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Curses uttered and reversed
enemy (2 Kings xix. 55). They had so far retained their loyalty to the true God, that He undertook their cause, when mortal aid failed. Yet they too, at last, after long reprieve, had God's sentence pronounced against them by other prophets. What grounds have I for believing that, where so many have fallen, I shall be safe ? Why should I expect to retain faith, purity, hope of mercy, while so many have cast away these graces ? Indeed my strength is not in myself, not in human influence or example; but my God Who made and redeemed me can bring me safely through.
8. Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. 9. Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi : for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. This son's name was to be Lo-ammi, which means 'not My people.'
It foretells that God would undo His ancient covenant and sever the bond which united Israel to him. It had been a close and intimate tie, but now it was to be at an end. All that was involved on His part in the words My people,' and on theirs in the words 'my God,' should be as though it had not been.
But all other temporary and partial rejections of the Jews were but figures of that last sad one, when they refused Christ and were put aside that we Gentiles might take their place. Christians think but little of the tie which binds them to God. They despise, and so break it. They should dread more than they do the thought of living on with the light of faith extinguished, 'in the world, and yet without God.' Such a condition is darkness indeed.
10. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered ; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. II. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel. (To which belongs the first verse of chapter ii.) God has in His
counsels a reversal of these foreboding names and impending judgments. Jezreel shall scatter' victories instead of defeats. Ammi shall be truly “My people.' Ruhamah shall enjoy Divine 'favour.' 'The gifts and calling of God are without repentance,' therefore His promise still stands sure, His love is not worn out, the covenant that He made with Abraham abides for faithful descendants of Abraham. In all the old disasters and rejections, there was a faithful remnant. So, too, in the Jewish rejection of Christ, saints innumerable among the Jews accepted Him. My
The unfaithful Bride
gaze is too limited to take in all God's ways. Sometimes I seem to see only judgments, then again only mercies. God grant me a perpetual fear and yet an unshaken trust. Christ's work assures me of the greatness of Divine Love : in Him all curses are
YAY ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters,
Ru-hamah. This verse should rather go with the former chapter. It is one of the
sentences of recall, mercy, forgiveness, which keep alternating with threatenings and woes on this Prophet's lips, as if he could not bear long together to be a herald of only wrath.
2. Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband : let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts ; 3. Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. 4. And I will not have mercy upon her children ; for they be the children of whoredoms. 5. For their mother hath played the harlot : she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink. In this picture which Hosea and Ezekiel (chapter xvi.) draw of the
adulterous spouse, who has forsaken her husband and followed after false love, I recognise not only idolatrous Israel, but the unfaithful soul of a Christian. S. James says (S. James iv. 4), ‘Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God?' The Psalmist says (Ps. lxxiii. 27), 'Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from Thee.' God has espoused this soul in Holy Baptism, has knit it to Himself by mercies, graces, ordinances. How is it that the soul has now made evil its delight, thrown off the obedience and trust which it owed to its Redeemer? O folly, to think that happiness and success are to be sought from Satan rather than from God! If Satan is allowed to offer this world's kingdoms, they are but given in empty show, and for a shameful price. I know indeed the unfaithful tendencies of my treacherous heart, but do Thou, O Lord, keep me faithful. Guard me in Thy way till the time of variableness is past and eternity brings a blessed security.
The Backslider's Way hedged up
6. Therefore, behold, I will hedge up the way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. Lord, in Thy mercy plant thorns in sinners' paths, that they may
benefit by the teaching of remorse and pain. Wall them off from occasions of evil by a change in their circumstances. It is Thy love that does this, though as yet unrecognised. Thou sowest sickness and pain and loss and change, amidst the pleasures of a selfish life, that the soul, all bewildered and forlorn, may look again to her best of Friends. Thou hast not forgotten me, even when I forgot Thee most.
7. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them ; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them : then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband ; for then was it better with me than now. This is the voice of the Prodigal Son (S. Luke xv. 17) crying out,
“How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger ! I will arise and go unto my father.' Not that this is as yet the voice of real penitence, but it is the beginning of a reformation; it is the perception that, after all, the condition of God's servants is not to be despised. God puts into the sinner's heart a deep dissatisfaction with his condition, that this unsatisfied thirst may win him to seek for true springs of grace.
and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. 9. Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness. These good gifts all come from God. His were the corn and wine
8. For she did not know that I
and oil, the wool and flax for raiment, the ornaments of silver and gold. Israel had forgotten that first truth of religion of which S. Paul reminded the heathen at Lystra (Acts xiv. 15, 17): 'The Living God gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. It is not mystic powers of nature, nor embodied visions of the poet's mind, still less laws and forces discovered by science, that we have to thank for the blessings that we enjoy. Nay, it is Thou, O Lord, Who thus refreshest us, and again in Thy wisdom withdrawest Thy mercies for our chastening. The gift and the privation are both alike meant to lead us to Thyself.
Our Miseries, God's Visitations
10. And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand. II. I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts. 12. And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. 13. And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the Lord. Here the figure of the faithless Bride insensibly passes into a direct
picture of the idolatrous land. Israel had turned Jehovah's feastdays into occasions of idol-worship; she had rejoiced in the plentiful crops as being gifts from false deities; now poverty and captivity should be her portion. Alas! she will find now that God is a jealous God, and that treason to Him brings misery. I confess with an extreme shame that all this picture of disloyal Israel represents but too faithfully my own love of evil, my own persistent clinging to what is vile. Where is the throne which God should occupy in my heart? Where is the single-hearted love, adoration, devotion, I ought to pay Him?
14. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. 15. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope : and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. 16. And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi ; and shalt call me no more Baali.
17. For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. O gracious time of solitude in which the heart recovers itself from
the snares of Satan. A sick-bed has sometimes been this blessed retirement, this separation from old dangers, this opportunity for the renewal of old vows. The hopes, the praises, the resolutions of our first conversion reappear again.
We take God for our portion, and see the folly of trusting in aught else. Open to sinners, Lord, this door of hope' in the valley of trouble,' turn their desolate exile into a home of peace, give them joy and thankfulness, even with sorrows. Thou canst be to them instead of all other good, canst be their best and purest comfort.
The Heart espoused afresh to God
18. And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. This is the promise of the old Law, should God's people keep
it perfectly: 'I will give peace in your land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid; and I will rid evil beasts out of the land; neither shall the sword go through your land' (Levit. xxvi. 6, 7). And Christ promises the same in His Gospel, both before and after the Resurrection : 'Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you'(S. Luke ix. 19). "They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them' (S. Mark xvi. 18). This is Paradise restored; men are at peace with the creatures and with one another. They have cast aside
* Anguish and doubt and fear and sorrow and pain.' Lord, grant me inward peace first ; reconcile my desires with Thee and Thy holy Law; so shall my peace grow and spread to the world without.
19. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness : and thou shalt know the Lord. Here is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb; here is the Bridegroom
coming to the Feast and the Bride adorned for her husband'; here are anticipations of that intimate and lasting union wherewith in the Incarnation God knit human nature to Himself. In comparison of this pure and tender union of heart and will with Him Who created and redeemed us, sin's pleasures seem poor and treacherous. Think not, dear friend, that in the science of things heavenly it is possible to know without loving, to have the mind open to light and the heart to darkness. O no, such fancied illumination is a dream.
21. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth : 22. And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. 23. And I will sow her unto me in the earth ; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to