1. O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
1. Revertere Israel ad Jehovam Deum tuum; quia orruisti in iniquitate tua.
2. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
2. Tollite vobiscum verba, et convertimini ad Jehovam: et dicite ei, Omnem tolle iniquitatem, et sume (vel, attolle) bonum; et solvemus vitulos labiorum nostrorum.
Here the Prophet exhorts the Israelites to repentance, and still propounds some hope of mercy. But this may seem inconsistent as he had already testified that there would be no remedy any more, because they had extremely provoked God. The Prophet seems in this case to contradict himself. But the solution is ready at hand, and it is this, -- In speaking before of the final destruction of the people, he had respect to the whole body of the people; but now he directs his discourse to the few, who had as yet remained faithful. And this distinction, as we have reminded you in other places, ought to be carefully noticed; otherwise we shall find ourselves perplexed in many parts of Scripture. We now then see for what purpose the Prophet annexed this exhortation, after having asserted that God would be implacable to the people of Israel; for with regard to the whole body, there was no hope of deliverance; God had now indeed determined to destroy them, and he wished this to be made known to them by the preaching of Hosea. But yet God had ever some seed remaining among his chosen people: though the body, as a whole, was putrid and corrupt; yet some sound members remained, as in a large heap of chaff some grains may be found concealed. As God then had preserved some (as he is wont always to do,) he sets forth to them his mercy: and as they had been carried away, as it were by a tempest, when iniquity so prevailed among the people, that there was nothing sound, the Prophet addresses them here, because they were not wholly incurable.
Let us then know that the irreclaimable, the whole body of the people, are now dismissed; for they were so obstinate that the Prophet could address them with no prospect of success. Then his sermon here ought to be especially applied to the elect of God, who, having fallen away for a time, and become entangled in the common vices of the age, were yet not altogether incurable. The Prophet now exhorts them and says
But he says,
He afterwards shows the way of repentance: and this passage deserves to be noticed; for we know that men bring forward mere trifles when they speak of repentance. Hence when the word, repentance, is mentioned, men imagine that God is to be pacified with this or that ceremony, as we see to be the case with those under the Papacy. And what is their repentance? Even this, -- if on certain days they fast, if they mutter short prayers, if they undertake vowed pilgrimages, if they buy masses, -- if with these trifles they weary themselves, they think that the right and the required repentance is brought before God: but all this is altogether absurd. As then the world understands not what repentance means, and to what it leads, the Prophet here sets forth true repentance by its fruits. He therefore says,
First, it is certain that the Prophet speaks not of feigned words; for we know what God declares by Isaiah,
'This people draw nigh me with their lips,
but their heart is from me far distant,' (Isaiah 29:13.)
But he bids them to take words, by which they might show what was conceived and felt in their heart. Then he means this first, that their words should correspond with their feeling.
It must, secondly, be noticed, that the Prophet speaks not here of any sort of words, but that there is to be a mutual relation between the words of God and the words of men. How are we then to bring words to God, such as prove the genuineness of our piety? Even by being teachable and submissive; by suffering willingly when he chastises us, by confessing what we deserve when he reproves us, by humbly deprecating vengeance when he threatens us, by embracing pardon when he promises it. When we thus take words from God's mouth, and bring them to him, this is to take words according to what the Prophet means in this place. We hence see the import of the Prophet's exhortation, when he bids us to take words: but I cannot proceed further now.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we now carry about us this mortal body, yea, and nourish through sin a thousand deaths within us, -- O grant, that we may ever by faith direct our eyes towards heaven, and to that incomprehensible power, which is to be manifested at the last day by Jesus Christ our Lord, so that in the midst of death we may hope that thou wilt be our Redeemer, and enjoy that redemption, which he completed when he rose from the dead; and not doubt but that the fruit which he then brought forth by his Spirit will come also to us, when Christ himself shall come to judge the world; and may we thus walk in the fear of thy name, that we may be really gathered among his members, to be made partakers of that glory, which by his death he has procured for us. Amen.
He first bids them to ask remission and the pardon of sins; for if a sinner desires to return into favour with God, and yet does not confess his guilt, he adopts a way the most strange. The very beginning must be a confession, such as the Prophet here describes. For the Israelites, by asking God to remit their sins, at the same time confessed themselves to be guilty before Him; yea, they condemned themselves that they might obtain gratuitous absolution. And emphatical is what they said,
But they add,
It now follows,
'What shall I repay the Lord for all the benefits which he has conferred on me? The cup of salvation will I take, and on the name of the Lord will I call.'
There also the Prophet testifies that God is not liberal towards men because he expects or demands any thing from them, for what can they give? but that he still requires thanksgiving, and that he is content with the sacrifice of praise, as we find it also said in Psalm 1. But we learn the same thing from this passage,
And calves of the lips the Prophet fitly calls the praises which God requires as the chief sacrifice; for under the law, some offered calves when they paged their vows. But the Prophet shows that God regards not external sacrifices, but only those exercises which men perform in another way, even the sacrifices of thanksgiving. This then is the meaning of the metaphor; as though he said, "The calves which are wont to be offered are not the true sacrifices in which God delights, but tend rather to show that men are to offer praise to God." We now then perceive the meaning of this verse. It follows --