Saturday, December 16, 2017

HOSEA+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a skilled, wise, warm-hearted Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here is the fruit of that research—summarized, illustrated, and amplified with useful details—on all 66 books of the Bible.

Hosea 1:2 "When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea..." The prophet Hosea is looking back at the beginning of his ministry to his spiritually unfaithful countrymen in the northern kingdom of Israel. In his first 3 chapters we have Hosea's account of the tragedy that came into his personal life. Through it all he remains in close communion with God and is brought to a new understanding of the sin of Israel as felt by God Himself, which he then communicates to the people to prick their consciences. God tells Hosea up front, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord." Hosea married Gomer, and children were soon born with prophetic names of God's coming judgment and disassociation with the people, effectively telling them, "You are not mine!" God led His prophet to pass through this suffering that he might understand the divine heart, and the whole story proves how worthwhile it was. At last even Gomer was restored, as we shall see. How often the backward look reveals divine guidance where it seemed most unlikely!

Hosea 2:15 "I will make ... the Valley of Achor [Trouble] a door of hope." This is a promise from God to trade trouble for hope. Imagine how that sunk deep into the heart of a godly man with a wife who proved unfaithful in the worst way, being guilty not only of adultery, but also harlotry or prostitution. While his own heart is stricken, Hosea is still communicating with God about Israel, and preparing for his ministry to the people—perhaps already exercising it. Hosea realizes by experience that since God is experiencing the just anger of wounded love, His dealings with His people are characterized by the severity that grows out of such anger. Through stern discipline, Israel will be restored. That restoration is the purpose of the discipline: the valley of troubling for a door of hope. It is easy to understand the wonder created in Hosea's soul by all this. Chapter 2 reveals that Hosea deals with Gomer by cutting her off from himself, but with this revelation from God about hope after the trouble, how did Hosea apply it to his current domestic situation? Is it how he regarded the action he had rightly taken in regard to Gomer? The next chapter is revealing.

Hosea 3:1 "Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel." This is a command from God for Hosea to act out the love He Himself will soon display. As Hosea learned the nature of Israel's sin from Gomer's unfaithfulness and the rightness of God's rejection of Israel, now he is taught the nature of God's love for the unlovely. We discover in this chapter that Gomer had sunk so low, Hosea had to buy her back from a slave market. Notice that the command from the Lord is not to redeem her but to love her, yet the redemption had to occur first. All these themes now become the unfolding message of Hosea's remaining chapters: the appalling nature of sin, the righteousness of divine judgment, and the unconquerable might of divine love. It is indeed the love of God that "alters not when it alteration finds," for it "never fails." All suffering is worthwhile that brings true apprehension of sin, judgment, and love.

Hosea 4:17 "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone." Hosea's job now is to proclaim God's prophetic diagnosis of his people's sins before any cure can come. The problem presented in this chapter is the pollution of the priests, which led to the spiritual pollution of the whole nation. Ephraim was at that time the dominant tribe in Israel, which accounts for Hosea's constant references to it (37 times the name appears in his prophecy). The highlighted verse is not God saying He is abandoning Ephraim, but a solemn word to the neighboring kingdom of Judah against any political alliance with Israel in its current state. That distinction is important: God does not abandon His people wholly, even when they are unfaithful to Him, but through discipline and trials brings them back to Himself. Nevertheless, those who are loyal to Him must stand apart from the disloyal; they cannot have fellowship with those who are joined to idols or other things of this world against the revealed will of God. That is the principle reflected in this New Testament verse: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21).

Hosea 5:15 "I will return again to My place, until..." That word until is a hint of hope in the judgment that soon came upon the nation's pollution. This chapter describes those judgments progressively. First is the rot from within, like that coming from a moth: the people were sick and feeble when they should have been strong. Then comes calamity from without, suggested by the symbolism of devouring lions. Last is divine withdrawal: the Lord declares that He will return to His place. That was the direst calamity befalling this people. Years later, the prophet Ezekiel would see the same thing happening to the southern kingdom of Judea when they would develop a similar kind of rot. In both cases, the departure is not final: it is the method that would produce  the repentance that would make the Lord's return possible. Hosea 5:15 concludes with God saying, "Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me." When, long after these things, the Messiah had to pronounce a similar judgment, we still find the word until: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!  See! Your house is left to you desolate;  for I say to you, you shall see Me no more until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" (Matthew 23:37-39).

