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Lost Sion's Shame

[Hos. III.

them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. The heavens long to bestow their dew; earth longs to receive it

and to bear fruit; the gifts of God for food or refreshment all long to serve man. It is God's sowing-time, and He hearkens to His people's need ; He reverses the names of evil omen, and turns them into words of joy. All this was accomplished in the Christian Church. There it was that a great rain of grace descended upon converted hearts and produced fruit an hundredfold ; there it was that curses turned into blessings. Prophets and kings' desired in vain to see those days. Blessed were those who saw them and profited by the sight.

CHAPTER III

MHEN said the Lord unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved

the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. 2. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: 3. And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man : so will I also be for thee. Here is the unfaithful wife, now fallen into misery ; she is espoused

afresh, yet for a poor price, and rather as slave than wife. She has to remain in widowhood a long while, not enjoying a wife's rights, which she has so misused; yet there is hope that she may at last be entirely restored to love and honour again. This figure is expanded by the Prophet Jeremiah (chapter iii.). It tells of former treasons against God, of a present desolate condition, of hope for a brighter future. It tells of past mercies and longsuffering on God's part. It bids us take patiently the low estate of our soul as what we have deserved. Here is delineated unfaithful Israel, first in her idolatry, next in her deserved captivity. Yet God has not altogether cast her away. He remains true to His side of the covenant.

4. For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and IV. 4.]

True Conversion in the latter Days

9

without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim : When was fulfilled this long widowhood, king and temple and priest

and sacrifice all missing, and the nation cut off from true worship
as well as from false? It was fulfilled in part during the ap-
proaching captivity ; but in a greater measure since the coming of
Christ. Then it was that the Jewish nation entered upon a long
road of exile, which still lasts.

'Forsaken Israel wanders lone :
Our fathers would not choose Thy ways,

And Thou hast left them to their own.
God, who taught His people many lessons during their prosperous
days, has for them teaching still in their dispersed condition. He
has not forsaken them utterly.

5. Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days. They will at last return from their long wanderings and seek earnestly

for their true Lord and abiding Friend. The Lord will be their God, the true David their king. They will honour God's unexpected marvellous mercies. May this word be fulfilled in the conversion of God's ancient people, and no less in the return of my own faithless heart! Too long have I been disloyal to holy inspirations from above and to my own good resolutions. Yet He Who has cared for me so long is still my Friend. If the former days were not His, yet by His mercy the latter days shall be different.

CHAPTER IV

H
FEAR the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel : for

the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. 2. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. 3. Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven ; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away. 4. Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another : for thy people are as they that

IO

A fallen Priesthood

[Hos. IV.

strive with the priest. 5. Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother. This is a picture of the spiritual condition of Israel a few years before

their downfall as a nation. They were the children of the Patriarchs, heirs of God's covenant, dwellers in His goodly land, set there to worship Him and keep His holy law. But the Prophet sees general untrustworthiness, want of love, neglect of God. Evil passions and crimes prevail. All these foreshadow the approaching ruin of the country. There is coming on it a night of desolation, when the land should be untenanted, even by dumb creatures. God inspires the Prophet to utter these sharp reproaches and dread warnings, if so be Israel may repent and make a change for the better. His rebuke is sent in mercy.

6. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge : because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me : seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. 7. As they were increased, so they sinned against me : therefore will I change their glory into shame. 8. They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. 9. And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. 10. For they shall eat, and not have enough : they shall commit whoredom, and shali not increase : because they have left off to take heed to the Lord. These were the priests of the high places whom King Jeroboam

established in honour of the calves of gold (ist Kings, xii. 31). They professed to worship God under the symbol of these images (which were a reminiscence of Egyptian religion). They kept feasts in God's honour, offered burnt-offerings and sin-offerings, enjoyed consideration with the people, professed to learn and teach Jehovah's law. But this ministry of theirs had no blessing, and bore no fruit. So far from restraining or guiding the people, they only encouraged them in disobedience, nay, set them an evil example. O Lord, let not the priests of Thy new Law forget the high responsibility of their office. If they teach ill and live ill, Thy people will be sure to follow their downward track.

11. Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart. 12. My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staf declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath VER. 17.]

Holy Places profaned

II

caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. 13. They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good : therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery. 14. I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots : therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall. O fools, can the diviner's rod give counsel ? Are the hill-tops

privileged to be sanctuaries of the true God? Is it worship to practise licentious rites? Here is manifest folly ; people must have lost their heads, to think that all this is as good as God's holy and commanded service. It is easy, then, to make mistakes in religion. Many much wiser persons than I have thought to honour God by practising all manner of cruelty, hypocrisy, empty formality. Let me approach His Presence humbly, seeking daily guidance from the Holy Spirit of wisdom. I must ask Him to open my lips' before my mouth can show forth His praise.' Christ Jesus has set up in His Church a 'sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,' holy examples and counsels, rites whereby my soul is purified.

15. Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Beth-aven, nor swear, The Lord liveth. Believers are warned against resorting to Gilgal or to Bethel and

practising the religion that was in fashion at those shrines. Yet to come before the Lord in Gilgal' was the wont of saints in old time. Joshua and Samuel used to worship there. Bethel, too, which was the scene of Abraham's prayer and Jacob's vision and the home for a while of the Ark, is now called in scorn Bethaven, the house of nought.' Evidently holy places may become profane, if we use them ill. Evidently to make a pilgrimage to Palestine or to pray beside the tombs of martyrs will not necessarily make or keep me a Christian.

16. For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer : now the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place. 17. Ephraim is joined to idols : let him alone. Judah is warned against the influence of Israel's idolatry. 'Let him

alone'; that means, Beware of the society of those who worship idols, lest thou too be led to join in their foul rites. Remember

I 2

Bad Examples in high Places

[Hos. V.

that evil spirits are worshipped in many ways. Not feet but desires carry us away from God and rank us with His enemies. Too long have I turned aside from God's way and refused to bear His yoke. Too often have I chosen my own ways and found them end ill.

18. Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye. 19. The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices. Drunkenness and impurity led Israel into ruin. Their idol feasts,

where abominations were practised as part of religion, sapped the nation's strength. In their exile they learnt too late that they had thrown

away their true Hope and Friend. The storm-wind of trouble was already (in the Prophet's vision) sweeping them away from their cherished home. Yet this same storm-wind carries those who love God unto the haven where they would be,' and where they rest for ever.

CHAPTER V

EAR ye this, O priests, and hearken, ye house of Israel;

and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor. 2. And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all. Priests, heads of tribes, and courtiers had gone deeply into idolatry.

Their practice was a snare to simple souls who followed them. But God knew and would punish. When they sought holy mountains to worship idols, His eye followed them through deep ravines and wooded glades. If I am set over my brethren, let me beware lest my influence be for their harm, lest they entangle themselves in error or folly after my example. I think that the prevalent indifference to eternal life, nay, the open disbelief in heavenly rewards, comes mostly from seeing priests so set on the rewards of this life. Their covetous and self-indulgent example has bewitched far more souls than their preaching ever profited.

3. I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me : for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled. 4. They will not frame their doings to turn unto

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