rain; and by it, the good work of our fruit-bearing is begun and carried on to completion. Every grace of Jesus is like the rain and dew of heaven, which is free, unmerited, unlooked-for, and unsought. How blessedly is the Savior spoken of under this figure, in Psalm 72:6! “He shall come down as the rain upon the mown grass” – refreshing the earth when it is weary, scorched, and dry. And just as the Redeemer was raised from the grave, so also will He revive the hearts and hopes of all who trust in Him. The feeblest glimpse of hope in His Word is a sure and certain foretaste of increasing light and comfort, which shall be attended with purifying and comforting grace that makes us fruitful.
Sometimes Israel and Judah seemed inclined to humble themselves and repent under their sufferings. But alas! Their goodness vanished like the empty morning clouds and the early dew, and they were as vile as ever before. Therefore, the Lord sent awful messages to them by the prophets – such as the words here in verses 4-11. The Word of God will be the death of either the sin or the sinner. He desires mercy rather than sacrifice (verse 6); and He wishes for our hearts and minds to be filled with the knowledge of Himself, which produces holy reverence and love. This exposes the folly of those who trust in outward observances and ceremonies, and who hope thereby to make up for their lack of love to God and man.
Just as Adam broke the covenant of God in Paradise; so also, the people in Hosea’s day had broken the Lord’s national covenant – despite all the favors that they had received. “O Ephraim,” says the Lord, “what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee?” Let us pause over these sweet and gracious expressions of the Lord! Was He truly at a loss what to do? Certainly not! Rather, we are to accept the words as the melting and longing compassions of the Lord over the sorrowful state of sin in His people. (See also chapter 11:8; Jeremiah 31:20; and Luke 19:41-42.) In mercy, the Lord had hewed and hacked His people (verse 5) by the words of His prophets, and by the powerful effects of their preaching. His Word is like a purifying fire, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. But alas! Verses 7-11 describe these people as men who had transgressed the covenant and dealt treacherously against their God. They worked iniquity, and polluted themselves with blood. They murdered, committed lewdness, and defiled themselves. Alas! What else except the blood of Christ can atone for the offences of the Lord’s people?
Lord, we thank You that although we have sometimes been under the convincing and crushing hand of Your Holy Spirit, yet it has been a beneficial preliminary to real Gospel-healing and binding up! We give You thanks that we may come to You with all our wounds, bruises, and sores; for You alone can heal us, and You delight to do it! Amen.
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