The Metaphors of Hosea
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Hosea, that portion of the Word of God we are studying together. We are going to consider together chapter 7 of the book of Hosea. We remind you that we said that chapter 7 actually begins with the last statement of verse 11 of chapter 6. We will begin reading with the last phrase of verse 11 and read the entire chapter:

Hosea 6

11…when I returned the captivity of my people,

Hosea 7

1When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.
2And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.
3They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.
4They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.
5In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.
6For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire.
7They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.
8Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
9Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.
10And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this.
11Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.
12When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.
13Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me.
14And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me.
15Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me.
16They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

You will recognize chapter 7 of the book of Hosea as being a part of that portion of the book that we have designated Hosea's complaint against the nation of Israel. Hosea's complaint in chapter 7 consists of five metaphors which he points out to the children of Israel as portraying their deepest need in relation to God. As we consider these five metaphors today, I hope that in your thinking you will not relate them solely to the nation of Israel, but that you will keep in mind that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable and that you will seek the profit in your own heart and life.

God's Desire to Bless Israel

The chapter begins with an expression of a desire on the part of God, the same desire that God has for all of His people everywhere—the desire to be able to bless, the desire to be able to heal, the desire to be able to meet the needs of the people to whom He has devoted Himself.

That is indicated by the last statement of chapter 6, when God said, “When I returned the captivity of my people,”—that is, “when I would bring them back from captivity, that is My desire, that's what I wanted to do.” In verse 1 of chapter 7, “When I would have healed Israel…”

Two things, then, represent the desire of Almighty God in relation to the nation of Israel. He would have brought them back from captivity in which they were, and He would have healed their backsliding, for that is the subject under discussion.

Ordinarily we are of the opinion that what God desires, God has. What God wants to do, God can do. Oftentimes we teach our children that there isn't anything that God cannot do, but there is. God cannot ride roughshod over human will, and He does not. There are many things that God desires to do for you and for me, but He is unable to do them because of certain conditions which He finds within us. Those conditions within themselves are not incurable, but they must be reckoned with if God is to bless.

The same was true of Israel, because you will notice there in the first verse He said, “When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was uncovered, and the wickedness of Samaria.” The word discovered should not be interpreted to mean that this iniquity came as a surprise to God. It simply means that it came out in the open. It came into the pathway of God's blessing where God could not portray the blessings that He had in mind for Israel.

I wonder how often God desires to bless us and when He is ready to pour forth the blessing, He has to stay His hand because of that which is contrary to His will which makes its appearance in our lives.

The Distress of Israel

The nation of Israel was in great distress because of the situation in which they were, and that distress is pointed out to us in the second verse, where we read:

Hosea 7

2And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.

We would have you notice the statement, “their own doings have beset them about.” This is just another way of saying that their sins have proven to be a trap into which they are fallen. Their sins have turned into chains which bind them down, chains for which and from which there is no deliverance.

You might wonder today how people who were known as the people of God could find themselves in a situation like this. I think that the main reason is found in the second verse, the first statement, where we have expressed a delusion on their part. How many folk are deluded in this manner?

Hosea 7

2And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness…

“They forget that I take into account their evil. They forget that what they do, though it may be quickly forgotten, I do not forget.” There is only one time that God forgets our sins, and that is when our sin is placed under the blood of Christ. We are glad that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ covers all sin and He remembers our sin no more against us forever, but only after it has been covered by the blood of Christ.

There are many individuals in delusion today, feeling that God will not remember their sin, and so they go on in it without any restraint at all until it becomes an overbearing bondage with which they cannot cope. This is the setting for the five metaphors to which we wish to call your attention which represent the sad plight in which the nation of Israel had found herself.

Their Insatiable Desire for Sin

The first metaphor to which we call your attention is found here in verses 4-6 of the paragraph and the first statement of verse 7. Look at those verses again and notice in verse 4:

Hosea 7

4They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.
5In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.
6For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire.
7They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.

The first metaphor to which we call your attention, as it is revealed in the verses that are before you, is what we are referring to as an overheated oven . God describes the condition of Israel as an overheated oven. The real import of this overheated oven can be described by another word, insatiability . You see, God was speaking concerning the nation of Israel and their insatiable desire for sin, their unbridled immorality, their deliberate delight in the things which were forbidden of God, which fumed inside of them as a fire that would eventually break out into a blaze that would consume them.

