"Therefore, behold, I will allure her and lead her to the wilderness, and speak to her tenderly.
I. THE METHODS OF ISRAEL'S RESTORATION. (Ver. 14.) We need not stay to speak of its Author, even although the first "I" (ver. 14) is emphatic. Only Jehovah himself has heart and power equal to this task. Only he who makes the summer of the year can produce that spiritual summer which is here described with such tender pathos. His methods are twofold.
1. The outward discipline of the wilderness. After Israel shall have endured the punishments denounced upon her, her national life is to begin anew. The generation that had come out of Egypt with Moses had needed the protracted discipline of the Arabian desert before God could "give them their vineyards;" and so would it be again. The nation must be taken apart, and be for a time alone with Croci. Similarly, the Lord removes the individual soul whom he designs to bless, into the wilderness of temporal loss, or sickness, or sorrow. When the aged Christian reviews his spiritual experience, he generally finds that the most marked spots in it have been connected with his times of sorrow.
2. The inward realization of the constancy and tenderness of the Divine love. The discipline must be spiritual also. Outward providences alone will not restore Israel. Neither will the truth of God presented only to her mind. In the wilderness the Divine Spirit must "speak to her heart." His purpose in carrying the nation into exile is that he may "allure" her, i.e. decoy her with tender words, persuade her by the persistent manifestation of his love. He will stoop to court her. He will outbid the Baals. His inextinguishable love will woo and win her soul. So, oftentimes, God "speaks to the heart" of the prodigal when he sits by the swine-troughs, in the time of the mighty famine. He "speaks to his heart," to soften it, comfort it, cleanse it, claim it, fill it. He has his ways of holy enticement for "alluring" sinners to receive and return his love.
II. THE BLESSED RESULTS OF THE RESTORATION. (Vers. 15-20.) These are described with exquisite beauty. The Divine promise is that in "the wilderness" Israel's national life shall begin afresh. God's nuptial covenant with her shall be renewed. She shall be enfeoffed again in the land of Canaan, the possession of which she had forfeited. The Lord "will give her her vineyards from thence." And the results shall be glorious.
1. Fresh hope. (Ver. 15.) The valley of Achor (i.e. trouble) was the door by which Israel had at first entered into possession of the highlands of Palestine. It had been the scene of a dreadful tragedy (Joshua 7.): the defeat before Ai, and Achan's sacrilege, conviction, and doom. But so soon as Israel purged herself of "the accursed thing," the valley of Achor had become to her "a door of hope." Now, however, she must again pass through a still more doleful Achor. The destruction of Samaria and the desolation of Jerusalem would mark a defeat greatly more disastrous than the repulse at Ai. But through "the valley of trouble" she shall come again to peace and rest. Does not the expression before us furnish a valuable watchword for the Christian? It reminds him that he must pass through "the great tribulation" (Revelation 7:1-2) before he can reach the heavenly Canaan. Every ungodly lust is an Achan in the camp of the soul, which must be convicted and stoned and burned.
2. Youthful joy. (Ver. 15.) Israel, n hen restored to the Divine favor, shall recover the sprightliness and joy of youth. "Site shall sing there, as in the days of her youth;" and in those days she could indeed sing. Is not the song of Moses a masterpiece both of poetry and praise? In conception it is sublime. In execution it must have been thrilling. That old Red Sea ads is the first song of redemption. But, in the days of her restoration, Israel shall resume it, and with a fuller appreciation of its meaning. For the song of salvation which returning penitents now sing is "the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (Revelation 15:3).
3. Renewed conjugal love. (Vers. 16, 17.) In the rapture of her recovered love, Israel shall call Jehovah "Ishi - my Husband." She shall no longer use the name "Baali." In itself, of course, "Baal" is a good enough word. In Hebrew it is a common noun, meaning "master," "possessor," "owner;" and it had been used as a designation of Jehovah. But, alas! the word had at length been prostituted to base purposes, and defiled by wicked associations. Its purity was now hopelessly gone. So, in the good time coming, it shall be used no more. God will not be called Baal, lest the word should tempt Israel to think of her old idols.
4. Paradisiacal peace. (Ver. 18.) The picture here suggests a return to the garden of Eden. The forces of nature, once so hostile (vers. 9, 12), shall be brought into harmony with Israel. Wars shall cease forever. The face of the world shall be changed. How different this picture from the state of matters that is still thought necessary in order to the preservation of the peace of Europe! The favorite maxim just now is that the best security for peace is to be well prepared for war. The Baal-spirit professes to see the basis of peace in our arsenals and ironclads; but Jehovah's plan is to "break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth."
5. An everlasting marriage union. (Vers. 19, 20.) The Lord will forget all Israel's past infidelity, and treat her again as if she were innocent and pure. He will espouse her, as if she were a chaste virgin, to himself. He will bestow upon her, as bridal gifts, every Divine and spiritual blessing - "righteousness," "judgment," "loving-kindness," "mercies, faithfulness." And the new marriage-covenant shall be "for eternity" (ver. 19). The former one, alas! had been sadly broken; but the renewal of the conjugal relationship shall be enduring as Jehovah's invincible, unchangeable love.
CONCLUSION. How important for the sinner to "know and believe the love that God hath to him"! The eternal love of God is a fact. Every pure human attachment is but a rill from the infinite fountain of the Divine tenderness. Love, no less than holiness and justice, lies at the root of the Divine wrath against sin. Jehovah our God is "a jealous God;" but he would not trouble himself to cherish holy jealousy about the affections of our poor hearts, if he did not love us with an ardent and a quenchless love. Oh for grace to love him in return as we ought! - C.J.
