Friday, March 29, 2013



"Idols according to their understanding."—Hosea 13:2
"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

            The first text is from the third address of Jehovah. After the second, the keynote of which was "Canaan," and a prophetic interpolation, describing Ephraim's sin, we come to this third speech of Jehovah. In its entirety it is a message of love, declaring the ultimate triumph of love, in spite of all the difficulties and sins of the people; ending with that great challenge, "I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death"; and' then those great words which Paul quoted, "O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction?" and this declaration, "Repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes," which does not mean He will pay no attention to repentant souls, but that He has determined on the restoration of the people as they return to Him, and will not repent.
            In the beginning of this message the nature of their sin is declared, "Idols according to their own understanding." This is a revelation of the religious action which follows departure from God. In a previous meditation (Hosea 4:17) we dealt with the subject of idols, and now touch upon it briefly only, considering its cause, its course, and its curse.
            The second text is taken from the final message of Jehovah to Israel. In his last utterance the prophet had foretold the inevitable judgments of God upon the sinning nation, and had appealed to the nation to return to Jehovah. Then resuming the Divine Message, his ministry ended on the high note of hope as he foretold a way and a day of restoration and realization. In that message there are two move­ments—the action of Jehovah, and the result.
            Let us briefly then think first of idolatry its cause, its course, and its curse. What is the cause of idolatry? Why have men ever in the history of humanity made idols for them­selves? Idolatry is a false answer to the religious call of human nature. The cause is to be found in the clouding of the vision of God. Both saved and unsaved create idols.
            What does that mean? Why should that issue in idolatry? Why have men made idols? The answer is self-evident. Humanity is so created that it has an inherent necessity for God (spirit). Every man has his god. Every human being is devoting the force of life to something. Dr. Henry Van Dyke, in The Ruling Passion, says that in every life worth writing about there is a ruling passion. He goes on to suggest that it may be music or art, business, family, home. He declares that such ruling passion is the mainspring of the life, and that if we are going to study any personality, we are moving in a realm of mystery until we have found it. The ruling passion is the secret of a life. I have not quoted the exact words, but the spirit of the paragraph, which is a very arrest­ing one. I would personally delete three words from the beginning of that quotation, "Worth writing about." In every life there is a ruling passion. No human being can any more live without that, than a watch can run if the mainspring be taken out. That is the cause of all idolatry.
            Now mark the course of it. They make them, says this word, "according to their own understanding." When men have lost the vision of God, and have to construct a god, they do it according to their own understanding. They try to evolve within their own thinking an idea of God. Take the illustration found in the history of Israel that is the northern kingdom, to which Hosea was a messenger. What was the form of their idolatry? It had taken two forms from the disruption of the kingdom. When Solomon died the kingdom was rent in two. Jeroboam became king over the northern kingdom, and Rehoboam king of the southern. Jeroboam, for political purposes, set up a new center of worship. He did not deny Jehovah, but according to his understanding, made a likeness of Jehovah. That was the meaning of the calves. That was the first movement in Israel's idolatries, a false representation of God, according to their own understanding.
            When we reach the days of Ahab, that incarnation of godlessness, we find that they were not worshipping things intended to represent God, but had substituted other gods for the one God. That was the second phase: "Idols according to their own understanding." Or to someone they trust that they feel would not mislead them.
            The curse of idolatry is inherent in the process. When men make idols they make them like themselves, and the result is disastrous, This is set forth in Psalm 115 in which the Singer describes such idols, and shows the result of worshipping them:
"They have mouths, but they speak not;
Eyes have they, but they see not;
They have ears, but they hear not;
Noses have they, but they smell not;
They have hands, but they handle not;
Feet have they, but they walk not;
Neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them shall be like unto them;
Yea, every one that trusts in them."
            This reveals the vicious circle. Men make idols like themselves, imperfect, polluted, debased, and then become more and more like the idols so created. Such is the curse of idolatry.
Now let us turn to our other text, and the message of hope with which the prophecy ends. In it we turn from idols to God.
            Beginning at the fourth verse we hear the voice of God Himself; and in the message there are two movements, one describing the action of Jehovah, and the other telling the results of that action. The first is revealed in the recurrence of the words "I will," and the second in the recurrence of the words "He shall" or "They shall."
            Thus the action of God:
"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for Mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel."
            Thus the results:
"He shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the grain, and blossom as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. 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."
            Let us then survey the whole message, and then consider this final statement of what Ephraim has to say. The first matter in the statement is that of the "I wills" of Jehovah. "I will heal their backsliding." In other words, I will cure them of their apostasy. Not, I will heal the wounds resulting from their back­sliding. That is quite true, but it is secondary. I will cure the malady of their apostasy.
            The question as to how God can do this is answered in the next affirmation: "I will love them freely." Freely means of My own will and My own heart, quite independently of them or of their deserts. I will not love them in response to their love. I will love them in spite of their rebellion. Reverently let me put it: I will love them because I cannot help loving them. That is God. And it is because of that deep thing in the nature of God that He first said, "I will heal their backsliding," I will cure the malady of their apostasy.
            And then follows this arresting word: "I will be as the dew unto Israel." That is the third time the figure of the dew has been employed by the prophet in the course of his prophesying. God, speaking to the same people, had said: "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth early away." God's complaint against them was that their goodness was fleeting, was vanishing as the early dew. God had also employed it as a symbol of judgment: "Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the dew that passes early away."
            Now the word is used again. "I will be as the dew unto Israel." Here we must interpret the figure by the personality. In the earlier uses of the figure there were qualifying words; "the early dew"; "the dew that passes early away." There is no qualifying word here. Here the figure must be inter­preted by the timeless eternity of God. With Him it is always morning, or if not, then with Him there is dew at noontide, and dew in the evening. "I will be as the dew."
            Then we turn to the description of results. Because God is as the dew to him, he shall blossom as the lily. The lily stands for beauty and purity. The nation under the fertilizing power of love created by the dew of the Divine presence shall become characterized by the beauty and the purity of the lily.
            Then with a fine and swift poetic movement, as though this figure of the lily breaks down a little, for the lily has little root; it soon passes away; "and cast forth his roots as Lebanon." Not only beauty, not only purity, but stability. Lebanon is the synonym for the cedar. The poetry runs on perfectly. The prophet saw the lily with its beauty and its purity. Ephraim shall blossom like that. Yes, but that is not all. Ephraim's roots shall be as the cedars of Lebanon.
            Again the figure changes, "His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree." The lily, the cedar, the olive; the lily for beauty and purity; the cedar for roots that spread far beneath, and touch the underground rivers; and therefore with branches that spread out in magnificence; and the olive, evergreen.
            Mark the symbolism of it all. Beauty, purity, strength, fidelity; and then look at the nation as it was, ugly, impure, and deformed, weak and vacillating, and withered with heat, and bearing no fruit. Jehovah said: "I will be as the dew unto Israel"; and there­fore there shall be the fulfillment of all the highest and the noblest. My original purpose for choosing you shall be finally true for you.
            Follow on. "They"—it is not "he" now; it is not the instrument, it is not Israel, but "they that dwell under his shadow," they that pass under the influence of this restored nation, "shall return, they shall revive as the grain, and blossom as the vine"; and then it is, that the "scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."
