We have now to consider the second clause, respecting King David. The Prophet tells us, that when the Israelites shall be moved with the desire of seeking God, they shall also seek David their king. They had, as it is well known, departed from their allegiance to him; though God had set David over the whole people for this end, -- that they might all be happy under his power and dominion, and remain safe and secure, as though they beheld God with their own eyes; for David was, as it were, the angel of God. Then the revolt of the people, or of the ten tribes, was like a renunciation of the living God. The Lord said to Samuel,
Thee have they not despised, but rather me,'
(1 Samuel 8:7:)
this must have been much more the case with regard to David, whom Samuel, by God's command, had anointed, and whom the Lord had honored with so many bright commendations; they could not have cast away his yoke, without openly rejecting, as it were, God himself. Hence Hosea, speaking of the people's repentance, does not, without reasons distinctly mention this, that they shall return to David their king: for they could not sincerely and from the heart seek God, without subjecting themselves to that lawful authority to which they had been bound, not by men, nor by chance, but by God's command.
It is indeed true that David was then dead; but Hosea sets forth here, in the person of one man, that everlasting kingdom, which the Jews knew would endure as the sun and moon: for well known to them all was this remarkable promise,
As long as the sun and moon shall shine in heaven, they shall be faithful witnesses to me, that the throne of David shall continue,' (Psalm 72:5,18.)
Hence, after the death of David, the Prophet shows here that his kingdom would be forever, for he survived in his children; and, as it evidently appears, they commonly called their Messiah the son of David. We must now of necessity come to Christ: for Israel could not seek their king, David, who had been long dead; but were to seek that King whom God had promised from the posterity of David. This prophecy, then, no doubt extends to Christ: and it is evident that the only hope of the people being gathered was this, that God had testified that he would give a Redeemer.
We now then see what the Prophet had in view: the Israelites had become degenerate; and, by their perfidy, they ceased to be the true and genuine people of God, as long as they continued alienated from the family of David. The Prophet, speaking of their full restoration, now joins David with God; for they could not be restored to the body of the Church, without uniting with the Jews in honoring one and the same head. But we must, at the same time, remember, that the king, whom the Prophet mentions, is not David, who had been long dead, but his son, to whom the perpetuity of his kingdom had been promised.
This doctrine is especially useful to us; for it shows that God is not to be sought except in Christ the mediator. Whosoever, then, forsakes Christ, forsakes God himself; for as John says,
He who has not the Son, has not the Father,'
(1 John 2:23.)
And the thing itself proves this; for God dwells in light inaccessible; how great, then is the distance between us and him? Except Christ, then, presents himself to us as a middle person, how can we come to God? But then only we begin really to seek God, when we turn our eyes to Christ, who willingly offers himself to us. This is the only way of seeking God aright.
Some, with more refinement, contend, that Christ is Jehovah, because the Prophet says, that he is to be sought not otherwise than as God is. By the word, seeking, the Prophet indeed means, that the Israelites had no other way of being safe and secure than by fleeing under the guardianship and protection of their legitimate king, whom they knew to have been divinely ordained for them. This, then, would not be sufficient to confute the Jews. I take the passage in a simpler way, as meaning, that they would seek their God in the person of the king, whose hand and efforts God intended to employ in the preservation of the people.
It further follows, And they shall fear Jehovah and his goodness in the last day|. The verb phchd, peched, means sometimes; to dread, to be frightened as they are who are so terrified as to lose all courage. But in this place it is to be taken in a good sense, to fear, as it appears evident from the context. Then he says, They shall fear God and his goodness. The Israelites had before shaken off the yoke of God: for it was a proof of wanton contempt in them to build a new temple; to devise, at their own will, a new religion; and, in a word, to allow themselves an unbridled licentiousness. Hence he says, They shall hereafter begin to fear God, and shall continue in his service.
And he adds, and his goodness; by which he means that God would not be dreaded by them, but that he would sweetly allure them to himself, that they might obey him spontaneously and freely, and even joyfully: and doubtless God does then only make us really to fear him, when he gives us a taste of his goodness. For God's majesty strikes terror into us; and we, in the meantime, seek hiding places; and were it possible for us to withdraw from him, each of us would do so gladly; but it is not to worship God with due honor, when we flee away from him. It is then a sense of his goodness that leads us reverentially to fear him. With thee,' says David, is forgiveness, that thou mayest be feared,' (Psalm 130:4:) for except men know God to be ready to be at peace with them, and feel assured that he will be propitious to them, no one will seek him, no one will fear him, for without knowing this, we could not but wish his glory to be abolished and extinguished, and that he should be without authority, lest he should become our judge. But every one who has tasted of God's goodness, so orders himself as to obey God.
What the Prophet then means when he says, They shall then fear God, is this, that they shall understand that they were miserable as long as they were alienated from him, and that true happiness is to submit to his authority.
But further, this goodness is to be referred to Christ. Some take tvvv thubu, for glory, as in Exodus 33 [Ex 32:19]; but the connection of this passage requires the word to be taken in its proper sense. And God's goodness, we know, is so exhibited to us in Christ, that not a particle of it is to be sought for anywhere else: for from this fountain must we draw whatever refers to our salvation and happiness of life. Let us then know that God cannot from the heart be worshipped by us, except when we behold him in the person of his Son, and know him to be a kind Father to us: hence John says,
He who honors not the Son, honors not the Father,'
Lastly, he adds, In the extremity of days; for the Prophet wished again to remind the Israelites of what he had said before, -- that they had need of long affliction, by which God would by degrees reform them. He then shows that their perverseness was such, that they would not soon be brought into a right mind; but that this would be in the extremity of days. At the same time he relieves the minds of the godly, that they might not, through weariness, grow faint: for though they were not at first to taste of God's goodness, the Prophet reminds them that there was no reason to despair, because the Lord would manifest his goodness in the extremity of days. We may add, that this extremity of days had its beginning at the return of the people. When liberty was granted to the Jews to return to their own country, it was the extremity or fulness of days, of which the Prophet speaks. But a continued series from the people's return to the coming of Christ, must at the same time be understood; for the Lord then performed more fully what he declares here by his Prophet. Hence everywhere in Scripture, especially in the New Testament, the manifestation of Christ is placed in the last times. This chapter is now explained. The fourth now follows.