Sermon 2474. The Great Change
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, JULY 19, 1896.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, JULY 18, 1886.
"Ephraim shall say, What ha ve I to do anymore with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree.From Me is your fruit found." Hosea 14:8.
THIS passage is in very vivid contrast to what Ephraim had previously said, as it is recorded in the early part of Ho-sea'sprophecy. If you turn to the second chapter, and the fifth verse, you will find this same Ephraim saying, "I will go aftermy lovers that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink." These lovers were the idol gods andEphraim was determined to go after them, for she ascribed to them her various comforts, her bread and her water, her wooland her flax, her oil and her drink. So desperately set was this Ephraim upon going after her idols that God had much adoto drag her away from them, for that second chapter continues, "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, andmake a wall, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; andshe shall seek them, but shall not find them."
So, you see, this people had been desperately set upon following after idols, yet, before the prophecy is ended, we find thissame Ephraim saying, "What have I to do anymore with idols?" What a change the Grace of God works in the heart! It reversesthe action of the entire machinery of our being. It puts, "No," for, "Yes," and, "Yes," for, "No." It is a radical change-thatwhich we hated, we come to love-and that which we loved, we come to hate. Whereas we said, concerning this and that, "I will,"and, "I shall," the Grace of God makes us change our note and we say, "I will not, by God's Grace. I will not act as I saidI would, for what have I to do anymore with idols?"
At the beginning of this discourse, I would like to put to each one whom I am addressing this question, "Have you, my Friend,ever experienced this great and total change?" Remember, if you have not, it is imperatively necessary that you should ifyou desire to be numbered among the Lord's people. "You must be born again," and this being born again is not the evolvingof some good thing out of you that is already there, but hidden away, but the putting into you of something which is not there!It is the quickening of you from your death in sin. It is a change in you as great as was worked upon the Person of our LordJesus when, after lying dead in the grave, He was brought to life. Nothing short of this new birth, this resurrection, thisthorough, total, radical change will make you fit to enter Heaven! You have no right to expect that you will ever stand withinyon gates of pearl unless you have been created anew in Christ Jesus! He that sits on the Throne of God says, "Behold, I makeall things new." And He must make you new, or else into the new Kingdom where there is a new Heaven and a new earth, you cannever come! No, you cannot even see that Kingdom, for our Lord's words are as true, today, as when He said to Nicodemus, "Excepta man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Let that searching thought remain with you and try yourselves by it.
But now I shall take you at once to the words of the text, that we may think of the change which was worked upon Israel, orEphraim. We will consider, first, the character of this change-"Ephraim shall say, What have I to do anymore with idols?"Then, secondly, let us note the cause of this change. And thirdly, the effect of this change.
I. First, then, we are to consider THE CHARACTER OF THIS CHANGE.
Ephraim had been drunk with her idolatry. The Israelites were never content with idols of one sort-they went to Moab, to Egypt,to Philistia, to Assyria, to the Hittites and to any other ites-to borrow idols. They introduced fresh idols from distantcountries. They were never satisfied with the number of their images, yet now, when God has effectually worked upon theirhearts, they say, one voice speaking for all, "What have I to do anymore with idols?"
Notice, that this change was a very hearty and spontaneous one. Ephraim did not say, "I should like to worship idols, yetI dare not." She did not say, "I should like to set up engraved images, but I must not." On the contrary, she, herself, said,"What have I to do anymore with idols?" I wish that some people whom I might mention understood what conversion means. Theysay to us, "So you do not attend the theater-what a denial it must be to you!" It is nothing of the kind, for we never havea wish or a desire to go there. What have we, the twice-born, to do with these vain things of the world?" Oh, but the drunk'scup-it must be a very great piece of self-denial to you to forego it!" On the contrary, it is loathsome to us! We have cometo feel as if the most nauseous medicine that could be mixed would be sweeter to us than that cup! What have we to do anymorewith idols?
So, each thing that is evil becomes to the real convert a disgusting and distasteful thing. He does not say, "Oh, how I shouldlike it! How I long for it! What a hungering I have after it!" If he detects in himself the least hankering after evil ofany kind, he cries out, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But as far as the workof God's Spirit has been worked upon him, he has a thorough hearty severance and divorce from those things which he once loved.He has as great a horror of them as once he had a desire for them. Now he sings-
"Let worldly minds the world pursue, It has no charms for me. Once I admired its trifles, too, But Grace has set me free.Its pleasures now no longer pleases, No more content affords. Far from my heart are joys like these, Now I have seen the Lord!As by the light of opening day The stars are all concealed, So earthly pleasures fade away, When Jesus is revealed."