            The fulfillment of all this is coming through Christ. This nation as an earthly people was rejected when Jesus said in Temple courts, "The Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." Almost immediately afterwards, the Lord was alone with His own disciples, and He said, "I am the Vine, ye are the branches." Everything of beauty and of glory and of strength and of fruitfulness is to be produced through Him, and those associated with Him as branches in the Vine.
            All this leads us in proper sequence to the words of our second text. It records the words of Ephraim consequent upon the activity of God in love. "Ephraim shall say," Ephraim healed of backsliding, because of God's love; and, because God is becoming the dew, Ephraim blossoming as the lily, casting out its roots like the cedar of Lebanon, like the olive tree, Ephraim is now speaking. "What have I to do any more with idols?"—Ephraim has broken with idols. What brought it about? What does bring about the break with idols whenever it takes place? What is it that brings Dagon crashing to the ground? What is it that sweeps idolatry out of the soul of a man, or of a nation, so that it says, or he says, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Ephraim replies to our questions. "I have answered and will regard Him." That is the secret. I have responded to Him. I have seen and yielded.
            But there is more; "And will regard Him." That means continuous contemplation. Ephraim has broken with idols, because somehow he has seen God anew; and seeing Him, has responded to Him, has yielded to Him, and has come to the point in life when he says, Hence forth this is to be my attitude; I will regard Him. Because Ephraim has come to the time when he has answered, and has now assumed the attitude of perpetual and continuous watching of God, he says, what have I to do with idols? Dr. Chalmers, of Scotland, coined the phrase, "The expulsive power of a new affection." What a phrase it is. "I have answered Him, and will regard Him." "What have I to do with idols?" The cure of idolatry is the restored vision of God.
            And yet there is something else to say, "I am like a green fir tree." Ephraim is using a figure of speech. It is a new one. He does not use the lily; he does not use the cedar of Lebanon, or the olive tree. Perhaps we should say that nobody knows certainly what tree is meant by that fir tree. Personally I think it was the cypress tree. At any rate, it was a tree the chief characteristics of which were permanent freshness, and fruitfulness.
            And so the concluding and inclusive word. "From me is Thy fruit found." We recall the words of a previous article: "Israel is a luxuriant vine that putts forth his fruit." That was the complaint against Israel; a luxuriant vine, but not bringing forth the fruit God was looking for. Or as Isaiah had it, "I looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes." The condemnation of the nation was that it was a luxuriant vine, but not bringing forth the fruit God was seeking, but bringing forth its own fruit. Now at last the nation says: "From me is Thy fruit found." Thus is revealed the contrast between the self-centered, the God-forgetting, and the idolatry-blasted people; and the God-centered, the God-remembering, and the God-honoring people.
            The prophecy of Hosea ends on a note of challenge:
"Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Prudent, that he may know them? For the ways of Jehovah are right, and the just shall walk in them; but transgressors shall fall therein."
Idols once they won thee, charmed thee,
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded thus does sin disarm thee,
Honeyed lest thou turn thee thence.
What has stript the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth? Not a sense of right or duty,
But the sight of peerless worth.
Not the crushing of those idols,
With its bitter void and smart;
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.
Who extinguishes their taper
Till they hail the rising sun? Who discards the garb of winter
Till the summer has begun?
'Tis that look that melted Peter,
'Tis that face that Stephen saw,
'Tis that heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.
Draw and win and fill completely,
Till the cup o'erflow the brim; What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?"
            Note the two words "wise" and "prudent." The Hebrew word translated "wise" means intelligent. But intelligence is not enough. Who is prudent? Prudent means acting according to intelligence. Prudent means squaring conduct with conviction.
            The man intelligent and prudent will come to certain convictions. Of these the first is that "the ways of Jehovah are right." That summarizes every­thing. That being so, it follows that the righteous walk in them; and the wicked fall in them.
            God's ways are straight and true, and we walk, or fall according to our relationship with those ways.
            We may summarize our understanding of the teachings of Hosea. It declares that sin separates from God, and blinds us, so that we lose the vision of Him. It shows that idolatry results from the loss of the vision of God. It most clearly reveals the Heart and the Holiness of God. His love is eternal, but is never divorced from moral require­ment.
            We are living in fuller light than Hosea had. We see God as Hosea never saw Him. We see Him in Jesus. There seeing Him, we know, as never before, that He can make no terms with sin; but we know that He stays at no sacrifice in order that He may heal our backsliding.
            If we are guilty of idolatry, what will cure us? The vision of Him, as He was seen in Jesus Christ.
"Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him? Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him,
Joyful choose the better part.”



"He is a trafficker."—Hosea 12:7

            These are again the words of Jehovah. Chapter eleven, to the end of the first verse of chapter twelve was wholly the speech of Jehovah. Then, in the present reading, in verses two to six, the prophet is speaking. His words constitute an interpolation, by no means out of harmony with the general tenor of the revelation, but one in which he speaks of the history of these people. He goes back to the birth of Jacob, refers to it, and then refers to his experience at Peniel, when he became Israel, the night when he contended with God and gained a victory, not by strength, but by weakness, when with sobs and tears and cries pouring out of his soul, he prevailed, after which his name was no more to be Yawkob, heel-snatcher, but Israel, a man ruled by God.
            Then at verse seven the Speaker is once more Jehovah. The prophet resumes his role as the mouth­piece of Jehovah, and breaks in with the words: "He is a trafficker, the balances of deceit are in his hands: he loves to oppress."
            The words of Jehovah break in upon the prophet's words, upon his interpretation of the past, especially his reference to the night in which this man became Israel. The prophet was thinking of the night by the Jabbok, when Jacob became Israel, and as he refers to it, Jehovah breaks in: "He is a trafficker.”
            Our Versions vary in translation here. The King James Version renders it: "He is a merchant," with a marginal reading, "Or, Canaan." The English Revision renders it: "He is a trafficker," with a marginal reading, "Or, a Canaanite. Heb. Candan." The American Standard Version renders it: "He is a trafficker," with a marginal reading, "Or, a Canaan­ite. Heb. Canaan." Thus the Revisers, English and American, agree. The difference between the older rendering and the newer is merely one of attitude towards the idea. The old translators dignified it by using the word "merchant." Our translators em­ployed a word which may mean the same thing, but has in it an ugly suggestion—"trafficker."
            Look again at the Translations. In each of them we find the words, "He is." Now, I admit that there are times when translators are compelled to introduce some words, not actually found in the text, by reason of the idiom of a language. This is what they have done here. There is no "He is " in the Hebrew. As a matter of fact, there is only one word, "Canaan." This is suggested in each marginal reading. It is an abrupt and contemptuous word.
            Now that may be a somewhat startling thing to say, because we very often make Canaan refer to heaven. We sing about Canaan's happy land, and all sorts of other stupid things. Our idea has been that the wilderness represents this world, and Canaan represents heaven; and so we sing: "Could I but climb where Moses stood, And view the landscape o'er,
Not Jordan's flood, nor death's cold stream, Should fright me from the shore."
            The idea is utterly unscriptural. The wilderness is not a type of what our life on earth should be. Canaan is not a type of heaven. If Canaan is a type of heaven, then the first work we shall have to do when we reach heaven is to drive out the Hivites and the Jebusites and the Perizzites! That is not heaven. Yet, with that false idea of Canaan as a heavenly land, the land that lies beyond, we are in danger of missing the suggestiveness of the word as used by Jehovah here. Therefore let us examine the matter carefully.
