on Hosea 14 :9
Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? - What things? Those which relate to the backslidings, iniquity, and punishment of Israel; and to the mercy and kindness of God in their promised restoration. The things which belong to the work of sin in the heart; the things which belong to the work of grace in the soul; and particularly the things mentioned in this wonderful chapter.
Prudent, and he shall know them? - He who endeavors to understand them, who lays his heart to them, such a person shall understand them.
For the ways of the Lord are right - This is the conclusion which the prophet makes from the whole. All God's conduct, both in the dispensation of justice and mercy, is right: all as it should be, all as it must be; because he is too wise to err, too good to be unkind.
The just shall walk, in them - This is a truth which he will always acknowledge; and illustrate it by a righteous and godly life.
But the transgressors shall fall therein - Howsoever good they might have been before, if they do not consider the necessity of depending upon God; of receiving all their light, life, power, and love from him; ever evidencing that faith which worketh by love; maintaining an obedient conduct, and having respect to all God's precepts; they shall fall, even in the "way of righteousness." When still using the Divine ordinances, and associating with God's people, they shall perish from the way; and be like Ephraim, who once "spoke trembling," and "was exalted in Israel," who was "God's beloved son," and "called out of Egypt;" yet, by "offending in Baal," giving way to "the idols of his heart," fell from God, fell into the hands of his enemies, and became a wretched thrall in a heathen land.
"Whoso is wise, let him understand these things!
Whoso is prudent, let him know them!" -
He who is well instructed will make a proper application of what he has here read; will tremble at the threatenings, and embrace the promises, of his God.
The Targum is worthy the most serious attention.
"The ways of the Lord are right, and the just who walk in them shall live for ever; but the ungodly, because they have not walked in them, shall be delivered into hell."
How instructive, how convincing, how awakening, and yet how consolatory, are the words of this prophecy! Reader, lay them to heart. A godly mind cannot consider them in vain; such shall know them, and know that the ways of the Lord are right.
on Hosea 14 :9
Who is wise and he shall understand these things? - The prophet says this, not of the words in which he had spoken, but of the substance. He does not mean that his style was obscure, or that he had delivered the message of God in a way difficult to be understood. This would have been to fail of his object. Nor does he mean that human acuteness is the key to the things of God. He means that those only of a certain character, those "wise," through God, unto God, will understand the things of God. So the Psalmist, having related some of God's varied chastenings, mercies and judgments, sums up, "Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord" Psalm 107:43. So Asaph says that God's dealings with the good and bad in this life were "too hard" for him to "understand, until" he "went into the sanctuary of God;" then "understood" he "their end" Psalm 73:16-17.
In like way Daniel, at the close of his prophecy, sums up the account of a sifting-time, "Many shall be purified and made white and tried, and the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand" Daniel 12:10. As these say that the wise alone understand the actual dealings of God with man, so Hosea says, that the wise alone would understand what he had set forth of the mercy and severity of God, of His love for man, His desire to pardon, His unwillingness that any should perish, His longing for our repentance, His store of mercies in Christ, His gifts of grace and His free eternal love, and yet His rejection of all half-service and His final rejection of the impenitent. "Who is wise?" "The word "who" is always taken, not for what is impossible, but for what is difficult." So Isaiah saith, "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed?" Isaiah 53:1.
Few are wise with "the wisdom which is from above;" few understand, because few wish to understand, or seek wisdom from Him who "giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not" James 1:5. The question implies also, that God longs that people should understand to their salvation. He inquires for them, calls to them that they would meditate on His mercies and judgments. As Paul says, "Behold the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out" Romans 11:22, Romans 11:33. Unsearchable to intellect and theory; intelligible to faith and for acting on.
And he shall understand these things - (that is, that he may understand). The worldly-wise of that generation, too, doubtless, thought themselves too wise to need to understand them; as the wise after this world counted the Cross of Christ foolishness.
Prudent - Properly "gifted with understanding," the form of the word expressing, that he was "endowed with" this "understanding," as a gift from God. And He shall know them. While the wise of this world disbelieve, jeer, scoff at them, in the name of human reason, he who has not the natural quickness of man only, but who is endued with the true wisdom, shall "know" them. So our Lord says, "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it is of God" John 7:17. The word, "wise," may especially mean him who contemplates these truths and understands them in themselves, yet plainly so as to act upon them; and the word "endued with prudence," may especially describe such as are gifted with readiness to apply that knowledge to practice, in judgment, discrimination, act . By uniting both, the prophet joins contemplative and practical wisdom, and intensifies the expression of God's desire that we should be endowed with them.
For the ways of the Lord are right - If in the word, "ways," the figure is still preserved, the prophet speaks of the "ways," as "direct and straight;" without a figure, as "just and upright."
