Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
GOD'S GRACIOUS AND ETERNAL PURPOSE. Hosea 2:14-18
Hosea is reckoned the first of the minor prophets, a contemporary of Isaiah, in the eventful days of Uzziah and Hezekiah, Kings of Judah. "The Word of the Lord came to him, " and by his vital relationship with a morally depraved and faithless wife, he symbolically revealed Israel's treacherous relationship with her longsuffering God. Here let us try and see something of the abounding grace of this God with whom we have to do.
I. His Gracious Method. "I will allure her into the wilderness" (v. 14). He does not say, "I will drive her, " but "I will allure her" into a condition where her old evil associations and habits will not have the same bewitching influence over her. Thus the first act of grace is seen in a merciful alluring. Why are we so slow to recognize and believe in this blessed work of the Holy Spirit, and to imagine that when the pleasures of material things begin to wither and die in our experience, that life has lost its value? It is always a seeming barren wilderness to the worldly-minded to be brought into a position where they having nothing left but God.
II. His Merciful Purpose. "I will speak comfortably unto her. " God knows what our deep needs are, and how best to meet them, for "as a mother comforts, so the Lord. " Oh, the bliss that dawns upon our souls when in our bewilderment the peace of God breaks in upon our troubled hearts. His comforting words and ways bring us out of the darkness of doubt and fearfulness, into His marvelous light and restfulness. Why is it that we need so much alluring to bring us into that condition where God can give us His most precious gifts? Surely this is the blindness and the stubbornness of our natural minds. Still, "He gives us the victory. "
III. The Wonderful Results.
1. "I will give her vineyards from thence" (v. 15). What! vineyards from the wilderness, where we could see nothing but barrenness and desolation? Yes, out of our experiences, of weariness, and seeming failure God can make, even these, fresh sources of refreshing and strength. By this we are assured that the Divine leading is never contrary to our highest good. Our Father's hand is never out of harmony with our Father's heart. His wisdom never contradicts His love. Therefore, let us confidently and joyfully trust, even when we have been disappointed and brought low. "Where He leads I will follow. " The Holy Spirit is still alluring into new and deeper experiences.
2. "I will give her the Valley of Achor (trouble or trembling) for a door of hope." In the dark and fearsome valley of trouble He can and will open a new door into fresh hopefulness and larger liberty (Joshua 7:26) to every humble believer. We dread the experience of "trouble, " it may be because it brings to us such a deep sense of our weakness and helplessness. Don't let us imagine that we are only making spiritual progress when we are climbing. Our wonder-working God can make our valley of trouble a place to lie down in (Isaiah 65:10).
3. "I will give her the Joy of Youth" (v. 15). "She shall sing as in the days of her youth," when, as a nation, she was delivered out of Egypt. She had restored to her the freshness of his happy, youthful days. The God of Israel is the God of our salvation, still ready to renew and restore. Every answered prayer gives occasion for a new song. Every fresh manifestation of His wisdom and power brings additional victory into our spiritual being. In this sense, that which is truly Christian never grows old. "Even youths may faint, and young men utterly fail, but they that wait on the Lord shall change strength." When God satisfies the craving of our spiritual nature with "good things" the youth is "renewed like the eagle's" (Psalm 103:5).
4. New Relationship. "In that day you shall call me, My Husband" (v. 16). Blessed day for Israel when their "Deliverer shall come out of Zion, turning away captivity," and when "all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:26). "My husband." This is something deeper and sweeter than the mere formal designation, "My lord." "My wife" means much more to me than "my servant." What marvelous grace is here revealed. God pledging Himself to act for His people the part of a "Husband." Think of all that is involved in such a promise. Taking the responsibility of supplying our every need, and bringing us and keeping us in closest fellowship with Himself. "Call Me Husband, and trust Me to be loving and faithful as long as you do live." How sweet is this assurance to the weary, trembling heart. "Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God" (John 14:1).
