“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give 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 whom she came up out of the land of Egypt.”
God never forgets his people, but it cannot be said that they never forget him. They are full of waywardness and rebellion, which call forth his fatherly chastisements to reprove and correct them. It seems incredible that the people especially blessed with the presence of the Lord, and who had witnessed again and again his omnipotent power and omniscient oversight working in their behalf, could ever forget him or grow cold and indifferent toward him; not only so, but that they should give themselves over repeatedly to the foolish vanities and idolatries which they had before learned could bring them naught but shame and sorrow, seems far more incredible; but of all this was national Israel guilty at the time of the prophecy quoted above. This nation so singularly chosen of God from among all nations of the earth, whereby it pleased him to show forth his honor and glory, was seen lusting after heathenish idols, forsaking the law of her Maker and all his holy ordinances as prescribed by Moses, to seek the satisfaction of her natural inclinations in bowing the knee unto the gods of the Gentile nations about her. She had forgotten God’s wonderful deliverance of her from Egyptian darkness and bondage, of his parting the Red Sea waters that she should pass through dryshod, and had entirely lost sight of his guidance of her through the forty-year wilderness journey in the cloud by day and fire by night. In the time of great thirst he caused the rock to be smitten, that it should pour forth a stream for her sake; but it was forgotten, together with that time of great hunger when he sent manna from heaven for food. “The service of the holy temple, the intercession of the high priest and the offering for sin were all forgotten. God brought her safely through Jordan’s swelling flood into the promised land (Canaan) flowing with milk and honey, gave her the victory over her enemies and established her in that country which he gave her for her own. What more evidences could she require of his faithfulness? And how did she requite Him! Her answers were rebellion, pride, depravity and idolatry. At the time of the prophet Hosea, Israel was steeped in national corruption and was standing on the verge of the Babylonian captivity, and in all this was an ensample unto the Israel of the gospel age, not very far distant. These events of national Jewish history typify spiritual truths imparted unto the gospel church at the present time. There is a proneness to wander felt by the child of God that often gives him great concern, and this very concern, so long as it is present, is in itself a safeguard against yielding to temptation, but when one comes to that state wherein his wanderings do not cause anxiety, he is treading very near Babylon’s captivating lure. When in the christian experience one passes from law to gospel, nature to grace, first realizes a hope in the virtues of Jesus’ blood and sings for the first time the new song of praise unto God, then in the ardor of his first love is lost entirely to view the weakness of the flesh which will later endeavor to ensnare him into yielding to its temptations. Were the new birth a change wrought in the old man of our Adamic nature, no such danger could exist, nor would one ever wander after the false gods of the flesh. The new birth is the coming into manifestation of a new creature, created in righteousness and true holiness, but it is not a renovation of the old creature of sin and depravity. This makes the subject of grace a dual being experiencing the warfare between the flesh and the Spirit. There are times in the experience of gospel churches, and of individuals, when there seems to be little or no response to spiritual things, and a coldness as of frost seems to nip in the bud every good and beautiful tendency to higher and better things; accompanying this condition there is also no manifestation of anxiety or grief concerning the matter, but instead an inclination to worldliness is manifested in a careless walk or conversation unbecoming the profession of a disciple of Christ, and a disposition to use the principles of Bible doctrine as a cloak to cover one’s actions or utterances. This condition of a church or an individual answers to the condition of national Israel in the type at the time of Hosea’s prophecy. The remedy for this condition is not in our hands, but in God’s hand, and he will distribute to us of reproof and correction that we shall be ashamed before him for all our ways, and confessing our sins, be brought unto repentance and forgiveness. The child of God that bugs some fleshly idol to his heart is sowing to the flesh, and will of the flesh reap corruption. Do any of us ever strive to lay up for ourselves treasures on the earth! Scarcely any are guiltless on this score, but labor and sorrow are all we get for our pains. This state of affairs cannot long exist with the Lord’s people, for he is a jealous God and will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” is a command that must be fulfilled, and as surely as God has determined it, so shall they most certainly be brought to serve him to the exclusion of all things else.