            The prophet had listened in wonder to the love-song of Jehovah, "When Israel was a child then I loved him . . . called My Son out of Egypt," and had turned aside to the birth of Jacob, when he was a heel-snatcher; and then had remembered the moment when he ceased to be a heel-snatcher, and became Israel; and he gloried in the idea of Israel. Then God suddenly broke across his meditations, and said "Canaan."
            Now we may insert a verb, but when we translate the noun "merchant" or "trafficker," we are missing something. Let it stand as "Canaan." That word stands all the way through the Old Testament litera­ture with one significance, and it is that of complete contrast with what is suggested by the word "Israel." The two words constitute the most striking an­tithesis.
            Let us then consider this matter, first in the story of these peoples, and in its revelation of abiding principles. To treat the word Canaan as a synonym for a merchant is understandable, but it is wrong. I admit that the word Canaan had acquired that meaning, and was often used in that way. But that is not the meaning of the Hebrew word in itself. It was, as I have said, acquired, just as the word Chaldean acquired the suggestiveness of astrology, simply because astrology flourished in Chaldea. All the Chaldeans were not astrologers, and Chaldean never strictly meant astrologer. Dr. Kyle points out with great lucidity that Canaan acquired the sense of merchant‑
man as Chaldean acquired the sense of astrologer. Canaan never really meant merchant-man, as Chaldean never really meant astrologer. The Hebrew word literally means "humiliated."
            In the Bible literature Canaan emerges in Genesis, chapters nine and ten, in the story of Ham. From there throughout Biblical history the intention of the word harmonizes with its use at that point. It is a word always used to describe a people humiliated on account of depravity.      Canaan means quite literally, subjugated, humiliated; but it always means the humiliation of depravity, pollution. Therefore in the Biblical literature Canaan is always the synonym for corruption, the degradation of a people which results from their pollution, which in turn results from the fact that they have lost contact with God.
            Now turn to Israel, and consider its relation to Canaan in the Divine Economy. What did God mean when He put Israel in Canaan? That raises a question which brings us into the realm of a difficulty in the minds of many who declare that they do not believe that God was the Author of war against the Canaan­ites. For myself, I may at once say that if I did not believe God would make war against what is revealed concerning Canaan, I could not believe in God at all! The reason for the attitude of God towards these Canaanites is explicitly stated in the Book of Leviticus: "Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things; for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out from before you; and the land is defiled; therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land vomits out her inhabitants. Ye therefore shall keep My statutes and Mine ordinances, and shall not do any of these abomina­tions; neither the home-born, nor the stranger that sojourns among you (for all these abomina­tions have the men of the land done, that were before you, and the land is defiled)."
            If anyone desires fuller details concerning the conditions of these people, let him take up the study of archaeology. The revelation is appalling. Israel was raised up, and sent into that land to cleanse a plague spot, which was blasting the whole world by its influence. Jehovah is a Man of war, against every­thing that blights and blasts humanity. When humanity will not listen to the gentle wooing of His love, then, with the skill of the surgeon, He cuts the cancer out. That is not love, which stands by any individual sufferer from some terrible malady which is curable by excision, and quotes poetry and attempts to soothe the sufferer. God is not a God of such methods. He sent Israel into Canaan to cut the cancer out, to free the region from the degraded, depraved people, whose abominations are revealed in the tablets we are finding today, corroborating the Divine story.
            He put them there also in order to plant in that little land, central to the whole earth, a center of health, to dry up the poisoned streams, that there might issue forth the streams of purity and grace to bless the whole world.
            Strategically, Palestine is the geographical center of this globe. Think of the continents of the earth circling round it. There was a time when the Medi­terranean Sea was the center of everything; and then the center moved to the Atlantic Ocean. It is now leaving the Atlantic Ocean, and moving out to the Pacific Ocean. The great problems of today are centered there. I believe that the movement will sweep over the intervening lands and come back to the same land someday.
            Be all that as it may, Canaan then was corrupt, rotten through and through; and the Divine move­ment was that of cleansing out a corrupt people, and placing there a people separate, clean, pure. God put them there, to cut out a plague spot, and to create a center of health for all the nations.
            Now listen to the text. God said of that people—Canaan!—Israel was created to make Canaan Israel. The time had come when Canaan had made Israel Canaan. The Divine purpose was that Israel, a people God-governed, should go into the Canaan of degeneracy and subjugation to everything impure, that humiliated and depraved country, not in its own estimation, but in its moral condition, and turn it into a God-ruled place and people—Israel. The years had run on, and instead of Israel making Canaan Israel, Canaan had made Israel into Canaan. The ejaculation of a name was therefore the most terrific indictment. "Canaan!" said God. The prophet remembering the birth of Jacob, the prophet remembering the night by the Jabbok, the prophet remembering how the man became Israel and his soul thinking of the issue; then he stopped; and God broke in, and said "Canaan!"
            The principles revealed are so clear. The first and self-evident is that God's elections are always in the interests of humanity. That cannot be over­emphasized. It cannot too often be stated. It is one of the things that the intricacy of the human heart is constantly in danger of forgetting, and it is one of the things of which those who are the elect of God, His selected servants, are always in danger of losing sight. And yet the whole revelation of the Bible is the revelation of that fact. Let me repeat the words of my statement. God's elections are always in the interests of humanity. God's elections are always in order to inclusion, and never to exclusion. If He elects, it is not that He may exclude others, but that He may elect those through whom the others shall soon be included. If we take Bible history, we can write over and of it, "God so loved the world." If He chooses Abraham, He says to Abraham, "I will bless thee, and make thee a blessing; I will make of thee a great nation, in order that all nations shall be blessed in thee." If He creates the nation of Israel, He does it in order that Israel shall be the center from which light shall flash out to the other nations, that they may no longer walk in the darkness, in order that streams of health morally may proceed through­out the world. Elections are always in the interests of the world. Softly and reverently, not to put this Name into comparison, but to recognize it as higher than all possibility of comparison. Jesus was the Elect, the Anointed, the Chosen, and the Messiah. Why? "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The Church is not an end; it is a means to an end. The Church is not a nation of spiritual privilege, which God has created that He may lavish His love upon it, while He lets the rest of the world drift to darkness and dis­order. The Church is the instrument through which He would reach the world.
            To recognize this principle is to understand the sudden, majestic, and terrific word with which God broke across the words of the prophet, and said "Canaan!" It is the severest indictment possible.
            The second principle is involved in the first. If God's elections are always in the interests of humanity, it follows that the chosen instrument must be true to the Divine purpose, and to the Divine standards. It cannot compromise with evil, and fulfill its Divine commission. If Israel be contaminated by Canaan, Israel cannot influence Canaan towards its own ideals, or the God Who governs them. The chosen instru­ment must forevermore be true to the Divine purpose for which it was created, and to the Divine standards by which it is called to live.