I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
I. HE WILL ALLURE THE SOUL AND BRING IT INTO THE WILDERNESS. This implies that it is elsewhere, — it is in the world. What is meant by the wilderness? It is spoken of our hearts. God will make us, even while living in this world, with all its pleasures and vanities around us, as dead to all as if we were in a wilderness. "I spake unto thee in prosperity, and thou wouldest not hear." This is His lament. Therefore He will destroy all those things wherein we trust, that we may hear His voice and live. There is self-denial involved in following where the Spirit leads us. It allures onwards to the wilderness. Follow willingly.
II. IF GOD HAS THUS DEALT WITH YOU, IT IS THAT HE MAY SPEAK TO YOUR HEARTS. In silence, in solitude, in the desolation of your hearts, He will come and build up their ruined breaches, and dwell therein Himself. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." God speaks to the heart; He allures it to Him; and when it has found no rest for the sole of its foot on the waters of this troubled world, bids it return to its true rest in His wounded side.
(R. A. Suckling, M. A.)
( Matthew Henry.)
I. HE WINS BY HIS LOVE. He "allures," persuades, woos, attracts. God respects man's freedom. God Himself cannot compel us to trust and love Him. He has constituted us moral beings. God influences the motives, the desires, the judgments, the affections, operates on the secret power of the will. The only power that can win men from their sin is love. Love has the key that fits every lock in the different chambers of the soul. Love can overcome the enmity of our nature. It will not be slain by any other weapon. And thus God deals with us.
II. HE APPOINTS AND USES NECESSARY MEANS OF DISCIPLINE. Having been "allured," drawn to God, we are then trained, disciplined. This wilderness state is a state of —
1. Solitude. A man must get out of the crowd in order to think. Men living in a crowd become mere echoes. In solitude man discovers himself, and realises the presence of God, and these involve a burden of personal responsibility.
2. Trouble. Chastisement was, and still is, the necessary discipline for God's children. Why does God correct them? To make them feel that sin is terribly hateful. And He shews us the tendency of sin.
3. Preparation. The training of the wilderness was necessary. Had they entered Canaan at once, they would have been unfit to take possession of it. God brings us into the wilderness in order to develop our character. The faith that will stand in the storm is the faith that has been tried.
III. GOD SPEAKS TO US. Lit. "I will speak to her heart." Not to the intellect merely, but also to the heart. But God's words never reach the heart until we have been prepared for them. What are His words that reach the heart? Words of forgiveness, consolation, hope. Are we then making the right use of our Father's discipline?
(James Owen.)I. THE OVERTURES OF MERCY. "I will allure her." The natural heart is in a state of rebellion against God, and He sends an offer of free pardon to all that will submit to Him. He allures them by His mercies. God works upon men's fears by shewing them their dangers, upon their affections by the offer of His grace.
II. TROUBLES THAT SHALL COME AFTER. "I will bring her into the wilderness." When souls are delivered from their natural bondage to sin and Satan, they do not immediately taste all the sweets arising from the liberty of the Gospel. They often indeed suffer greater torments of mind, greater terrors of conscience, than ever they did before. But if God brings His people through a wilderness, He will speak comfortably to them at last.
III. THE END OF HER TROUBLES. Where God, by His Spirit, speaks comfortably to the heart, that is comfort indeed. If the heart be not at ease, nothing can give us comfort. It is one of the offices of the Spirit to comfort God's people.
(R. W. Dibdin, M. A.)
And I will give her her vineyards from thence
I. THE GRACIOUS DEALINGS OF GOD WITH HIS CHURCH.
1. He allures them by the most gracious invitations, to turn to Him with penitence and prayer. God is love; and amongst the many proofs of this, are the gracious invitations by which He allures His rebellious creatures to seek His face.
2. To these invitations the Lord adds the most encouraging assurances to all who will seek His mercy, forgiveness of their sins, and acceptance with Him. But the Lord does more than this. He not only gently raises the desire of His favour, but He power fully strengthens and confirms it — "He brings her into the wilderness." Some suppose this refers to the love of solitude and retirement as affording opportunity for more unrestricted communion with God. Others consider it as alluding to those various afflictive dispensations which are often the means employed by God in leading His people to the living fountains of waters. May we not regard them as denoting more especially that state of spiritual distress into which God in mercy brings the sinner? The Lord brings His believing people into the wilderness of conviction of sin and godly repentance. Conviction leads to consolation, and repentance prepares the new-born soul for the reception of the Saviour. No language can describe the comfort which springs in the heart of the convinced and contrite sinner from the assurance that the door of mercy is not yet closed against him, and that there is a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. Then, indeed, he has reason for blessing God in that He has brought him into the wilderness.
II. THE GIFTS WHICH GOD BESTOWS ON THE CHURCH.
1. "I will give her her vineyards," rich blessings and privileges. Through the wilderness is the road to the vineyards. He gives the privileges of children. He gives His Holy Spirit. He gives them peace passing understanding — joy and peace in believing.
2. He gives also "the valley of Achor for a door of hope." The present comforts and privileges of God's people are pledges and foretastes of future and more enlarged felicity, an exceeding and eternal "weight of glory."