Hosea 6:4 "Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away." Starting with this verse and stretching through the end of chapter 10 is the next main section of Hosea's prophecy, summarized in verses 4-11 here: God's desire to bring the people to a deep repentance that they might know Him well, especially His abiding love of mercy. The people's love was the opposite of abiding, for it burned away as quickly as the morning dew. They had their moments and moods of goodness, but they produced no permanent results. Their love was like a mist coming up from the sea, too feeble to produce a harvest since it quickly dissipated under the blazing heat of the sun. We need something far more than our own goodness to produce a life fruitful in holiness. As Psalm 1 tells us, such fruit comes only from "a tree planted by streams of water." A tree like that "brings forth its fruit in its season" and "its leaf does not wither." Human admiration of goodness and aspiration after it alone do not make it a reality. It is only as our human life is supplied by divine streams that its goodness is abiding.

Hosea 7:9 "He knows it not ... he knows it not." This twice-repeated statement is of a polluted nation acting like an old man whose strength is being destroyed by strangers. His age and infirmity are obvious to everyone but himself. Israel's strength was being destroyed by its foreign alliances, and its signs of decadence were obvious to any impartial observer, but the nation was ignorant of those truths. That made their situation vastly more difficult. When a nation knows its weakness, it is halfway to recovery. The same is true of a man or woman. Can any condition be more tragic than disease and decay of which the sufferer is completely oblivious? Yet how often it has been the condition of nations: they maintain the outward appearance of strength and freshness by all sorts of props that deceive none but themselves. Whether for nations or people, the only hope in such a case is  some awakening word or action that creates a true awareness. An acute sense of weakness and the discovery of gray hairs may be the way of healing and restoration. Hosea reminds us that God uses His prophetic Word and punitive acts to bring peoples and nations to such consciousness.

Hosea 8:1 "Set the trumpet to your lips." This is a divine command to give warning of imminent judgment. The verses that follow give the reasons: the first is willful disobedience to God's Law. The second is rebellion, as seen by the people appointing rulers they had no business appointing. The third is idolatry, which is making false representations of God. The fourth is seeking aid from ungodly alliances. And the fifth is erecting false altars and desecrating true worship of the Lord. In those brief sentences Hosea sums up the sins of the nation that all the other prophets had likewise denounced. This chapter concludes, "Israel has forgotten his Maker, and has built palaces; Judah also has multiplied fortified cities; but I will send fire upon his cities, and it shall devour his palatial dwellings." (verse 14). Whenever a nation forsakes God, it ensures its ruin. It may, for a time, live in luxurious dwellings and give itself a sense of security by fortifying its cities, but sooner or later divine fire will destroy those cities and devour those dwellings. There is no true pleasure or any real security apart from a right relationship with God. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

Hosea 9:17 "My God will reject them because they have not listened to Him; they shall be wanderers among the nations." The prophet in this message describes the whirlwind of calamity that would overtake Israel because of her spiritual pollution. Hosea forbids all indulgence in false merriment, declaring that all the reasons for joy would soon be taken away and the people into exile. Their sexual immorality would be punished by childlessness. The prophetic word would cease. The highlighted verse above is a summary at the end of this chapter. "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, for refugees are those who are hospitably welcomed, but fugitives are not welcomed. This word of Hosea has had long and wide fulfillment. Long after Hosea's time, God came to Israel in the Person of His Son, but as in Hosea's day the people as a whole would not listen to Him. Yet there is hope, for the apostle Paul asks of Israel, "Have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall ... salvation has come to the Gentiles.... If their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:11-15). Jewish people who listen to God's Messiah or Christ will be accepted by Him.