            Therefore, finally, it is seen that the enterprise of God in the world must always be one of conflict during the period of process, till Israel changes Canaan, or Canaan changes Israel. Either the Church will influence the world, by attracting her to her Lord, declaring His evangel, proclaiming His ethic; either the Church is encroaching upon the territory of the world, and bringing it under the rule of God; or else the world is affecting the Church, weakening her, robbing her of her testimony and power. There is always a conflict. The terrible thing is, that as God said of His ancient people on this occasion—“Canaan” may be that He has to say the same thing some­times of His Church—the World! I fear it must be admitted that there are places and Churches where it would be very difficult for a man to find the differ­ence between the Church and the world. The line of demarcation has been almost blotted out in many cases. The things that distinguished the Church from the world in her early stages, when she had to stand up against the dark pagan world, upon which deep lust and loathing fell, are largely lost. The very genius of her life is such as to bring her into unceasing conflict with the powers of darkness. The absence of that conflict today is ominous, It seems to me that of many God must be saying, I made a Church to bless the world, and the Church is hardly dis­tinguishable from the world.
            The application of this meditation to the Church is clearly found in one paragraph in the New Testa­ment. In the earlier period of the Christian enterprise, when the man apprehended by Jesus on the Damascene road, Paul, was engaged as the pioneer missionary and messenger of the Cross, he lighted upon the city of Corinth, and he planted the Church there; and presently as he passed on, another came, Apollos, and he watered. After a while, difficulties arose in the Church, and Paul wrote a letter to them to correct their carnalities, and then he wrote a second letter to them, and in that second letter is the paragraph which I have in mind, with which I want to close.            It is found in the sixth chapter of the second letter to the Corinthians, from the eleventh verse to the eighteenth. Professor Johnstone Ross once said to me that the second letter to the Corinthians is "the letter of Paul's broken heart." Paul's heart was breaking over the condition of the Corinthian Church. What was the matter with it? Simply this, that the Church had caught the spirit of Corinth, and the evil things in Corinth had invaded the Corinthian Church.
            Now in his second letter he said: "Our mouth is open unto you, O Corinthians, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straightened in us, but ye are straightened in your own affections. Now for recompense in like kind (I speak as unto my children), be ye also enlarged. Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers; for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion hath light with darkness?
            "And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? For we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you and will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to Me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
            It is interesting to note that in these words Paul quoted sentences from Isaiah and Hosea, the prophets contemporary to Judah and Israel. Examine that paragraph. It opens with a negative injunction. It closes with a positive injunction. What is the negative injunction? "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers.” What is the closing injunc­tion? "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch no unclean thing."
            Between these injunctions we find the apostolic arguments for obedience. Notice these pulsating questions. "What? What? What? What?” Four times over. Each introduces a contrast.             Observe the contrasts—righteousness, iniquity; light, darkness; Christ, Belial; believer, unbeliever; temple of God, idols.
            On one side he ranges the things for which the Church stands : Righteousness, Light, Christ, a believer, the Temple of God. On the other he names the things which are opposed to the Church, and which the Church is sent into the world to correct: Iniquity, Darkness, Belial, Unbelief, and Idolatry. Paul is showing the antagonism between these things. In doing so, carefully observe the words he used. Every one of them is well chosen and carefully chosen. What fellowship between righteousness and iniquity; what communion between light and darkness; what concord between Christ and Belial; between a believer and an unbeliever what portion; between the temple of God and idols, what agreement.
            What are these words, fellowship, communion, concord, portion, agreement, massed between these opposing things? The first is fellowship, and the word means sharing. What sharing can there be? What is there in iniquity that righteousness wants? What is there in righteousness that iniquity desires? They cannot share. His next word is the word com­munion. It means to have things in common. What is there in common between light and darkness? There is nothing in common. They contradict each other eternally. Listen to the next. What concord between Christ and Belial? Concord is a fine word with a Latin origin. The Greek word might be trans­literated symphony. What symphony can there be between Christ and Belial? A symphony is a sounding together in harmony. What sounding together can there be between Christ and Belial? Between a believer and an unbeliever he asks what portion can there be? The word portion means a lot, province, inheritance. How can they live together? And then at last what agreement, which means common senti­ment, what common sentiment can there be between the temple of God and idols?
            Paul did not answer the questions he asked. Reason gives the answer as the questions are asked. This being so, it is at once recognized that there is no disaster greater than that an hour should come when God has to say to His Israel, "Canaan!" Those who were sent to cut the cancer out and establish a center of health have caught the disease, have lost the power to heal and help humanity. Canaan is a terrible word when so used.
            And that terrible word was spoken in Love. This is the love of God. What sickly, sentimental, stupid things we sometimes crystallize into apparently axiomatic affirmations. As, for instance, when we say, Love is blind. Love is never blind. Make no mistake. Love has keenest vision. There is a boy going wrong, and everybody can see it; they know he is going wrong. And someone says everyone sees it but his mother. She is blind. Again, make no mistake. His mother saw it long before you did. Eyes washed with tears always see most clearly, but "Love endureth all things, hopeth all things, believeth all things; love never faileth." Love always sees. But that is not love which excuses the thing that is blasting the loved one. Love will make no terms with the things that blast humanity. It is because God is Love that He sees clearly the failure, makes no terms with it, and calls things by their right names. While the prophet, uttering the very message of God, was meditating the wonderful thing that Jacob became Israel, God says in effect, it is true; but he has become Canaan. God's judgments are the judgments of truth and righteousness.
            Our chief concern should be, that we who are the Israel of God, the people God-governed, should never become Canaan, a people humiliated by evil. We must make no terms with evil, no compromise with the things that are opposed to our Christ, no trafficking across the border line with Belial. We are to stand true and clean and pure and strong, in order that we may be a center of healing and of blessing for the world.

Thursday, March 28, 2013



"How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I cast thee off, Israel? How shall 1 make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboiim? My heart is turned within Me, My compassions are kindled together."—Hosea 11:8
            Here begins the last movement in the prophecy of Hosea. In these last four chapters the emphasis is upon one note, that of the love of God. Hosea, prophesying in the dark days of the declension and backsliding of the northern kingdom of Israel, had been brought into fellowship with God through tragedy in his own home, through which tragedy, the tragedy of wounded love; there had come to him an under­standing of the Divine heart. This has been realized throughout, but in this last movement it comes into special prominence. Modern marriages fail to understand love on the Agape level. This is the picture of what God meant when He says He hates divorce. He departs only to take back. Travail with true repentance is a part of the process.
            So far we have been considering different points in the process of that ministry of stern denunciation, and have heard the prophet's constant call to these people to return to God. Now in the last four chapters the dominant note is that of the love of God. Men and women on this earth do not know how true His love is and how shallow their definition comes to God’s definition. As I have said, it has not been absent from any part of the prophesying; but as it comes to climacteric con­clusion, the great and wonderful emphasis of the message is laid upon that love.
            The literary method of these chapters is arresting. A remarkable alternation runs through them. The prophet speaks as God, that is, as the mouthpiece of God, Jehovah speaks through him; and then he speaks for himself. Of course what he says himself is under guidance for Hosea was learning God’s definition, but there is a distinct swing. We hear the voice of Jehovah, and then the voice of the prophet.
            Let us observe the movement through. There are four speeches of Hosea as the mouthpiece of Jehovah; and three times the prophet breaks in with his own comments. The utterances of the prophet are all in the minor key; and those he speaks for Jehovah are all in the major key, declaring the triumph of love (true). There is no disagreement between Jehovah and the prophet; but the mental mood of Hosea is revealed. He is still delivering the message of Jehovah; but evidently amazed that any such message could be delivered, for in his three interpolations he confesses the sin of the people. God is telling of His love, and the prophet amazed at it, breaks in, and describes the sin of the people.