THE DIVINE BETROTHAL. Hosea 2:19-23
God did not love Israel because of her loveliness. She had been guilty of spiritual adultery; even her mother had played the harlot (v. 5). "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us." Even "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Note—
I. The Manner of this Betrothal. Betrothing is always a delicate business, and should be done on just and sacred principles; and so it is with our God.
1. In Righteousness. In a manner consistent with His character and our real need. He must be just to be a trustworthy Savior (Isaiah 45:21). This betrothal is in perfect accord with all the holiness of Heaven, and will be faultless through the ages of eternity. But it must also be—
2. In Judgment. The betrothed is presently guilty, unclean, and deep in debt. How is she to be cleansed from sin and her great debt cancelled? This is the great problem of Divine grace. The wages of her sin is death. Sin and guilt must be judged. Glory and honor be to His Holy Name. Jesus Christ God's Eternal Son, in seeking to betroth humanity to Himself, took our nature, bore our sins, shed His Blood to cleanse us, and became a atoning sacrifice for the whole world (1 John 2:2).
3. In Loving-kindness. Yes, in that love that delighted to manifest itself in kindness toward us. This expressive word was used by the Psalmist over twenty times. Is it not marvelous to find it used here in connection with an adulterous nation? Behold the triumph of redeeming love. In righteousness and in judgment, these are the banks of the channel through which the stream of His loving-kindness flow, "that He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us, through Jesus Christ. For by grace are you saved" (Ephesians 2:7, 8).
4. In Mercies. His mercies, Oh, how manifold! These are the gifts of His love to the betrothed. The apostle calls them "the riches of His grace" freely bestowed. When Rebekah decided to "go with this man," she doubtless received many mercies by the way. When the prodigal came home the mercies the father bestowed were many. The mercies of God constitute a powerful incentive to yield ourselves unto Him. Paul fully realized this, for in writing to the Romans, he says: "I beseech you by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God... your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).
5. In Faithfulness. This proposed union is all in faithfulness on His part. "My covenant will I not break." Faithful is He who has promised. "I am the God of Jacob, that changing and doubtful one, but "I change not." He abides faithful. What a comforting promise this is, when weakness, failure, and defeat overtake us in our work for Him.
II. The Purpose of this Betrothal. It is in prospect of marriage—Eternal union.
1. That we might know Him. "You shall know the Lord" (v. 20). Know Him sufficiently to love, serve, adore, and praise Him. This means heart knowledge, and His promise still is: "I will give them a heart to know Me" (Jeremiah 24:7). This new God-given heart is what men need to know God. "This is life eternal to know...Jesus Christ whom He has sent" (John 17:3).
2. That we might belong to Him. "You shall not be for another. So will I also be for you" (chapter 3:3). This is a searching truth. He is wholehearted for us; we must be wholehearted for Him, or play the harlot with our affections. Christ did not purchase us with His Blood that we might belong to any other. "One is your Master, even Christ." You are not your own. Do we desire as sincerely and fully to be His as He desires to be wholly ours?
3. That we might confess Him. "They shall say, You are my God" (v. 23). What harmony could there be in a home where the wife was ashamed to say, "You are my husband?" There are many who drink greatly at the stream of God's mercies who never look up and say, "You are my God." There is a present and eternal honor for all who confess Jesus Christ before men (Luke 12:8), for Christ will confess such before the angels of God. Open your mouth wide for Him and He shall fill it.
4. That we might be co-workers with Him. The wife is to be the husband's helpmate. The members of the body are co-workers with the head. We who have been allowed into the family of God, by His merciful and persistent grace, must surely feel our responsibility to seek the furtherance of His kingdom. The cause of God is a family business. Are you in His family? Then are you in His business? "Lord, what will You have me to do?"
THE PERIL OF SPIRITUAL IGNORANCE. Hosea 4:6-11
This chapter deals further with this sinful people, and God's exposure of their character and judgment against them, for "the Lord has a controversy with them" (v. 1). Here they are charged with the lack of knowledge.