Hosea 10:1 "Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields fruit for himself." The nation here is personified as self serving and indifferent towards God. It failed to bear the spiritual fruits of love, obedience, and mercy for the Lord's purposes, but instead bore its own kinds of fruits that produced false altars throughout the land. The prophet Isaiah stressed the same matter when he said that the vine had brought forth wild grapes instead of good grapes, and later Jeremiah described Judah as "a corrupt, wild vine" instead of a choice vine from seed of highest quality (Jeremiah 2:21). Here is a test for the people of God at all times: all their resources are divinely bestowed that they might produce fruit according to the will of God. When they prostitute those very resources to suit their own desires, they are guilty of base failure. The scriptural picture of fruit-bearing always points to producing what gives glory to God and benefits others. This kind of fruit is never for self-consumption. It is among the gravest of sins to receive gifts from God but to consume them upon our own lusts and desires.

Hosea 11:8 "How can I give you up, O Ephraim?" The last 4 chapters contain the final section of Hosea's prophetic messages. Its dominant theme is the love of God. To read them intelligently, observe the portions that quote the Lord and those that give Hosea's commentary: The Lord (Hosea 11:1—12:1), Hosea (12:2-6), The Lord (12:7-11), Hosea (12:12-13; 13:1), The Lord (13:2-14), Hosea (13:15; 14:1-3), The Lord (14:4-9). Throughout the words of the Lord are words of love, while those of Hosea trace the history of Israel, show the national failure, and thus throw up into clearer view the faithful love of God. His first love message describes His past love: "When Israel was a child I loved him" (11:1), and reveals the continuity of that love, for that is the meaning of the highlighted question, "How can I give you up, O Ephraim?" This is the cry of a Father concerning His child. The child has forgotten the Father, turning away from Him by rebelling against His authority and despising His love. There is no reason in justice why the child should not be given up and completely cut off, but there is a reason found in love. God's love does not give up the loved one but rather finds the way for the claims of justice to be met, the glory of holiness maintained, and the loved one regained, restored, and kept by love. That is exactly what the grace of God has done at infinite and unfathomable cost.

Hosea 12:7 "A trafficker, in whose hands are false balances, he loves to oppress!" Israel had sought and found material wealth, claiming they had done so honestly, but the Lord contradicts their claim here. He knew the people habitually practiced deceit and falsehood, for God's love is never blind. It sees most clearly. As we have seen, the Lord's love for Israel drew forth the great cry, "How can I give you up?" Yet the Lord 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 because it is genuine love. Anything that excuses, condones, and palliates sin is not true love. It is folly that leads to complicity with sin.

Hosea 13:14 "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Repentance is hidden from My eyes." This promise from God constitutes the highest declaration of His love. It is all the more striking in its context, which is the Lord's open-eyed assessment of Israel's sins. His love for His people is past, present, and future—an outlook that embraces the whole of life and beyond, including the grave and death. God's persistent love challenges these dark forces: "O death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!" The Lord will not repent of His determination to ransom and redeem His people. This promise is all the more remarkable here because in Hosea's day, life and immortality had not been clearly brought to light. Hosea came to appreciate that nothing is powerful enough to hinder the victorious operation of God's unfailing love. It is no wonder that the apostle Paul, writing in the full light and glory of Christ's resurrection, would recall these words of Hosea and make them the prelude to his final note of victory and praise: "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Hosea 14:8 "Ephraim shall say, 'What have I to do anymore with idols?' I have heard and observed him. I am like a green cypress tree; your fruit is found in Me." One last time God speaks in Hosea, and His message is encouraging. Divine love will prevail. The name Ephraim means fruitfulness, and that thought has been present throughout. When Hosea was dealing with the punishment of spiritual pollution, he said in chapter 10 that Israel was a luxuriant vine producing fruit for itself. Now God declares the opposite will happen. The day will come when Ephraim or Israel as the vine of God will bring forth the fruit He seeks. That will be when Ephraim is completely redeemed from idols and God's people derive their nourishment from God Himself. The Lord says, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely" (verse 4). Hosea's prophecy ends in a song of triumphant love, even though no prophecy more clearly reveals the appalling character of sin and terrible judgment it brings. Love as Hosea's master note reveals the sinfulness of sin and vindicates the justice of divine judgment. That amazing love, which Hosea so radiantly set forth and lived out in his own life, found its ultimate and complete revelation in the Son of God's love through the awe-inspiring reality of His cross.

How Hosea (about 750 to 715 B.C.) relates to other prophetic writings and historical events.

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