Bible Commentaries
Hosea 7

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-16

Chapter 7

A Cake Not Turned

Judgment is God’s strange work. He had no desire to punish the people He had taken into covenant-relation with Himself, but who had violated the covenant from the first. On the other hand, blessing and restoration had ever been offered them, conditioned on repentance. But when He would have healed Israel - had there been any evidence of self-judgment - He had to say “the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the evils of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in and the troop of robbers spoileth without” (ver. 1). No sign of contrition for all their offences could His holy eye detect, only sin and lawlessness deliberately persisted in, despite every entreaty to cease therefrom. In carnal security they considered not in their hearts that He remembered all their wickedness, till “their own doings” had beset them round, so that they were openly before His face. Their rulers delighted in the debauched state into which they had fallen, taking an unholy satisfaction in the dishonesty and wickedness prevailing (vers. 2, 3).

In verse four, a most significant picture is presented for our contemplation. “They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough until it be leavened.” The leaven of unrighteousness had long since been secretly working in the nation, but now was energetically and openly corrupting the whole. Satan’s effort had been only too successful. Idolatry having been early introduced, and never thoroughly judged, had permeated the entire nation. To this passage the apostle Paul doubtless would have directed the minds of the Corinthian saints when he wrote, “Know ye not that a little leaven leaven-eth the whole lump?” Upon the Galatians he also pressed the same serious principle (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).

Leaven, in Scripture, never typifies that which is good; it is always significant of some form of evil. Here we see all Israel leavened with the unholy system of idolatry, with its corrupting influences, doing its deadly work for centuries. Once the leaven is inserted in the dough, the baker knows it will act according to its nature; he sleeps now through the night, but the oven is prepared for the morning. The oven was to be the furnace of judgment.

In Christendom we see the same thing. The Lord Jesus told of a woman who hid leaven in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened. Be it noted: there is no such thing as the “leaven of the gospel.” Of the leaven of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees and of the Herodians we are warned. They seem to speak of hypocrisy, false teaching and worldliness. The leaven of malice and wickedness we are told of in 1 Corinthians 5:0; but of the leaven of grace there is not a hint in the sacred writings. Consequently we infer that just as, in Israel, the leaven of idolatry was introduced when they made the calf in the wilderness, and, being never fully judged, worked on till it had permeated the whole nation; so, early in the Church’s history, did a woman, the false church, insert the leaven of error into the food of the people of God, which has never since been put away, but is rapidly leavening the whole lump: it is identical with the mystery of iniquity of which the Holy Ghost warns us in the second chapter of the second epistle to the Thessalonians, which will soon be headed up in Babylon the Great and the Antichrist.9

Believers are called upon to “purge out the old leaven,” whenever it is made manifest in their assemblies. If, however, the mass are already so corrupted that there is no activity in obeying the word of the Lord, he who would be “a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use,” must purge himself from the unholy mixture, walking in separation from that which is opposed to the holiness that becomes God’s house, and finding his fellowship with those who “follow righteouness, faith, love, peace,” and “call upon the Lord out of a pure heart” (see 2 Timothy 2:16-22).

For Israel there was no hope. The entire body politic was symbolized in the king at their head, made sick with the wine of fleshly exultation and stretching out his hand with the scorners. Their own hearts were as the oven of the baker, who could sleep in the night while the leaven wrought, and the fire was prepared to heat the oven for the baking of the coming day. Thus they themselves should work out their own judgment, because there were none who called upon God (vers. 5-7).

“Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people [as one with the nations]; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not. And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek Him for all this” (vers. 8-10). It is their unconsciousness of their true condition which this section emphasizes. Like a cake placed upon the coals and forgotten by the house-wife, till, left unturned, it is all burned on one side; so they were quite indifferent to their actual state before God. The mass taking no heed to the prophet’s warnings, went carelessly on in their own way, taking it for granted that all was as it should be, when, in reality, everything was all wrong. It is this apparently unconscious backsliding that is so sad a feature in many today. Away from the Lord, yet professing, and even supposing, that all is well-how many are thus like a cake not turned! This one-sidedness is what tells the tale to an observant, anointed eye, that something is radically wrong in many a case. Often saints make much of the truth as a matter of doctrine while allowing themselves to become utterly negligent as to walking in that truth from day to day. They are like a cake not turned, all brown on one side and raw dough on the other. Doctrinally, they may be very particular. Practically, they are loose and unconcerned.

At other times the case is just reversed: much is made of experience, with little or no heart for what is slightingly termed “dry doctrine.” But it is as necessary to “hold fast the form of sound words,” as it is to seek to live in a godly way. In fact, doctrine is the root of all practice; and our experience will prove a very faulty one if it be not the result of a knowledge of the mind of God as revealed in His Word.