“I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness.” To allure is to attract and entice. In being thus drawn into a snare one is not conscious of his danger, nor that he is being tempted. Our slight indulgences of fleshly impulses unconsciously lead to more and more ungodliness, until we are enmeshed in a web from which we are unable to extricate ourselves. The wilderness referred to in the text is the utter worldliness of Babylon, and represents the wilderness of total depravity. It is waste howling. “Waste “because it is entirely destitute of any spiritual qualities wherewith to satisfy the desires of the new creature, and “howling “because it is full of the wild beasts of our nature, prowling around seeking what they may devour. When dominated by the flesh a child of God is drawn away by the lusts thereof and enticed. He is led into the wilderness, but when, within him, the motions of eternal life manifest themselves, total depravity becomes a mightily oppressive burden; then one knows the panting of the soul after God and what it is to be as a pelican in the wilderness, or as a sparrow alone upon the housetop; this is the depth of woe and the pit of miry clay. One deeply questions whether the Lord has forgotten to be gracious, and if his mercy is clean gone forever. I trust I do no violence to the text when I say that our fleshly lusts are those “principles which allure us toward Babylon, although the pronoun “I” in the text refers to God. Our heavenly Father not only takes cognizance of our fleshly wanderings, but ordains them, not as an end in themselves, but as evil out of which good shall come. We, his people, are not at liberty to do evil that good may come, but God has a perfect right to appoint such a path for us if he so chooses, and that without in the least impeaching any of his divine attributes. Whatsoever he does is right, because he does it. By causing his wayward children to realize the bitterness of the fruits of their idolatries, they are brought into that attitude of soul towards him of which he says: I “will speak comfortably unto her.” Words able to comfort must be spoken by one fully acquainted with the needs of the case. Herein does the repentant child touch the Daysman, the Mediator, Christ Jesus, who was tempted in all points like as his people are, yet without sin, and is able to succor them when tempted, for he is touched with the feeling of their infirmities. He is the speaker of the comfortable words. Thus amidst the shattering of one’s idolatries there arises a blessed communion with Christ as he comes near to comfort her who had wandered from her true Husband after false lovers.
“I will give her her vineyards from thence.” The fruitfulness of the church arises from her realization of the vanities of the flesh and of the value of Christ to her. When mindful of her inherent weakness and infirmity, and aware that without him she can do nothing, she is not in danger of being taken captive by unbelief, but treads softly and humbly, leaning upon the staff of his precious promises. It is in her high-mindedness and self-confidence that temptation lurks, and until the Husbandman prunes these dead twigs the fruit of the vine will not come to perfection. It is in being made to realize the utter spiritual destitution of the wilderness of the carnal mind and heart that the soul is prepared for the growth of those vineyards whose grapes are the fruits of the Spirit enumerated by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatian Church. (Gal. v. 22, 23.)
“And the valley of Achor for a door of hope.” This is the valley wherein Achan, he that troubled the peace of Israel with his relics of Jericho’s corruption, was stoned to death with all his house. It is the valley of purging or of purification, and is the place wherein we are made to fellowship the sufferings of Jesus, who purged away all our dross and tin and purified us of unrighteousness. The golden wedge of self-confidence is often buried in our tents, but when the light of Jesus’ truth discovers its hiding-place, a sense of guilt fills us with anguish, and we are found crying, “Lord, save us: we perish.” This is the fiery trial wherein is wrought the refinement of faith’s gold and the destruction of unbelief’s wood and stubble. This deep distress which serves to tear our idols from us and turns our faces toward the temple again, is the door of hope, or that by which hope enters anew and afresh into our souls. When we were drifting idly and calmly upon the smooth surface of fleshly security, we lost sight of our hope or any necessity for such an anchor. But in the midst of the storm its “anchor pull” is felt, for the severity of the tempest tests its security. If our hope were centered in some earthly thing, it could not endure the tempest’s rage, but the christian’s hope, though lost sight of in times of fleshly ease, is anchored in heaven above, in God’s love and power and infinite mercy. The higher we are tossed on the billows of trouble, the nearer we approach unto our anchor (hope), which is never so precious as when earth and its idols perish.
“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.” She shall sing “there;” in that very place where has been witnessed her humiliation and distress she is made to sing; not in some other place, but there, where she has experienced so much hunger and thirst of spirit, shall she rejoice unspeakably. The very wilderness wherein her entanglement caused shame and sorrow shall be glad for her with the rising of the Sun of righteousness. The desert wherein her strength utterly failed shall blossom as the rose with the presence of Him, the Bridegroom of her soul. God does not need to remove us from amid desolate conditions in order to make us happy in him. A prison is just as good to dwell in as a palace if Jesus dwells with us there. God does not wait until our bodies die to impart unto us the doctrine of the resurrection and its experimental comforts and benefits, but while yet in this time state we come forth from death in Adam unto life in Christ, and, like Paul, die daily, but nevertheless live by the life of Christ, which dwells in us. Though the experience of the wilderness causes repentance in sackcloth and ashes, yet it is where Jesus speaks comfortable words to his tried ones, and when he has revived their hope from the valley of trouble they find again that song in their heart which was theirs in the days of their spiritual youth, when in their first love and first enjoyment of a hope in the virtues of Jesus’ blood. This song of praise, yea, even God’s praise, testifies to the victory which God through Christ has given the church over all enemies of righteousness.
Unto all those that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, I affectionately tender the above message, I trust, in the fear of God.
Yours in gospel bonds,
HORACE H. LEFFERTS.
Warwick, N. Y., Dec . 11, 1907.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 76., No. 1.
JANUARY 1, 1908.