Because verses 4 and 6 are divided by a practical reference to activity, the full import of the overheated oven is not seen. For that reason, I would like to share with you what is presented in another translation of these two verses. “Inside they are burning hot as an oven. The baker had ceased to stoke the fire, yet the kneaded dough is rising. Their hearts burn like an oven with their intriguing. Their fury smolders all night long and in the morning blazes into a flaming fire.” I believe it is Phillips who suggests that another translation might be, “that their passions smolder like the heat of an oven.”

What's the picture? Here is the picture of a baker who lit his oven, the oven not like our modern ovens with controlled heat. The fire got hotter and hotter. He kneaded his dough; that is, he worked the yeast into the dough, and he set the dough aside to rise. Any good baker would have stoked the fire, would have smothered the fire, banked the fire—whatever term you might want to use, with the idea of being sure that the fire was not too hot when the bread was placed in the oven. But the baker in the picture was not a careful man. He went to bed and went to sleep and the dough, kneaded thoroughly by his own hands, rose during the night. When he opened the door of the oven, ready to put the bread inside the oven, the dough was out of control and the fire burst out of the oven and consumed him.

God said, “As I look on the nation of Israel, that is the way she appears to Me. Inside she is full of burning lust. Inside she is full of wickedness and immorality, and she makes no effort to control it at all. Not only does she make no effort to control it, as leaven causes the dough to rise and overflow the pan, so the leaven of evil completely fills, overflows and conquers the nation of Israel.” God said, “The day will come when the fire that should have been banked and has not been done will burst out into flame and consume the very people that made the fire.”

This is not an unusual illustration of the judgment of God. In the book of Daniel when the fire was heated for the three Hebrew children of the fiery furnace, the fire in the furnace was built and the furnace was heated seven times hotter than it had ever been. When the three Hebrew children were cast into the fiery furnace, before the story was finished, the death of the men who built the fire was recorded, because that which they built and did not care for turned in judgment upon them.

Dangerous Desires

What application has this to the nation of Israel? What practical illustration is found in the chapter? Notice verse 5:

Hosea 7

5In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.

This was a holiday, a holiday on which the king was honored. We have such days in our history, such as George Washington's birthday, Lincoln's birthday, etc. The princes hosted a party for him, and so much did the wine flow freely that the king became ill from the drinking of wine. He stretched out his hand with the scorners. That is, he joined in mockery and in blasphemy before God. Notice the result of it in verse 7:

Hosea 7

7…all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.

What is the illustration? People who do not learn to control the desires within them, who let them run free, will someday be consumed with them as the figurative baker in Hosea, chapter 7, was consumed with the fire of his oven.

You realize that I am not suggesting a matter of reform. I am not suggesting a matter of gritting your teeth and clenching your fists and saying, “I will not yield to this temptation, and I will remove myself from this particular habit, and I will break it if it kills me.” I am not talking about that. I am talking about recognizing that even though you are a believer, the flesh is still with you, and the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. The warfare goes on.

You may walk in the flesh, if you wish. Nobody will stop you. Yes, you as a believer may walk in the flesh, if you wish; but if you walk in the flesh, you will die. God's Word says that the fire of the oven will devour you. You may sow to the flesh. Nobody will take the seed out of your hand. You can sow freely; nobody will stop you.

Sometimes people get the idea that because they sow to the flesh and get away with it that everything is all right somehow or other. God is not going to take the seed out of your hand. Sow to your flesh. Do what you want to do, but just keep in mind that if you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption. That's just another way of saying that the oven will be overheated one day and it will not be able to contain itself and it will burst out into open flame and you will be the worse for it.

The Inconsistency of Israel

Another metaphor in the chapter, because of what we have already presented to you, we have termed a half-baked cake . It comes to us from what is recorded in verse 8 of chapter 7:

Hosea 7

8Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.

Ephraim, of course, is another name for the whole nation of Israel. “Ephraim is a cake not turned.” What is the picture? The word that is used for cake in this particular passage of Scripture describes a round cake, very thin, which was placed and cooked very quickly on very hot coals. If the cook was not very attentive it would be scorched on one side and uncooked on the other, because it must be placed on the coals, left for just the right number of seconds, and then immediately flipped over and left for just the right number of seconds, and then immediately taken off, if it were to be edible.

