Hosea 10:1. Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself:
Not to his God. It matters not how much fruit we bear — if it is for self, we are really fruitless. A thing which is good in itself may lose all its goodness because stained with a selfish motive. We are to live unto God; and we must always be watchful about this; otherwise we may be doing much, and doing nothing. “Israel is an empty vine. He bringeth forth fruit unto himself.”
Hosea 10:1. According to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.
It is a very sad thing when, the more men received from God, the more they sin. But just in proportion as the land of Israel was fat and fertile, in that proportion did they set up altars unto false gods, and provoke the true God, who had given them these mercies. It is an ill thing when men grow rich, and offer sacrifice to their own vanity — when men gather learning, and only use it to debate with against the simple teachings of God — when just as God blesses, men cease to bless him!
Hosea 10:2. Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty:
A half-heart is no heart at all; and when men seem to go after God, and at the same time to go after their idols, they are not going after God. Their religion is vain. The good side is but a pretence; the evil side is the real thing.
Hosea 10:2. He shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.
Let us take heed then, dear friends, that we make nothing into an idol. The shortest way to lose the dearest object of your affections is to make an idol of him. “He shall break down their altars. He shall spoil their images.” Sometimes this is done in great mercy to God’s people, for there is no greater evil than for a heart to be happy in idolatry. Sometimes it is done in judgment upon the ungodly. They will not have the true God, and the false god shall be false to them. “He shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.”
Hosea 10:3. For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD what then should a king do to us?
Their king was slain, but if he had lived, what would be the good of him without God? What is the good of any temporal blessing if God be not in it? It is the husk with the kernel gone; and if we are able to enjoy the husk, it looks as if we were swine, and swine are being fattened for the slaughter.
What is the use of anything that we possess to us if God be divorced from it? I put the question again. If you are a true child of God, all the corn and wine in the world cannot feed you. Your bread must come from heaven.
Hosea 10:4. They have spoken words,
That which they spoke was not truth. We cannot speak without words, but it is an evil thing when our speech is nothing but words. Words, words, words! — no heart, no truth. “They have spoken words.”
Hosea 10:4. Swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.
God keep us from untruthfulness, and especially from a want of truth towards himself. Do not you think that often-times, both in prayer and praise, it might be said, “They have spoken words — nothing more”? There has been a falsehood in the most solemn transaction towards God.
Woe unto you, dear friends, if that should turn out to be the case. Ye may cheat your fellow men if ye have a heart for it, but you never will be able to cheat your God. He is not mocked. “They have spoken words,” says he.
Hosea 10:5. The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven:
Why, those calves are their trust. They rely upon those images of false gods — those images which they set up in the place of the true God. Pretending thereby to worship him, they trusted in these; and now they shall become their fear. He who will have a confidence apart from God will find his confidence soured into a fear before long. Your greatest ground of distress will be that which was once the ground of your reliance apart from God.
Hosea 10:5-6. For the people thereof shall mourn over it. and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it. It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb:
The spiteful king.
Hosea 10:6. Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
These golden calves excited the desires of the king of Assyria, and he book them away. These gods were baits, to their enemies, instead of basis for their confidence. They were carried away captive of the people with them — their god captive — their god melted down to make images, or to make money for the king of Assyria! Ah! what shame did God pour upon idolaters! And what shame he will pour upon us if we have any confidence except the unseen God, and if we rely anywhere but upon the eternal covenant of his immutable grace. Oh! brothers and sisters, let us try to flee away from that which is so tempting to sense — confidence in an arm of flesh, and let our sole and alone trust be in him that made the heavens and the earth, and in his Son, Jesus Christ.