COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 7:3 They 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. 5 In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners. 6 For 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.” (Hosea 7:3-6)
Hosea is providing an example of judgment beginning at the house of God. Of old time, before God dealt with the sins of the Assyrians, He first dealt with the sins of His people. “Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols? Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks” (Isa 10:11-12). This is a Divine manner, and is to be duly noted by those who wear His name: “For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by My name, and should ye be utterly unpunished?” (Jer 25:29). This was not unique to Israel, for those in Christ are told, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet 4:17). This fact makes the passage before us of the greatest relevance. It is possible to learn from what is here written, and thus be encouraged to avoid Divine judgment. It is written, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Cor 11:31).
THEY MAKE THE KING AND PRINCES GLAD
“ 7:3They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.” The defection of Israel from the Lord included their leaders as well as the people – both spiritual and political leaders. Jeremiah thus indicted the people, “Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction” (Jer 32:32-33).
Now Hosea focuses on kings and princes as the perpetrators of iniquity. There were cases when kings yielded to the sinful desires of the people (Pilate-John 19:6-13; Herod-Acts 12:2-3), but that is not the point of this text. In this case, the kings and princes led in the defection from the Lord.
Kings noted for aggressively promoting idolatry include Solomon (1 Kgs 3:3), Rehoboam (1 Kgs 12:31), Jeroboam (1 Kgs 12:32), Jehoram (2 Chron 21:5-11), Ahaz (2 Kgs 16:2-3), Ahab (2 Kgs 21:3), and Manasseh (2 Kgs 21:1-3). Many of them reinstituted idolatry which the king before them had removed – such as Manasseh, son of Hezekiah (2 Chron 33:3).
Now the Lord upbraids the people for going along with what these kings instituted. By saying they “made the king glad,” the prophet means they carried out their wishes without any objections, thus making those reprehensible kings “glad.” What they did angered the Lord of glory, but pacified and delighted wicked kings.
The godly refuse to honor the sinful mandates and laws of the wicked. The Word of God contains many examples of such refusals. These were people who chose to delight the Lord rather than contribute to the delight of wicked rulers. The Egyptian midwives refused to obey Pharaoh’s commandment to kill newborn male children (Ex 1:15-17). Moses’ parents spared their child Moses, and were not afraid of the king’s commandment (Ex 2:3; Heb 11:23). Jonathan refused to honor king Saul’s (his own father) mandate to refuse to eat (1 Sam 14:29). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey a sovereign mandate by bowing down to an idol (Dan 3:18). Daniel refused to honor a kingly edict that forbade prayer to the God of heaven (Dan 6:10). Peter and John refused to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, as their rulers demanded (Acts 4:19-20).
A FALSE PERCEPTION. For some time there has been an erroneous perception taught by certain who speak in the name of the Lord. It is this: that we are obligated to obey those who have the rule over us, even if they demand what is wrong. These people teach that wives should obey their husbands, even if they require them to sin. Citizens are obliged to obey their rulers, even if they make sinful rules – like not praying publically. Children are to obey their parents, even if they require them to disobey God – like forbidding them to be baptized. The false reasoning is that if the subordinate faithfully obeys those over them, they will be honored by God, while those over them will be responsible for the whole matter. This is a wholly erroneous teaching, and is to be summarily rejected. If men require us to disobey God – regardless of who they are – their words are to be ignored.
Our primary obedience is to be rendered to the Lord. No king or prince, however extensive his rule, can countermand what God has commanded, or demand something of the people that defies the Living God. Hosea upbraids the people for choosing to placate their rulers, rather than being aggressive to obey God. In so doing, they had turned their back upon the God who had delivered and cared for them (Jer 2:27). Their hearts were “not right with Him, neither were they steadfast in His covenant” (Psa 2:27).
A PRINCIPLE. Once iniquity begins to spread within the people of God, there is no class of them that is not impacted by it. In the text before us, it began with the rulers, and filtered down to the people. There were other times when the people pressured the “seers” saying, “See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa 30:10). In both cases, sin spread.