I say again, the change is a very spontaneous and hearty one. Ephraim shall herself freely say, "What have I to do anymorewith idols? I have done with those things and I am glad to have done with them. Oh, that I had done with them once and forall!" I asked a convert, this last week, a question which, perhaps, I have asked a dozen others, "My dear Brother, are youperfect?" "No, Sir," each one has said, "I am not." Then when I have enquired, "Would you not like to be perfect?" the answerin every case has been, "Yes, indeed I would. It would be Heaven on earth if I could but be perfectly holy. Oh, that I wereclean rid of sin!" So we sing, with Cowper-
"The dearest idol I have known, Whatever that idol be, Help me to tear it from Your Throne, And worship only Thee."
Let the idols go! Smash them all up, break them in pieces like potters' vessels! If there is a lust, if there is a passion,if there is a joy, if there is a desire that is not according to the mind of God, away with it! We cannot endure the evilthing and want to get rid of it. Ephraim shall say, and shall say it cheerfully, spontaneously, heartily, "What have I todo anymore with idols?"
Observe, also, that this change is the work of God's effectual Grace. Notice the wording of the text-"Ephraim shall say."It is God who says, "Ephraim shall say." Perhaps you ask me, "Did you not say that Ephraim said this voluntarily, spontaneously,with all her heart and of her own free will?" Yes, that is so. But the Holy Spirit, without violating the freedom of man'swill, is the Master of that will! There used to be great wars and fights among Christian people about free will and Free Grace.And when I read the reports of those controversies, I am struck with the great amount of the Truth of God that was spokenon both sides. When I hear a man stoutly affirm that if there is any good thing, it is all of the Grace of God, I know thatit is so. But when another declares that man is a free agent and that if he acts virtuously at all, his free will must consentto it and that this condition is essential to the very making of virtue, is not that also true? Certainly it is! And why shouldwe not believe both?
Ephraim cheerfully says, "What have I to do anymore with idols?" And yet, at the back of that is the great mysterious energyand work of the Holy Spirit bringing to pass the eternal purpose and decree of God so that they are fulfilled!
For God to work His will with mere materialism, with dead blocks of wood or stone, with rivers or with tempests is but ordinaryOmnipotence! But for God to leave men absolutely free and responsible agents and never to interfere with the freedom of theiragency, and yet for Him to accomplish His eternal purposes concerning them to every jot and tittle, this is, if I may so say,Omnipotent Omnipotence! This is almighty power carried to a climax! It is just so with the Grace of God-we spontaneously quitour sin-but it is because almighty Grace is working within us to will and to do of God's own good pleasure! "Ephraim shallsay, What have I to do anymore with idols?" because God, in His effectual Grace, has weaned her from her idols!
Notice next, dear Friends, that this change is always a very personal one. Ephraim says, "What have I to do anymore with idols?"She does not say, "What have the nations to do with idols?" That would be a wise question, but, as a rule, national or generalreligion does not amount to much. We say with Mr. Bunyan, "Those are generals, Man, come to particulars." Believe all theTruth of God with the general company of those who hold it, but mind that you come to particulars and say, "What have I todo anymore with idols?" Do not ask, "What has my mother to do with idols? What has my brother to do with idols? What has myneighbor to do with idols?" but, "What have I to do with idols?" If all other men go into sin, I must not. I ask each believingone to whom I am speaking to feel, "God has done so much for me that I must turn away from sin. To me, willful wickednesswould be a horrible thing. I must quit all iniquity. Whatever all the rest of the world may do, I must not go with the multitudeto do evil-I must loathe it and leave it. 'As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.' 'Ephraim shall say, What haveI to do anymore with idols?'" Abhor selfishness and egotism, but, at the same time, be very personal and individual aboutyour own religion! You were born alone and you will die alone-and you have need to be born again individually and personally.And it must come to a personal transaction between yourself and God, so that you can, for yourself, say, as we did in oursinging-
"'Tis done! The great transaction's done-
Iam my Lord's, and He is mine!
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice Divine!
High Heaven that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear
Till in life's latest hour I bow
And bless in death a bond so dear." "What have I to do anymore with idols?" The change here implied must be spontaneous andhearty. It must be the result of Divine Grace and it must be personal.
