Summary: When God’s leaders, whether secular political, secular business, or church religious leaders, fail, the result is disastrous for both God’s people and those around them.
Some of you are bound to be offended at the title of this sermon. If you are familiar with the slang of a couple of generations ago, this was the ‘40s and ‘50s description of a person who had cast moral considerations aside and wanted to have a hot and heavy affair. It usually denigrated women as being “round-heeled” and “easy,” but I’ve heard it used about men, as well. Think about it. It’s a very vivid way of saying that the person is burning to get into something.
It also probably won’t surprise you that I was reminded of this derogatory phrase by a recurring image in today’s text from Hosea 7. Let’s read it together. I’ll share my translation of the text with you.
v. 1 (continued from 6:11) Just as I would heal Israel but Ephraim’s iniquities are revealed and [as well as] Samaria’s transgressions BECAUSE they have made a deception (an idol?) and a thief has come, a band of robbers raids in the street.
v. 2 And they do not speak to their inner man (or heart, ie. They don’t speak with integrity) (yet) all of their transgressions, I remember. Now, all of their deeds (implied misdeeds) surround them, they are before my face.
v. 3 In their rebellion, they caused the king to rejoice and in their deception, the princes.
v. 4 All of them are adulterers, like an oven they burn;
like a baker who forgets to knead the dough before it is leavened.
v. 5 On the day of their king, they weaken him, the princes are warm with wine
(and the king) he stretches out his hand to the scoffers (mockers)
v. 6 BECAUSE they approached him with their hearts like an oven,
their ambush all the night long
(while) their baker slept (until) morning,
it burned like a flaming fire.
v. 7 All of them burn like an oven and they devour their authorities,
all of their kings fall down (yet) none of them cry out to me.
v. 8 Ephraim is among the peoples. He mixes himself. Ephraim is a cake that hasn’t been turned.
v. 9 Foreigners have devoured his strength, but he doesn’t know it—even gray hair is sprinkled on him, but he doesn’t know it.
v. 10 And the pride of Israel testifies before his face (in his presence) and they have not returned to Yahweh their God and they do not seek him in all of this.
Let’s pray that God will help us understand where we fit into this ancient text. [Holy Father, we come to you because we need Your guidance. We confess that we cannot know for sure who the “baker” is in this text. But we sense, uncomfortably, that it might be us whenever we ignore the dangers around us and fail to speak Your word. Open Your scripture to us, Lord, and help us to be changed by it. We request this humbly in the name of Jesus, Amen.]
At the end of Hosea 6 (verse 11), God states through His prophet that He planned to restore the fortunes of Judah. However, verse 1 of this chapter tells us that while God would like to do the same for the northern kingdom (Israel/Ephraim), He cannot because they are not only full of iniquities (twisted sins—perversions and wandering from the right) and rebellions (deliberate breaking of the law), but they have created their own false faith (deception or idol) in an attempt at a “religious” cover-up. Instead of “turning around,” “repenting,” or coming back to God as they were challenged in Hosea 6, Israel has introduced false religious ritual that essentially tells God, “Don’t worry about us. We’re good. We can take care of ourselves.” And, as we see in this verse, they aren’t good and can’t take care of themselves. Lawlessness has broken out in their streets. They thought they were safe, but armed robbery was occurring everywhere.
Verse 2 tells us that the mysterious “they” don’t speak to the “inner man” or “heart.” This mysterious “they” isn’t speaking to humankind’s motivations, objectives, and goal-setting. “They” aren’t speaking to the volition of God’s people. What’s worse is that this mysterious “they” have involved the opinion-leaders and agenda-setters among God’s people in their false faith. They’ve seduced their kings and princes in verse 3, but in verse 5 they weaken or poison the king and get the princes (or leaders) drunk.
Verse 4 tells us that they are adulterers and here is where we get the sermon title. While it doesn’t specifically say, “Hot to trot,” it does say that “they” burn like an oven. Then, it says that “they” are like a baker who doesn’t knead the bread dough properly before it rises. And all of this leads us to ask, who are these people and who is the baker?