This chapter is like the last; it divides itself into the sins and punishments of Israel. Almost every verse declares both, and the purpose is to bring them to repentance. When they saw the malignant nature of their sins in these descriptions, they could not help being convinced how much it was their duty to repent of what was so bad in itself. And when they saw the mischievous consequences of their sin in these predictions, they could not help seeing how much it was in their best interest to repent, in order that they might prevent ruin from coming to them.
The chapter opens with a command to someone – seemingly to the prophet – to cry aloud, in a manner of reproof and expostulation. If, for a moment, we lose sight of Old Testament Israel; and if we read these words as being addressed to the Lord’s spiritual Israel now – the words of this chapter, under His Almighty teaching, will be very profitable. Have we not transgressed the Covenant? Have we not trespassed against God’s Law? And do we not – in the midst of all this – say, as Israel did, “My God, we know thee”? How often have we set up idols in our hearts, as the kings and princes of Israel did? How often have we searched for alliances with human strength and earthly confidences? How often have we endeavored to set up a righteousness of our own, instead of living totally upon Jesus and His perfect righteousness?
When Israel was hard-pressed by difficulties, they claimed the privilege of protection from God; but He would not regard this. What good does it do for us to say, “My God, I know thee!” – if we cannot say, “My God, I love thee, serve thee, and cling to thee alone”? These people in Hosea’s day promised themselves plenty, peace, and victory by worshiping their idols, but their expectations came to nothing. What they sowed in the fields had no stems or leaves; or if they did, the buds yielded no fruit (verse 7). Similarly, the works of darkness are unfruitful, and the end of those things is death. The hopes of sinners will deceive them, and their gains will prove to be nothing but snares. Such persons as these take a course by themselves; and like a wild donkey by himself, they will only be easier and surer prey for lions (verse 9). Man in his natural state is nothing more than a wild donkey’s colt. He seeks for that help and satisfaction in created things, which are to be found in Jehovah alone. And although such people may sorrow a little when they are in trouble or in danger, yet if it is not a Godly kind of sorrow, they will be brought to sorrow everlastingly.
In verses 11-14, we learn how great of a sin it is to corrupt the worship of God; and it will be charged as sin upon all who do it, no matter how plausible their excuses may seem to be. The Lord had caused His Law to be written for His people; but they did not care to know it, and they would not obey it. By the altars and temples and cities which man builds (verses 11 and 14), he imagines himself to be mindful of his Maker; yet he really has “forgotten” Him (verse 14) and cast off all fear of Him. But no one ever hardened his heart against the Lord and prospered. As long as people despise the truths and precepts of God’s Word and the ordinances of His worship, all the observances and offerings of their own devising – however costly – will be sin unto them. For only those services are acceptable to God, which are done according to His Word and through Jesus Christ.
Here is a very striking passage in these words. The Lord says (verse 12) that the great things which He wrote to Israel were counted strange things by them. And what is more strange to thousands in our own day, who call themselves Christians, than the pure doctrine of Christ’s blood and righteousness as the only possible means of salvation? And yet what is so great and so glorious as that? Who can enter into a right understanding of this blessed doctrine unless they are taught by the Holy Spirit? “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). Without the Holy Spirit’s gracious instruction, the mystery of the Gospel will be counted as a strange thing. Unless people are taught by this Divine Teacher, they will now – just as much as in the days of Christ’s earthly ministry – call the most blessed truths “hard sayings”; and they will go away and turn their back on Jesus because their hearts never truly walked with Him (John 6:60-66).
Lord, we repent of times when we have hardened our hearts against You, and despised the truths and precepts of Your Word and the ordinances of Your worship. We confess that we have often attempted to serve You with observances and offerings of our own devising, which are nothing more than sin. Thank You, dear Lord, for bestowing upon us Your gracious Holy Spirit – the Divine Teacher – Who has caused us to understand the grand and glorious doctrine of Christ’s blood and righteousness as the only possible means of salvation! Amen.
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