************ Sermon on Hosea 7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 24, 2004
"Bakers, Cakes, Doves, and Bows"
Hosea 7 is a chapter full of comparisons. Through Hosea, the Lord draws comparisons between Israel and different facets of daily life.
What is Israel like? To what shall I compare this generation? Hosea's answer includes a baker, a cake, a dove, and a bow. These comparisons may seem sweet and innocent, but they are not. In fact, Hosea's attacks are scathing for he tells the unvarnished truth. God's point is this: "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
I'll be asking, again and again, how we compare, if what God says about Israel He also says about us.
A First, Hosea tells us Israel is like a baker. Only twice in the Bible do we read about bakers. The first time is in Genesis. Everyone knows the story of the chief baker at the time of Joseph who was hanged by Pharaoh. The second time is in this passage from Hosea.
Hosea's baker is only imaginary. That is to say, the prophet borrows an image from the baking business to make it clear what the people of his day were like. Hosea does not mean to put-down all bakers. He is only using them as an example.
B The baker of Egypt was hanged by Pharaoh because he was viewed as some kind of threat to the throne. Perhaps the baker was involved in some kind of plot against Pharaoh's life; we aren't told. In the same way, the bakers of Hosea's day were a bunch of murderers who hatch a plot against their king and kill him. Listen to how Hosea puts this:
(Hosea 7:6-7) Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him [that is, the king] with intrigue. Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. (7) All of them are hot as an oven; they devour their rulers. All their kings fall, and none of them calls on me.
We must keep in mind that lots or royal blood flowed after the rule of Jeroboam II, when king after king was toppled. Within a period of about twenty years, there were at least 6 different kings on Israel's throne. The crown passed from one king to the next, but not because the previous king died peacefully in his sleep. The crown passed from one king to the next because of violence; each king was killed by his successor who, in turn, was murdered by his successor. Kings like Zechariah and Shallum did not rule long: Zechariah lasted 6 months and Shallum lasted only 1 month.
Hosea gives us a peek behind the scenes. He shows us how the plotters and assassins went about their work:
(Hosea 7:3) "They delight the king with their wickedness, the princes with their lies ... (5) On the day of the festival of our king the princes become inflamed with wine, and he joins hands with the mockers.On some sort of feast day the plotters get the king drunk on wine. In an unsuspecting, friendly way, he spends time with the traitors who are plotting against him. These scoundrels carry concealed weapons. They move in on the drunken king and soon he is lying dead on the floor. "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
C Now, you may ask how the Lord can compare these murderers to a baker. What is the connection? How are they similar? The similarity between them is their willingness to wait. Just like the baker, the plotters wait for the right time to carry out their plans. Only when the feast is going full swing, only when the king is good and drunk, do the plotters make their move.
As you know, a baker cannot proceed with all her work immediately. A baker in a hurry, a baker who doesn't have the patience to wait until the yeast or leaven has done its work of making the dough rise, won't get anywhere. Her bread won't turn out right. Therefore the baker must wait. She does start a fire in her oven right away, but then she waits for the yeast to do its work in the dough. She sleeps while this is going on. Her oven is also at rest; it smolders.
We must not make the mistake of thinking that while the oven and the baker are at rest, the process of making the bread has stopped. On the contrary, in the morning the dough is ready, and the oven only needs a little more fuel before "it blazes like a flaming fire" (Hosea 7:6). Thus, waiting is an important part of making bread.
That's also how it is with the hatred of those plotters who enjoy murder. In a series of metaphors, their hatred is compared to the heat of the baker's oven:
(Hosea 7:4) They are all adulterers, burning like an oven whose fire the baker need not stir from the kneading of the dough till it rises ... (6) Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him with intrigue. Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. (7) All of them are hot as an oven ...One thing is certain: just as the smoldering fire does not go out and just as the sleeping baker is still involved in the process of baking and making sure to wake up at the right time, the hatred and enmity of the assassins does not die or disappear. "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
D What Hosea tells us prefigures the cross. Just as Israel always killed the prophets and slaughtered its kings, so it did not spare its highest Prophet and greatest King. Remember what Pilate asked? "Shall I crucify your King?" (Jn 19:15). That's the necessary outcome of the history in front of us this evening. The murderers of Jesus' day were exactly like those of Hosea's day. They nursed a hatred and enmity toward Jesus in their heart. Their wrath slept, but it did not die, just as the fire of Hosea's baker did not die. Continually they discussed how to get rid of Him, but they had to wait. "Let's wait until the great feast," said the conspirators in Hosea. "Not at the time of the feast," said the murderers of Jesus' day. Yet it did happen at the time of the feast, for that was His hour. The hatred that had smoldered for so long flared up and became a blazing fire as all of them cried out, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
E Hosea is speaking about the sins of the people. Is this our sin as well? Does hatred smolder in our heart? Is there someone, anyone, we are in a state of enmity with? Is there someone, anyone, we need to reconcile with? We rejoice that because of Christ the fire of God's wrath against us goes out, but is the fire of our anger ever extinguished? "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
A Second, Hosea tells us Israel is like a cake. Israel is like a cake the baker forgot to turn over:
(Hosea 7:8) Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over.What happens to a cake if it isn't turned over? It is burned on one side and not done on the other. Israel, in other words, is a half-baked cake. What good is a half-baked cake? It is good for nothing.
