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Sow in Righteousness, reap in Mercy [Hos. X.
xix. xx.). They defied justice, but were involved at last in universal ruin. The other tribes of Israel became ministers of vengeance on them, and put them down at last, after a bloody struggle. So God's justice never lacks instruments to chastise sin. When I read of the brutality of the Benjamites on that occasion, and the terrible extirpation that ensued, and contrast the actual condition of Israel in the land of promise with the ideal set forth in God's law, I am confounded at so great and speedy a declension. But I have too great reason to marvel at another wonder; I mean the extraordinary inconsistency I find in myself. If I compare the standard I profess while at my prayers with my cherished thoughts and familiar talk at other times, there is about as great a difference as between the Israel of theory and of fact.
II. And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn ; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride ; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods. 12. Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. Here is farm-work going on. The heifer is employed, first of all, on
an easy job, has to tread out corn, and is allowed to eat freely from it; but afterwards comes hard work and a heavy yoke. I see that in the Lord's farm there are going on sowing, reaping, and breaking up new ground. But no return comes unless the rain of God's righteousness fall from on high. Alas ! my heart is like that hardtrodden way-side in the parable, which resisted all the sower's care. Do thou, Lord, break it up by contrition, sow good in it by holy teaching, soften it by heavenly dews, till I learn to give some return of merciful acts to my merciful Lord.
13. Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. Here is Satan's work going on, in opposition to God's. Here, too,
there are ploughing, reaping, gathering in corn; but an activity of folly and falsehood is meant. And it all comes of men trusting in themselves. This is indeed a lesson that needs reiterating. If I put my trust in my own means, my ability, my reputation, I shall find all these fail when I need them most. Thou only, O God, art a Helper that dost not deceive. Out of the wreck of my own self-confidence I gather confidence in thee. 14. Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled BethXI. 4.]
Out of Egypt
arbel in the day of battle : the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children.
15. So shall Beth-el do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off. Wherever this fortress, Betharbel, was, it could not protect those
who fled for refuge to it from the invader's sword. Destruction overtook them. So the false worship which Israel had set up in Bethel shall be no help in the day of trial. It cannot stand the shocks of adversity; it and all its glory fall like the gates and walls of that beleaguered fortress, and grim terror stalks in.
my son out of Egypt. This is what God said to Pharaoh (Exodus iv. 22): (Israel is My
son, even My first-born; and I say unto thee, Let My son go, that he may own Me. The infancy of His people was that season when God first called them from being slaves and began to educate them for higher things—a home, a religion, a calling, power and victory amongst nations. Such were the hopes held out to bondmen in Egypt, groaning under taskmasters.) O gracious message (Exodus vi. 7, 8): 'I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God, and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God which bringeth you out from under the burden of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land concerning which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And I will give it you for a heritage. I am the Lord.' Alas, the sequel of Israel's history did not correspond with these gracious beginnings.). In S. Matthew ii. 15 these words are applied to our Saviour's sojourn as an infant in Egypt and to his recall from thence. In Christ's Life was represented afresh His people's history, their residence in the house of bondage, their recall thence, their advance in spiritual grace; no less their call through suffering and death to a new and risen life.
2. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. 3. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms ; but they knew not that I healed them. 4. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love : and I was to them as
God repenting of His Anger
they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them. (A time when the child learnt to walk, was taken up and comforted
when he had fallen, was led with gentle allurements, was punished only as he could bear it; a time when the husbandman loosed the yoke from the cattle and supplied them with food. ).To His child, to His steer, the Master showed kindness ; shall they not repay Him with loving obedience?). What is said here of 'cords of a man and bands of love' reminds me of the human heart and tender sympathies of Christ Jesus. He made Himself one with us, to walk along the road of human life, and so to lead us upwards.
5. He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return. 6. And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels. 7. And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him. God calling, the sword flashing, the Prophet warning; and yet no
heed is paid, no one looks upwards. When I consider the extreme stubbornness, the unmoved indifference, with which I have treated the calls, invitations, gracious admonitions, with which my God has filled my path, I cease to wonder at stubborn Israel. What a list I could make the holy writers, good examples, gracious Providences that have come in my way and have left me very little improved !
8. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel ? how shall I make thee as Admah ? how shall I set thee as Zeboim ? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. The threat upon disobedient/ Israel was (Deut. xxix. 23), that i (should become like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath'; irreparable ruin, utter destruction. But God delights in mercy. He loves us with everlasting love. He cannot bring Himself to carry out this severe judgment. A verse like this reveals to me the Heart of God. He is angry, and yet struggles against His wrath. He is an offended Father Who loves the child whom He punishes. God cannot indeed literally repent nor be grieved, neither is He angry after our fashion. Yet I, who am made in His VER. 12.]
God's mighty Voice
image, see in Him a nature like my own, though free from imperfection. In the Lord Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, I see this verse visibly exemplified.
9. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim : for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee : and I will not enter into the city. (God and not man.
Such is our trust. God is an eternal Refuge, an unfailing Friend; far from Him are human jealousies and resentments. But since the Gospel came, I say God and man too, the Holy One not only in the midst of us, but within our hearts. The Incarnation has opened to us more of the Divine Nature than could be declared in old time. We see now of what depths of love God is capable. The God I serve is true, faithful, unchanging. His promises remain sure, though my moods change. His love ever glows bright in the face of Christ.
10. They shall walk after the Lord: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
11. They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria : and I will place them in their houses, saith the Lord. 12. Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints. The lion's roar to call his children, the dove's hasty flight home
ward, are the Prophet's figure for God calling His people back from exile, and Israel answering His voice. We know Who was that 'Lion of the tribe of Judah,' Whose voice through His Apostles shook the earth and stirred hearts. We know what a Aight of eager souls filled the Apostolic Church. Very few Israelites returned from the literal captivity, but innumerable wanderers from among the chosen people found peace and rest in the Lord Jesus. The sovereign Voice reached them, bade them come and find a home in their Saviour. His love overcame their unfaith. fulness.
Jacob's History recalled
wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation ; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt. (He chose the scorching bitter wind for a friend. His policy was, to neglect God's service and waste presents in procuring heathen
The covenant between God and Israel was, that if they would keep His holy law, He would give them blessing, victory, peace.) The Lord thy God will set thee on high above ali nations of the earth : all blessings shall come on thee and overtake thee.' 'All the people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of thee' (Deut. xxviii. 2, 10). This promise was worth trusting, while the professions of politicians and the vaunted power of idols were but empty falsehoods.). Would that I, O Lord, had gone sincerely and heartily on Thy word, frusting) in Thee and obeying Thee absolutely ; so should all things have prospered with me far otherwise than they have done!
2. The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways, according to his doings will he recompense him. 3. He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God : (Recall, Lord, to my mind Thy mercies, as thou didst recall to Israel
the graces that their ancestor had received. Let me remember, first of all, that astonishing mercy whereby we Gentiles have supplanted Thine ancient people. As Jacob supplanted Esau the elder, so have the Gentiles come in the place of the Jews.) Not our merits, but God's undeserved mercy gave us this calling that we enjoy. If our ingratitude be like that of Israel, our punishments may be indeed greater than are theirs.
4. Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Beth-el, and there he spake with us; 5. Even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial. (Bethel was the holy place,
"Where angels down the lucid stair
Came hovering to our sainted sires': the place where Jacob first realised that his father's God was his God wherever he went, that he was heir of the promises, that his