The ways of the Lord - Are, what we, by a like figure, call "the 'course' of His providence;" of which Scripture says, "His ways are judgment" Deuteronomy 32:4; Daniel 4:37; "God, His ways are perfect" Psalm 18:30; "the Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" Psalm 145:17; "Thy way is in the sea, and Thy paths in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known" Psalm 77:19; "lo, these are parts of His ways, but how little a portion is heard of Him, and the thunder of His power who can understand?" Job 26:14; "who hath enjoined Him His way, and who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?" Job 36:23. These "ways of God" include His ordering for us, in His eternal wisdom, that course of life, which leads most directly to Himself. They include, then, all God's commandments, precepts, counsels, His whole moral law, as well as His separate purpose for each of us. In the one way, they are God's ways toward us; in the other they are God's ways for us.
The just shall walk in them - God reveals His ways to us, not that we may know them only, but that we may do them. "The end of moral science is not knowledge, but practice," said the Pagan philosopher . But the life of grace is a life of progress. The word, "way," implies not continuance only, but advance. He does not say," they shall "stand" in God's ways," but "they shall walk in them." They shall go on in them "upright, safe, and secure, in "great peace" and with "nothing whereat to stumble" . In God's ways there is no stumbling block, and they who walk in them, are free from those of which other ways are full. Whereas, out of God's ways, all paths are tangled, uneven, slippery, devious, full of snares and pitfalls, God maketh His "way straight," a royal highway, smooth, even, direct unto Himself.
But - (and) the transgressors shall fall therein - Literally, "shall stumble thereon" Psalm 119:165. Transgressors, i. e., those who rebel against the law of God, "stumble" in divers manners, not "in," but "at" the ways of God. They stumble at God Himself, at His All-Holy Being, Three and One; they stumble at His attributes; they stumble at His providence, they stumble at His acts; they stumble at His interference with them; they stumble at His requirements. They rebel against His commandments, as requiring what they like not; at His prohibitions, as refusing what they like. They stumble at His Wisdom, in ordering His own creation; at His Holiness, in punishing sin; but most of all, they stumble at His Goodness and condescension. They have a greater quarrel with His condescension than with all His other attributes. They have stumbled, and still stumble at God the Son, becoming Man, and taking our flesh in the Virgin's womb; they stumble at the humility of the Crucifixion; they stumble at His placing His Manhood at the Right Hand of God; they stumble at the simplicity, power and condescension, which He uses in the sacraments; they stumble at His giving us His Flesh to eat; they stumble at His forgiving sins freely, and again and again; they stumble at His making us members of Himself, without waiting for our own wills; they stumble at His condescension in using our own acts, to the attainment of our degree of everlasting glory.
Every attribute, or gift, or revelation of God, which is full of comfort to the believer, becomes in turn an occasion of stumbling to the rebellious. "The things which should have been for his wealth, become to him an occasion of falling. "They cannot attemper their own wishes and ways to the divine law, because, obeying what they themselves affect, "the law of their members," they stumble at that other law, which leadeth unto life" Psalm 69:22. : With this the prophet sums up all the teaching of the seventy years of his ministry. This is the end of all which he had said of the severity and mercy of God, of the Coming of Christ, and of our resurrection in Him. This is to us the end of all; this is thy choice, Christian soul, to walk in God's ways, or to stumble at them. As in the days when Christ came in the Flesh, so it is now; so it will be to the end. So holy Simeon prophesied, "'This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel' Luke 2:34; and our Lord said of Himself, 'For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind' John 9:39. And Peter; 'Unto you which believe He is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling and rock of offence, to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient' 1 Peter 2:7-8. 'Christ crucified was unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God' 1 Corinthians 1:23-24. The commandment, which' was ordained 'to life,' Paul, when yet unregenerate, 'found' to be 'unto death' Romans 7:10. : "Pray we then the Eternal Wisdom, that we may be truly wise and understanding, and receive not in vain those many good things which Christ has brought to the race of man. Let us cleave to Him by that 'faith, which worketh by love;' let us seek the Good, seek the Just, 'seek the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near.' Whatever God doeth toward ourselves or others, let us account right; 'for the ways of the Lord are right,' and 'that' cannot be unjust, which pleaseth the Just. Whatever He teacheth, whatever He commandeth, let us believe without discussion, and embrace most firmly for "that" cannot be false, which the Truth hath taught. Let us walk in His ways;" for Christ Himself is "the Way" unto Himself, "the Life." : "Look up to heaven; look down to Hell; live for Eternity." "Weigh a thousand, yea thousands of years against eternity what dost thou, weighing a finite, how vast soever, against Infinity."
on Hosea 14 :9