An exhortation to repentance. (1-3) Blessings promised, showing the rich comforts of the gospel. (4-8) The just and the wicked. (9)
Verses 1-3 Israel is exhorted to return unto Jehovah, from their sins and idols, by faith in his mercy, and grace through the promised Redeemer, and by diligently attending on his worship and service. Take away iniquity; lift it off as a burden we are ready to sink under, or as the stumbling-block we have often fallen over. Take it all away by a free and full forgiveness, for we cannot strike any of it off. Receive our prayer graciously. They do not say what good they seek, but refer it to God. It is not good of the world's showing, but good of God's giving. They were to consider their sins, their wants, and the remedy; and they were to take, not sacrifices, but words stating the desires of their hearts, and with them to address the Lord. The whole forms a clear description of the nature and tendency of a sinner's conversion to God through Jesus Christ. As we draw near to God by the prayer of faith, we should first beseech him to teach us what to ask. We must be earnest with him to take away all iniquity.
Verses 4-8 Israel seeks God's face, and they shall not seek it in vain. His anger is turned from them. Whom God loves, he loves freely; not because they deserve it, but of his own good pleasure. God will be to them all they need. The graces of the Spirit are the hidden manna, hidden in the dew; the grace thus freely bestowed on them shall not be in vain. They shall grow upward, and be more flourishing; shall grow as the lily. The lily, when come to its height, is a lovely flower, ( matthew 6:28 matthew 6:29 ) . They shall grow downward, and be more firm. With the flower of the lily shall be the strong root of the cedar of Lebanon. Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root, which is out of sight. They shall also spread as the vine, whose branches extend very widely. When believers abound in good works, then their branches spread. They shall be acceptable both to God and man. Holiness is the beauty of a soul. The church is compared to the vine and the olive, which bring forth useful fruits. God's promises pertain to those only that attend on his ordinances; not such as flee to this shadow only for shelter in a hot gleam, but all who dwell under it. When a man is brought to God, all who dwell under his shadow fare the better. The sanctifying fruits shall appear in his life. Thus believers grow up into the experience and fruitfulness of the gospel. Ephraim shall say, God will put it into his heart to say it, What have I to do any more with idols! God's promises to us are more our security and our strength for mortifying sin, than our promises to God. See the power of Divine grace. God will work such a change in him, that he shall loathe the idols as much as ever he loved them. See the benefit of sanctified afflictions. Ephraim smarted for his idolatry, and this is the fruit, even the taking away his sin, ( Isaiah 27:9 ) . See the nature of repentance; it is a firm and fixed resolution to have no more to do with sin. The Lord meets penitents with mercy, as the father of the prodigal met his returning son. God will be to all true converts both a delight and a defence; they shall sit under his shadow with delight. And as the root of a tree; From me is thy fruit found: from Him we receive grace and strength to enable us to do our duty.
Verse 9 Who profit by the truths the prophet delivered? Such as set themselves to understand and know these things. The ways of God's providence towards us are right; all is well done. Christ is a Foundation Stone to some, to others a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence. That which was ordained to life, becomes, through their abuse of it, death to them. The same sun softens wax and hardens clay. But those transgressors certainly have the most dangerous, fatal falls, who fall in the ways of God, who split on the Rock of Ages, and suck poison out of the Balm of Gilead. Let sinners in Zion fear this. May we learn to walk in the right ways of God, as his righteous servants, and may none of us be disobedient and unbelieving, and stumble at the word.
Hosea 14:1-9 . GOD'S PROMISE OF BLESSING, ON THEIR REPENTANCE: THEIR ABANDONMENT OF IDOLATRY FORETOLD: THE CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE, THE JUST SHALL WALK IN GOD'S WAYS, BUT THE TRANSGRESSOR SHALL FALL THEREIN.
1. fallen by thine iniquity--( Hosea 5:5 , 13:9 ).
2. Take with you words--instead of sacrifices, namely, the words of penitence here put in your mouths by God. "Words," in Hebrew, mean "realities," there being the same term for "words" and "things"; so God implies, He will not accept empty professions ( Psalms 78:36 , Isaiah 29:13 ). He does not ask costly sacrifices, but words of heartfelt penitence.
receive us graciously--literally "(for) good."
calves of our lips--.that is, instead of sacrifices of calves, which we cannot offer to Thee in exile, we present the praises of our lips. Thus the exile, wherein the temple service ceased, prepared the way for the gospel time when the types of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament being realized in Christ's perfect sacrifice once for all, "the sacrifice of praise to God continually that is the fruit of our lips" ( Hebrews 13:14 ) takes their place in the New Testament.