I. Ignorance of God is Common. Israel had many manifestations of God's wisdom and power in their past history. Many messages from the lips and lives of His prophets; yet in practical life they knew Him not. The same is true today of multitudes in this so-called "Christian age." There are many that try to justify such ignorance by saying, "God is unknowable," which is a denial of the "testimony of Jesus," who is "the image of the invisible God." "He who has seen Me," He said, "has seen the Father." How say you then, "God is unknowable?" (John 14:7-10).
II. Ignorance of God is often Willful. "You have rejected knowledge" (v. 6). Paul, writing to the same nation, says: "Being ignorant of God's righteousness, have not submitted themselves" (Romans 10:3). Those who have "left off to take heed to the Lord" (v. 10) are surely guilty of willful blindness, because they love the darkness rather than the light. The darkness being better suited for the working out of their selfish and evil deeds. We reject the highest wisdom and knowledge when we reject Christ, who is the wisdom of God. Now to be willingly ignorant of God in the presence of His glorious Gospel is to be a voluntary criminal. "How shall we escape if we neglect?"
III. Willful Ignorance of God is Fatal. "My people are destroyed (cut off) for lack of knowledge" (v. 6). It is fatal to spiritual life and fruitfulness as a branch cut off from the vine. God is not mocked. Such ignorance leads to—
1. Divine Rejection. "Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you" (v. 6). There can be no real fellowship with God where the light of His Word is despised or ignored. The darkness of the unbelieving heart cuts off the vision of the face of God in Jesus Christ. Think of it. To reject the pleadings of His sacrificial love is to be finally rejected.
2. Glory Turned into Shame. "I will change their glory into shame" (v. 7). Were they glorying in their false gods, in their growing numbers, in their material prosperity, or in their freedom from Divine restraint? They were not glorying in their God, so He would change all into a burning shame. Our God is "a jealous God." His love is so great and tender that He will not suffer any rival for our affections and devotion. Beware, for whatever takes His place in the heart's affections will certainly be changed into shame and confusion.
3. Fruitless Effort. "They shall eat and not have enough" (v. 10). No matter how much of material things they seek to cram into their greedy lives, they never have enough. Such is the experience of many a worldly man and woman. Frantic, fruitless effort to gain soul satisfaction, but they never have enough. They don't know the depth of the hunger of their own souls. Christ said: "I am the Bread of Life." Eat, O beloved, there is enough here and to spare. He satisfies the hungry soul with good. "I am the Living Bread which came down from Heaven: if any man eat this Bread he shall live for ever." Surely this is enough. "All fullness dwells in Him." Herein is God's ocean, to fill that little cup of yours, called the heart.
THE WITHDRAWAL OF GOD'S FACE. Hosea 5
This simply means the withdrawal of His favor. Here is—
I. A Sad and Solemn Possibility. "He has withdrawn Himself from them" (v. 6). The face of God stands for Divine presence and approval: guidance, comfort, and help. How miserable and hopeless must that nation or that soul be when this face is withdrawn from them. "The face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (Psalm 34:16). How can we pray, "Make Your face to shine upon us" (Psalm 31:16) if in our service we are secretly seeking self-glory or the praise of men? He will not give His countenance to that which is displeasing to His heart. But, blessed be God, we can now behold His glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). That face which is ever turned to those who love Him and faithfully follow on to know. "My presence (lit. face) shall go with you" (Exod. 33:14). Beware. Grieve not the Holy Spirit, lest His face be hidden. You have said, "Seek you My face." My heart would answer "Your face, Lord, will I seek."
II. The Reasons for His Withdrawal. There must be a cause for this.... a cause that is painful to a loving heart.
1. They had Become a Snare (v. 1). Instead of being a light and example, encouraging others to trust and serve the Lord, they had been as a snare and a net, trapping unwary feet into their ungodly ways. Do you wonder that God turns away His face and favor from those whose life and example encourages others to dishonor His Name and His message? "He who is not for Me is against Me."
2. "They would not Frame their Doings to turn unto their God" (v. 4). Or, "Their doings would not suffer them to honor their God." Is it not so with many in our own day? Their daily doings are such that they will not suffer them to take time to pray, or even to think of the merciful God they are so persistently ignoring. Christian workers, take time to look up. Don't let the multitude of your engagements hinder the act of worship, lest He hide His face from you.
