We may observe here, 1. The plentiful provision God had made for Israel and the seasonable supplies he had blessed them with (Hos. 14:5): “I did know thee in the wilderness, took cognizance of thy case and made provision for thee, even in a land of great drought, when thou wast in extreme distress, and when no relief was to be had in an ordinary way.” See a description of this wilderness, Deut. 8:15; Jer. 2:6; and say, The God that knew them, and owned them, and fed them there, was a friend indeed, for he was a friend at need and an all-sufficient friend, that could victual so vast an army when all ordinary ways of provision were cut off, and where, if miracles had not been their daily bread, they must all have perished. Note, Help at an exigency lays under peculiar obligations and must never be forgotten. 2. Their unworthy ungrateful abuse of God’s favour to them. God not only took care of them in the wilderness, but put them in possession of Canaan, a good land, a large and fat pasture. And (Hos. 14:6) according to their pasture so were they filled. God gave them both plenty and dainties, and they did not spare it, but, having been long confined to manna, when they came into Canaan they fed themselves to the full. And this was no hopeful presage; it would have looked better, and promised better, if they had been more modest and moderate in the use of their plenty, and had learned to deny themselves; but what was the effect of it? They were filled, and their heart was exalted. Their luxury and sensuality made them proud, insolent, and secure. The best comment upon this is that of Moses, Deut. 32:13-15. But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked. When the body was stuffed up with plenty the soul was puffed up with pride. Then they began to think their religion a thing below them, and they could not persuade themselves to stoop to the services of it. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God. When they were poor and lame in the wilderness they thought it was necessary for them to keep in with God; but when they were replenished and established in Canaan they began to think they had no further need of him: Their heart was exalted, therefore have they forgotten me. Note, Worldly prosperity, when it feeds men’s pride, makes them forgetful of God; for they remember him only when they want him. When Israel was filled, what more could the Almighty do for them? And therefore they said to him, Depart from us, Job 22:17. It is sad that those favours which ought to make us mindful of God, and studious what we shall render to him, should make us unmindful of him, and regardless what we do against him. We ought to know that we live upon God when we live upon common providence, though we do not, as Israel in the wilderness, live upon miracles. 3. God’s just resentment of their base ingratitude, Hos. 14:7, 8. The judgments threatened (Hos. 14:3) intimated the departure of all good from them. The threatenings here go further, and intimate the breaking in of all evils upon them; for God, who had so much befriended them, now turns to be their enemy and fights against them, which is expressed here very terribly: I will be unto them as a lion and as a leopard. The lion is strong, and there is no resisting him. The leopard is here taken notice of to be crafty and vigilant: As a leopard by the way will I observe them. As that beast of prey lies in wait by the road-side to catch travellers, and devour them, so will God by his judgments watch over them to do them hurt, as he had watched over them to do them good, Jer. 44:27. No opportunity shall be let slip that may accelerate or aggravate their ruin (Jer. 5:6): A leopard shall watch over their cities. A lynx, or spotted beast (and such the leopard is), is noted for quicksightedness above any creature (lynx visu—the eyes of a lynx), and so it intimates that not only the power, but the wisdom of God is engaged against those whom he has a controversy with. Some read it (and the original will bear it), I will be as a leopard in the way of Assyria. The judgments of God shall surprise them just when they are going to the Assyrians to seek for protection and help from them. It is added, I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved, and thereby exasperated and made more cruel (2 Sam. 17:8; Prov. 28:15), which intimates how highly God was provoked, and he would make them feel it: He will rend the caul of their heart. The lion is observed to aim at the heart of the beasts he preys upon, and thus will God devour them like a lion. He will send such judgments upon them as shall prey upon their spirits and consume their vitals. Their heart was exalted (Hos. 14:6), but God will take an effectual course to bring it down: The wild beast shall tear them; not only God will be as a lion and leopard to them, but the metaphor shall be fulfilled in the letter, for noisome beasts are one of the four sore judgments with which God will destroy a provoking people, Ezek. 14:15.
Now all this teaches us, 1. That abused goodness turns into the greater severity. Those who despise God and affront him, when he is to them as a careful tender shepherd, shall find he will be even to his own flock as the beasts of prey are. Those whom God has in vain endured with much long-suffering, and invited with much affection, in them he will show his wrath and make them vessels of it, Rom. 9:22. Patientia laesa fit furor—Despised patience will turn into fury. 2. That the judgments of God, when they come with commission against impenitent sinners, will be irresistible and very terrible. They will rend the caul of the heart, will fill the soul with confusion, and tear that in pieces; and we are as unable to grapple with them as a lamb is to make his part good against a roaring lion, for who knows the power of God’s anger? Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, let us be persuaded to make peace with him; for are we stronger then he?