3. Three besetting sins of Israel are here renounced, trust in Assyria, application to Egypt for its cavalry (forbidden, Deuteronomy 17:16 ; compare Hosea 7:11 , 11:5 , 12:1 , 2 Kings 17:4 , Psalms 33:17 , Isaiah 30:2 Isaiah 30:16 , 31:1 ), and idolatry.
fatherless--descriptive of the destitute state of Israel, when severed from God, their true Father. We shall henceforth trust in none but Thee, the only Father of the fatherless, and Helper of the destitute ( Psalms 10:14 , 68:5 ); our nation has experienced Thee such in our helpless state in Egypt, and now in a like state again our only hope is Thy goodness.
4. God's gracious reply to their self-condemning prayer.
backsliding--apostasy: not merely occasional backslidings. God can heal the most desperate sinfulness [CALVIN].
freely--with a gratuitous, unmerited, and abundant love ( Ezekiel 16:60-63 ). So as to the spiritual Israel ( John 15:16 , Romans 3:24 , 5:8 , 1 John 4:10 ).
5. as the dew--which falls copiously in the East, taking the place of the more frequent rains in other regions. God will not be "as the early dew that goeth away," but constant ( Hosea 6:3 Hosea 6:4 , Job 29:19 , Proverbs 19:12 ).
the lily--No plant is more productive than the lily, one root often producing fifty bulbs [PLINY, Natural History, 21.5]. The common lily is white, consisting of six leaves opening like bells. The royal lily grows to the height of three or four feet; Matthew 6:29 alludes to the beauty of its flowers.
roots as Lebanon--that is, as the trees of Lebanon (especially the cedars), which cast down their roots as deeply as is their height upwards; so that they are immovable [JEROME], ( Isaiah 10:34 ). Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root which is out of sight.
6. branches--shoots, or suckers.
beauty . . . as the olive--which never loses its verdure. One plant is not enough to express the graces of God's elect people. The lily depicts its lovely growth; but as it wants duration and firmness, the deeply rooted cedars of Lebanon are added; these, however, are fruitless, therefore the fruitful, peace-bearing, fragrant, ever green olive is added.
smell as Lebanon--which exhaled from it the fragrance of odoriferous trees and flowers. So Israel's name shall be in good savor with all ( Genesis 27:27 , Solomon 4:11 ).
7. They that used to dwell under Israel's shadow (but who shall have been forced to leave it), shall return, that is, be restored ( Ezekiel 35:9 ). Others take "His shadow" to mean Jehovah's (compare Psalms 17:8 , 91:1 , Isaiah 4:6 ), which Hosea 14:1 Hosea 14:2 ("return unto the Lord," &c.) favor. But the "his" in Hosea 14:6 refers to Israel, and therefore must refer to the same here.
revive as . . . corn--As the corn long buried in the earth springs up, with an abundant produce, so shall they revive from their calamities, with a great increase of offspring (compare John 12:24 ).
scent thereof--that is, Israel's fame. Compare Hosea 14:6 , "His smell as Lebanon"; Solomon 1:3 : "Thy name is as ointment poured forth." The Septuagint favors the Margin, "memorial."
as the wine of Lebanon--which was most celebrated for its aroma, flavor, and medicinal restorative properties.
8. Ephraim shall say--being brought to penitence by God's goodness, and confessing and abhorring his past madness.
I have heard . . . and observed him--I Jehovah have answered and regarded him with favor; the opposite of God's "hiding His face from" one ( Deuteronomy 31:17 ). It is the experience of God's favor, in contrast to God's wrath heretofore, that leads Ephraim to abhor his past idolatry. Jehovah heard and answered: whereas the idols, as Ephraim now sees, could not hear, much less answer.
I am . . . a green fir--or cypress; ever green, winter and summer alike; the leaves not falling off in winter.
From me is thy fruit found--"From Me," as the root. Thou needest go no farther than Me for the supply of all thy wants; not merely the protection implied by the shadow of the cypress, but that which the cypress has not, namely, fruit, all spiritual and temporal blessings. It may be also implied, that whatever spiritual graces Ephraim seeks for or may have, are not of themselves, but of God ( Psalms 1:3 , John 15:4 John 15:5 John 15:8 , 1:17 ). God's promises to us are more our security for mortifying sin than our promises to God ( Isaiah 27:9 ).
9. EPILOGUE, summing up the whole previous teaching. Here alone Hosea uses the term "righteous," so rare were such characters in his day. There is enough of saving truth clear in God's Word to guide those humbly seeking salvation, and enough of difficulties to confound those who curiously seek them out, rather than practically seek salvation.
fall--stumble and are offended at difficulties opposed to their prejudices and lusts, or above their self-wise understanding (compare Proverbs 10:29 , Micah 2:7 , Matthew 11:19 , Luke 2:34 , John 7:17 , 1 Peter 2:7 1 Peter 2:8 ). To him who sincerely seeks the agenda, God will make plain the credenda. Christ is the foundation-stone to some: a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to others. The same sun softens wax and hardens clay. But their fall is the most fatal who fall in the ways of God, split on the Rock of ages, and suck poison out of the Balm of Gilead.