And then, dear Friends, it must also be a truly repentant change-"What have I to do anymore with idols?" There is, in thatquestion, a confession that the speaker has had to do with idols! Let the time past suffice us to have worked the will ofthe flesh. Brother, if you are resolved to serve God, through His Grace, yet before you begin that service, remember how youhave, in the past, served the devil! Quit not your old ways without many a tear of regret and many a blush of deep humiliation,for whatever you may do in the future, you cannot undo the past. Your wasted time, your injured faculties, your angered God,your friends you influenced for evil by your example-you cannot blot out all these- therefore, at least stay a while and shedpenitent tears over the graves of your dead sins and ask your God to help you to feel that you have had enough of your evilways, sin and neglect. Say, "What have I to do anymore with idols? I have had far too much to do with them already. O Satan,O Self, O World, I have served you all too long and now, my God, with deep regret for all the past, I turn my face to You!"
This change must also be, dear Friends, life-long. Notice two words in our text, "What have I to do anymore with idols?" Wherethe Grace of God really converts a man, he is not converted merely for the next quarter of a year, with the possibility ofafterwards falling from Grace. That is a human conversion which can always come to an end! But if God converts you, you cannever be unconverted! As conversion is the work of the Spirit of God, it is clear that it must need the same power to undoit as first did it. He who has made you a Christian will keep you a Christian! And unless a stronger than He shall come inand undo His work, you shall never go back to your old idols!-
"Where God begins His gracious work,
That work He will complete,
For round the objects of His love,
All power and mercy meet
Man may repent him of his work,
And fail in his intent;
God is above the power of change,
He never can repent.
Each object of His love is sure
To reach the heavenly goal,
For neither sin nor Satan can
Destroy the blood-washed soul." Oh, how I love to preach this glorious doctrine of everlasting salvation! The salvation thatonly carries you a little bit of the way to Heaven, I never thought worthy of my acceptance. I would not have it as a giftand I never thought it worth preaching to you. I remember hearing one of the revival preachers say that there are some whogo on the road to Heaven and just take a ticket to the next station. Then they get out and take a new ticket and rush backto the train! And so they keep on. "But," said the man, "when I started, I took a ticket all the way through." That is theway to travel to Heaven! When you start, get a ticket all the way through! Listen to these words of Christ, "My sheep hearMy voice and I know them, and they follow Me and I give to them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall anyman pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them to Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them outof My Father's hand." Listen, also, to these words of our Lord to the woman of Samaria-"Whoever drinks of this water shallthirst again: but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give himshall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." O my Brothers and Sisters, God does not play at savingmen, first doing the work and then undoing it! If He saves you, you are saved! "He that believes and is baptized shall besaved." There is the Gospel which we are sent to preach to you so that, when once converted, truly converted, you will say,"What have I to do anymore with idols?"
Perhaps someone asks, "Yes, but do not some professors go back and yet you say that if men, after making a profession of religion,live in sin, they shall be saved?" Certainly we say nothing of the kind! We say, on the contrary, that if truly convertedthey will not live in sin, but if the work of Grace is worked in them, they will be kept from sin. Or if they shall, throughsudden temptation, fall, they shall be speedily restored-weeping and sighing they shall be brought back to the good way. Wenever said that men could live in sin and yet go to Heaven! That were damnable talk, not fit for a Christian to utter! Buthe who is truly saved is saved once and for all and he can say, "What have I to do anymore with idols?" Throughout the restof his life he will have done with them, he will have quit them. He will burn his bridges behind him, never to go back tothe country which he has quit once and for all. This is a salvation worth having! Therefore, I pray you, believe in the LordJesus Christ and be a partaker of it!
Yet once more, notice that this is a very thorough change-"What have I to do anymore with idols?" O you who have done withidols, remember that you are also done with the idol temples, you are done with the false priests, you are done with the so-called"sacred thread" and other idolatrous tokens! You are done with everything pertaining to idolatry! You who once were drunkshave done forever with the public-house and the drunk's cup! You who once were lascivious, if the Grace of God has changedyou, what have you to do with fornication, what have you to do with any kind of uncleanness? You who were, before, dishonest,if the Grace of God has changed you, what have you to do with the tricks of trade? What have you to do with fraudulent bankruptcies?What have you to do with cheating and lying? Let each true Believer cry, "What have I to do anymore with idols?" Be gone,sin and Satan, bag and baggage! What has a man, who is bought with the blood of Christ, to do anymore with idols? He quitsthem once and for all, by God's good Grace!
I find that the rest of my text would take up far too much time for me to expound it fully, so I shall have to content myselfwith the second division of the subject.
