People often seek for passion in life. Conversation is often dominated by the one who is the most heated in affirmation or defense of their positions. We are very often drawn to those who are compelling and seek such intensity for ourselves. Both in religion and out, people want to be zealous for something or sometimes anything, but this search for something to be zealous about can lead them astray.
Hos. 7:4-7 "They are all adulterers Like an oven heated by the baker, Who ceases to stir up the fire From the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. On the day of our king, the princes became sick with the heat of wine; He stretched out his hand with scoffers, For their hearts are like an oven As they approach their plotting; Their anger smolders all night, In the morning it burns like a flaming fire. All of them are hot like an oven, And they consume their rulers; All their kings have fallen. None of them calls on Me. Ephraim mixes himself with the nations; Ephraim has become a cake not turned."
Hosea described those zealous for evil. Their hearts were very passionate toward their idolatries. They are as heated up and excited about these things as can be. They are compared to \bread in a baker's oven. They are burning to be involved. But what are they involved in? They are engrossed in anger, plotting, and consuming desires that destroy. It isn't enough to be enthusiastic, you have to be enthused about the right things.
Notice three parts of Hosea's indictment: 1.) The used artificial devices to keep their passions up. (vs. 5) Hosea speaks of those who fire themselves up with wine. There are all kinds of chemicals that will change your thinking. They will get you "high" - but they will destroy your life. If the pure rush of excitement is all you care about then go for it - that's the quickest way. Some say, "Oh preacher, you're not serious!" Yes I am - if you want to just live for the excitement of the flesh that is the quickest way -- and yes, I know it's destructive, so is all living for the flesh -- some ways just are more direct about it than others. OK, so you're not going to fire yourself up with drugs. How about alcohol? What's the difference except degree?
Next, what about other things that fire people up through other fleshly inducements? Many appeal to the flesh to build up churches. I recall one congregation (supposedly of the Lord's people) that had a massive advertising campaign that ended every spot with the tag line "the exciting _______ Church of Christ." I guess that meant to imply that others weren't, or at least that they were more so. But most of what they advertised as "exciting" wasn't things you can read about in your Bible. I guess Bible study, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and prayer weren't enough to keep the attention of those that they wanted to attract, so they had more fleshly and social inducements to draw their crowd.
This is not new. Hosea spoke of those who engaged in idolatry. Balaam taught God's people from the very beginning a form of worship that they could get really fired up about - acts of fornication. (Rev. 2:14) I don't see any going so far as to offer that to get people fired up about church today. But why not? Well everyone knows it's just plain wrong. But what about other things not authorized in the scripture? Aren't they just plain wrong too? All the appeals of the social gospel, counseling instead of preaching, soft peddling the gospel requirements of repentance and holiness, aren't all these just plain wrong too? They are, but these take the wind out of many people's sails, so they aren't preached on. Convicting of sins and exhorting to a holy life dampens the party, so we many won't have it. That just leaves us with the doctrine of "nice" and the gospel of "excitement." People want to be a part of what's "happening" - they want to be were things are "running and gunning," and "a goin' and a blowing.'" But the old fashion gospel is a hindrance to people's "pep-rally" religion and "feel-good" desires.
Hosea says that 2.) They consumed others in their excited state. (vs. 7) Here were people that plotted against, mulled over, and then burst out like flames against their rulers. They nursed their grudges until their anger overcame their fear of acting (vs. 6). It's a dangerous thing to be to hot for too long. Paul said, "let not the sun go down upon your wrath," (Eph. 4:26) but they thought about these things night after night. As Mary "treasured in her heart" all the wonderful things about Jesus, they make a special place to ponder about all the wrongs done them - until they could take revenge. What teaches me to let go of anger and forgive? The word of God. But if I ignore the word of God about temperance and self control so that I'm always fired up and never thoughtful about my real need before God, why won't I just ignore the word of God about anger too?
That's the problem about being led by emotion -- if I let it lead in one area (say worship), then why aren't my emotions good enough to lead me in other areas, all areas, of life? So if my emotions guide my relationship with God why won't they soon guide my relationships with men? They will every time. And, since men may do me harm or become my enemies, I'm sure I'll come up with a ready emotional response to deal with them in my own way. Those of Hosea's day murdered their kings. Some in the apostles John's day hated their brethren. I'm sure my emotions will lead to some equal evil if I let them. Only God's word will hold me back from such evil, but if I chunk it for doing what I want in other things, why not in this area as well?
Hosea concluded that 3.) They ended up half baked. (vs. 8) They were "a cake not turned." They were raw on one side and burned on the other. If you want an unbalanced life, just follow your emotions, or the emotional leadings of others all the time. Life is not just "ups." Read Eccl. 3 to see there is a time and place for all parts of life. There is both weeping and rejoicing, joy and gladness, and repentance and lamenting. The one who learns the whole council of God sees how He directs both sides of life to be a mature and well-rounded Christian.
No, that's not as thrilling and exciting as some say life should be and as the "rah-rah" religionists teach. But this is the life that God instructs us to have. We are to go though the hard process of self examination - to find and root out sin as spelled out in God's word.
In vs. 7 God lamented, "None of them calls on Me." Those who get to fired up about their own feelings and desires and wants don't care to much about God. You can put God first, or you can put yourself first. You can fire up your faith or your lusts. It all depends on where you put your emphasis.
By Jay Horsley
From Expository Files 8.1; January 2001