            To indicate the swing. The speech of Jehovah begins in chapter eleven, and runs through to the end of the first verse in chapter twelve. Then suddenly the prophet speaks for himself, beginning at the second verse of chapter twelve, and running to the end of verse six. Again, from verse seven in chapter twelve to verse eleven Jehovah speaks. Once more, at the twelfth verse, and running through to the first verse of the next chapter, thirteen, Hosea is the speaker.
            At the second verse of chapter thirteen Jehovah resumes, and His words continue to the end of verse fourteen. Then at the fifteenth verse of chapter thirteen, and as far as the third verse of chapter fourteen, the prophet is again heard. Everything ends, beginning at the fourth verse of chapter four­teen, and running to the end, with the voice of Jehovah.
            Thus the swinging notes. Jehovah speaks, and the prophet speaks; Jehovah continues, the prophet continues; Jehovah speaks, and the prophet speaks; and all ends with the speech of Jehovah. Throughout, the speech of Jehovah is burdened with love; and the messages of the prophet are burdened with a sense of the unworthiness of the people. Does Hosea think God doesn’t have all the knowledge of the sin? We are conscious of the major music of the Divine love, and the minor melody of Hosea's sense of sin.
            The message beginning with chapter eleven, and ending with the first verse of chapter twelve, is vibrant with love. Jehovah, speaking of these people, re­bellious, renegade, tells of His love for them; goes back and speaks of the love that was His at the very beginning of their history, traces the course and activity of that love through that history; and in our text breaks out into this cry, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I cast thee off, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboiim? My heart is turned within Me, My compassions are kindled together."
            In these words we have four questions. There is, however, a little difference in the Hebrew form. We read, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I cast thee off, Israel?"
The second "how" is not there in the Hebrew. Again, "How shall I make thee as Admah? How shah I set thee as Zeboiim?" and the second "how" in that couplet is not here in the Hebrew. They have been supplied by translators for the sake of euphony; and again I am not quite sure that the change is helpful. This is how it runs in the Hebrew: "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? Shall I surrender thee, O Israel?"
            That is the first couplet.
"How shall I make thee as Admah? Shall I set thee as Zeboiim?"
            That is the second couplet.
            Admah and Zeboiim were the cities of the plain that were destroyed when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The prophet does not name the major cities, for reasons not now to be discussed. "How shall I make thee as Admah?" as that blackened city of the plain that was destroyed. "Shall I set thee as Zeboiim?" another of the cities swept out because of its iniquities.        Then comes the great answer: "My heart is turned within Me, My compassions are kindled together."
            So much for the technical setting of the text. Let us ponder, first, the surprising nature of these questions; secondly, the explanation of them; and thirdly, the answer as declared.
            The surprising nature of the questions is at once seen if we remember the Speaker, and those of whom He was speaking. Throughout, Jehovah is heard emphasizing Himself. In my Bible I have put a little red ring round every capital "I" Let me read the brief sentences introduced by that repeated "I."
            First the affirmations: "I loved him . . . I taught Ephraim to walk . . . I nursed them . . . I healed them. I drew them with the cords of love . . . I lifted the yoke . . . I fed them. . . ."
            Then the questions: "How shall I give thee up?" . . . Finally the declarations.
"I will not .      . I will not .      . I am God . . .the Holy One . . . I will not . . . I will not . . . I will make them dwell."
            That is very mechanical, but it gives us a vision of God. Notice the amazing merging of the figures of speech which are found in those words which God spoke about that people. First we find the Father: "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My Son out of Egypt." "I taught Ephraim to walk." " I took them on My arms."
            That is, I was a Nurse to them. "I healed them."
            Fatherhood and Motherhood are there. Loving, teaching to walk, nursing, healing.
            Then we find another figure of speech. No longer the Father, but the husband.
"I drew them with the cords of a man, and bands of love."
            That can only be understood as we remember the first part of the prophecy. Hosea knew what that meant. He had been commanded to go and love a woman who had broken his heart, and take her back home again. Jehovah thus spoke under the figure of a husband: "I drew them with the cords of a man." "I drew them with bands of love."
            Then perhaps the most startling figure emerges. "I was to them as they that lift up the yoke on their jaws; and I laid food before them."
            In these words Jehovah describes Himself as a Herds­man. It is a picture of the cattle coming home at night, after the toil of the wearisome day: I lifted the yoke, and freed their jaws, and fed them! Thus Jehovah reveals Himself all the way through; the Father, the Husband, and the Herdsman.
            Now look again at the people as described. Four little sentences cover the ground. They went from Me; they did not know that I was healing them; they refused to return; they are bent on back­sliding.
            Thus the contrast of persons and actions is vivid. Jehovah is seen as the persistent Lover, and the people as condemning His love. What is to be done? There is only one thing to do, by all the laws of human conduct, and all the laws that are only laws of righteousness and equity and justice. Give them up, abandon them, divorce them as the lawyer would encourage. If in some hearts there is a protest against that statement, I ask where was that protest born? What is the inspiration of the feeling that it is not necessary to abandon them? I declare that when I see the Lover, teaching to walk, nursing with a tender care, healing; Father, Husband, Herdsman; and then watch these people definitely, persistently, positively rebellious; I say there is only one thing to do with them: give them up, divorce them. And yet there is a protest against that view. I repeat my question —why should there be such a protest? We never would protest if we did not know something about this God. Some of the by-products of Christianity are the most marvelous things in human life. Go anywhere else than to the lands in which the light of this God has streamed upon men, and wrought results far wider than any of our statistics can show; go to any civilization in the past or the present, and tell this story, and apart from the revelation of God that has come to us, and changed our whole outlook on life, we shall say, There is nothing to do with people like that, but to give them up.
            Here, then, we are face to face with something surprising. Jehovah says, "How can I give thee up?" They have left Me. They do not know Me, and this in spite of all I am doing for them. I have sent the prophets to them, but they refused to return. They are bent on backsliding. It is all true, but "how can I give them up?"
            There was something holding Jehovah back from judgment; and whatever it was, it was something that won, for we hear words three times repeated, "I will not . . . I will not . . . I will not." I loved from childhood, and taught to walk, took them on My arms, healed them, drew them back, fed them; and they turned their back upon Me, and they are going on turning their back upon Me; they are bent on backsliding; but "how can I give thee up? I will not . . . I will not . . . I will not."
            What, then, was it holding Him back? The answer is in the text: "My heart is turned within Me, My corn-passions are kindled together."
            Was it something in Israel that made God SP V, "How can I give thee up?" As I look at Israel I should say, Surely not. It was not something in Israel, but something in God. And yet, the something in God saw in Israel possibilities that I cannot see, that seem to have faded, seem to have been obliterated. He saw them. He always does. God always sees the possi­bility of human life. That is the meaning of the Cross. Whatever we may think about human nature, God thought it worth dying for. He saw the possi­bility. He saw what Israel might be, what the boy He loved and called out of Egypt and nursed and fed might be. I cannot see it as I look at them, can you?           As God is my witness, I cannot see it when I look at myself. That is the amazing thing. Because of what God is, He sees me, and sees my possibility; and in spite of all my backsliding, in spite of all my dis­obedience, in spite of the fact that I have contemned His love, He is saying:
"I cannot give you up. I will not, I will not, I will not!"