It is no wonder we are solemnly warned, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb 12:15). When a place is made for Satan (Eph 4:27), the entire flock is threatened. And what of those who “heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Tim 4:3), as well as those who “lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts” (2 Tim 3:6), while others, with their teaching, “overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim 2:18)? The saints of God must be able to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11) – even when they come from rulers.
BAKERS, OVENS, DOUGH, AND WINE
“ 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. 5 In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.”
THEY ARE ALL. Here is a most severe indictment: “they are ALL adulterers.” The entire nation is thus reproved, charged with being unfaithful to God and prostituting their love, which properly belonged to Him alone. God often speaks in this manner. “They are ALL gone aside” (Psa 14:3), “they are ALL vanity” (Isa 41:29), “they are ALL of them snared in holes” (Isa 42:22), “they are ALL grievous revolters” (Jer 6:28), and “they are ALL of them unto Me as Sodom” (Jer 23:14). In this case, they were unfaithful to God, for that is how those whom God has called are viewed when they wander from Him. The same assessment is given concerning those who profess to know Christ (James 4:4).
In Ezekiel’s day, God likened “the WHOLE house of Israel” to a valley of dry bones (Ezek 37:11). Even during that time, Ezekiel was faithful, together with Daniel and the three children of Judah. Later, when the whole nation was identified with absolute spiritual poverty, there were faithful men like Ezra, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, etc.
This expression affirms that an entire generation can be noted for spiritual hardness and obtuseness – even though a remnant may be among them. Jesus condemned the entire generation among whom He worked (Matt 11:16; 12:41,42; 23:36). The Word of God speaks of an “evil generation” (Deut 1:35), a “very froward generation” (Deut 32:20), a “rebellious generation” (Psa 78:8), a “generation of vipers” (Matt 12:34), and a “wicked and adulterous generation” (Matt 12:39).
Just as surely as those living during the time of Hosea had to be unusually alert and vigilant, so those of our generation must be sober and watchful. When iniquity abounds, Jesus said, “the love of many will wax cold” (Matt 24:12). Make sure that is not you!
A HEATED OVEN. The picture is of a furnace that has been heated to the maximum. It is so hot that there is no need to stir the fire from the time the maker starts kneading the dough until it is ready to put into the fiery oven. One version reads, “ They are like an oven that is kept hot even while the baker is still kneading the dough.” NLT The idea is that the oven is so hot, it has to cool down before the bread can be baked.
Thus Israel is depicted as burning with sinful passions and desires, which have reached their peak, and have gained total control of them. This language emphasizes their inward condition. In other words, like a hot flame within, their passion for the unlawful had reached epochal measures. That is the nature of sin – it starts small, but when it is not restrained it finally gains the control. No wonder James said of the tongue, “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth” (James 3:5). In other words, the people as a whole were making no effort to subdue their iniquities or return to the Lord. That is what sin does to a person – and a people as well. It is the nature of sin to act in this manner, gaining control.
SICK WITH BOTTLES OF WINE. The “day of the king” speaks of special festive occasions – much like a holiday in our culture. God had ordained special festivals for thanksgiving, called “holy convocations” (Lev 23:2). These were “solemn feasts” during which sacrifices were offered to the Lord (Num 15:3). Israel had degenerated to such an extent that their festive days had turned into times of sinful indulgence. The “princes” became drunk, or “inflamed with wine.” NKJV The prophet does not rebuke the people for keeping the “day of the king,” but for the indulgent manner in which they kept it. Such times more resembled the feast of Belshazzar (Dan 5:1-2) than the feasts ordained by the Lord.
It is always wrong for a people identified with the Lord to use solemn occasions for the indulgence of their own fleshly appetites. The people of God are to be noted for the dominance of a desire to please the Lord, and for an environment in which thankgiving and sacrifices of praise are always in order.
WITH SCORNERS. The words “he stretched out his hand with scorners” means that he accepted, or joined hands with, “scorners,” or those who deride the name and ordinances of the Lord. This is the opposite of the conduct of the godly who refuse to sit in “the seat of the scornful” (Psa 1:1). They joined with those who spoke against the godly (Psa 69:12).
