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This king, Jereboam II, was by far the greatest ruler the northern kingdom ever had. He was remarkably successful as a soldier, and a strong executive. During his reign the people were hopeful and enjoyed a good measure of prosperity.
But the foundation of their prosperity lacked moral soundness and religious faith; and therefore the whole social order broke down as soon as the strong hand of the king was removed.
Political confusion, moral corruption, and the hostility of neighboring nations brought on the rapid and disastrous decline which terminated in the fall of Samaria and the carrying away of the people by Shalmaneser—Sargon-, King of Assyria, and the disappearance of the little kingdom from the nations of the earth. It was swept away “like a chip upon the waters.”
During the time of Jereboam II, there was much to arouse the apprehension of the prophet who observed the moral and religious corruption of the people. In the first section he rebuked the nation for their unfaithfulness to God. He represents their apostacy in the parable of the unfaithful wife. It is a striking figure, as it portrays the repeated and shameless defections of the nation and the marvelous forbearance of God. The warnings of judgment are clearly announced, but the offer of pardon and renewed favor on condition of their repentance is urged in the terms of earnest entreaty. God opens "a door of hope" and promises "to break the bow and the sword, and the battle of the land, and will make them to lie down in safety."
“I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness and in judgment and in loving kindness and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord.”
Although the moral and religious conditions were deplorable, and merited the scathing rebuke which the prophet uttered so fearlessly, the outlook was not yet hopeless.
In the second section the form and contents of the book seems
to reflect the disordered and distressed condition of the people, specially of the northern kingdom. The style is abrupt and broken. It gives the impression of a mind distressed and almost despairing, yet unwilling to give up the high hopes which it had entertained.
! At times the prophet cries out in agony over the state of the people, and pours out his very soul in anguish over the incorrigible defection of the nation. He lifts up his voice in fervent appeals and warnings.
"Set the trumpet to thy mouth. As an eagle he cometh against the house of the Lord because they have transgressed my covenant and trespassed against my law."
“For they have sown the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind."
“I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted a strange thing to him.”
"My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him, and they shall be wanderers among the nations."
And with many other earnest words of warning the impending doom is predicted and charged to their own apostacy.
But these severe rebukes are the faithful words of a friend, and are always followed immediately by the most tender expressions of love, and yearning appeals to their conscience, urging repentance and return to God.
God is represented as a friend, longing to bless them, as a father distressed by the waywardness of a dearly beloved son.
Nowhere has the emotions, the affections, and the unquenchable compassion of God been more vividly portrayed. Even the great parable of the prodigal son does not more beautifully reveal the tender love of a heavenly father for the individual sinner, than these visions of Hosea express the love of God for the rebellious nation. For example, this appeal to their national history. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him." "I taught Ephraim to walk.” “I took them in my arms." "I
drew them with the cords of a man, with bands of love." "I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat before them.” “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I let thee go, O Israel? How am I to make thee as Admah, or Zeboim? My heart is wrung within me. My compassions are kindled; I will not perform the fierceness of mine anger. I am not willing to destroy Ephraim. For God am I and not man.”
So the prophet pictures the long suffering gentleness of God and the marvelous love that will not yield; the loving kindness that pleads and entreats and patiently waits. Like as a father pitieth his children so the Lord's heart is represented as yearning for the salvation of the nation.
But, alas, Israel is incorrigible; and the prophet reluctantly takes up again the office of accuser, and in pathetic tones recites the shameful story of their guilt, ingratitude and folly.
"Israel hath provoked to anger most bitterly, therefore, shall his blood be left upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return upon him.”
"For Israel hath behaved himself stubbornly like a stubborn heifer." "I have redeemed them, yet have they spoken lies against me.”
"Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone.” But this terrible sentence-let him alone—is not yet spoken as imperative and final, but rather as the inevitable unless there is repentance.
Again the prophet pleads in God's name that they consider and repent and seek salvation.
He cries, “Come, let us return unto the Lord; for He hath torn and He will heal us. He hath smitten and He will bind us up. After two days he will revive us, and the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live before him. And let us know, let us follow on to know the Lord. His going forth is sure as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter
rain that watereth the earth.”
So the entire prophecy sways back and forth in its tide of intense and tender feeling. Like some strong man well nigh distracted by his love and by his pity, so the prophet in the name of God pleads, admonishes, urges and appeals, and hoping against hope, and brave in the face of despair, closes his prophecy with an impassioned appeal to the sullen and insensate nation to return to God—a plea that for dignity and noble tenderness is unsurpassed in all the literature of the world.
“O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words and return unto the Lord. Say unto him, "Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously.'
Then the Lord will answer, “I will heal all thy backslidings. I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned away from them.
"I will be as the dew unto Israel,
But this beautiful vision was never realized. Israel did not return. They would not come that they might have life.
They had "plowed wickedness", and they went on to "reap iniquity.” They have spoken lies against God, and in due time they ate the fruit of lies.
Thus we apprehend the great message of this prophecy. It is a great revelation of God's attitude toward sinful and rebellious men.
The immediate purpose was to warn Israel and to call the nation to repentance, but it is the truth of God for all time, as true today as in Hosea's day. As precious for you
and me as for that ancient people. A most comforting revelation of his infinite grace, his compassion and fatherly affection; but no less clear and forceable is the revelation of his eternal justice.
It stands as a great beacon light midway between Mt. Sinai. and Mt. Calvary. The God revealed by this great light is the same as He who spake to Moses on the Mount, saying, “The Lord, the Lord, a God full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin. And that will by no means clear the guilty.” And the same who wept over Jerusalem and said, "How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”
But this fundamental truth is by no means the only lesson of this great book. No other book is more instructive in the practical duties of life or more profound in its teaching of spiritual truth.
The doctrine which underlies the whole book is the doctrine of God's sovereignty. “His law is perfect. Just and right is he" is the fundamental truth from which the prophet draws every inference of duty, all hope and aspiration, every warning and reproof. God is a loving father, and because of his love he reveals the laws, the everlasting principles by which alone man can reach blessedness or attain to excellence.
“I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth; and my judgments are as the light that goeth forth. For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."
The relation of man to God is that of a son to a father. His duty is obedience, not slavish obedience because of God's power to punish, but willing obedience to reasonable demands. The charge against man is that he is stubborn and unreasonable, he