God said that Israel was like a cake half-turned. There is a companion word which I think conveys the message of the metaphor, the word inconsistency . Not only were the Israelites afflicted with insatiability—appetites which they could not satisfy, appetites which always made a demand upon them and which never could be satisfied in their way of doing things—they were afflicted with the ailment which in my opinion is a very serious one, the ailment of inconsistency.

That you might see that inconsistency is a good word to describe it, we offer you another translation of the verse. “Ephraim is half-baked, scorched on one side and uncooked on the other.” You see, if the cake had been cooked on the one side and scorched on the other, part of it might have been good. But this particular cake was half-baked, in that it was scorched on one side and uncooked on the other. One side was burned and the other side was inedible because it was gooey dough.

Why would God compare Israel to a half-baked cake? We have phrases like that in our language, don't we? We talk about a half-baked idea—an idea which someone presents which they have not thought through thoroughly and therefore it is inconsistent with certain principles and for that reason should be discarded. It is not worth consideration.

God is not speaking of Israel's idea. God is speaking of Israel herself—Israel's deeds. She was inconsistent. Oh yes, she went to the temple, as she had always done, without any thought of doing otherwise, but she also went to the idol temples because that was the popular thing to do. She remembered to give recognition to God, but she also went to the idol temples to give recognition to them. This is inconsistent. God said that this was the reason that Israel found herself in the distress she was.

Inconsistent Christians

I would like to suggest to you, Beloved, that that is the reason many Christians find themselves in the distress they do; they are half-baked. What do I mean by that? Let me suggest that it is possible for Christians to be done well on the doctrinal side and half-baked in the sense that they are not done at all on the deed side. Oh yes, they can give you chapter and verse for everything they believe, but there is no evidence of the deeds in their lives. They are half-baked.

Of course, you know, you can reverse the cake, and you will find people who are very zealous in doing and who make fun of anybody who makes any effort to know what the Word of God has to say. I don't know how many times I have been criticized and made fun of because I believe in rightly dividing the Word of Truth. People are half-baked today, and that's the reason they are in the distress they are in.

People are half-baked in relation to principle and in relation to practice. They have the principles right, but the practice does not follow the principle. You can turn the cake again. There are individuals who are great on practice and know nothing about principle, and so they are in all kinds of distress. How often have individuals said, “I don't care what the Bible says; this is what I know.” How often have individuals said, “Why, don't tell me what that verse says. I know what I have.” You see, we are half-baked quite often.

The thing that we would like to preserve you from is the distress in which Israel found herself, because mark what I tell you: You go along half-baked and you are going to find yourself in the same distress Israel found herself—a cake not turned.

The Importance of Separation

Did you notice something as we read that verse? Did you notice the reason Ephraim was a half-baked cake? Look again at verse 8 and notice the very first statement:

Hosea 7

8Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people…

That's the reason she came out half-baked. You see, separation is important for any people, but it was particularly important for the nation of Israel, because God had warned very strictly against Israel's associating with any other nation. He had a special task for her, but when she forgot the task for which God called her and tried to be like the other nations of the world, she forgot to turn over on the fire, and she became half-baked.

The reason many of us are half-baked, spiritually speaking, is because we are so involved with the non-essential—non-essential because it is not what God ordered for us. It doesn't matter what someone else is doing. It doesn't matter what other people do. The essential thing is what has God asked you to do? On the basis of what God has asked you to do, be careful that you are not a half-baked cake.

The Inability of Israel

The third metaphor to which we would call your attention, we have termed the sprinkling of gray . We give you a companion word, the word inability . The metaphor of the sprinkling of gray has come to our attention from verse 9, where we read:

Hosea 7

9Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.

This is a very homely illustration, isn't it? It is one that if you have lived as long as I have, you know what he is talking about. The gray hairs come. I never will forget the first time my wife discovered a gray hair on my head, and I couldn't believe it was there. So she unceremoniously pulled one or two out to prove to me that they were there. You see, the gray hair had come and I did not know it. This is true of all of us, physically speaking, more times than not, but we are interested in the spiritual lesson. We suggest to you that the gray has come, a sprinkling of gray related to a very important thing, spiritually speaking, and we fail to realize its significance.

Another translation perhaps will help you to realize the significance of what we are talking about when we read, “His strength is sapped by foreigners, and he does not know it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, and he does not know it.” Now, your gray hair and mine may not have any special significance along this line. Some folk are prematurely gray, but when God uses it as an illustration, He indicates that when the first gray hair appears, it is an indication that strength is waning. It is an indication that you are not as strong as once you were.

