"They are like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire. For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue. All of them are hot as an oven." (excerpted from Hosea 7:4-7)
Ready. Set. Go. The people of Israel, during Hosea's prophetic work, were primed and prepared for rebellion. Their hearts, like a preheated oven ready to bake, were predisposed to chase after various forms of heartbreaking and painful sin. Their temperature was on high -- 450 degrees and ready to get into something harmful.
God saw it all. Through Hosea, he said, "They are like a heated oven. Their hearts are like a hot oven ready to get into trouble. They burn with lusts and sins."
This God-inspired imagery is striking. He looked at his beloved people, his bride, and saw them primed, not for a relationship with him, but with adulterous delights which would corrupt and steal their soul. But they longed for these cancerous dalliances into the world of the flesh. The hills were a delusion, but up to the hills they would climb, ready to sacrifice to false gods and give their hearts, oh so readily, to other deities.
All the while, the God of all flesh stood by. On the sidelines, the One who called and fashioned them watched. They owed everything to him. He was their real source of life and joy, the fountain from which they could drink, yet their hearts ached for something lesser. They burned, were in heat, for that which would crush them.
Hosea's wife, Gomer, was an unfortunate picture of Israel's heart during that season. Though the man was faithful, she had her mind and will set on a life of prostitution. It is unconscionable, beyond our understanding. How could a man who'd been so good have a wife who wanted something so bad? How could her heart long for something so wayward -- and so destructive? She was predisposed to cancerous behavior, mimicking the attitude of God's people at that time. God had been good to them. Still, they lusted for something, someone beyond him.
For this heart, this wayward sense within which is like an oven stoked to full flame, we need the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has made a way for us to become free. "He whom the Son sets free is free indeed" (John 8:36). We are no longer destined for slavery to our oven-like hearts. We are now free to burn for God. His glorious New Covenant paves the way for his inward transformation to occur. The heart, the same heart which burned against God, can now rage for the Lord.
Later, in the same prophetic book of Hosea, God would say, "Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you" (Hosea 10:12). The heart that was previously wayward had to be tilled. The thorns and thistles which choke out our passion for God must be uprooted. The rocks which block all further growth and depth must be cast away. The hardness and resistance with which we might normally operate must give way to softhearted responsiveness to Christ.
And when that fallow heart, the one that burned for rebellion, is broken up and God is sought, a new day comes. The rain of the Lord breaks upon us. Growth and goodness and fruit grow. Life is never the same. The oven still burns, but now for righteousness, peace, and joy. Our inner man now craves God. Allegiance and fruitfulness are ours.