Searchlights from the Word by G. Campbell Morgan: Hosea

Helpful outline sermon suggestion from every chapter from the Book of Hosea

Gene Exod Levi Numb Deut Josh Judg Ruth 1Sam 2Sam 1Kin 2Kin 1Chr 2Chr Ezra Nehe Esth Job_ Psal Prov Eccl Song Isai Jere Lame Ezek Dani Hose Joel Amos Obad Jona Mica Nahu Haba Zeph Hagg Zech Mala Matt Mark Luke John Acts Roma 1Cor 2Cor Gala Ephe Phil Colo 1The 2The 1Tim 2Tim Titu Phle Hebr Jame 1Pet 2Pet 1Joh 2Joh 3Joh Jude Reve

The Book of Hosea - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.

Chapter 1

When the Lord spake at the first by Hosea, the Lord Jehovah said unto Hosea ...
Hosea 1:2

These words are important, and must be rightly interpreted if we are to understand their significance. I think we are helped by adopting Ewald's rendering, "At the first, when Jehovah spoke with Hosea." The word with is unquestionably preferable to by. The reference is not to a message which Jehovah delivered through His servant; but to something which He spoke in communion with him. Again, the phrase at the first is important, as showing us that when this was written, the writer was looking back, and interpreting events in the light of the experience which those events produced. In these first three chapters we have an. account of the tragedy which came to Hosea in his domestic life; of how through it all he lived in communion with God and of how through that tragedy and that communion he was brought to a new understanding of the sin of Israel as it was felt by Jehovah Himself. In this chapter the tragedy itself does not appear, save as it is referred to in these opening sentences. Hosea was married to Gomer, and children were born; and as they came, they were named in such wise as to show the prophet's sense of the national outlook. There is no reason to think that Gomer had fallen into sin before Marriage, nor in the early days of marriage. Hosea did not know that she was capable of infidelity. But God did, and He permitted His servant to pass through the suffering that he might understand the Divine heart. And the whole story proves how well worth while it was; for at last even Gomer was restored, as we shall see. How constantly the backward look reveals Divine guidance where it seemed most unlikely.

Chapter 2

The valley of Achor for a door of hope.
Hosea 2:15

What a wonderful phrase that is, and perhaps more so when we translate Achor, and read: "The valley of troubling for a door of hope." We are now introduced to the tragedy in the life of the prophet. Gomer had proved unfaithful, and that in the worst way, being guilty not of adultery only, but of harlotry. But while his own heart was thus stricken, Hosea was still in communion with God about Israel, and preparing for his ministry to the people, perhaps already exercising it. Into that communion his personal sorrow entered, and Jehovah made it the means of making the prophet understand what the infidelity of Israel meant to Him. Thus the prophet's words pass almost at once into the language of Jehovah. The anger of Jehovah is that of wounded love, and His dealings with His people are to be characterized by the severity which grows out of such anger. Through stern discipline, Israel will be restored; that restoration being the purpose of the discipline: "The valley of troubling for a door of hope." It is easy to understand the wonder created in the soul of Hosea by all this. Suffering through the sin of Gomer, he was taught how great the sin of Israel was, as Jehovah interpreted His own suffering by the suffering of His servant. Having dealt with Gomer by cutting her off from himself he agreed with the rightness of the Divine judgment of Israel. But was not this a new revelation to him? Jehovah spoke of such discipline as a "valley of troubling for a door of hope!" How about Gomer? Is that how he had thought of the action which he had rightly taken in regard to her?

