For their further awakening, it is here threatened,
I. That the destruction spoken of shall come speedily. They shall have no reason to hope for a long reprieve, for the judgment slumbers not; it is at the door (Hos. 9:7): The days of visitation have come, and there shall be no more delay; the days of recompence have come, which they have been so often warned to expect; their prophets have told them that destruction would come, and now it has come, and the time of the divine patience has expired. Note, 1. The day of God’s judgments is both a day of visitation, in which men’s sins are enquired into and brought to light, and a day of recompence, in which men’s doom will be passed, and a reward given to every man according to his work; the strict visitation is in order to a just retribution. 2. This day of visitation and recompence is hastening on apace. It is sure; it is near; as if it had already come.
II. That hereby they shall be made ashamed of their sentiments concerning their prophets. When the day of visitation comes Israel shall know it, shall be made to know that by sad experience which they would not know by instruction. Israel shall know then what an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from God, and what a fearful thing it is to fall into his hands. When thy hand is lifted up they will not see, but they shall see. Israel shall know the difference between true prophets and false. 1. They shall know then that the pretenders to prophecy, who flattered them in their sins, and rocked them asleep in their security, and told them that they should have peace though they went on, however they pretended to be spiritual men (as Ahab’s prophets did, 1 Kgs. 22:24) were fools and madmen, and not true prophets; they deceived themselves and those to whom they prophesied. But why would God suffer his people Israel to be imposed upon by those false prophets? He answers, “It is for the multitude of thy iniquity which, in contempt of the divine law, thou hast persisted in, and, for the great hatred of the true prophets, that reproved thee, in God’s name, for it.” Note, Because men receive not the love of the truth, but conceive a hatred of it, and by the multitude of their iniquities bid defiance to it, therefore God shall send them strong delusions, to believe a lie, so strong that they shall not be undeceived till the day of visitation and recompence comes, which will convince them of the folly and madness of those that seduced them and of their own folly and madness in suffering themselves to be seduced by them. 2. They shall know then whether the true prophets, that were really spiritual men, guided by the Spirit of God, were such as they called and counted them, fools and madmen; and they shall be convinced that they were so far from being so that they were the wise men of their times, and God’s faithful ambassadors to them. When Israel saw that none of Samuel’s words fell to the ground they knew he was established to be a prophet (1 Sam. 3:20); and so here, when God fulfils the word of his messengers, by bringing the days of recompence they foretold, then those that despised and ridiculed them, and thought Bedlam the fittest place for them, will be ashamed of the multitude of their iniquities of that kind, and of their great hatred, for which God brings upon them this swift destruction. Mocking the messengers of the Lord was the sin they were punished for, and so made ashamed of.
III. That hereby the wickedness of the false prophets themselves shall be manifested to their shame (Hos. 9:8): “The watchman of Ephraim was with my God; he had been formerly. They had a set of worthy good ministers, that kept close to God and maintained communion with him; but now they have a race of corrupt, malignant, persecuting prophets, that are the ring-leaders of all mischief.” Or, “The watchman of Ephraim now pretends to have been with my God, and prefaces his lies with, Thus saith the Lord; but he is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and is cunning to draw the simple into sin and the upright into trouble; and he is so full of hatred and enmity to goodness and good men that he has become hatred itself in the house of his God, or against the house of his God.” Note, Wicked prophets are the worst of men; their sins against God are most heinous, and their plots against religion most dangerous. They may boast that they are watchmen, speculators, and, as far as speculation goes, they may be right, and with my God, may have their heads full of good notions; but look into their lives, and they are the snare of a fowler in all their ways, catching for themselves and making a prey of others; look into their hearts, and they are hatred in the house of my God, very malicious and spiteful against good ministers and good people. Woe unto thee, O land! unto thee, O church! that hast such watchmen, such prophets, that are seers, but not doers! Corruptio optimi est pessima—The best things, when corrupted, become the worst.
IV. That God will now reckon with them for the sins of their fathers, which they have trod in the steps of, Hos. 9:9, 10. 1. They were as bad as their fathers: They have deeply corrupted themselves; they are rooted and riveted in sin; they are far gone in the depths of Satan (Isa. 31:6), so that it is next to impossible that they should be recovered; the stain of their corruption is deep, not to be got out; it is as scarlet and crimson, or as the spots of the leopard: and it is their own fault; they have corrupted themselves, have polluted and hardened their own hearts, as in the days of Gibeah, when the Levite’s concubine was abused to death by the men of Gibeah and the whole tribe of Benjamin patronised the villany; that was a time of deep corruption indeed, and such were the present days. Lewdness and wickedness were as impudent and daring now as in the days of Gibeah; and therefore what can be expected but such a vengeance as was then taken on Gibeah? Every tribe is now as bad as the tribe of Benjamin then was, and therefore may expect to be brought as low as that tribe then was. 2. They shall therefore be reckoned with for their fathers’ sins: He will remember their iniquity and visit their sins, the iniquity they have by kind and by entail, the sin that runs in the blood; the sin of the father shall now be visited upon the children. Hence God takes occasion to upbraid them with the degeneracy and apostasy of their ancestors, their perfidiousness and base ingratitude, Hos. 9:10. Here observe, (1.) The great honour God put upon Israel when he first formed them into a people: I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness. He took as much delight and pleasure in them as a poor traveller would do if he found grapes in a wilderness, where he most needed them and least expected them. Or when they were in the wilderness he found them as grapes, not precious in themselves, but precious to him, and pleasant as the first-ripe grapes to the lord of the vineyard. They were precious in his sight, and honourable (Isa. 43:4); he planted them a choice vine, a right seed (Jer. 2:21), and found them no better than he himself made them, good grapes at first. I saw them with pleasure, as the first-ripe in the fig-tree at the first time. Good people are compared to the good things that are first ripe, Jer. 24:2. One then is worth more than many afterwards. This intimates the delight God took in them and in doing them good, not for their sakes, but because he loved their fathers. He preserved them carefully, as a man does the first and choicest fruits of his vineyard. Now when he put all this honour upon them, and they stood so fair for preferment, one would think they should have maintained their excellency; but, (2.) See the great disgrace they put upon themselves. God set them apart for himself as a peculiar people, but they went to Baal-peor, joined with the Moabites in sacrificing to that dirty dunghill deity (Num. 25:2, 3), and they separated themselves unto that shame, that shameful idol, so Baal-peor was in a particular manner, if (as should seem) the whoredom which the people committed with the daughters of Moab was a part of the service done to Baal-peor. Note, Whatever those separate themselves to that forsake God it will certainly be a shame to them, first or last. Their abominations are here said to be as they loved; their practices which were an abomination to God were as the best-beloved of their souls. Or when they had once forsaken God they multiplied their abominations, their idols and abominable idolatries, at their pleasure. This was the way of their fathers; God had done well for them, but they had acted ungratefully towards him, and in the same manner had the present generation deeply corrupted themselves.