II. This was to be, you will remember, THE CAUSE OF THIS GREAT CHANGE.
The first cause of this change is the Grace received. In the previous part of the chapter, we find the Lord saying, "I willheal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for My anger is turned away from him." Then our text naturally follows, "Ephraimshall say, What have I to do anymore with idols?" We cannot get you to give up sin, however earnestly we may exhort you toforsake it, but if, by God's Grace, you receive Christ as your Savior, then you will abandon sin as a natural consequence!What is the best way to keep chaff out of a bushel measure? Fill it full of wheat! And when the heart of a man is full ofChrist, there will be no room for the world, the flesh or the devil! These evil things cannot find an entrance where Christhas full possession. When God is as the dew of our soul and we receive freely of His Grace, then we do not need telling, urgingand driving, but we at once say, "What have I to do anymore with idols?"
Another cause of this great change lies in our perception of the beauties of the Lord. I do not quite know whether what Iam going to say is the exact teaching of the text, but I think it is. It is very difficult, sometimes, in these prophecies,to know who is speaking. There are often dialogues and the dialogues are not always so clearly marked that we can tell whois the speaker. I have always thought, when I have read this chapter, that it was the Lord who said, "I have heard him, andobserved him," but on thinking the passage over very carefully, I am not quite sure that it is so. Let me give you anotherversion, which I met with in two verses by an unknown poet, and then see whether this is not the meaning of the passage-
"I have heard Him and observed Him,
Seen His beauty rich and rare,
Seen His majesty and glory,
And His Grace beyond compare.
What ha ve I to do with idols,
When such visions fill my eyes?
How be occupied with shadows
When the Substance passes by?" Does the text mean, then, "I will have nothing more to do with idols, for I have heard my Godand I have observed Him? I have heard Christ speak and I have observed the excellence of His Character"? This much I know-whetherthat is the teaching of this passage, or not-nothing weans the heart from idols like a sight of Christ! O you worldly Christians,who are getting to be so fond of this world, I am sure that you have not seen your Master lately! If you had, the world wouldsink in your esteem. O you who are beginning to be fond of human wisdom, you cannot have heard Him speak of late, or elseHe would be made of God to you, wisdom-and everything else would be folly! O you who are seeking to live for self and forearthly gain, your heads have not been lately pillowed on the Savior's bosom! You have not recently looked into those deareyes which are more radiant than the glories of the morning! You cannot have known the fragrance of those garments which smellof myrrh, aloes and cassia, or you would never be enamored by this poor, foul, unsavory world!
"I have heard Him, and observed Him-what have I to do anymore with idols?" "I have heard Him say, 'I have loved you with aneverlasting love.' I have observed Him go up to the Cross and lay down His life for me-'what have I to do anymore with idols?'"When you, as the bride of Christ, love your first Husband as you should love Him, then your wanderings will be at an end.When all your heart goes after the Well-Beloved and He enraptures you with manifestations of His love and of His Grace, thenwill you say, "What have I to do with idols-I, so favored, so enriched with Divine blessings, who am on the road to Heaven,who am so soon to see the face of Him I love-what have I to do with idols?"
That seems to me to be a grand meaning perfectly consistent with earnest Christian experience, so I leave it with you. Thisgreat change, then, is worked in us by the Grace of God and by a sight of the true beauties of our Lord.
But now, taking the text as it is generally understood, you will get another meaning. One cause for this great change is thesense of answered prayer: Ephraim shall say, "What have I to do anymore with idols?" And God says of Ephraim, "I have heardhim." I remember, even as a child, God hearing my prayer. I cannot tell you what it was about, it may have been concerninga mere trifle, but to me, as a child, it was as important as the greatest prayer that Solomon ever offered for himself! Godheard my prayer and it was thus early established in my mind that the Lord was God. And afterwards, when I came really toknow Him-for, like the child Samuel, I did not then know the Lord, I only felt after Him in prayer-afterwards, when I cameto cry to Him intelligently, I had this prayer answered and that petition granted, and many a time since then. I am only speakingwhat any of you who know the Lord could also say-many a time since then He has answered my requests. I cannot tell you allabout this matter. There is many a secret between me and my dear Lord. This very week I have had a love-token from Him which,if I could tell you about it, would make your eyes wonder and fill with tears! I asked and I received, as manifestly as ifI had spoken to my brother in the flesh and he had said, "Yes, there, take all you need."
