A practical disbelief of God’s government was at the bottom of all Israel’s wickedness; they acted as if Jehovah could not see it and did not heed it. Thus, with this mindset, it is no wonder that their sins appeared on every side of them. What is even worse is that the actual wickedness of people’s outward lives is only a very small sampling of what is lurking in the depths of their hearts. But when these lusts are inwardly cherished, they will inevitably break forth into a life of outward sin. And in the midst of their troubles as a nation, these rebellious people of Hosea’s day never thought of seeking help from their God. It is a sad mark of being hardened in sin, when a person or nation continues to live without prayer – even when they find themselves in great trouble and distress.
Hosea makes mention of the fact that his countrymen’s hearts were inflamed by evil desires, like a heated oven. The human heart, in all ages of the world – never ceases to send sin gushing out. This is a womb that is never barren, and it needs no other parent than itself; neither the tempting devil nor the enticing world are necessary to bring forth the heart’s inbred sins, although they too often work in cooperation with the heart. To use the figurative language of the prophet, the heart is like the kind of oven that bakers of olden times used to cook with. It burned with a slow and steady fire all night long while he slept; and in the morning, it was ready for his use. Similarly, our hearts are always heated by the sin that dwells therein; and unless they are restrained by grace, they are continually breaking out into fresh batches of evil.
In verses 8-16, the Lord – through His servant, the prophet – continued to remonstrate with Israel. The nation was like a pastry-cake that was being cooked, but it was not turned over at the proper time; and thus it was half-burnt and half-dough, and none of it was fit for use. This showed how the people were enjoying a mixture of the worship of both Jehovah and idols. There were tokens of approaching ruin, just as grey hairs are tokens of old age; but these rebellious people did not notice them – for the pride which leads people to break the law of God also leads to self-flattery. Alas! The mercy and grace of the Lord are the only refuge to which obstinate sinners never think of fleeing! Although they may sometimes howl forth their terrors in the form of prayers, they seldom cry to God in sincerity with their hearts. Even their prayers for earthly mercies are offered in hopes of receiving fuel for their lusts from the Lord. Thus they are left far short of Christ and holiness.
But let us observe the many sweet and gracious expressions of our God, which are here mingled with His complaints! Indeed, He does point out the unworthiness and rebellion of His people; but He also speaks of His chastisements as being done in mercy. He says, in verse 13, “I have redeemed them, notwithstanding their lies.” Surely there is a great deal of Gospel in this! This is an evident proof that even in the midst of all His people’s forgetfulness of Himself, yet He does not forgot His covenant-faithfulness, nor the promises of His grace which He has made to a thousand generations (Ps. 105:8). What a mercy it is that we have a covenant-God in Christ to look to and to trust in; for even in the lamentable times when we deny Him, yet He abides faithful and does not deny Himself! (2 Tim. 2:13)
Let us focus some attention on verse 9: “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.” At the time in which Hosea spoke, there was a persistent ignoring of God among His people; and all the while, the nation’s strength was ebbing away. The tragedy of the situation is revealed in that twice-repeated word: “he knoweth it not… he knoweth it not.” This is perhaps the most perilous condition possible. But the suggestion which is made in these words is entirely contrary to nature! Is any human unconscious of when their gray hairs begin to appear? No one would claim such ignorance. We discover the gray hairs – some of us sooner than others – but we discover them! So here is something that is employed as a figure of speech, which is contrary to nature; and therefore, it is even more attention-grabbing. We discover our gray hairs; and we laugh at them, or we try to hide them. And yet this thing that is entirely unnatural in the physical world is constantly true in the spiritual realm, and so the prophet’s picture is warranted and very graphic indeed. There is no condition more perilous to our highest well-being than this state of unconscious spiritual degeneracy and moral pollution.
So is there any cure for this ignorance? What shall we do? We must turn to God! Those gray hairs which pictorially set forth spiritual and moral weakness and degeneracy – what about them? God does not laugh at them; and God won’t help us hide them, so that they cannot be seen. What, then, will He do? Let us first consult the Old Testament for an answer. Listen to this: Jehovah is the One Who “forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy desire with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle.” Then the gray hairs disappear! But let us not forget to also turn to the New Testament! What is the cure that is given there for our spiritual gray hairs? “Ye must be born again!” The new life that the Savior gives will remove our spiritual disease. May the Lord arouse us if we are asleep, so that it may not be said of us that we have these gray hairs without even knowing it!
Lord Jesus, we pray that You would heal our spiritual gray hairs and give us the new life that only You can bestow upon us! Amen.
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