            The secret of it is found in the words, "My heart is turned within Me." That is a very expressive word. Turned about, or turned over, literally; but in use it is the word that describes upheaval, turmoil. Listen. God says My heart is in turmoil; My heart is moved to its depths, My heart! Again, "My compassions are kindled together," and the word "com­passion" there does not mean sorrow, it does not mean pity. I think sometimes in our own language there is only one word that accurately can carry over its meaning. It means solace; and that means more than power to solace, but solace in activity. It is more than pity and sorrow. It is pity and sorrow in action. "My compassions are kindled." Strange word that. If we go back to the eighth chapter, and the fifth verse, we read, "He hath cast off thy calf, O Samaria; Mine anger is kindled against them."
            Now He says, "My compassion is kindled." It is not the same word, though. "My compassions are kindled," that is, are deeply affected; "Mine anger is kindled," that is, caused to glow. The word "kindled" used concerning His compassions means quite literally "contracted." "My compassions are contracted." This, however, not in the sense of narrowed; but rather My compassions are in spasm, deeply affected. Somebody says that is all anthropomorphic, speaking of God under human figures. I am not denying it; He is always coming to our level in our need, it is so, but there is no other presentation possible. How are you to grasp God except as you think of Him as He tells you to think of Him, as a Man. The Incarnation is God's final Self-interpretation, the Speech of Himself to man in the terms of humanity, that man may grasp the truth concerning Deity. Here, then, employing the human, Jehovah declares that He is in turmoil. "My compassions are kindled." That is why He cannot give them up. Here we are in the presence of Love, love that is not the mere sentimental outgoing of an emotional nature, evanes­cent and passing; but love that becomes an agony; love that becomes a tragedy. Faber was right: "There is no place where earth's sorrows Are more felt than up in heaven."
            John Watson, better known as Ian Maclaren, the author of The Bonnie Brier Bush, once said, "God is the chief Sufferer in the universe." He was right. This is the suffering God, and it is God suffering because of His love; and it is love in agony not be­cause those He loves are wronging Him, but wronging themselves, and blighting themselves, and blasting themselves. Can you think of someone? How, being what I am, says God, can I give you up?
            And yet do not forget that the "how" suggests the difficulty. How can I give thee up? Justice alone says it is the right thing that the rebellious shall be punished; but how can I do it? And that com­passion led to the decision, "I will not."
            Now quietly for a moment or two. How came it that God could say "I will not"? Let us listen. "I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man, The Holy One in the midst of thee."
            Here, all mere intellectuality breaks down; here is something very strange. I have been talking about His love. He has spoken of a heart in turmoil, of compassions that are moved to the very depths, and He says I will not give you up; what is the reason? Because of His heart and His compassions? Yes, but go on. "I am God, and not man," and I am "the Holy One in the midst of thee." There is no lowering of the standard of moral requirement. The Holy One can be compassionate and remain holy because He is God, and not man. Things are possible to Him that are not possible to man.
            That is as far as we get in Hosea. It is a long way, but it leaves us asking questions; and filled with wonder, we do not understand it. It is as though, on this page, and through all the Old Testament, the glory is breaking through, but never coming into clear manifestation. A wonder and a mystery of righteousness and compassion are seen working together. Wonderful seeing was the seeing of the prophet who could write a thing like that. That must have come by inspiration, or else it is the fairest mirage that ever deceived the heart of humanity. When God, in spite of sin, says, how can I give you up? My heart is stirred, My compassions are stirred, but I am holy; how can I give you up? And yet says, I will not give you up, I will not, I will not, we are in the presence of some possibility wholly of God. It must have been a great word for trembling and troubled hearts even then.
            But our Bible does not end in Hosea. The name Hosea meant salvation. I do not know who named him. The father or mother, or both, in all probability; but they called that boy Hosea, a sob and sigh and song merging in a name. There came One in the fullness of time, whose Name was Jehovah and Hosea: Jesus. So in the fullness of time the gleams and glints of glory broke out into full manifestation; and we find out at last in Jesus, how God can be just, and the Justifier of the sinning soul.
            This way of accomplishment Hosea did not see. In communion with God he had learned facts about the Divine Nature which seemed to be conflicting, and he delivered his message and uttered the words; but at last He came, Who is the Brightness of the Father's glory and the express Image of His Person, and in Him I see how righteousness and peace meet together, and God can be just and the Justifier.
            Through Him the claims of justice which are against my soul are all met. Through Him the glory of holiness is maintained; for His redemption of the human soul is not a pity that agrees to ignore sin; but a power that cancels it and sets free from its dominion. Through Him the loved one is regained, restored, renewed, and all the lights that flash and gleam upon the prophetic page, astonishing my soul, come into focused unity in Jesus. God says of you, of me, "How can I give thee up? I will not . . . I will not . . . I will not."
            But how? "I am God and not man, I am the Holy One." Through Christ He has made the way by which sinning souls can be conformed to His image, His likeness, His will. The Gospel is gleaming in Hosea. It is shining in full radiance in Christ. Those that have despitefully used us can be regained, restored, and renewed. Separation should only be long enough for God to execute His love on those who fall far short of His glory. Might we gain His patience,
            We can leave the historic and come to the immediate. That is God. But in order to provide ransom, and redemption, and renewal, what? The answer is found fully in the words :
"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Might God bring healing to those in need of a true definition of love that He has supplied.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013



"Israel is a luxuriant vine, that putteth forth his fruit; according to the abundance of his fruit he hath multiplied his altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly pillars. Their heart is divided."—Hosea 10:1-2a.

            Again, chapter ten is a complete message. In the process of the prophecy it concludes a section in which the prophet was dealing with the pollution and the punishment of the people. When we resume at chapter eleven for the remaining chapters, we shall find another note.
            The message is of the nature of recapitulation and appeal; and it opens with the words of our text, in which the whole case is stated as to national failure and its cause. The failure is stated in verse one; and the cause in that brief sentence which is the opening sentence of verse two. The failure is stated thus, "Israel is a luxuriant vine that putteth forth his fruit." That is the story of failure. And the result of the failure is this: "according to the abundance of his fruit he hath multiplied his altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly pillars." Then the prophet declares in one brief sentence, the all-inclusive cause of failure, "Their heart is divided."
            Our article will follow these lines; first, con­sidering the failure as here set forth, of God's ancient people, and the application of the principles to our own times and conditions; and secondly, considering this startling and yet remarkable revelation of the cause of the failure, "Their heart is divided."
            We are immediately arrested by the figure of speech which is used. "Israel is a luxuriant vine." The King James Version rendered it, "an empty vine." That is a palpable inaccuracy. It might be rendered an emptying vine. The idea is not that of a vine barren, but of a vine bearing fruit, and that plentifully. Our Revisers have certainly caught the idea far more accurately, as they have it rendered, "Israel is a luxuriant vine."
            To us the figure of the vine is familiar, but our familiarity with it is principally that of its place in the New Testament, in that marvelous final set dis­course of our Lord, uttered to His own disciples immediately before His Cross, which discourse began with the words, "I am the Vine, the true," (John 15:1) or as we have rendered it, for the sake of supposed euphony, "I am the true Vine." I prefer to retain the method of the Greek idiom here, with the defining word coming last, sharply, quickly, as our Lord intended it, "I am the Vine, the true." In any case it is that discourse which makes us familiar with the figure.