It is one thing to realize your own inability. It's one thing to realize your own limitations, but it's another thing to have the limitations and not realize it. Nothing is so tragic as the man who thinks that he is the youth that he isn't. Nothing is so ridiculous as the woman who thinks she is the young lady that she isn't. But the tragedy, spiritually speaking, is even worse, for there are Christians today who have a sprinkling of gray and do not know that they do. There are Christians today who, like Samson of old, think they will be able to meet the enemy when the time comes. “The Philistines are upon me,” and they are unable to do anything. You will remember that when the cry came to Samson, “the Philistines are upon me,” he arose as of old, to fight the battle and he had no strength.

The sad thing about the sprinkling of gray is that, generally speaking, your hair does not turn gray overnight. I have read of instances where individuals have had some trying experience or some fright and overnight their hair turned gray, but that is the unusual, not the usual. The gray hairs appear one by one. When the hair begins to turn gray, the strength weakens; and when enough of them appear, you will not have the ability that once you had.

Watch for the Weakness

Listen carefully, for this is the lesson you need to have tonight: Watch for the gray hairs. No, don't dye them. That won't help. A lot of folk do, you know. When the hair turns gray, they dye it, and that's all right, if you want to do it, but it doesn't change the fact that your hair is still gray. If you don't believe that, you watch some good sisters that don't get to the beauty shop on time and you will find the dye beginning to grow off. The gray hair is still gray. You can't camouflage it; you can't dye it; it's there.

Many believers are afflicted with a sprinkling of gray. I would like for you to ask your own hearts, “What about the gray hairs?” Are they there and you don't realize it? It is an interesting thing that when they first make their appearance, you don't. The illustration I gave you a moment or two ago in my own life, when my gray hair first appeared; I wasn't aware of it, but my wife was. Spiritually speaking, Beloved, this is so true. You begin to lose your power spiritually, and you don't know, but other people do. You begin to walk in the flesh, and you are not particularly conscious of it right at the moment, but other people are. One gray hair after another comes until there is no strength. Watch the gray hair. It is a sign that things aren't as they ought to be. It is a sign that soon you will have an inability to do what you have always done.

Strength Sapped By Strangers

Did you notice the reason for the gray hair? Look at verse 9:

Hosea 7

9Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.

As far as Israel is concerned, this simply meant the nations round about her were bleeding her just like nations are bleeding America today. We don't realize it, and one of these days our strength is going to be gone. But for the spiritual application, I would remind you that anything that is inconsistent with God's plan and purpose for you represents the stranger. All too many of God's children are being bled dry by the stranger, and that's why their hair is turning gray.

If you give the time and the energy and the purpose of your life that God wants for Himself to a stranger, then it won't be long until you won't have the strength you need for God. You know what I mean. Time comes in that ordinarily you have given to the Lord for a time of meditation, and you have got too much to do. You have got to get to work earlier than you have usually gone, or you have got to work later than you had planned on working, and before you know it the strangers have sapped your strength.

The sad thing about it is you won't know it until the cry, “the Philistines are upon you,” and you realize that you can't go on. The Scripture says the man who faints in the day of adversity is proving that his strength is small. The reason many Christians faint in the day of adversity—and it comes as a complete surprise to them, they say, “Oh, I thought I could stand this”—is they don't know the gray hairs have started coming. Individuals who look upon them say, “Why, I thought they would have stood the test better than that.” They don't realize the gray hairs have come.

The Instability of Israel

Another metaphor which is presented in the Scripture concerning Israel, and I believe has a message for us, is the metaphor of the silly dove , which I have described with a companion word instability . If you will look here in the chapter you will find this metaphor presented to you, because God uses it to describe the condition of Israel. In verse 11:

Hosea 7

11Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.

A silly dove without heart? Perhaps if we substituted the word understanding for the word heart , the picture would be the plainer for you. They are individuals who are without understanding. Perhaps this translation will make the message clearer to you and bring it closer home to our individual needs. You read, “Ephraim has become a silly dove,” a witless, foolish creature. Did you notice in this translation the words has become . She wasn't always that way. When God first described Israel, He used the lion as the symbol—the lion of the tribe of Judah. What a difference between a lion and a dove and a silly dove at that—a witless, foolish creature. Why does God look upon Ephraim as a silly dove? Look at verse 11, the last part, and you will see the reason:

Hosea 7

11…they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.

