A Short Study of Hosea 4:17

“Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.”
(Hosea 4:17)

In these words, there is a word from God to the prophet and therefore a word from the prophet to the people of Judah. The tribes of Israel, here called Ephraim, after many words and rebukes, are likened by God to a stubborn cow that will not be restrained or bear the yoke. They obstinately persist in a backward course away from God and His will. They represent the hypocrite who worships God with his lips but his heart is far from Him. They have a form of godliness but this only hides the secret idols of their hearts. They will not be turned from their course. They will not be warned. They will not obey His plain commands. They will not receive wise counsel. They are as one man says, “addicted to the lusts of the flesh, to the mammon of unrighteousness, to their own self-righteousness, or to any idol they set up in their hearts as such.” They will not be turned from following after a life goal instead of the living God, a loved one instead of the Lover of men’s souls, filthy lucre instead of a lasting inheritance, the way of ease instead of the way of warfare as a soldier of Christ and the way of earthly glory instead of that of eternal glory. They bear no cross, wear no yoke and will not follow the Shepherd. To this people, after much long-suffering and continued mercies, God says, “Let him alone.” What a sobering thought it is to be left alone by God, His preacher and His people. As John Gill says, “he lets them alone, and will not disturb their consciences any more by jogs and convictions, but gives them up to a seared conscience, to hardness of heart, and to their own lusts; when He will not hedge up their way with thorns, or distress them with afflictive providence, and hinder them from going on in a course of sin and wickedness; nor give them restraining grace, but suffer them to go on in the broad road, till they drop into hell.” Sad it is when God says, “let him that is filthy be filthy still.” To the weary prophet He says, “let him alone.” To the people of Judah, His true people, “let him alone.” Do not follow his course and do not be taken up in like idolatry. Be joined to Christ, taken up in His worship, continue in His service and pray with David, “Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.”

G. Shepard

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