            But it is important to recognize that our Lord was using no new figure of speech; to the men who heard Him then it was an old and familiar figure. Let us rapidly note the places of its occurrence in the Old Testament, The figure emerges, in the history of the ancient people, in Psalm 80, a great Psalm of Asaph, the leader of the singing. Asaph was evidently mourning over some hour of catastrophe in the national life. He began:
"Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock."
            At verse eight he sang:
"Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt;
Thou didst drive out the nations, and plantedst it,
Thou preparedst room before it,
And it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with the shadow of it,
And the boughs thereof were like cedars of God.
It sent out its branches unto the sea,
And its shoots unto the river."
            Then immediately he said:
"Look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine."
That is the place in the literature, and probably in the history of these people, where this figure of speech emerged. Asaph wrote the music unquestionably for temple use, and probably wrote the words in this case also; and he likened the nation to a vine, the vine brought out of Egypt and planted. From that time on the vine seems to have been the national symbol. In the days of our Lord, the great gate of the Temple, the outer gate, had emblazoned upon it a golden vine. It was the symbol of the national life, a very significant fact when we listen to Jesus saying,
"I am the Vine, the true."
            Then when we come to the period of the prophets, of which Hosea was one, it constantly occurs. Isaiah, the contemporary of Hosea, employed it in his song of the vineyard, in chapter five.
"Let me sing for my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My beloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill . . . and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes."
            Jeremiah, a later prophet, used the same figure of speech, as he described the nation as a "degenerate vine."
            Ezekiel, on four or five occasions, used the symbol of the vine, and that in most remarkable ways. Thus from the time of the kings, and the more ancient history, and through the prophetic period, it was the figure of speech employed as the symbol of national life, and when Hosea said, "Israel is a luxuriant vine," he was employing a familiar figure of speech. If this was a delivered message, when he began, I can imagine that those listening to him were not a little flattered. At first probably they did not detect the method of satire that breathed in his choosing of the figure of speech.
            Let us go back for a glance at Isaiah's song. If the figure emerges in Psalm 80, and is almost constant in the prophetic writings, it is especially interpreted in Isaiah. The opening sentences refer to the vine and the one who planted it; and then follows the interpretation. I content myself with reading the final verse, verse seven:
"For the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant."
            Isaiah was a prophet to Judah, and here he was addressing them immediately. "And He looked for justice, but, behold, oppression." The figure says, "He looked for grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes." That is figurative language. What does it mean? I am not left to speculation. Isaiah inter­prets. " He looked for justice, He beheld oppression; for righteousness, but, behold, a cry." That is the interpretation of the figure of the vine. The vine was God's planting. What for? To bear fruit. What fruit? Grapes—Justice and righteousness. It brought forth wild grapes. What were they? Instead of justice, oppression; and instead of righteousness a cry; really—although the reading would not be quite euphemistic—a shriek! That was the national picture. The ideal nation was created by God to bear the fruit of justice and of righteousness for the world. When He sought for fruit He sought for justice, but found its opposite, oppression; when He sought for righteous­ness, as a root from which peace and joy must come, He heard a cry, the cry of its iniquity and its suffering, consequent upon its failure.
Now let us return to Hosea's words. "Israel is a luxuriant vine, that putteth forth" what? "His fruit." This pronoun is not printed with a capital H in the text, and in thinking of it we may think it refers to God. But it is not so. It refers to the nation which is bringing forth its own fruit. The whole emphasis of interpretation and understanding is there. He said Israel is a luxuriant vine that puts forth his own fruit, instead of the fruit for which God is looking. The nation was producing fruit, but its own fruit. If, following me patiently, and thoughtfully, and I hope critically examining as I go, someone is inclined to doubt this, then observe what immediately follows:
"According to the abundance of his fruit he bath multiplied his altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly pillars."
            According to the fruit, the altars; according to the prosperity of the land, monuments; showing at once that the prophet was emphasizing the fact, not of success, but of failure. Israel is a luxuriant vine; the vine is here. It is bearing fruit, but look at the fruit, and its nature is revealed in the multiplied altars, and the monuments that are raised everywhere. "Israel is a luxuriant vine, that puts forth his own fruit." That is exactly what Isaiah was saying in the southern kingdom. He looked for grapes, and behold wild grapes; He looked for justice, and they had brought forth oppression, wild grapes; He looked for righteous­ness, and He heard the cry of the oppressed, and the cry of those in misery.
            To summarize then: the charge as here declared is that the nation had failed, in that it was seeking its own interests, instead of the fulfillment of God's purposes.
            The words following emphasize the resulting degen­eration of religion. According to his fruit, the self-centered seeking of the nation, the altars are built, and they have become the centers of selfishness instead of the symbols and centers of sacrifice. According to the prosperity which is material, they have put up their pillars, their goodly columns; and the word "goodly" is a word referring to artistic perfection. Mark again the irony of it. According to their pros­perity they had built themselves ornate idols; altars that were no longer the centers and symbols of sacrifice, but the centers of selfishness. God was lost, mislaid, and instead of Him there were ornate pillars, columns, stones. That was the degeneration of religion, the making of religion conforms to the low standard of life. The whole nation forgetting the meaning of its nationality; forgetting that it was a vine God had planted to bear fruit for all peoples; living a self-centered life, and in order that the life may be con­tinued with placidity, religion degenerates; the altars are multiplied, and in place of God, ornate idols are erected.
            That day has gone, and the existing conditions have passed. The local color has faded from the canvas. We are living in other times, and under other con­ditions. But the essential values abide. Let us look at these.
            What does the prophet mean to teach, or shall I rather say, what does the prophet teach which is permanent? That it is possible to prostitute the resources which God confers upon His people in order that they might function in the world, for the sake of the world itself. All those resources may be taken and consumed upon selfish interests.
            Underneath that lies another principle, never to be forgotten, that the resources of God are always to be placed at the disposal of men, and that not merely that men may receive them, but that they also may be channels, that they may pass on to other men, and so all men may be reached. The God of the Bible is a missionary God. All the elections of God, of men, of nations, are elections in order that through the men and through the nations so chosen, His beneficent purposes shall reach out to the world. It was because these people came to a false understanding of the doctrine of election that they perished. They came to think of themselves as elected of God—yes, let me say it—to be the pet of God, the pampered of the Most High; the people that God loved, while He left the rest of the world to drift by. That was the lie that ruined them; and has robbed them in the world even until this hour of moral and spiritual significance. That is the peril that threatens the Church of God, the forgetfulness of the fact that every benefit is a deposit for which we are responsible, not for self-consumption, but for passing it to others. A luxuriant vine; the very resources are God's resources, but the fruit is not the fruit for which He is seeking.
            Here is an acid test of all life; an acid test for the individual; an acid test for the Church; an acid test for the nation. When in national affairs we make our boast that we are the people of God as amid all people, when we think of the Church as elect of God, when we consider ourselves individually as the recipients of God's favor, let us never forget the reason of the choice, the election, the favor. If God has created us a nation, it is in order that through us the breadth and beauty and beneficence of the Divine government may be revealed and administered to all peoples. If God has created the nation, the fruits He desires, what are they? Justice and righteousness. If He finds oppression, and if He hears a cry, then the nation may be a luxuriant vine, but it is bringing forth its own fruit, and so is a disastrous failure.