Chapter 3

Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, and an adulteress, even as the Lord loveth the children of Israel.
Hosea 3:1

We ended our previous note with questions; and we think we were warranted in doing so. The prophet's experiences had interpreted the sin of Israel had Vindicated the justice of her punishment. In communion he had learned the Divine purpose in that punishment; but he had taken no action with regard to Gomer. Now the word of Jehovah came to him as a command in these words. If Hosea learned the nature of Israel's sin from Gomer's, and so, the righteousness of the Divine rejection of Israel, he was now taught the nature of love in this command of Jehovah. The closeness of his fellowship with God is seen in his immediate obedience in regard to Gomer. How low she had sunk is revealed in the price he paid for her; and, indeed, in that he had to buy her. The price in money and kind amounted to about thirty shekels, the price of a slave, which in all probability she had literally become. Observe that the command of Jehovah was not to redeem her, but to love her; but her redemption was the necessary issue. Thus Hosea, through tragic experiences in his own life, was brought into closest fellowship with God, and prepared for his ministry to Israel. All through his messages the great notes are sounding, which tell of his understanding, of the appalling nature of sin; of the righteousness of the Divine judgment; and supremely, of the unconquerable might of the Divine Love. It is indeed the love of God which "alters not when it alteration finds;" His is the love that "never faileth." All suffering on the part of His messengers is worthwhile, which brings them to such apprehension of sin, of judgment, of love.

Chapter 4

Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.
Hosea 4:17

In the last eleven chapters of this book we have carefully edited notes, rather than verbatim reports of the prophetic utterances. These may be divided into three sections. The first (4:1-6:3) describes the pollution of the nation of Israel, and dealt with its cause. The cause was that of the pollution of the priests; which issued in the pollution of the whole nation. In the course of his prophesying to Israel, Hosea's mind turned to Judah, and he interpolated a message to the southern nation to beware of any complicity with Israel. This is the meaning of the words we have stressed. Ephraim was at the time the dominant tribe in Israel, and that accounts for the prophet's constant references to it (thirty-seven times the name occurs). This word has often been interpreted as constituting a sentence on Ephraim, as though Jehovah declared that He abandoned the nation altogether. But that were to contradict all the teaching of the prophet. It was rather a solemn word to Judah, warning her against any political alliance with Israel. The distinction is revealing. God does not abandon His people wholly, even when they are unfaithful to Him, but through discipline and troubling brings them back to Himself. Nevertheless, those who are loyal to Him, must stand aloof from the disloyal; they cannot have fellowship with those who are joined to idols. To the Christian Church the word of the apostle of love involves this, as indeed all his letter shows. We are thinking of that final injunction of this first epistle, "Little children, guard yourselves from idols."

Chapter 5

I will go and return to My place, till ...
Hosea 5:15

The word till, with which we end the quotation, is an arresting and illuminating word. In this chapter we have the prophet's special message to the priests, to the people, and to the king, concerning the national pollution, and the Divine judgments consequent thereupon. These latter are described in their progressive nature. First there was the judgment of the moth and rottenness. This was already upon them; they were sick and feeble, who should have been strong. Then there would be the judgment of calamity from without, suggested under the figure of the lion and the young lion, both hunters of the prey. The final form was that of the Divine withdrawal. Jehovah declared that He would go and return to His place. This was the .direst calamity necessarily which could befall this people. It will be remembered that much later, Ezekiel saw in visions this very thing happen in the case of. Judah. It was in connection with his final phase of judgment that the prophet used this word till. The Divine withdrawal was not to be final; it was a method intended to produce a result which would make His return possible. "In their affliction they will seek Me earnestly," and when that is so, He returns. The ultimate glory of Ezekiel's vision was that he saw the return of Jehovah to His house and so to His people. That note is ever to be found in the words which speak of the judgments of Jehovah upon His people. When, long after these things, the Messiah had to pronounce a doom upon the city, and prolong the period of the desolation because He was rejected, we still find the word till; "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate; for I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth TILL ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."