(John Vaughan, LL. B.)
1. Earth is a wilderness. It was not designed to be. The ground is cursed for man's sake. By one man sin entered into the world. But to the Christian the curse is turned into a blessing. He has not only before him a land of promise, but even now, even here, he has a thousand alleviations and succours, and even delights.
2. Solitude is a wilderness. There is not only much to be done alone, but gained alone, and enjoyed alone. There we gain our best knowledge and our richest experience. There we enjoy the freedom of prayer and the most unreserved intercourse with God. They are never less alone than when alone.
3. Outward trouble is a wilderness. Many have been afraid to be brought into it, yet He has given them their vineyards from thence. They have been saved by their undoing, and enriched by their losses.
4. The state of mind produced by the conviction of sin is a wilderness. Who does not remember the surprise, the confusion of mind, the anguish, the self-despair he once felt; and who can forget the feelings induced by a discovery of the Cross, and the joy of God's salvation!
5. The same may be said of that soul abase ment and distress the believer himself may feel from increasing views of his unworthiness, depravity, and guilt. The experience is truly lamentable, but will the humiliation hurt him? He giveth grace unto the humble.
6. The valley of the shadow of death is the last wilderness. There is much to render it uninviting and awful; and yet, when it has been actually entered, the apprehension and the gloom have fled: This has been the case generally, even with those who arc most subject to bondage by the fear of it. The place has been made glad for them. And what vineyards does He give them from thence!
( Matthew Henry.)
I. LOVE'S ARTIFICE. "I will allure her." What is the wilderness? A place of blasted ground — ground where life once was, but has withered. A place of desertion and solitude. Surely a strange place for Jehovah to choose as His meeting-place with His bride. This is in its favour, it is a place of silence. The wilderness of the prophet finds its counterpart in the life of the heart. There is blight, through the drying up of the hopes that refreshed you; there is solitude, the sudden awaking to the sense that you are alone, and your desert is a school of silence. It hushes the world, and hushes the heart. There is a blessing for those in the wilderness. The grace that was unsought and unmissed amidst prosperity and plenty, you will learn to recognise and regain amidst the wilderness privations; and the voice you were deaf to amidst prosperity's clamours, you will hear and respond to in the wilderness silence.
II. LOVE'S LANGUAGE. "Speak comfortably to her," speak to her heart. He had often spoken to the ear. Words of solemn warning, words of melting entreaty. But He had never before spoken as He speaks now. Now in her heartache and emptiness there is none can speak to her like her Lord Himself. What presses on her heart is her trespass against love, the thought that a grace so great has been slighted, and a trust so true and loyal has been betrayed. It is when a man's sins have created a wilderness around him that the Saviour comes near and speaks to the heart. Wilderness discipline, with all its privations, and with all its pain, its remorse for the past, and its dread for the future, is well worth bearing if at the last it brings the Redeemer to speak to the heart.
III. LOVE'S TOKENS. The gifts which love bestows.
1. Blessings in possession. Of the self-same kind as the blessings which the bride had lost. God took away the vines. He grants vines again, and more abundant. Whether our wilderness discipline has its issue in temporal restorations or not, it may always be rich in spiritual blessing. There are grapes of grace to be gathered from the thorns of trial, and a meeting with Christ is always sufficient to turn the wilderness to a vineyard, where the chalice of the soul may be filled, and the strength of the soul be renewed by the fulness and exhilarations of God.
2. Blessings in prospect. Achor was a passage into Canaan. Fertile in itself, it was welcome to Israel as an earnest of the greater fertility of Canaan beyond. By its physical formation the valley of Achor was, in a most literal sense, a door of hope in front of the Israelites.
IV. THE EFFECTS WHICH LOVE PRODUCES. "She shall sing there." In the old times there had been unholy mirth. Now she fears to sing the song of the old innocent time. But those whom God pardons, He pardons freely; those whom He restores, He restores right royally. In the days of your Christian youth you could sing. But the glory died, you scarce know how. Grace languished, vows were forgotten, love grew cold, and you fell by degrees from habits of secret neglect into acts of open sin. But yours may be singing days still; for with new material for such singing, the Lord will restore you the heart that can sing, with more than the old love back again. The song will be different, but fuller and richer, set to a steadier cadence, touching a deeper note; the song not of those who are ignorant of sin, but of those who have sinned, and sinned deeply, but by God's grace are forgiven.
(W. A. Gray.)
(Henry Mevill, B. D.)
I. THE CONSTANCY AND TENDERNESS OF THE DIVINE LOVE. Observe how the nation of Israel is personified. A faithful husband cannot become indifferent even to a faithless wife. Blended with the Divine wrath against idolatry — yea, lying at the very root of that wrath- is the Eternal Love. These words not only reveal constancy, they also breathe tenderness. Speaking to the heart reaches the affections, thrills the soul, awakens responsive echoes there. Thus God receives the penitent when they plead for pardon. The term "allure" expresses that kind of influence, the very strength of which lies in its subtlety and gentleness. In the Bible the word is generally used of evil enticements (e.g., Samson and Delilah). Men are gradually led into sin, step by step, through a seductive fascination which is far more potent than any obtrusive force. But there is a holy as well as an unholy "allurement." God has His indirect methods of reaching the human will. Goodness, as well as evil, woos the soul. The love of God, as here set forth in its constancy and tenderness, is a substantial verity. The Bible speaks of Divine love in the terms of human affection. Man is made in the Divine image, and therefore, through the affection of our own souls, we can rise into some conceptions of the eternal love. God's love is the inspirer of all true affection. His love is the very fountain of ours. By our wanderings God is grieved. God really does wish you to reciprocate His love. God does allure.
