Notes of an Address on Hosea 7:8-16

1914 182 Many figures are employed in this chapter to describe the sad moral state of Israel at that time; not the least striking and suggestive is that in verse 9 — "Grey hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not." Is this applicable to Israel only, or does it apply in principle to any of us?

The tendency of all things here, whether physical, moral or spiritual, is to decline, to decay, and to death. The histories of man, of Israel, of the church, and of ourselves, collectively and individually, alike testify to this universal fact. But in verse 9 there is something more solemn than the signs Of decline and decay which Jehovah discovered in His people — it is that they were utterly insensible to them. "Grey hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not." The natural consequence of this decline and departure from God is that the soul becomes unconscious of its state.

Malachi 1 illustrates this solemn truth. We see all through this chapter how utterly indifferent Israel is to every claim of Jehovah — they question His love, His authority, His service, His name, Himself — they are totally unconscious of every claim.

What was the cause of Ephraim's state in Hosea? There were three causes, pride, worldliness, and self-will or rebellion — the first two secondary, the third primary. The first then is pride — "and the pride of Israel testifieth to his face" (verse 10). Pride goes before a fall. Is there any sin so common, or to which we yield ourselves so much, as pride of heart?

The second cause is worldliness — "they call to Egypt, they — "go to Assyria" (verse 11). Egypt is a type of the world in its natural state. Other nations also typify the world, but in different ways, e.g., Moab, pride of the world; Babylon, religious corruption. Worldliness of any sort inevitably brings with it declension or deadness.

In verses 13 to 16 we find the primary cause — departure from, and rebellion against, Jehovah. The Lord charges this home to them seven times: — They have fled from Me; they have transgressed against Me; they have spoken lies against Me; they have not cried unto Me with their heart; they rebel against Me; they imagine mischief against Me; they return not to the Most High. How complete was the fall! The cause — departure of heart from the Lord.

Is there then no remedy? At one point in the history of God's people He bore with them until there was "no remedy" (2 Chron. 36:16), but thank God it is not so with us, and it was not so here. We find the remedy in Hosea 14. This chapter is one of the most touching and gracious in the whole of the Old Testament. First, we have a gracious and loving call to repentance and return of heart to the Lord; that is the first step towards restoration. Verses 2 and 3 are an exhortation to full confession and abandonment of all trust in human sources of strength, and of the sin of idolatry; while in verse 4 we have the gracious response of the Lord.

Then, in the two following verses we have, under the most beautiful figures, the results of the restoration of the soul. "I will be as the dew unto Israel"  — refreshing and fertilising grace and blessing from the Lord Himself. "He shall grow (or, blossom) as the lily" — in grace, purity and humility. "And cast forth his roots as Lebanon" — firmly rooted and established in the grace of God, "His branches shall spread" — a means of blessing to others. "And his beauty shall be as the olive tree" — beautiful in the eyes of the Lord. What a loving interest He takes in His own, how He delights in them and loves to see the beauties and graces of Christ in them! "And His smell as Lebanon" — how acceptable and delightful to the Lord is the fragrance of Christ in His people!

"They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon (ver. 7). What a picture of a happy moral state of soul before the Lord! What a wonderful thing t hat His people should be so acceptable to Him!

Verse 8. This verse is a kind of dialogue between Ephraim and Jehovah. There is Ephraim's happy resolve — "What have I to do any more with idols?" Then Jehovah speaks — "I have heard him and observed him." Who first saw the grey hairs and the turning away of heart?Jehovah. Who saw the first symptoms of returning? — Jehovah. "I have … observed him." Who was the first to observe the departure of the prodigal and to miss him from the paternal table (Luke 15)? Who was on the look-out for his return? — "and when he was yet a great way off his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran." Who was the first to discern the decline of first love in Ephesus (Rev. 2)?

But we may be occupied with our blessings and become proud of them. Is there any pride like spiritual pride? Ephraim says, "I am like a green fir tree." There is not a single grace or mercy that does not come directly from the heart of God (James 1:17); we have nothing apart from Him. So Jehovah answers Ephraim — "From Me is thy fruit found."

In John 15:4-8 it is not a question of life but of communion. There may be life but very little fruit — fruit results from communion with the Lord. "Apart from Me ye can do nothing." So here, "From Me is thy fruit found."

Ephraim was unconscious of his grey hairs; so we, if we get away from the Lord, may become unconscious of it ourselves; but grace works in our hearts and brings us back to God.
"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love."

Are we not dependent on Him for restoration of soul every day of our lives? What so prone to wander as a sheep! and what so silly when it finds itself alone on the desolate moors and barren mountains of this world? But the shepherd it is who goes after it and brings it back. May we be found cleaving to the Lord with full purpose of heart. C.J.D.