I remember the time I was making pancakes. I was in a hurry. I was hungry. I did not flip them over. So, the pancake on my plate had raw dough in the middle. Raw dough with maple syrup is not an appetizing meal.
B Israel is a half-baked cake. What does this mean? What is the Lord saying through Hosea about His people? In the very same verse we read the explanation: "Ephraim mixes with the nations."
Now, this mixing can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. On the good side, Israel has a calling from God to be a light to the nations, to be a kingdom of light in the midst of darkness, to represent God before the world. On the bad side, Israel often became exactly like the nations she was mixing with; she did not abide by the laws and commandments used by the Lord to keep them separate and different.
But now comes the disaster: "Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over." Ephraim – which is another word for Israel – is burnt and dried out on one side, and cold and half-baked on the other.
Israel, as a nation, faces two sides. On the one side is the world. On the other side is the Kingdom of Heaven. It should not be hard to figure out on what side Israel was burnt. She was half-baked, cold, lukewarm, on the side facing God and the things of God. But on the side facing the nations she was very hot as she joined in the activities of the other nations, as she took over custom after custom from the heathens, as she gave up the rules and regulations that made her different than the world. The most horrible practices and immoral forms of worship were given a warm reception by the chosen people in the promised land. "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
C Are we half-baked? Are we burnt and hot on one side – the worldly side – and cold and unbaked on the other side – the kingdom side? If you refuse to repent of your sins, if you don't want to live like you are converted, then you are half-baked. Then you are playing with a fire that will burn you and scorch you and destroy you.
So many of God's people, like Israel, succumb to sin. So many Christians have been burned to a crisp by the fire of their own passions. So many in the church today "mix with the nations" and no longer look and sound like God's people. They conform to the world. They give one concession after another to the world. And, they become a half-baked cake. "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
A Third, Hosea tells us Israel is like a dove. Like the image of the baker and the cake, this is not meant to be a compliment:
(Hosea 7:11) Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless ...Doves are easily deceived and senseless. Get a big box, prop up one end, and have corn lead right to the box. The doves will come to eat the corn. They will follow the corn right under the box. Pull a string from your hiding place, and the box will come down on them. Silly, foolish doves. That is the image Hosea has in mind.
B How is Israel like a dove? What does Hosea have in mind here? He tells us in the same verse:
(Hosea 7:11) Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless-- now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria.
At the time of Hosea the two powers were Egypt to the south and Assyria to the north. Israel thought that the sensible thing to do was to remain friendly with both, and therefore she fluttered from the one to the other like a senseless dove. But any political or military move that doesn't take the Lord into account is foolish and doomed to failure. Egypt and Assyria make look alluring – like the corn – but it is a trap and means destruction and doom. Ephraim's foolishness was that he trusted in man rather than God.
The Lord is a jealous God. He cannot stand by and do nothing when His people look to the great military powers for help instead of turning to Him. The flying dove will fly right into trouble. "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
C Are we like the foolish, senseless dove? Do we flutter back and forth between God and man? Is our trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save (Ps 146)? Is prayer to Almighty God the first thing we do or the last thing we do? Do we trust in human foolishness or divine wisdom?
So many people worry and sweat their way through problems – problems with the kids, problems with business, problems in relationships, problems with money, problems with health. They worry and sweat like it is all up to them instead of first of all leaving it in the hands and arms of Almighty God. "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
A Fourth, Hosea tells us Israel is like a bow. In Psalm 127 the image of a bow and arrow is a wonderful image as it describes the godly family. But in Hosea the image of the bow is not meant as a compliment. He says about Israel:
(Hosea 7:16) they are like a faulty bow.
What is a faulty bow? When I was growing up, my brothers and I used to play Cowboys and Indians in a woods right beside the house. We made our own bows and arrows. We would cut a sapling, carve a notch at both ends, and pull a good strong string across. Sometimes the sapling was too thin and the bow would bend double or even crack in half. Sometimes our string would break. Whatever the problem, the bow was worthless for shooting at a target. It was good for nothing.
B Israel is like a "faulty bow." She was meant to be a weapon in the hands of God. She was meant to be used by Him in His holy war against sin and evil and Satan. She was meant to part of the Lord's army. Instead, she was a faulty bow. She often was more help to the enemy than to the Lord. Often times she deserted the battle field. Other times she switched sides in the heat of the battle:
(Hosea 7:15) I trained them and strengthened them, but they plot evil against me.No, it is not good to be called a "faulty bow." "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
C Surely you realize that we are also called to be in the Lord's army. We too are to be a weapon in the hands of Almighty God. The church is called to be a church militant. We are part of a military campaign that will not end until every foe is vanquished and Jesus alone is acknowledged as King by all.
But are we a faulty bow? Do we also flee the battlefield? Do we give up when the going gets tough? Do we switch sides in the heat of the battle? "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
A baker, a cake, a dove, and a bow. That is what Israel is like. "Their sins engulf them; they are always before me" (Hosea 7:2).
The Lord knows how we fail and how we fall. He knows our weaknesses. He knows our frailties. He knows our sins.
Yet, in spite of this, He longs to heal us and redeem us. "I long to redeem them," says the Lord (Hosea 7:13). "I would restore the fortunes of my people ... I would heal Israel," says the Lord (Hosea 6:11, 7:1). He sent Christ Jesus so we could do better than Israel. He sent Christ Jesus so we would not be like a baker, a cake, a dove, and a bow. He sent Christ Jesus so we would be healed and redeemed and restored.
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