3. "They had Dealt Treacherously with the Lord" (v. 7). Treachery is a violation of allegiance, a breach of faith. We are traitors to the Captain of our Salvation when we identify ourselves with the ranks of the enemy. To be unfaithful to our Lord is to miss the shining of His face. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked." Now let us note some of—
III. The Results of His Withdrawn Face. On their part there was—
1. Vain Sacrifices. "They shall go with their flocks and herds,... but they shall not find Him" (v. 6). No number of sacrifices will atone for the hidden face of God as long as the heart is not right towards Him. Not any number of works, nor any amount of fleshly energy expended in His service will make up for the absence of the Holy Spirit of power. Out of fellowship with God means to us vain and fruitless testimony. They were—
2. Oppressed and Broken (v. 11). Because they had lost the vision of the face of their God, they sought help from the gods made by hands. Disobeying the Word of the Lord, they became obedient to the commandment of a worldly-wise man (see Kings __Kings__12:28). Distressed by the powers of the world, and broken like a potter's vessel. This becomes the destiny of the soul that has deliberately grieved away the saving presence of its God. Then they—
3. Seek for Another Remedy (v. 13). But they found no healing for their sickness, no balm for their wound. Lord, to whom can we go when the true fountain of our life has been dried up? All other sources are but "broken cisterns" that can hold nothing that a sinful soul needs. When faith in God has failed, then life is but a desperate and hopeless struggle. "Without Me you can do nothing."
4. God Waits until they Seek His Face. "I will return to my place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face" (v. 15, margin). Although His face may be hidden because of their sin, yet in love He longs for fellowship with the prodigal nation. Confession is needed, and the search of the backslider should be not only for healing, but for the brightness of the face of the Healer. "You shall find Me when you shall seek Me with all your heart." "He restores my soul." When the prodigal in penitence saw the face of his father, he immediately received of the riches of his grace. Those who refuse the favor of God now, as revealed in the face of Jesus, may have to say: "Hide me from the face of Him that sits upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16).
A CALL TO REPENTANCE. Hosea 6:1-3
This call evidently came through the lips of the prophet. And from all that follows it appears that they repented not, but the time will come when as a nation these words will be literally fulfilled (Jeremiah 30:17). Let us think of these wonderful words in the light of New Testament teaching.
I. The Need for Repentance. They were "torn" and "smitten" (v. 1). Torn and tortured with their own wretchedness, and smitten with defeat and failure, and all this as the result of the Divine Providence, because of their unbelief. There is need for repentance on our part when we are torn with anxieties and smitten with shameful defeat in our work for the Lord. He knows how much there is in us that needs to be torn up and smitten down. Such as selfishness and pride.
II. The Manner of this Repentance. "Return unto the Lord." To return implies a backsliding condition. The repentance that does not bring us right back into the Lord is a repentance that needs to be repented of. The proof of the prodigal's repentance was in the fact that he arose and came to his father. Repentance is a "saving grace" only when it brings us to God in humility of heart, and it may be, with a trembling trust. The Divine arms are ever extended in loving welcome to the truly penitent soul. It is with Him we have to do at such a time, not with any earthly priest.
III. The Results of Such Repentance.
1. There will be "Healing and Binding." "He will heal and He will bind us up" (v. 1). Our diseased hearts and torn hopes will be healed and bound up. "He heals all our diseases" and "binds up the broken in heart." They have repented deeply who live in the joy of this spiritual health and wholeness.
2. There will be Quickening. "He will revive us" (v. 2). After the "healing" and the "binding" there comes the energizing powers of a new life. When the sinner has been pardoned and reconciled to God there will, or should be, a revitalizing of the soul by the Holy Spirit. "It is the Spirit that quickens." He can make all things in our daily lives new.