II. THE BENEFICENT PURPOSE OF THE DIVINE DISCIPLINE AND CHASTISEMENT. The wilderness is typical of the discipline to which God subjects His people. The Arabian desert was the school in which the Israelites were trained for the exercise of freedom. In Hosea's time Israel needed a repetition of the old lesson. She would, therefore, be brought again into the wilderness. God does not subject us to hardship for hardship's sake. It is needful for us that we be led into the wilderness. To give us the vineyards at once might be only to enervate us — to loosen the fibre of our moral being to intoxicate, instead of exhilarating, our souls. And so, in one form or another, all men have to pass through discipline. Through all forms of trial there runs the same beneficent purpose. God designs to bring us into a true and safe prosperity; and so He seeks, by strengthening our character, to prepare us for entering into the land of "vineyards" The "valley of Achor" may be taken as typical of the Divine chastisements. The afflictions with which we are visited often assume to our consciences the aspect of correction. Our calamities, bringing us into the light of God, bring us also face to face with the sins which that light condemns. Sometimes we can trace the connection between our troubles and our transgressions. But accept your trouble as the chastisement of One who loves you, the "valley of Achor" will be made to you a "door of hope." Never murmur under any of the Divine dealings. Realise the constancy and tenderness of Ills holy love. He is a "jealous God"; but is there no such thing as a righteous and holy jealousy in man? God cannot love us and be indifferent as to whether we love Him or not. Cling then to hope, even in the midst of severest trials. These trials are either to chastise us for our transgressions, or else to mould our characters after a nobler type. In either case a loving purpose underlies them.
(T. Campbell Finlayson.)
I. THE WAY IN WHICH THOSE WHOM GOD LOVES ARE REBUKED AND CHASTENED BY HIM. "I will allure her," etc. The wilderness was to the Israelites an emblem of affliction. It was a wilderness in which their forefathers had spent forty years of trial and chastisement. Into the wilderness of trouble the Lord brings every member of His family, both at the time of their conversion and after it. God often calls the Christian off from the path of ease and satisfaction, and makes him feel the thorns and briers of affliction, because he is loving earthly things too well, and losing sight of God, cleaving to the creature more than to the Creator. But the afflictions of God's people are not like the afflictions of the world. God does not drive His people to the wilder ness, He brings them there, — that is to say, He goes with them Himself. Believers are, in a certain sense, "allured" to trouble, for they are well assured that their Lord knows better than they do what is really good for them.
II. THE COMFORT WHICH ATTENDS GOD'S CHASTISEMENTS. "Speak comfortably to her." The Lord speaks thus to the newly awakened soul, and He has comforts for every after stage of experience. Never does He "bring them into the wilderness" of trouble but He comes down and talks with them. In distress of mind they may think God has forsaken them; but it is not so, for He is by, and full of tenderness, though He seem to deal with them severely. Soon they know and feel this, for His comforts flow into their hearts.
III. THE GOOD FRUITS WHICH FOLLOW THE AFFLICTIONS OF GOD'S PEOPLE. Vineyards from a wilderness! A crop of grapes from a barren and dry land! In the spiritual wilderness of trouble and affliction such wonders do occur. Had the sinner never smarted for his sins he never would have reaped the fruits of a Redeemer's love. The text is true with respect to all the wildernesses which the Christian enters in his pilgrimage through life. Never does he cross the desert land of trouble but he gathers fruits there. The believer is enriched by his afflictions. When the Lord straitens him in one respect, He enlarges him in another. The spiritual Achor becomes a door of hope. He expects great things from a God whose mercies and whose loving-kindnesses he has found so plenteous.
IV. THE THANKS GIVINGS WHICH GOD'S CHASTENED PEOPLE ARE SURE TO RETURN, IN THE ISSUE, UNTO HIM WHO SMOTE THEM. "She shall sing there." This first refers to the Israelites, and recalls the song at the Red Sea. Applied to the Lord's people generally, it signifies that their troubles also should-issue in a song of praise. What believer is there who would not sing, with all his heart and soul, the hymn that should bless God for his afflictions? He would never have known his joys but for his sorrows.
(A. Roberts, M. A.)
I. THE AUTHOR OF AFFLICTION. God forces Himself on our notice as the source Of His people's troubles. Why this anxiety in a God of love to stand thus forward as the author of misery?
1. Because we are so backward in affliction to discern His hand.
2. We can get no good out of affliction, and no real comfort under it, till we view it as sent to us from Him. When we discern God at the very root of our sufferings, then the knee bends, the prayer goes up, and the blessing comes down. Then, for the first time, we are quieted and subdued. When we see that a Father's hand has mingled the cup of bitterness, we soon do more than say, "Shall I not drink it"
II. WHY GOD AFFLICTS US. The text discovers to us one of the most frequent causes of our sorrows. It is our forget fulness of God, and that not in His judgments, but in His mercies, a failing to recognise His hand in them. It may be you have lost some of your earthly mercies; but you know why God has stripped you bare, as well as though His own voice sounded it from heaven in your ears. You had forgotten Him in His gifts. You tried to live "without God in the world." In jealousy for His own honour, in love for your souls, He withdrew the gifts you had abused. He made you feel once again that you need Him. God never deprives us of things without a cause. But if you will not see Him in the enjoyment of them, He will make you see Him in their loss.