Chapter 6

Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth early away.
Hosea 6:4

With this fourth verse of the chapter, the second section of the prophetic messages commences. It runs on to the fifteenth verse of chapter to, and is principally concerned with the punishment which must fall upon the polluted nation. In the first movement (verses 4-11 of this chapter), the whole case was stated briefly. The Divine desire was that of finding a way to bring the people to a deep repentance, and to the activity of mercy, and the knowledge of God. The human response was that of transgression, treachery, and the consequent ways of wickedness. Both Ephraim and Judah had their moments and moods of goodness, but they were evanescent, they did not last, they produced no permanent results. These manifestations of goodness were like a cloud in the morning, a mist coming up from the sea, too feeble to produce a harvest, being quickly dissipated by the blazing heat of the sun. What an arresting figure of speech this is, and how conscious we are that it accurately describes our goodness. In times of our wandering and disloyalty, we also have moments and moods of goodness. We realize the better way, we return to it, but we fail again and yet again. We need something far more than our own goodness to produce a life fruitful in holiness. Such fruit only comes from "a tree planted by the streams of water." That tree "bringeth forth its fruit in its season," and its "leaf also doth not wither." Human admiration of goodness and aspiration after it, do not result in realization. It is only as our human life is supplied by the Divine streams, that its goodness is abiding.

Chapter 7

... He knoweth it not ... He knoweth it not.
Hosea 7:9

This chapter contains the prophet's diagnosis of the disease of the nation. He declared that the desire of God to deal was frustrated by the pollution of the nation, and its wilful ignoring of God. In all this description there are no words more pathetic and tragic than these, twice repeated in this verse. The figure employed is that of a man, whose strength is being destroyed by strangers; and whose debility is manifesting itself to others - as witness his grey hairs - but he is ignorant of both things. That, said the prophet, was the condition of the nation of Israel. Its strength was devoured by its alliances; the signs of decadence were patent to the outside observer; but the nation was ignorant of the truth. That made the situation the more difficult. When a nation knows its weakness it is halfway to recovery. That is true also of a man. Can any condition be conceived of more tragic than that of this disease and decay of which the sufferer is all unconscious? Yet how often it has been the condition of nations. They maintain the outward semblance of vigour and freshness, by all sorts of artifices which deceive none except themselves. So also with men. Whether for nations or men, the only hope in such a case is that by some awakening word, or quickening judgment, the true consciousness may be created. The sense of departed strength, the discovery of grey hairs, may be the way of healing and restoration. To bring men and nations to such sense, to such discovery; God is ever acting, by prophetic word, and punitive act.

Chapter 8

Set the trumpet to thy mouth.
Hosea 8:1

The words constitute an abrupt and startling command, evidently given to the prophet. He was commanded to warn the nation of imminent judgment. This he did in one short, sharp sentence: "As an eagle he cometh against the house of Jehovah." The next word, "Because," introduces the main burden of this message, which is that of the clear statement of the reasons for the calamity. The first is that of transgression and trespass, that is, wilful disobedience to law. The second is that of rebellion, as revealed in the setting up of kings and princes, not of Divine ordination. The third is that of idolatry, the making of false representations of God - the calf of Samaria. The fourth is that of seeking aid in alliances with other nations. The fifth is that of erecting false altars, and desecrating those of Jehovah. Thus, in brief sentences, the prophet recapitulated the statements of the sins of the nation which all the prophets denounced. Finally, he described the whole situation as to national sin and Divine retribution, in the words: "Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and builded palaces; and Judah hath multiplied fortified cities; but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the castles thereof." Whenever a nation forsakes God it ensures its ruin. It may, for a time, dwell in luxury, building palaces; and give itself a sense of security, by fortifying its cities; but sooner or later the Divine fire will destroy i the cities, and devour the castles. There is no true pleasure, nor any real security, but such as are found in the maintenance of right relationships with God. "Except Jehovah build the house, they labour in vain that build it: Except Jehovah keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

