“Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people,” says the prophet in the opening verse of this chapter. And why not? Because they had been unfaithful to their God, and forsaken Him, in order to enjoy the rewards that they promised themselves from chasing after the things of the world. And in the process, they spared no expense in presenting costly offerings to their idols. But when we make the world and its possessions the subject of our worship, instead of the Lord alone, it is just and righteous for Him to show us our folly and correct us; and He does so by taking those things in which we promised ourselves peace and gladness, and causing them to become an empty and unsatisfying disappointment.
There had been a time when the spiritual watchmen of Israel were with the Lord (verse 8), but now they were like the snare of a fowler; for so far from showing their people the ways in which they should follow the Lord, they entangled them to their ruin. The people of Israel as a whole, in Hosea’s day, had become as corrupt as the evil men of Gibeah in the days of the Judges (Judges 19); and their crimes would surely be recompensed in a similar manner as theirs was (verse 9). In times past, the Lord’s Israel had been pleasing to Him – just as grapes are a pleasant thing for the traveler to enjoy when he is passing through the wilderness (verse 10). He viewed them with pleasure, as a man would look upon his first-ripe figs. This shows the delight that God took in them, and yet they shamefully left Him and followed after idolatry.
God departs from a person or a people, when He withdraws His goodness and mercy from them; and when the Lord is departed, what can mortal flesh do on its own? Although good things may seem to remain for the present, yet the blessing is gone if the Lord is gone. And such was the case with the people that Hosea was preaching to. Outwardly, at the time in which he prophesied, Israel was in a fairly prosperous situation; but the Lord’s judgments upon their sins were swiftly approaching. Even the children would perish with the parents, and their posterity would not grow up to maturity (verses 11-17). Divine wrath dries up the root, and withers the fruit of all comforts (verse 16); and these judgments upon the rebellious Jews warn us daily to beware, lest we neglect or abuse the Gospel. It is very just that God should bring judgments upon those who have slighted His repeated offers of free mercy. If we find ourselves being smitten by the hand of God, let us cry out to Him for grace so that the smiting may not dry up our root! Let us beseech Him to send His life-giving sap down toward the root, so that there may be more of root-graces within us – more humility, more patience, more faith, and more self-denial!
What does verse 7 mean when it says that “the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred”? Hosea is here declaring the false estimation with which the prophets of God were held in by the people of his age, to whom his messages were being delivered. But centuries have run their course since the times of Hosea, and the conditions of life today are – in a thousand and one details – entirely different from the conditions of life back then. However, human nature is exactly the same! In the profound and elemental things of human life, there is no change. Yes, we may have changed the manner in which we dress and the kinds of homes in which we live, but the basic elements of human nature abide the same throughout the running centuries. Poor mothers had broken hearts millenniums ago, just as they do today. Rebellious youth was exactly the same back then as it is now. Today it may be more violent in expression; but back then, it was more deceitful. People are still saying the same things that they always have said – although, perhaps, with a new insistence and a greater arrogance than they once did. And so it ought to come as no surprise to us that even in our modern times, there is a recurrence of this view concerning the Lord’s faithful people and ministers: “The prophet is a fool, and the man of the spirit is mad.” His message from the Word of God is counted as silly ravings. That which makes people look upon the message and messengers of the Lord as foolishness is sin! Why don’t they submit their hearts to Christ? Why do they refuse to enter into a relationship with God? Because they do not truly know Him! If they did know Him, there is not one man, woman, youth, or maiden who would not be drawn to Him immediately!
Herein we are also taught of the inevitableness of zeal and fervor in the cause of Christ. Sometimes we may be tempted to wonder whether people within the Christian Church really do believe the things they say they believe. There was a man in the 19th century who became a great evangelist of the Gospel. But what made him a flaming servant of the Lord Jesus? He once heard an infidel lecturing, and he was laughing at Christianity. He said, “If I really believed what you Christian people pretend to believe, I would not rest – day nor night – telling men and women about Jesus!” This man heard those words, and they gripped him; and he said, “The man is right!” The result was that he did not rest in his evangelism – day nor night. If the things which we affirm in our creeds are true, then we ought to be on fire! The people of the world are still saying that we are silly, but they do not often say that we are mad; and it is because too often, we have lost a true spirit of enthusiasm for the mission of the Gospel.
Lord, we pray for grace to be poured out upon our sinful nation, so that we may be led to repentance. Set our souls on fire for Jesus so that we may be enthusiastic for the mission of the Gospel! Amen.
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