Sin has a way of drawing people into cursed environs – where the godless dominate, and wicked ways take hold of a person. When people are overcome by sin, becoming slaves to it, they tend to join with, and approve of, those who have no heart for the Lord, no desire to please Him, and no respect for His Word.
WHEN THE HEART IS MADE READY IN A WRONG WAY
“ 6 For 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.”
HEARTS MADE READY. A wicked heart has been cultured, like an oven is deliberately heated and prepared for baking. No person is overcome by sin inadvertently. In other words, the people had lingered in the presence of sin so frequently and so long, that it had ignited “the law of sin” within them. Their preference for sin was first nurtured privately, then it broke forth publically, spilling out like a torrential flood into all manner of ungodly words, deeds, and sinful indulgence.
The people did not know they were preparing their hearts by their preferences for sin and sinners. Sin leads people to live for the moment, with no regard for the way in which such conduct is culturing the heart and mind. It is the nature of “the pleasures of sin” (Heb 11:25) to anesthesize the soul, putting both heart and mind to sleep, even while a work is being performed upon them both. Thus, the heart begins to burn hotter and hotter with sinful preferences and passions, while the conscience “sleeps all night.” NKJV
There is a season in which sin does not appear to be doing any damaging work. Deluded souls thus imagine because they do not seem to be getting worse and worse, they are basically all right, and getting better and better. However, just as a baker’s oven can grow hotter and hotter while the baker sleeps, so “the law of sin and death” continues to work within when it is not purposefully subdued. Finally, in an unguarded moment, it will break forth like pent up water, erupting into all manner of evil conduct.
This is what James calls “the superfluity of naughtiness” (James 1:21) – that is, wickedness that is brought up to the brim of the heart and mind, then spills over into words and deeds. When men quench the Holy Spirit, the law of sin gains strength, penetrating into every aspect of their being. It is ONLY the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” that can make men “free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). When that Spirit is grieved or resisted, there is no hope of subduing sin. Further, during the time when the Holy Spirit’s influence is being rejected, the heart is being prepared like a burning hot furnace.
In times of stress, trial, hardship, and trouble, the heart and mind gravitate to the manner in which they have been cultured or refined. Those who have “sown to the Spirit” will find proper responses being evoked by trials. Those who have “sown to the flesh” will find that trials make them worse, drawing out of them the worst possible expressions.
THE SLEEPING BAKER AND THE MORNING. The image of a sleeping baker represents sinful passions being in a state of slumber – as though they did not even exist. The idea is that when evil desires are not expelled from the heart, they continue to work, like a well prepared fire burns during the night. In the morning, as when the baker awakens, the heart that has not been cultured in the things of God is ready to do evil, like a hot furnace is ready to bake bread. It is not possible for the poor soul who has not thought upon the words and ways of the Lord to suddenly arise in the morning of consciousness with a capacity to respond to temptations with proper words and deeds. Just as surely as hearts are prepared for righteous responses by giving heed to the things of God, so hearts that fail to give such heed are prepared for ungodly responses.
This is what James refers to as “nourished your hearts,” or “fattened your hearts” NKJV (James 5:5). The heart is thus being prepared in this world for judgment in the world to come. Keep in mind, this preparation is not a conscious one – that is, it is not evident to the transgressor. It is no wonder the shout goes out to the lethargic, “Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph 5:14). The arousal from spiritual sleep is necessary for at least three reasons. First, the Judge is standing at the door, and may appear at any moment (James 5:9). Second, our adversary is walking about, seeking whom, he may devour (1 Pet 5:8). Third, while we sleep, the unrestrained “law of sin” (Rom 7:23,25) is working, slowly captivating both heart and mind. It is particularly this last point that is being taught in this text.
It is dangerous, or perilous, to live in a spiritually lethargic and sleeping generation. That is a generation of people who have a dampening effect upon the human spirit, tending to subdue holy inclinations and godly resolves. They are like contrary winds that impede spiritual progress. They are pits in the road of life that make advancement in the faith difficult. It is only as men “fight the good fight of faith” that such tendencies can be overcome. Only walking in the Spirit can make a person equal to such formidable challenges. Every soul is being cultured – prepared for some form of expression and reward.