Chapter 9

My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations.
Hosea 9:17

The prophet in this message described the 'whirlwind of calamity which would overtake Israel for her pollutions. He forbade all indulgence in false merriment, and declared that all the reasons for joy would be taken away. The people moreover would be carried into exile. The prophetic word would cease. Their forthcations would be punished by childlessness. The words we have emphasised constituted the last statement of the prophet concerning the nation. The people were to be castaway of God, and were to be wanderers among the nations. The word wanderers has the sense of fugitives, those who are away from their home, and not able to find a home. They are not refugees among the nations. Refugees are those who are hospitably welcomed. Fugitives are not welcomed. This word of Hosea has had long and wide fulfilment. The people of God are still His people. Their separation from other peoples has never ceased. But they are wanderers, fugitives, homeless ones; and they will never find their home until they find it in right relationship with the God to Whom they would not hearken. Long after Hosea's time, He came to them in the Person of His Son. They cast Him out. Therefore the discipline continues. It is discipline, and not destruction. They will yet be brought home, and that through the One Whom they rejected. And that will be a glorious thing for the world; "For if the casting away of them is the reconciling of the world what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Rom. 11:15)

Chapter 10

Israel is a luxuriant vine, which putteth forth his fruit ...
Hosea 10:1

With this chapter the second section of the prophecy ends - that in which the theme was that of the punishment of pollution. It consists of one message which is in the nature of recapitulation and appeal. In the two opening verses the whole case is stated, both as to the national failure; and as to the Divine judgment. In these particular words, interpreted by those immediately following, the fact of failure is inclusively declared. The prophet employed the figure of speech so often employed by these servants of God in the old time - and presently by our Lord Himself in His teaching - that of the vine. That they should do so was inevitable, for the vine was the national emblem, the symbol of the purpose of God in the creation of the nation. The whole emphasis in these words of Hosea must be placed upon the pronoun "his." The sin of the nation was that it had failed to bear the fruit of Jehovah, and had borne instead its own fruit. "According to the multitude of his fruit he hath multiplied his altars." Isaiah stressed the same matter when he said that the vine had brought forth wild grapes, instead of grapes; and later, Jeremiah described Judah as "the degenerate plant of a strange vine." Here is a test for the people of God at all times. All their resources are Divinely bestowed; and that with a view to the production of fruit according to the purpose of God. When they prostitute those very resources to the bearing of fruit to suit their own desires and purposes, they are guilty of the basest failure. The figure of fruit-bearing wherever found, suggests the producing of that which is according to the will of God; and that on behalf of others. Fruit is never for self-consumption. To receive gifts from God, and to consume them upon our own lusts, that is, upon our own desires, is the uttermost in sin.

Chapter 11

How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?
Hosea 11:8

The last four chapters of this book contain the final section of the prophet's messages. Their dominant note is that of the love of Jehovah. To read them intelligently it is necessary to observe the portions which give the words of Jehovah, and those which record those of the prophet. These alternate, and it is worth while setting that out - Jehovah, 11:1-12:1; Hosea, 12:2-6; Jehovah, 12:7-11; Hosea, 12:12-13:1; Jehovah, 13:2-14; Hosea, 13:15-14:3; Jehovah, 14:4-8. Throughout the words of Jehovah are words of love; while those of Hosea trace the history of Israel, show the national failure, and thus throw up into clearer relief the wonderful love of Jehovah. In the love messages of Jehovah, the first movement sets forth the past love of Jehovah, "When Israel was a child, then I loved him;" and reveals the continuity of that love. That is the meaning of this question: "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?" and of these which follow. How radiant is this revelation of the heart of God. It is the cry of a Father concerning His child. The child has forgotten the Father, turned away from Him, rebelled against His authority, despised His love. There is no reason in justice why the child should not be given up, completely cut off. But there is a reason. It is found in love. Love cries out in protest: "How shall I give thee up?" What is the answer? It is that love does not give the loved one up; but rather finds the way by which the uttermost claims of justice may be met, and the glory of holiness maintained, and the loved-one regained, restored, kept by love. That is exactly what grace has done; and that at infinite and unfathomable cost.