3. There will be a "Living in the Light of God." "We shall live in His light" (v. 2). The man of the world may be all alive in the light of his fellow men, but it is a very different thing to be really alive in the light of God. Not merely living under His eye, as all are, but to have the life that is life indeed in God's reckoning. "I am come," said Jesus Christ, "that you might have life." "He who has the Son has life," and may have it in abundance. This is the real life as God sees it. The world's estimate is very different; but what does it matter as long as we are living in God's sight that life that is eternal.
4. There shall be a Growing Experience. "Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord" (v. 3). It is the nature of every living thing to grow. The new spiritual life is not to be like a stagnant pool, but an ever deepening stream. We are to "grow in grace and in the knowledge" of Him who is the source and force of the new life. This we shall do if we faithfully follow on. "My son, if you will receive My words... and hide them with you, then you will understand righteousness and judgment and equity, yes every good path" (Proverbs 2:1, 9).
5. There will be Times of Refreshing. "He shall go forth as the morning... and He shall come unto us as the rain" (v. 3). What a bright, cheerful experience to have His presence breathing upon us like the dawning of the day, and to have our drooping and fainting hearts refreshed like the rain upon the mown grass. The Presence of God, by His Spirit, always brings times of refreshing We ire taught to pray: "Give us this day our daily bread." May we not also pray: "Give us this day a fresh dawning of Your glorious presence upon the whole landscape of our lives?"
THE DIVINE REVIEW. Hosea 11:1-11
Here Jehovah tenderly reminds His wayward people of what He had done for them. Oh, how ready we are to forget the past mercies of our God. "Son, remember." The sin of discouragement may often be the sin of forget -fullness. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits" (Psalm 103:1-5). He reminds them of—
I. What He Did for Them.
1. He Loved. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him" (v. 1). When Israel was a child then he had no wisdom or strength to glory in. But the child's ignorance and weakness did not hinder the love of God. Let us never forget that God loved us even "while we were yet sinners."
2. He Delivered. "I called My Son out of Egypt" (v. 1). Out of the land of darkness, sorrow, and bondage. He has delivered us out of the kingdom of darkness and the slavery of ignorance, into the glorious light and liberty of the children of God. Delivered that we might be a separated people unto His Name.
3. He Taught. "I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by the arms" (v. 3). What a picture this is of Divine patience and carefulness. Like a father taking his child by the arms and teaching him to walk. God means us "to go," and although we may feel shaky in our feet, He will "perfect His strength in our weakness."
4. He Draws. "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love" (v. 4). Not with cords of a beast, following in ignorance of its master's will. Not with the iron bonds of compulsion, dragging against the will; but with that tender and most effective of all ties—Love. "The love of Christ constrains us." "O Love, that will not let me go, I yield my willing heart to You."
5. He Encouraged. "How shall I give you up?" (v. 8). What comfort we may draw from language like this, as if He said: "I have done great things for you; I have had long patience with you. How shall I give you up?" Let us hear these words as coming from the lips of our Redeemer: "I have ransomed you with My own Blood, endowed you with My own life, called you by My own Name, given you My own Spirit, and promised you Eternal Life and a place in My own Home. How shall I give you up?"
6. He Assured. "I am God, the Holy One, in the midst of you" (v. 9). The assurance of His Presence is the foretaste of victory (Exod. 33:15). "Greater is He who is with us, and in us, than all that can be against us." "He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is My Helper, and I will not fear" (Hebrews 13:5, 6). We may well have boldness in His service with such an all-sufficient and unfailing promise. For "in His presence there is fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11). He also reminds them of—
II. How they had Requited His Goodness.
1. They had Listened to Other Voices. "They called them, so they went" (v. 2). How unstable are the human affections. The worshipers of other gods called them, so they sacrificed unto Baalim. Before we pass judgment on their shameful faithlessness, let us ask: Are there no voices of the world, the flesh, our social relationships or skeptical acquaintances to which we have listened and turned aside from our ardent service of God? Satan is an adept in this alluring are. "Be you faithful unto death."