III. How GOD SOMETIMES AFFLICTS US. Gradually, compassionately, tenderly. Sometimes His judgments appear to come suddenly. This is His way usually with the strong. He carries the weak and inexperienced "into the wilderness." A mother's tenderness could not equal His. He shows them how much they need affliction, and how much good they will derive from it, Other men are driven into the wilderness, the Christian is allured into it.
IV. THE COMFORT WHICH THE LORD IMPARTS IN THE WILDERNESS. Others speak comfortably to us in our sorrow, but if that sorrow is deep, what power have their words! God speaks to the heart, and then everything comforts, for God speaks by everything.
V. THE SUPPLIES WHICH GOD FURNISHES IN TRIBULATION. He represents Himself as more than a Comforter, He is a Benefactor, and a rich one. He has promised vineyards in the wilderness. Such blessings as will more than supply the place of those lost. And these are actually to grow out of our afflictions.
VI. THE HOPE THAT GOD EXCITES IN AFFLICTION. Even when trouble came on trouble, and things seemed to be quite hopeless, God opened a door of hope. Learn the effect to be produced on Israel by the mercies vouchsafed to her.
I. SOUL-RESTORATION — IN ITS ORIGIN. The originating causes, for the most part, lie back of what is Seen. The agencies that go to make summer are Divine. And the same is true of the soul. The only agencies that can prove effective in restoring it to summer experience and fruitfulness must come from God. It is not repentance, nor faith, nor service, nor sacrifice does it. As the sun carries all the influences needful to give richness to the trees and fragrance to the flowers, even so does God treasure up within Himself all those influences and inspirations which are essential to the enrichment of the soul. It would be a sad thing for us if our spiritual restoration were dependent on our good deeds. The Divine effulgence is necessary to our illumination. The Divine inflowing of life and warmth is essential to the production of Christian sensibility. The sun does not shine upon this earth because it is fair and fruitful; he shines rather to make it so. It is not our goodness or our prayers that cause God to love and bless, but He loves and blesses that we might become recipients of all Christian grace and excellence.
II. IN ITS METHODS. How does God restore the soul In a family the disobedient one is punished. No treatment could be too severe to meet the case of backsliding Israel; and yet God m His mercy says, I will allure her." He had left her for awhile. He had permitted her to indulge her vanities unrestrained. At length He hedged up her way. But all these methods proved to be ineffectual. Is it not amazing that He did not turn away in disgust But with infinite tenderness He says, "I will allure her into the wilderness." I have tried these various methods without result. I will now exercise my fascinations to win back her love. What is the "wilderness" into which God leads?
1. The wilderness is suggestive of barrenness. The Arabian desert is a fitting type of that soul's experiences which has been led away from its vanities, and brought into a conscious sense of the Divine nearness and purity. The best men who have ever lived have shrivelled up in the all-radiant presence of the Holy One. The wilderness ever stands between guilt and holiness. You cannot become estranged from God in affection and be restored to the experiences of His favour without being brought into the wilderness. He makes you realise your poverty and guilt that you may be prepared to rejoice in His forgiveness.
2. The wilderness is suggestive of solitude. There is no scene more isolated from the busy life of the world. Solitude is necessary to repentance. It is only when alone with our great Lord that we learn to despise our frivolities and sins and yearn for succour in His unchanging love.
3. The wilderness is suggestive of terror. The Sinai Mount is in the wilderness. The flaming law lifts up its awful voice of condemnation. Sinai must frown before Calvary can smile.
III. IN ITS BLESSINGS. She is only brought into the wilderness that she might be weaned away from her illicit loves. No sooner does she begin to blush and weep and tremble than her gracious Lord takes her into His arms and presses her to His bosom, and enriches her with all the wealth of His affection. Here we have —
1. Affluent experiences. No imagery could be more expressive. The desert transformed into a paradise. The experiences of the Christian life are too rich and exquisite to be exhausted by any imagery. The Lord gives, not merely a sufficiency but a superabundancy.
2. An inspiring hope. The valley of trouble has often become a door of hope to God's chosen. When they have been most perplexed, their deliverance has been most glorious. On the darkest night of their sorrow has broken the effulgence of the brightest day.
IV. IN ITS EFFECTS. When our souls have been restored, we too shall "sing as in the days of our youth." How was it with us then?
1. What praise!
2. What triumph!
3. What exultation!How many of us stand in supreme need of soul-restoration! We have lost the power and blessedness of a songful life. Our spiritual sensibilities are benumbed, and our spiritual energies paralysed. O Lord, be gracious unto us as in the days that are past!
(Benjamin D. Thomas.)
Homilist.These words refer to the restoration of Israel to friendship and fellowship with God.
I. THE STAGES IN SOUL-RESTORATION ARE GRADUAL.
1. The first step to soul-restoration is from bondage to liberty. All souls are in moral Egypt, and the first step to their restoration is their exodus into the moral Arabia.
2. The next step is from despondency to hope. In spiritual restoration the soul passes from trouble into hope. Through much tribulation we enter into kingdoms.
3. The next step is from sterility to fruitfulness. The wilderness was a barren district, but Canaan was a land of vineyards.
