O Israel, return unto the Lord - These words may be considered as addressed to the people now in captivity; suffering much, but having still much more to suffer if they did not repent. But it seems all these evils might yet be prevented, though so positively predicted, if the people would repent and return; and the very exhortation to this repentance shows that they still had power to repent, and that God was ready to save them and avert all these evils. All this is easily accounted for on the doctrine of the contingency of events, i.e., the poising a multitude of events on the possibility of being and not being, and leaving the will of man to turn the scale; and that God will not foreknow a thing as absolutely certain, which his will has determined to make contingent. A doctrine against which some solemn men have blasphemed, and philosophic infidels declaimed; but without which fate and dire necessity must be the universal governors, prayer be a useless meddling, and Providence nothing but the ineluctable adamantine chain of unchangeable events; all virtue is vice, and vice virtue, or there is no distinction between them, each being eternally determined and unalterably fixed by a sovereign and uncontrollable will and unvarying necessity, from the operation of which no soul of man can escape, and no occurrence in the universe be otherwise than it is. From such blasphemy, and from the monthly publications which avouch it, good Lord, deliver us!
O Israel, return - (now, quite) unto the Lord your God The heavy and scarcely interrupted tide of denunciation is now past. Billow upon billow have rolled over Ephraim and the last wave discharged itself in the overwhelming, indiscriminating destruction of the seat of its strength. As a nation, it was to cease to be. its separate existence was a curse, not a blessing; the offspring of rivalry, matured by apostasy; the parent, in its turn, of jealousy, hatred, and mutual vexation.
But while the kingdom was past and gone, the children still remained heirs of the promises made to their fathers. As then, before, Hosea declared that Israel, after having long remained solitary, should in the end “seek the Lord and David their king” Hosea 3:5, so now, after these manifold denunciations of their temporal destruction, God not only invites them to repentance, but foretells that they should be wholly converted.
Every word is full of mercy. God calls them by the name of acceptance, which he had given to their forefather, Jacob; “O Israel.” He deigns to beseech them to return; “return now;” and that not “toward” but “quite up to” Himself, the unchangeable God, whose mercies and promises were as immutable as His Being. To Himself, the Unchangeable, God invites them to return; trod that, as being still their God. They had cast off their God; God had “not cast off His people whom He foreknew” Romans 11:2.
: “He entreats them not only to turn back and look toward the Lord with a partial and imperfect repentance, but not to leave off until they were come quite home to Him by a total and sincere repentance and amendment.” He bids them “return quite to” Himself, the Unchangeable God, and their God. “Great is repentance,” is a Jewish saying, “which maketh men to reach quite up to the Throne of glory.”
For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity - “This is the first ray of divine light on the sinner. God begins by discovering to him the abyss into which he has fallen,” and the way by which he fell. Their own iniquity it was, on which they had stumbled and so had fallen, powerless to rise, except through “His” call, whose “voice is with power” Psalm 29:4, and “Who giveth what He commandeth.”: “Ascribe not thy calamity,” He would say, “to thine own weakness, to civil dissension, to the disuse of miltary discipline, to want of wisdom in thy rulers, to the ambition and cruelty of the enemy, to reverse of fortune. These things had not gone against thee, hadst not thou gone to war with the law of thy God. Thou inflictest the deadly wound on thyself; thou destroyedst thyself. Not as fools vaunt, by fate, or fortune of war, but ‹by thine iniquity hast thou fallen.‘ Thy remedy then is in thine own hand. ‹Return to thy God. ‹“
: “In these words, ‹by thine iniquity,” he briefly conveys, that each is to ascribe to himself the iniquity of all sin, of whatsoever he has been guilty, not defending himself, as Adam did, in whom we all, Jews and Gentiles, have sinned and fallen, as the Apostle says, ‹For we were by nature the children of wrath, even as others‘ Ephesians 2:3. By adding actual, to that original, sin, Israel and every other nation falleth. He would say then, O Israel, be thou first converted, for thou hast need of conversion; ‹for thou hast fallen;” and confess this very thing, that ‹thou hast fallen by thine iniquity;‘ for such confession is the beginning of conversion.”
But wherewith should he return?
“The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.”—Milman, The History of the Jews, book 16. GC 35.1
After the destruction of the temple, the whole city soon fell into the hands of the Romans. The leaders of the Jews forsook their impregnable towers, and Titus found them solitary. He gazed upon them with amazement, and declared that God had given them into his hands; for no engines, however powerful, could have prevailed against those stupendous battlements. Both the city and the temple were razed to their foundations, and the ground upon which the holy house had stood was “plowed like a field.” Jeremiah 26:18. In the siege and the slaughter that followed, more than a million of the people perished; the survivors were carried away as captives, sold as slaves, dragged to Rome to grace the conqueror's triumph, thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheaters, or scattered as homeless wanderers throughout the earth. GC 35.2
The Jews had forged their own fetters; they had filled for themselves the cup of vengeance. In the utter destruction that befell them as a nation, and in all the woes that followed them in their dispersion, they were but reaping the harvest which their own hands had sown. Says the prophet: “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;” “for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” Hosea 13:9; 14:1. Their sufferings are often represented as a punishment visited upon them by the direct decree of God. It is thus that the great deceiver seeks to conceal his own work. By stubborn rejection of divine love and mercy, the Jews had caused the protection of God to be withdrawn from them, and Satan was permitted to rule them according to his will. The horrible cruelties enacted in the destruction of Jerusalem are a demonstration of Satan's vindictive power over those who yield to his control. GC 35.3Read in context »
Against the marked oppression, the flagrant injustice, the unwonted luxury and extravagance, the shameless feasting and drunkenness, the gross licentiousness and debauchery, of their age, the prophets lifted their voices; but in vain were their protests, in vain their denunciation of sin. “Him that rebuketh in the gate,” declared Amos, “they hate, ... and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.” “They afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.” Amos 5:10, 12. PK 282.1
Such were some of the results that had followed the setting up of two calves of gold by Jeroboam. The first departure from established forms of worship had led to the introduction of grosser forms of idolatry, until finally nearly all the inhabitants of the land had given themselves over to the alluring practices of nature worship. Forgetting their Maker, Israel “deeply corrupted themselves.” Hosea 9:9. PK 282.2
The prophets continued to protest against these evils and to plead for rightdoing. “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy,” Hosea urged; “break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you.” “Turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.” “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity: ... say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.” Hosea 10:12; 12:6; Hosea 14:1, 2. PK 282.3Read in context »
How shall I make thee as Admah?
How shall I set thee as Zeboiim?
My heart is turned within Me, 8T 277.1
My compassions are kindled together.
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;
And I will not come in wrath.” 8T 277.2
Hosea 11:8, 9, A. R. V. 8T 277Read in context »
With what unwearied love did Christ minister to Israel during the period of added probation. Upon the cross He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. After His ascension the gospel was preached first at Jerusalem. There the Holy Spirit was poured out. There the first gospel church revealed the power of the risen Saviour. There Stephen—“his face as it had been the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15)—bore his testimony and laid down his life. All that heaven itself could give was bestowed. “What could have been done more to My vineyard,” Christ said, “that I have not done in it?” Isaiah 5:4. So His care and labor for you are not lessened, but increased. Still He says, “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” Isaiah 27:3. COL 218.1
“If it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that”— COL 218.2
The heart that does not respond to divine agencies becomes hardened until it is no longer susceptible to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Then it is that the word is spoken, “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” COL 218.3Read in context »