Well now, I always find that, in proportion as I am conscious that God is hearing my prayers, my heart says, "What have Ito do anymore with idols?" If I can have from my God whatever I ask for, why need I cringe and bow my knee to men? If I havebut to go to God and wait upon Him and He will give me the desire of my heart, what have I to do with fretting, fuming andbeing anxious? What have I to do with idols? If there is everything in Christ and that everything is to be had for the asking,what have I to do with idols? It is wonderful how you are weaned from the dry breasts of the world when you can drink in allthat your soul desires from the living God! If God, the Jehovah of Hosts, is no more to you than the gods of the heathen,or the gods of the men of the world, why, then, you will have to do with idols! But if your God is the God that hears prayerand if you live in His Presence and speak to Him-and He speaks to you. If you keep up perpetual communion with Him so thatGod can say to you, "I have heard him and observed him"-then I am sure that you will also say-"What have I to do anymore withidols?"
If I am addressing any poor soul that has been craving mercy from God, one who has been crying for months to God to give himforgiveness through Jesus Christ, why, dear Heart, if you will only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall get all thatyou are asking-you shall receive peace, pardon, joy and rest! And then you will say, "What have I to do anymore with idols?"
"Oh," says one, "my dear Sir, I have been trying to overcome sin and I cannot!" I know you cannot, but if you begin by receivingChrist, by praying to God and getting the answer, then you will be able to say, "What have I to do anymore with idols?" Youwant to first wash yourself and then come to the Fountain. That will not do! You must come, black as you are, and wash andbe cleansed. You want to get rich spiritually and then come to God to enrich you. No! You must come to Him, poor! Come withoutanything of your own, just as you are, and trust the boundless mercy of God in Christ Jesus! He will give you all you needand then you will say, "What have I to do anymore with idols, for God has heard me, and He does observe my soul?"
You see, then, some of the ways in which this very great and wonderful change is worked. I have had to omit many other pointson which I meant to speak, but I pray that this change may be worked in each of you. Do not wait to have the change workedand then come to God, but come to God for it! If you have a broken heart, come to Christ with it! But if you have not a brokenheart, come to Christ to break your heart! If you feel your sin, come to Christ to have it forgiven, but if you do not feelyour sin, come to Christ that you may be made to feel it! If there is any good thing in you, thank God for it, and come toHim for more. But if there is no good thing whatever in you, come without any good thing and let Christ begin at the verybeginning with you, in all your emptiness, need, spiritual beggary and loathsomeness! Come to Him just as you are, for Hestill says, "Him that comes to Me, I will in no wise cast out." May His sweet Spirit graciously attract each of you till youshall be drawn to Him and so drawn from your idols! And to Him shall be Glory forever and ever! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: PSALM 34; HOSEA14.
Psalm 34:1. I will bless the LORD at all times. "At dark times and bright times when I am alone, and when I am in company. When I feellike doing it and when I do not feel like doing it. 'I will bless the Lord at all times.'"
1. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. "I will not only feel it in my heart, but I will give expression to it withmy mouth. Those who do not care for this blessed employment may leave it alone, but as for me, 'His praise shall continuallybe in my mouth.'"
2. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. "I will ride the high horse whenI begin to talk of the goodness of God-'My soul shall make her boast in the Lord'-and whereas boasters are generally veryvexatious to humble-minded people, this kind of boasting shall please them. 'The humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.'"
3. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. Come, my Brothers and Sisters, I cannot perform this happyservice alone! It is too much for me all by myself. This bunch of grapes is too heavy to be carried by one. "O magnify theLord with me, and let us exalt His name together."
4. I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Should not the prayer-hearing God be praised? IfHe hears the cries of His people, should He not also hear the praises of His people? It is not one, only, to whom God hasthus listened, but many can say with the Psalmist, "I sought the Lord, and He heard me."
5, 6. They looked to Him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him,and saved him out of all his troubles. It is God's delight to hear the cry of poor men! Sometimes He passes by the rich andgreat, and gives heed to the poor and desolate. It is our need that has the loudest cry with God-if our necessities are urgent,our prayer will be powerful.
7. The angel of the LORD encamps round about them that fear Him, and delivers them. God's children are always attended likeprinces-legions of angels form their bodyguard. The Angel of the Lord and companies of holy angels with Him pitch their celestialtents round about them that fear God!
8. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusts in Him. Try Him, dear Friends, and prove for yourselveshow good and gracious He is-"O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusts in
"Oh, make but trial of His love!
Experience will decide
How blest are they, and only they,
Who in His truth confide!"
9. O fear the LORD, you His saints: for there is no want to them that fear Him. He will supply all their wants. You need notfear for anything else when you once fear God.