4. The next step is from sadness to exultation. The song of the redeemed at last will be the song of Moses and the Lamb.
II. THE AGENCY IN SOUL-RESTORATION IS DIVINE. No one but God can restore souls. Mark how He does it.
1. Morally. Not by force.
2. Lovingly. "Speak comfortably to her."
3. Generously. He who gave Canaan to the Jews gives heaven to restored souls.
The valley of Achor for a door of hope
(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)1. How is this valley of Achor a door of hope to Israel?(1) Because it was the first place of which they took possession in Israel, and began to have outward means of subsistence, and to eat of the corn of the land.(2) God made their great trouble there a means of much good to them, for by that they were brought to purge their camp.
2. How was the valley of Achor to be a door of hope to Israel in after-times? The Jews think that Israel shall return into their own country again by the same way to Canaan, by that valley, which shall thus be a door of hope to them. As God turned this valley of trouble to .much good to them, so He would turn all the sore afflictions of Israel in after days to their great advantage, grievous afflictions which should make way for glorious mercies. Sin will make the pleasantest place in the world a place of trouble. When may we assure ourselves that our mercies are doors of hope to further mercies?
1. When they are wrought by the more immediate hand of God.
2. When they are spiritual mercies.
3. When mercies carry to us the God of mercy, and are turned into duties.
(H. P. Liddon, D. D.)
(F. D. Huntington, D. D.)
I. HUMAN SUFFERING A DOOR OF HEAVENLY HOPE. For sinful and imperfect beings there is no door of hope but in suffering, and this fact transfigures and glorifies suffering itself, and teaches sinful men to look for their redemption in what they strive to escape from. This is the glorious truth taught in the text. The wilderness itself will be changed into a glorious and blessed inheritance unto her. The valley of trouble is the threshold of the promised inheritance. There is a great difference between delivering from trouble and changing the trouble itself into a door of hope. This gives a new character to the sufferings and trials of life, and to God's chastisements, punishments, and judgments, because there is in them all a door of hope, to which God graciously and patiently leads the "sufferer. It was in this respect only that the valley of Achor could be a door of hope. The captivity in Babylon was a valley of Achor, and it proved a door of hope. National calamities are doors of hope for nations. In what respect can it be said that there is a door of hope in punishments and sufferings deserved? If they are retributive only, there cannot be a ray of hope in them, but if they are redemptive and reformative as well, they are God s wise and merciful method of leading sinners to Himself. The notion that they are retributive only is unworthy of God, for we can never conceive of Him as administering punishment for its own sake. God's punishments are means to bless, and have great and glorious ends. God is sympathetical in all suffering, not with sin, of course, but with the sufferer, whether he is guilty or not. He is ever striving with intense yearning to lead him to Himself. Every good and holy man, who lives for the good of others and the glory of God, suffers in the sufferings of all those to whom he ministers. If this is true of man, how much more must it be so of God?
II. WE ARE NOT TO DESPAIR OF THE WORST CHARACTERS. However sinful and hard-hearted men may become, they can never go beyond God's power to touch their hearts. A man who lost all his senses by paralysis was found to have a tender spot on his cheek, by which communications could be made to him. So God can always find a tender spot in the worst, and He can speak words that will melt the hardest hearts into repentance because of their sins.
Homiletic Magazine.At each mention of this valley it is a door of hope.
I. THE VALLEY OF ENTRANCE. It was the gateway of Canaan. It marked a great transition. Here pilgrimage ceased; here residence began. Here great changes occurred, which are accomplished by a very short march across a great boundary line. The valley of Achor was to Israel a door of hope, because it was the gateway to the full possession of the land. Across the line within the kingdom of God's grace there is a door of hope. He who obeys the Divine command, crosses, enters, dwells, may through this entrance valley pass into all the treasures of grace and glory.
II. THE VALLEY OF TROUBLE. The first camp became a scene of disorder and dismay. Story of Achan. Hard lessons yield a rich reward. Rough places become monumental. Success is the fruit of failure. The valley of trouble becomes a door of hope to brighter scenes and deeper joys.
III. THE VALLEY OF RENEWAL. The silence of centuries passed over Achor's vale. Israel had forgotten God, and broken all their vows. Then God recalled to Israel the valley of early vows and glad consecration, and proposed to make it the valley of renewal. From farthest wandering, greatest sin, saddest ruin, deepest sorrow, God can bring back the troubled one to the valley of Achor. With God nothing is irreparable. A ruined life, irreparable by human skill, may here be renewed. Its sad record may be erased. Life may be begun again. God invites the wanderer back to the starting-point.