Of course, you read that statement in the light of the context. And what is the context? Israel was about to be invaded. She was about to be overwhelmed by the enemy. She had no plans; she didn't know what to do. So what did she do? Foolishly and flittingly she went down to Egypt to ask for help, and then she went over to Assyria and asked for help. If someone had had the opportunity to say to her, “Why don't you make up your mind? Who is it that you want to help you?”, she might have given some consideration to the silly way in which she was acting, but she didn't stop long enough.

Seeking Direction From God

The instability of Israel compared to a witless, foolish dove is the characteristic of a lot of Christians. Instead of going to the Lord for the wisdom that they need, they are unstable and they manifest that instability by going first to one person and then to another, making first this plan and then another plan and never having any certain, sure plan or goal in life.

I have taught and I believe that God leads us step by step. I think that oftentimes God will lead us into a certain area for a while and in a short time lead us out of that area. You cannot begin to explain it to the human ear, because they don't know anything about the leading of the Lord. Well, I want to tell you something, Beloved, I am concerned about the believer who is constantly changing his mind about what God wants him to do. Make allowances for the leadership such as I have described a moment ago. I am concerned about the Christians who are too often like the silly dove. They don't go to the right source for direction. They listen to too many other voices, and there is nothing but captivity awaiting for them—failure, if you please, because you will notice in verse 12, God said:

Hosea 7

12When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.

What God is saying is, “You seek Me and My will for your life and the direction will be there. You be like the silly dove that is unstable in all her ways, and you will get caught in a net of chastening that won't be very pleasant.” Many Christians wonder why the net is fallen. They can't seem to understand. The answer simply lies in the fact that more often than not they have been a silly dove.

The Deceitful Bow

The fifth and last metaphor that I want to leave with you is described in the words of the deceitful bow . Look at verse 16:

Hosea 7

16They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

The deceitful bow. I have used as a companion word, incapability . If you are not thinking, you may think I have repeated myself. I have talked about inability , but I am talking about incapability now, and there is a difference. Inability represents a lack of power; incapability represents power that you can't use.

God said the nation of Israel might be likened to a deceitful bow. You wonder what a deceitful bow is, I am sure. So we offer you another translation that should help to make it clear: “They are like a bow which never shoots straight.” I don't know how much you know about archery, but a real archer is very much interested in his bow. At the very beginning, he makes sure that it has been made properly, and then he is very careful to maintain it properly. He never leaves it strung. When it is not in use, he always unstrings it and he flexes it periodically to make sure that there is no hard place in it, because he has learned that it is not his skill primarily that causes the arrow to reach the mark. Oh yes, it is involved, but it is not his skill primarily that causes the arrow to reach the mark; the bow can affect it. You can be the most skillful archer in the world and miss the mark every time if you have a deceitful bow.

God had a purpose for Israel. God intended that His purpose for Israel would be such that she would always reach the mark, and for a while she did. For a while everything that God had planned for Israel worked out just like He planned it. But by and by she began to miss the mark.

God's Plan for Your Life

God knew there wasn't anything wrong with His skill. God knew nobody had moved the target, and so He said the fault lay in the bow. I ask you, Beloved, to search your own heart in the light of this metaphor and ask yourselves if perchance you have become a deceitful bow in God's hands. God has a purpose and a plan for you. He intends to reach the mark through you, but He hasn't been able to of late. Maybe you have been strung up tight for too long. Maybe you haven't had the proper care, but you are a deceitful bow and God will never be able to reach the mark with you.

You say, “Oh, well, does it really matter? We are studying Israel in the book of Hosea.” You be the judge whether it matters or not. God got tired of trying to hit the mark with Israel, and He laid the bow aside. He said, “I am not going to bother with that bow anymore. I am never able to hit the mark.” He laid it aside, and He took up the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in its place. That's how important it is to be a bow that God can use.

I don't mean that you can lose your salvation if you continue on in the way you are, but I do mean, Beloved, that you will be laid aside. For how long, I don't know, but I do know that some people have been laid aside permanently when the bow has become useless.

Conclusion

I sit not in judgment upon you; I simply deliver the message that God has given me, and I encourage you to watch for the gray hairs. Don't let all your hair get gray and lose your strength. Don't dye it. As soon as you dye it, there is a big difference. If you are a deceitful bow, do something about it so that your usefulness will not be impaired. You make the other applications as the Spirit of God leads you.


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