10. The young lions lack, and suffer hunger. They are strong, fierce, crafty and unscrupulous, yet they still suffer hunger-
10. But they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. Though they are neither cruel, nor cunning, nor strong, "theythat seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." What a promise for you to plead in prayer, dear Friends! If you are inany need, do not hesitate, but by an act of faith take this gracious Word of God and plead it with the promise-keeping God!"Have You not said that, 'they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing'? Then, Lord, do as You have said."
11-13. Come, you children, hearken to me. I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is he that desires life, and lovesmany days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. He who can manage his tonguecan manage his whole body, for the tongue is the rudder of the ship. And if that is properly held, the vessel will be rightlysteered. If you would escape the quicksands and the rocks, look well to your tongue! Keep it from evil, that it speaks neitherblasphemy against God nor slander against your fellow men. And keep your lips from guile, that is, from deceit, from doublemeanings, from saying one thing and meaning another, or making other people think that you mean another-an art all too wellunderstood in these days. God make us plain-speaking men, who say what we mean, and mean what we say! When, by the Grace ofGod, we are taught to do this, we have learned a good lesson.
14. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. If it runs away from you, run after it. Never run into or aftera quarrel, but always run after peace-"Seek peace, and pursue it."
15. The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The Lord is always watching them andHe is always listening that He may hear everything they say, especially when they cry to Him.
16. The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. He will not onlydestroy the wicked, but He will blot out the very memory of them! They may become great and famous in their wickedness, butthey shall not be kept in memory, as the righteous are. As Solomon says, "The name of the wicked shall rot."
17. 18. The righteous cry, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to them thatare of a broken heart; and saves such as are of a contrite spirit. Men do not care for broken hearts, but God does. "Giveme a sound heart and a brave heart," says man. "Give me a broken and a contrite heart," says the Lord. If you have such aheart as that, be not afraid to draw near to your God, through Jesus Christ, for He is already near you!
19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Many who read this verse admit thatthe first part of it is true-"Many are the afflictions of the righteous." Yes, but the latter clause is also true-"but theLord delivers him out of them all." Do not omit either portion of the passage, for one part is as true as the other!
20. He keeps all his bones: not one of them is broken. God's people shall suffer no real, lasting, vital injury. You may haveflesh wounds, but as to the bones of your spirit, as it were, the solid part of it, "not one of them is broken."
21. Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. They shall want nothing else to make anend of them but their own sins-"Evil shall slay the wicked."
22. The LORD redeems the soul of His servants: and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate. Now we are going to readthe last chapter of the Book of the Prophet Hosea, the first of the minor Prophets.
Hosea 14:1. O Israel, return to the LORD your God; for you have fallen by your iniquity. When we fall by sin, we must regain our comfortby going back to the place where we lost it. "Return to the Lord your God for you have fallen by your iniquity." Then, tohelp us return, God, through His servant, actually makes a prayer for us.
2. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord. "What words am I to take?" asks the poor convicted sinner. "I cannot put wordstogether." Here are the words put into your mouth-
2. Say to Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips. Come with humbleconfession, come with sincere repentance, come with earnest supplication, come trusting to the Grace of God, come bringingyour heart with you and rendering it to God as a living sacrifice!
3. Ashur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say anymore to the work of our hands, You are ourgods: for in You the fatherless finds mercy. If you come to God to be saved, you must bring no other savior with you! Whatan encouragement is given to us to come to God! He calls Himself the Father of the fatherless. O you whose soul is orphaned,you who are left disconsolate in a world of grief, come to Him in whom the fatherless find mercy, for so shall you find mercy!
4. 5. I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for My anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew toIsrael. "Swiftly and mysteriously will I come and refresh him."
5. He shall grow as the lily. Quickly, beautifully-
5. And cast forth his roots as Lebanon. He shall be as permanent as he is fair, like a cedar as well as like a lily.
6. His branches shall spread. The dew of the Lord imparts influence to men-it gives them, as it were, branches, with whichthey cast a wide shadow.
6. And his beauty shall be as the olive tree. The beauty of fruitfulness. God grant all of us this beauty!
6. And his smell as Lebanon. Oh, to stand in holy repute among men, so that there is a fragrance going forth from us, likethe sweet odors from the wild thyme and other products of Mount Lebanon!
7. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shallbe as the wine of Lebanon. When God blesses men, He also blesses those round about them. Your children, your servants, yourneighbors shall all be the better if the Grace of God comes to you. So may it be!
8,9. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do anymore with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree.From Me is your fruit found. Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the waysof the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.