"His strength was as the strength of ten,
Because his heart was pure."And so we may learn that if we have been beaten once, and again attack, and again are foiled, the shameful disaster is a Divine warning to us to took not only to our equipment, but our temper, and to see whether the reason for failure lies not only in something wrong in the details or accompaniments of our effort, but in something lacking in the communion which we have with God Himself. But again, Hosea's imaginative use of the old story teaches us how hope may co-exist with trouble, sorrow, trial, affliction, or the like. Such co-existence is quite possible. "Oh!" you say, "a man's feelings cannot be cut up into two halves after that fashion." Well, it is not being cut up into two halves; but did you ever notice that often, up in the sky, there will be two layers of clouds going in directly opposite ways? The lower one is perhaps hurrying southwards, and the upper one passing to the north. Just so there may be these two layers of feeling in a man's soul, even when he is most harassed by outward difficulties. There may be a drift in the one direction, of the lower emotions and sensitivenesses of his spirit, and a clear carry in the other direction of the uppermost element of his consciousness. It is possible that we may feel on our aching shoulders and bent backs the heavy and galling weight of some sore burden either of trouble, some duty or of crushing sorrow, and yet that side by side with that there should be the clear hope which makes it a "light affliction which is but for a moment." That magician Hope turns lead into feathers, and, as in an air pump when you take out the atmospheric air, all things become of the same weight; that is, of no weight at all. If we keep near Jesus Christ, communion with Him will give an insight into His purposes, and a confidence in the love that moulds them, which will make it possible, even when most heavily "weighed upon with sore distress," to be light of heart, and like Paul and Silas in prison, to sing songs though our backs be bleeding from the rods, and our wrists be fettered with the chains. They tell us that the six months of the Arctic night are the occasion for the display in the heavens of such glories of the aurora as we do not know anything about in lower latitudes. As the darkness and the deadly frost increase, it is possible that our skies may glow with these flaming lights, until there is a great brightness as in the midday, and far more of mystery and glory and beauty than midday knows, though the rocks may remain just as they were, as grim and black as before; the valley of Achor may be changed, if we see yonder, coming down it to meet us, the fair form of Hope, led by the hand of Christ Him self. Further, there is a last point that I would suggest, and that is how Hosea here teaches us, not only the possible co-existence of hope and trouble, but the sure issue of rightly borne trouble in a brighter hope. Assuredly, if a man has accepted the providences there will follow on the darkest of them a brightening hope. There are a great many reasons why that is so. If I take, as they were meant, all the annoyances, the little irritations and the great ones, mosquito bites and serpents' stings, the troubles and trials that make up my life, then they will all refine my character. God uses the emery-paper of very rough circumstances to polish His instruments. Do your troubles and mine refine our character? That is what God is doing with us by all our troubles, and when we are, if I might so say, scraped thin enough, the light of heaven — that is, hope — will shine through us. The "valley of Achor" will be "a door of hope." Then there is another reason why the sure child of trouble patiently, Christianly borne, is a more joyful hope. And that reason is set out in full by a man that was an expert in trouble, namely, Paul, when he says "tribulation worketh patience." Does it, Paul? Sometimes it worketh impatience; sometimes it worketh desperation; sometimes it worketh almost the casting away of faith altogether; but if it does the right thing, it works patience. The ship has come through the hurricane, and has not started a leak, or, as the sailors say, "turned turtle," and therefore we may trust the ship and its captain in any future storms. Thus tribulation, which borne in faith works patience, and patience which brings evidence of a Divine Helper, teach us to say, "Thou hast been my help; Thou wilt be my help." And so hope is the last blessed result of tribulation.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. The trouble which detaches us from earth gives us new hope. Sometimes the effect of our sorrows is to rivet us more firmly to earth. The loss of dear friends should stamp their image on our hearts, and set it as in a golden glory. But it sometimes does more than that: it makes us put the present with its duties impatiently away from us. The trouble that does not draw us away from the present will never be a door of hope, but rather a grim gate for despair to come in at.
2. The trouble which knits us to God gives us new hope. All the light of hope is the reflection on our hearts of the light of God. It is only when we by faith stand in His grace, and live in the conscious fellowship of peace with Him, that we rejoice in hope. Sorrow forsakes its own nature, and leads in its own opposite, when sorrow helps us to see God. Hope is but the brightness that goes before God's face, and if we would see it we must look at Him.
3. The trouble which we bear rightly, with Gods good help, gives new hope. If we have made our sorrow an occasion of learning, by living experience, somewhat more of His exquisitely varied and ever ready power to aid and bless, then it will teach us firmer confidence in these inexhaustible resources which we have thus once more proved. "Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope." That is the order. You cannot put patience and experience into a parenthesis, and omitting them, bring hope out of tribulation. I build upon two things — God's unchangeableness, and His help already received. Upon these strong foundations I may wisely and safely rear a palace of hope, which shaft never prove a castle in the air. The past, when it is God's past, is the surest pledge for the future. Then lot us set ourselves with our loins girt to the road. The slope of the valley of trouble is ever upwards. Never mind how dark the shadow of death which stretches athwart it is.