Chapter 7 on the way.
The oven, the cake, the dove, and the bow.
Chapter seven is mostly a continuation of chapter six. God continues with the same themes of analogies dedicated to the foolishness and lack of wisdom of Israel. And then connects this with their sin of not seeking Him.
The main shift in theme is that of moving away from the priests. Chapter six had a small reference to why the prophets were speaking. Now we move to the king and court in their sin and judgement. This chapter is devoted to condemning the evil of the throne and his household and the ways Israel’s government has run after foolishness.
“By their evil they make the king glad,
and the princes by their treachery” v.3
Verse one is wrapped into the last line of chapter 6. God is telling His people that He longs to save them. Just as He would heal them, their true depth of vileness is revealed. They are surrounded by it. Just as He comes to their rescue, they go out thieving and deal falsely.
Verse 2 wonders at this. How do they not know that God remembers their evil? They parade it before His face. Because…
Verse 3. Their kings and princes are impressed by their evil. They love it!
As always with the poetry of prophecy He uses different forms to express the foolish treachery of the king and his court.
The four analogies He uses are an oven (and the fire burning within), a cake not turned (and how that is spent and useless), a silly dove (and calling aloud to the world), and a treacherous bow (and it’s wavering turn).
Verses 4-7 use the oven, heat, the unstirred coals, and flames to bespeak the undisciplined indulgence of the king and His household.
- Adulterers… like a heated oven (4). Their sin burns inside them, devouring what is good, burning them up.
- Mockers… sick with the heat of wine (5). Their sin is intoxicating to them, like a drug. They cannot, and will not, turn from it.
- Intrigue…hearts like ovens (6). They go after gossip and the ill of others with a passion.
- Anger…smolders to flame (6). While they sleep they brood. When they rise they rage like a roaring fire!
- Devour… hot as ovens (7). Finally, their raging passions ruin the very thing they need to hold together. Their leaders.
They are burning themselves up. Verse 7 is illuding to the fact that the people have followed them into this, and now the burning of the people is burning them up too.
Verses 8-10 use mixing, baking the cake, and sprinkling to lead us to an image of illusions of grandeur that Israel has.
- Mixing… with people (8). God has called His people out from the midst of the others, and they mix themselves back in by worshiping the gods around them and being like the nations who are false to Him.
- Cake… not turned (8). This is a powerful picture for a baker of a spoiled and ruined effort from a lack of necessary attention. And also pointing clearly to God’s expectation that His people would turn from their sin.
- Devour… strength (9).The mixing with the world has resulted in an eating up of the strength God had given them as a nation. They are weaker than they could even imagine.
- Sprinkle… gray hair (9). They are reaching the end of their strength and their body (their nation) is wearing down. How much longer can they last as they are growing decrepit?
Their pride testifies to their face (10), and they don’t seek God. They do not know how very terrible is their situation. They just don’t understand!
Verses 11-13 use images of birds, a net, and a calling dove to point out how naively Israel runs to other nations for help.
- Dove… silly… calling (11). Like a dove, who by her constant cooing reveals to the hunter where she sits, Israel has run to the vicious Assyria to ask for aid. They will strip and devour her soon.
- Net… as they go (12). They go they way they think is best. And He will stop them.
- Birds… bring them down (12). As they fly to these other nations, He will fulfill what He has promised in His word. “According to the report made to their congregation” He will give them what they have worked toward.
“Woe to them” for they have strayed and rebelled against God. That they have spoken lies about Him, not only with they words, but with their decisions to not trust His faithfulness. How amazing that God still says here that He would redeem them! He longs to bring them back and they will not have it.
In Verses 14-16 there is more violent imagery of articles of war, gashing, and training to point to the violence their insolent tongues and rebellion has brought upon them.
- Cry and wail… not from their hearts, from their beds (14). Their distress is not because of their sin, their distress is because of the inconvenience they are caused by the result of their sin.
- Gash… rebellion (14). They cut themselves in worship of other gods in order to try to receive the things they need from them, instead of God. This is horrible disgrace and rebellion against Gods law.
- Train and strengthen… devise evil (15). God is the one who has trained and strengthened them to live in this hard world as His witness to it, but they choose to reject that and the parts they do use are to plot against Him. To seek to manipulate His desires for them to get what they want.
- Treacherous bow… turning (16). They are ever turning, but never in they way they need to. Back to God.
- Sword… insolent tongue (16). The princes will die by the sword because of their insolent tongues. We have to see the picture from Psalm 57:4 here, of the tongue as a sword. And also the weight of the word of God, able to pierce to separate both joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).
This leads to their derision by the Egyptians. We see this as a striking contrast to the reminder Moses gives to God in Exodus 32:11-14. There he reminds God that the Egyptians will speak against God when they see the destruction of His people. This time that is not the case. This time the Egyptians will see the way Israel has turned from their God in the land He has given them and it will be a disgrace to Israel, not God.
This chapter is so full of imagery and judgement that it can be easy to get bogged down in all this and forget that this has ramifications for us today. Don’t forget that in our sinful hearts we are the disgraced Israel. This is a warning and reminder for us to not make these mistakes. That we would root these things out in our own hearts and not be as a silly dove, or a cake unturned. What can we see specifically?
- The Oven can help us to remember our own tendencies to burn over things that God has not given us to be passionate about. Whether that is sin or alcohol, anger or intrigue, we need to be disciplining our hearts after His ways.
- The Cake has a two fold application for us. We need to realize the way our friendships and acquaintances are affecting us. Who do we choose to keep company with? How do they influence us? We need to see ourselves as we really are. Are we resting in God? Are we accumulating spiritual gray hairs as we let ourselves run into spiritual disrepair?
- The Dove shows us our heart toward the world. Do we know what we are putting our trust in? Are we being naive in what we actually trust (money, spouse, government)?
- The Bow can reveal our true motivation. What do we say? What do those words actually say about us? How are we using the strength and training God has given us? Selfishly, or selflessly?
God is so good to not judge us all every moment of every day! The most amazing parts of this scripture are the continual reiteration of God’s desire for redemption of His people. There is so much hope for our broken hearts when we can understand His never ending patience for us. There is so much encouragement fo change today when we realize He has given us so much opportunity to learn and try again. Jesus is sufficient for all these chances, and we are so blessed to have this part of the story. We can look into the prophecy of Hosea and see God’s eternal hope for redemption and how that has played out in the person of Christ. May we all have strength for today and hope for tomorrow as we cling to the goodness of God’s grace.