2. They did not Recognize His Good Hand as they should. "They knew not that I healed them" (v. 3). What? Recipients of His great mercies, and blind to the Giver? Is there any sin more common than this? The world is crowded with such sinners, and the so-called Church is by no means destitute of such willful ingrates. They receive with open heart and willing arms all the mercies God may pour into their earthly lot, but never recognize the Giver with even an upward look. God has given His Son to the death of the Cross to save them, but they have never said: "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."
3. They had a Tendency to Backslide. "My people are bent on backsliding from Me" (v. 7). Alas, this bent is only too common among the Lord's professing people. How much we need to pray: "Uphold You my goings, that I slip not." The temptations of the world to turn aside always press heavily upon the Christian pilgrim. Yet in midst of all these tendencies to go out of His way, we are assured that He is faithful who has promised. "Cleanse You me from secret faults."
THE FINAL APPEAL. Hosea 14
Again we hear the pathetic voice of that inextinguishable love that "suffers long and is kind." They had fallen by their iniquity, but here is hope.
I. The Urgent Call. We may regard this call as fourfold.
1. To Return. "O Israel, return unto the Lord your God" (v. 1.) He is still your God, even when you have lusted after other gods and caused Him to hide His face from you. There is no remedy for Israel's sin, nor for ours, but to return to the Lord, and in humility and faith own Him as "My Lord and my God," even as Thomas did (John 20:28).
2. To Prayer. "Take with you words,... and say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously" (v. 2). The separating causes are in their "iniquity;" the uniting elements are all in the gracious-ness of our God. This kind of praying is very definite business. There are many who hope their sins may be forgiven, but who have never said a word to God about them. Here is a simple but God-given formula for such: "Take with you words and say: Take away my iniquity, and receive me graciously, for Jesus' sake."
3. To Praise. "So will we render the calves of our lips." The calves of the lips are more precious to God than the calves of the stall. The true priestly offering in this age is, "The sacrifices of praise unto God continually." That is the richest and ripest fruit of lips, "giving thanks to His Name" (Hebrews 13:15). "Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and wonderful works" (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31).
4. To Open Confession. Verse 3 is very emphatic, which simply means: No mighty nation shall save us. No material instruments of battle can deliver us (horses and chariots). No works of our own hands can inspire us. But we will trust in the eternal love of our Father God, with whom such orphans find mercy. "Believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus," and prove in your own daily experience His mightiness to save. Now note—
II. The Divine Promises.
1. "I will Heal their backsliding" (v. 4). To heal a wound is
something better than merely binding it up. To Israel, backsliding was a festering sore; but in answer to their pleading He will heal them. There is no disease so deeply rooted in our moral nature that our Great Physician cannot heal. He can "heal all our diseases." This disease of backsliding—a willful desertion from the Word and Will of God—is perhaps one of the most inveterate.
2. "I will Love Them Freely" (v. 3). This is the love that is not restrained because of our unworthiness. To the pardoned and restored soul His love flows as fully and as freely as if they had never sinned. What an encouragement this is to the ministers of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. To him that comes He says, "I will in no wise cast out."
3. "I will be as the Dew unto Israel" (v. 5). The dew falls gently, silently, and effectively in the night. The Lord will yet be to the nation of Israel as refreshing dew in the long night of their drought and affliction. Meanwhile, all who turn unto Him in the night of their sorrow and need will find His Presence as the dew, a real though invisible something gently falling upon their thirsty souls. If we had eyes to see nature as God sees it, we would doubtless behold many symbols of His wonderful works toward the children of men.
4. "From Me is your Fruit Found" (vv. 6-8). Fruit is always the result of favorable conditions, and a manifestation of the character of the tree. Jehovah reminds them that the many rich mercies to be enjoyed would not be as a reward of merit, or a product of mere chance, but as an outcome of Divine activity in them and through them. We are reminded here of the parable of the vine (John 15). "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself. No more can you." The vine might say to the branch: "From me is your fruit found, for without me you can do nothing by way of fruitfulness." If we abide in Him as a branch, and He abides in us as the Source of our supply, then from Him shall "much fruit be found" (Galatians 5:22-24).