Let us never forget that truth and practice go together, even as position and condition must never be divorced.

Ephraim’s first grave mistake was in mixing himself among the people. God had called Israel to dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations. Nothing but evil ever resulted from mixing with those from whom they had once been separated. It was “the mixed multitude” who first caused them trouble in the wilderness, and started their murmuring and longing for Egyptian food in place of the bread from heaven -type of our Lord Jesus Christ come down in grace to meet His people’s need. See Exodus 16:0; Numbers 11:0; and compare with John 6:0. Again, when Balaam could not curse because God had blessed, he taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel by causing them to mix with the daughters of Moab; the result of which brought dire judgment upon them -stayed only by the javelin of Phinehas.

This mixing among the people was the ruin of Samson, the mighty Nazarite, who gave up the secret of his strength when he lay upon the lap of Delilah. Alas, how many a valiant servant of God has become weak as other men in a similar way since!

And so we might trace the same evil practice all down through the history of the chosen race, until at last it ended in their being cast out by the Lord, in judgment, to mix among the nations till they should have their fill of the society of the strangers who devoured their strength and brought them to desolation.

The lesson is an important and salutary one for us who have been called with a higher calling, and are commanded to walk apart from a godless world and a corrupt Church. Indifference as to this separation of the clean from the unclean has had a lamentable effect upon the testimony and experience of thousands. Yet we learn so slowly. Oh, that there were in us hearts to cleave to the Lord, heeding His word, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate!”

It is as vain to hope to reform and recover what is not of God, by intermingling therewith in fellowship and intimate association, as it would be to try to teach sparrows or linnets to sing like a warbler by placing a canary in a cage with them. The only result would be that the canary would lose its song, while the sparrows would chirp on as before. Alas, how many a once joyous saint has lost his song by mixing among the people of the world and the world-church! Such an one may boast of his liberality and breadth of mind, and be as unconscious as was Ephraim of the true state of affairs; but the spiritually-minded shake their heads in sorrow as they say, “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.”

The gray hair is the sign of departing strength, and tells the tale that its owner is going downhill-age and decrepitude are coming on. But Ephraim, like many another backslider in heart, was quite unaware of the true condition of affairs. In such a case others may note the gray hairs “here and there upon him”-the carelessness here-the indifference there-a growing fondness for worldly companionship-less and less time spent in prayer and over the Word of God-increased love for that which is light and frivolous-the name of Jesus less frequently upon the lips, and a growing fondness for conversation that is not for profit. Contrast with this 1 Timothy 4:15, 1 Timothy 4:16.

Accompanying this, will invariably be found an assumption of easy-going superiority. “The pride of Israel testifieth to his face;” but there will be no turning to God and seeking to get His mind regarding it all, till broken by discipline.

Ephraim, like a silly dove, without affection for Him that had carried them in His bosom, had turned to Egypt, then to Assyria, for help when the hour of trial came. But the Lord loved them too much to permit them to find anything stable in what spoke of the world and its vain pomp and show. So He would spread His net upon them, like one taking a bird in a snare. He cannot allow those who are in covenant-relationship with Him to go on in their own way for long (vers. 11, 12).

They had transgressed against Him, though He had redeemed them; reminding us of some in a later day, who, having drifted away from God, had “forgotten that they were purged from their old sins:” with supreme indifference to their actual state they blamed Him for what had come upon them as though they themselves were blameless; so that He charges them with speaking lies against Him. “I sometimes think,” said one,10 “that God has been hard with me, when I forget how hard I have been with God!” This is ever the tendency of a heart not before Him in self-judgment (ver. 13).

And so, for long years had they gone on, neither seeking Him when alone in the secrecy of their own chambers, upon their beds, nor when gathering together in what should have been a solemn assembly, but was really a season of godless merriment. “They howled upon their beds,” but not in repentance, only bewailing His discipline instead of their own evil ways. Jehovah had indeed trained them to confide in Him, and strengthened their arm against their adversaries, but in recompense they think ill of Him, turning to any expediency rather than turning to God-so incorrigible is the heart of man, even of a saint, when away from God. So they must be left to sound deeper depths of sorrow and disaster, like the incestuous man of 1 Corinthians 5:0, who was “delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Their princes were to be destroyed, and they themselves would become a laughing-stock to their Egyptian allies, upon whom they had vainly depended (vers. 14-16). Surely, the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man to direct his own steps. Therefore the need of brokenness of spirit and self-judgment before God, that He may lead in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hosea 7". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.