Chapter 12

He is a trafficker, the balances of deceit are in his hand, he loveth to oppress.
Hosea 12:7

These are again the words of Jehovah. They are exclamatory, and vibrant with sarcasm. The words "He is" are supplied by translators, and while giving a smooth and not inaccurate reading, rob the word of some of its force. It would be better rendered as an exclamation, "A trafficker!" As a matter of fact even that is interpretation, rather than translation. The literal rendering would be "Canaan!" Thus Jehovah calls Israel by the name of the peoples which Israel had been called to extirpate by reason of their corruptions. That is satire of the most biting kind. Yet it was true. Read this exclamation in close connection with the immediately preceding word of Jehovah (11:13-12:1); and with those directly following (12:8); and this will be seen, Israel had sought, and apparently found, material wealth, and claimed that she had done so honestly. This Jehovah denied. She had practised deceit and falsehood, and had sunk to the level of Canaan. These words of Jehovah prove the falseness of that specious saying 'Love is blind." Love is never blind. It sees most clearly. Jehovah's love for Israel drew forth the great cry "How shall I give thee up?" But Jehovah was not blind, nor could He permit Himself to be. Love never fails to see sin; and love insists on bringing sin into the light. It will not permit it to find a hiding place; it exposes all its subterfuges. Love calls sin by its right name, and portrays it in all its corruption. And all this because it is Love. That which excuses, condones, palliates sin, is not love. It is folly, and at last complicity with sin.

Chapter 13

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, where are thy plagues? O grave, where is thy destruction? Repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes.
Hosea 13:14

These also are the words of Jehovah, and they reach the highest point in the declaration of His love. At first, He declared His past love. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him"; then, He revealed His present love; now, He affirmed the persistent continuity of that love. The outlook embraces the whole of life and beyond, including the grave and death. From these, love will ransom and redeem. Love, in its might, challenges these dark forces: "O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction?" and then declares that, concerning this determination to ransom and redeem, even from the grave and death, there will be no repentance, that is, no change of mind or action. This was a great word, and very remarkable, in those days, when as yet life and immortality had not been clearly brought to light. It shows how wonderfully Hosea had come to an apprehension of the love of Jehovah. He realized that nothing could be powerful enough to hinder the victorious operation of that love. Before that love, death and the grave stood challenged, and defeated. We do not wonder that Paul, writing in the full light and glory of the resurrection of the Lord, and knowing what that resurrection meant to men, should recall these words of Hosea, and adapting them to his argument, make them the prelude to his final note of victory and praise; "Thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57).

Chapter 14

Ephraim shall say: What have I to do any more with idols? I have answered and will regard Him; I am like a green fir tree; from me is Thy fruit found.
Hosea 14:8

Once more we have the words of Jehovah. They constitute the Divine prediction of the ultimate victory of the Divine Love. The name Ephraim means fruitfulness, and that thought has been present throughout. When the prophet was dealing with the punishment of pollution, he had declared that Israel was a luxuriant vine, producing its own fruit (see 10:1 and my note). Now the word of Jehovah stands in direct and intended contrast to that. The day will come when Ephraim will say to Jehovah: "From me is Thy fruit found." As in the former passage, we pointed out that the "his" was emphatic, so here let us note that the "Thy" is emphatic. The day will come when Ephraim, that is, Israel as the vine of God, will bring forth the fruit which He seeks; no longer wild grapes, but the grapes of His culture. And that will be when Ephraim is completely redeemed from idols, and answers and regards Jehovah. Then will be the time of abounding life, out of which the true fruit will come. That will result as the victory of the love of Jehovah. Note the opening words of this final message of Jehovah: "I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely." Thus, this most wonderful book ends in a song of triumphant love. This is the more arresting from the fact that no prophecy more clearly reveals the appalling character of sin, and the terrible nature of judgment. Yet love is its master note. Indeed, it is this which reveals the sinfulness of sin, and vindicates the righteousness of judgment. That amazing love, which 'Hosea so radiantly set forth, found its ultimate and complete revelation, in the fullness of time, in the Son of God's love, and in the awe-inspiring mystery of His Cross.