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)I wills. It is easy to enumerate between twenty and thirty. And as we read them over, we are lost in wonder at all that God is prepared to do for us, who have wandered from Him. It is only another illustration of the truth that God's love is inexhaustible, and that He will not fail nor be discouraged till He has executed His purpose in each of those whom He has taken to be His own. Let us imagine a narrow, rocky defile. A mountain torrent, rapid and muddy, hurries downward beside the path, strewn with rough slate and jagged stones, which climbs up to the head of the pass. On either side walls of rock rear themselves, steamy with moisture, and covered with festoons of hanging plants and ferns; above, a narrow chink of blue shows itself where the walls of rock almost meet; all is wild, and lonely, and terrible. And there, with bleeding feet, clothed in scanty rags, a female figure crouches in brokenness of heart and desperate straits. Such is the valley of Achor, or trouble; and that is Israel in the hour of her extreme distress. God has allured her from paths of vice and sin into the wilderness. Her way has been so hedged up that she could not find her paths. Corn and wine have failed; wool and flax have been withdrawn; earrings and jewels have been stripped off. Yet, as she is on the point of abandoning herself to the uttermost abyss of despair, the air seems to quiver with angel-wings, and to thrill with the repeated declarations of the Divine purposes of grace. And beneath their impulse the sinner is heard to say, "I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now." Ah, blessed resolve! It is the angel of Hope; and when she reaches the place where the penitent kneels, she touches with her wand the adjoining rock, and lo! it swings backward, and opens a way straight into a smiling landscape of luxuriant beauty, where the corn waves, and the juice reddens in the clustered grapes. It is the door of hope in the valley of Achor, through which the penitent passes from the wilderness into the garden of paradise, where the sun ever shines, and the breeze is heavy with perfume. Something like this happens still. At some time or other we shall have to pass through the valley of Achor. The road to our home lies that way. We cannot forget the incident which first gave its name to the valley of Achor, and which will throw light on one of the frequent causes of our coming thither. Flushed with their successful capture of Jericho, the tribes of Israel chose out a handful of their number to capture the little town of Ai, which stood at the top of the defile leading from the Jordan plain into the heart of the country. The work seemed altogether inconsiderable, and any great effort needless. Ah! how little they expected that ere the night fell that little band of warriors would be fleeing in hot haste down the pass, pursued almost to the gates of the camp by the foe! — not because they were wanting in prowess, but because the forbidden thing was concealed in one of their tents, standing in apparent innocence amongst the rest, which glistened as lign-aloes beside the rivers. There are troubles which God sends us directly from His Fatherly chastening hand; these are not so hard to bear, because, if with one hand He uses the scourge, with the other He binds, and heals, and applies the leaves of the tree of life. There are other troubles which come to us from men; these, too, are bearable, because we can turn to Him for vindication, and count on Him for sympathy and fellowship. But there are other troubles for which we are ourselves accountable, because we have taken of the forbidden thing, and have hidden it in our hearts, smoothing over the earth that it appear not to men. It may be that some who read these words will find here a photograph of themselves, of the inner reason why their lives have been so full of defeat and failure. They are met in every direction by shut gates. The way is hedged up by thorns (Joshua 7:10-13). Deliverance from the valley of Achor is impossible until a solemn convocation has been held in the heart, to which all the motives, and purposes, and intentions of the inner life have been summoned. The lot must be solemnly cast. Is it the inner life or the outer? And if the inner, is it soul or spirit? And if the soul, is it the past, present, or future; retrospective or prospective; memory or hope? And if it be neither of these, but some permitted evil in the present, is it in the emotions or the will? The cause of our defeat and failure must perish, that we may ourselves be saved. Maiming is, after all, not too dear a price to pay, if only we may enter into life. And if we be too tender-hearted to deal strongly and vigorously with the Achan who has caused us defeat and loss, let us go to our merciful and faithful High Priest, who carries in His hand the sharp, two-edged sword, which pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit; and let us implore Him to do for us what we cannot, or dare not, do for ourselves. He will not fail us in our extremity. He will do the work as tenderly and as thoroughly as the ease requires. Only let us believe that in every valley of Achor there is a door of hope, if we will but dare to stone Achan to death. And when the cairn of stones beneath which he lies is reared in the valley, we shall ascend the long pass to victory. As sure as God is true, there is a way out of every trouble into assured and glorious victory, if only in the trouble we will do God's will on Achan. Time would fail to tell of all the advantages to which that door will lead. Some of them are enumerated here. "She shall sing " (ver. 15). There shall be a return of joy, which had fled from the heart. "Thou shalt call Me Ishi" (ver. 16). There shall be a deeper knowledge of God, so that He shall be rather the Husband than the Master. "I will make a covenant" (ver. 18). There shall be realised a blessed unity with all creation. "I will hear" (ver. 21). There shall be new power in prayer, and answers shall tread in each other's footsteps, as they hasten into the soul. Thus through trouble we shall pass into blessedness; through the grave into life; through the iron gate into freedom.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)I. ACHOR, IN THE NATURAL BOUNTIFULNESS OF THE VALLEY, A SYMBOL OF THE JOYS OF LIFE, — OUR JOYS MAY BE OCCASIONS OF HOPE.
1. In the joys of natural scenery there is an inspiration of hope to poet spirits.
2. In temporal mercies there is an inspiration of hope to grateful hearts.
3. In religious privileges there is a door of hope to desert souls.
II. ACHOR, IN ITS GREAT HISTORIC EVENT, A SYMBOL OF THE SORROWS OF LIFE, — OUR SORROWS MAY BE OCCASIONS OF HOPE. Septuagint renders the name "door of understanding." So it was to Israel. They came to know the evil and penalty of the sin of Achan there. The valley of trouble may become to all of us a door of hope whatever the trouble is.
1. The trouble of true penitence.
2. The trouble of agonising prayer.
3. The trouble of spiritual conflict.
4. The trouble of sanctified adversity.
5. The trouble of sacrificial compassion for others.
6. The trouble of the article of our own death.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
(J. H. Jowett.)
Gates of Imagery.Beethoven composed some of his great oratorios in the open air. He had his piano carried to the middle of a field, and there, while sunbeam and cloud-shadows played together, and birds performed their impromptu oratorios, he worked out his harmonies and wrote his score. So we would come out beneath the broad canopy of God's everlasting love, and, encompassed by innumerable mercies, make music more pleasing to God than the finest oratorios. The music of thanksgiving for tokens of Divine goodness abounding in our lives.
(Gates of Imagery.)
And she shall sing there, as in
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