            The same is true in application to the Church. What are we after? What is our purpose? What is our passion? What do we want? What are we absolutely trying to do? What is our goal, our aim, our objective? Should anyone say, "we are seeking the crowds," the numbers, the next question is, what for? Why do we want to see our congregations increase in our Churches, and the people flocking to our doors?
            In that is involved yet another question. How are we seeking to attract them? Our passion to-day is for efficiency. Splendid. But still we ask, efficient for what?
Let us yet ask another question. What is the result of all our activity, of the multiplication of agencies and associations and committees and Synods and Sessions and groups, and whatnots?             What is the issue? I am not answering my question. I am asking it. Is it justice? Is the result of our toil and our activity justice? Or are we still condoning oppression? Is the result of all our service righteous­ness? Or does God hear a cry?
            I said that the word may be rendered "a shriek." The word is very remarkable. Let me give you two illustrations of its use. It occurs first in Genesis eighteen, when it is said that God heard the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is the same word in Exodus, when God heard the cry of the oppressed people coming up from Egypt. So the word may be used to mark a condition of sin or of suffering; but wherever, listening, one hears the howling of the sinner, or the wailing of sorrow, we know conditions contrary to His mind, contrary to His will.
            The question is vital, is the Church in her activity today bearing the fruit for which God is seeking? The acid test of any Church's life is that of her passion, that of her purpose; and ultimately, that of her results. If the passion be merely for a crowd or the numbers, if the passion be merely for organic efficiency, then all sorts of things fasten on to the life of the Church, parasitic growths, para-church organizations, sapping energy, contributing nothing to her value in the world. The Church is cursed today with fungus growths, all sorts of institutions, until one hears constantly the click of machinery; and then we look for fruit, and the ultimate question is what the fruit is, that of the Divine intention, or that of our selfishness. A people God-made may be a luxuriant vine, may be spreading forth their branches, and yet failing to function according to the Divine purpose.
            Now consider what the prophet says happens. This again is a startling thing. He does not say these things result from altars and columns. He says altars and columns result from these things. "Israel is a luxuriant vine, that putteth forth his fruit; according to the abundance of his fruit he hath multiplied his altars." The deficiency in the religious life of the nation resulted in the multiplication of altars, because the nation had to adapt its religion to conform to its failure. The altars were ornate and artistic; but no sacrifice was inspired by them. They put up columns, as I have said, ornate altars instead of God; stone, passivity instead of passion, for passivity and passion mean the exact opposite. We see the columns all through the land, highly carved and beautiful, and aesthetic pillars, rising in their stately glory, shall I say splendor? Yes, if I may, but another word is needed—impotence; stone instead of bread; passivity instead of passion; human artistry instead of Divine beauty. What is the difference between the beauty of God and human artistry? Where do we see the beauty of God most perfectly? Do we see it in the star-bespangled heavens? No. In the wonders of Nature, as we observe them in the infinitely small and the great? No. Where do we see it most perfectly? In the wounded and mutilated Man of the Cross. That is beauty. To the Greek with his passion for so-called culture and refinement, and everything that is aesthetic, it was ugliness. A mutilated man is an offence to beauty, says the Greek. But we know full well that all Heaven's beauty shines in the way of the Cross. Every man or woman who is twisted and maimed and disfigured for life, through sacrifice and service, has a beauty not to be found in the Art which despises disfiguration. In the Song of Solomon, the Shulammite says at one point,
"They made me keeper of the vineyards;
But mine own vineyard have I not kept."
            She was not complaining. She was glorying in the fact that she had lost her complexion in service. Talking to the women of the court in the marvelous idyllic poetry, she said in effect: It is quite true, I have been out in the fields, and I have lost my complexion. That is what she meant by "I am black, but I am comely." There is beauty in a marred face when it is marred in the service of others. Things of artistic refinement, goodly columns; things of aesthetic beauty, instead of the God of the Cross; things of human artistry instead of Divine beauty; and the inevitable result, a degraded people.
            Gather it all up and express it in a sentence or two. A people God-created, God-planted; a people intended to function for God in the interests of humanity at large; a vine planted by God to bring forth the fruit of justice and righteousness; the vine is still existing, the branches are spreading; and the statistics seem to be satisfactory, and yet, there may be no fruit that satisfies the passion of God. If that is so, religion degenerates, altars record no sacrifice; the symbols of selfishness replace God. The worship of the artistic according to human thinking, and the relegation of the religion of the Cross into the background as something vulgar, is always the degeneration of religion.
            Then in a short, sharp, arresting sentence Hosea reveals the reason for the failure; "Their heart is divided." The word rendered "heart," and so constantly used in the Old Testament, means some­thing which is enclosed. Physically it refers to the innermost organ of the body, which is the center of action and life. Figuratively it is employed sometimes as referring to feelings, sometimes as referring to the intellect, and sometimes as referring to the will. It is most often used as referring to the sum totality of personality. In this case it is used without any question as referring to the central realm of personality, the realm of desire. The heart divided!
            We are arrested, and at first almost startled by this word "divided." Not the English word, but the Hebrew word Chalaq. It means smooth. In what sense, or how can that mean "divided "? They came to use that word for divided, because it applied to the smooth stones with which they cast lots. Some­times we say in America, a man is dicing his inheritance away. We have taken the word dicing from the instrument of gambling. They used smooth stones, with which they cast lots in dividing. Divided, smooth, casting lots.
            In the central realm of personality, the realm of desire, they were casting lots, gambling with God, playing God off against something else, playing some­thing else off against God, flinging dice in the center of personality. Their heart was a gambling-house.
            Or to return to our common use of the word divided. One of the ancient psalmists prayed a prayer, and what a prayer it was. He said, "Unite my heart to fear Thy name." (Psa. 86:11) Jeremiah uttering the word of God said to the people, "I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them." (Jer. 32:39) It is the divided heart which causes the trouble. When into the realm of desire we allow God and something else to enter and compete for mastery that is the story of all failure. We begin by wanting God and something else, and now we want something else and God; and God will not be there on those terms. Consequently we eliminate Him, we mislay Him; and when He is mislaid the vine remains, but the fruit changes. Instead of the grapes, wild grapes, acrid, acid, poisonous, destructive; instead of justice, oppression; instead of righteousness, a cry; and all because the heart is divided.
            Let us end the article by grouping some words scattered across the Bible. Again a psalmist is speaking: "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psa. 27:4) One thing. Jesus is speaking to a rich young ruler, "One thing thou lackest." (Luke 18:22) Jesus is speaking to a woman cumbered with caring about things, "One thing is needful." (Luke 10:42) A little way on, a great soul says, "One thing I do, forgetting the things behind, I press towards the mark." (Phil. 3:13) One thing, one thing, one thing! Someone says, "I should not like to be a man of one idea." Why not? It depends upon your idea. If your idea is big enough you have not room for more than one. If the one idea be to dwell in the house of the Lord; if the one idea be to render absolute allegiance to Him and follow His Christ; if the one idea is to be so completely under His domination to fulfill His purpose; if the one idea is to reach the goal, to fulfill His purpose, and to be His instrument of blessing; you do not want two ideas. The trouble with us is that the passion for variety puts God in a list with other things. That is the divided heart. We need to pray in our own hearts, "Unite my heart to serve Thee, O God."  Deut. 10:12) Focused.