Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is an unturned cake.
i.e. entered into political alliances with the heathen round about, and conformed to their idolatrous usages. Yet he did not wish to break with Jehovah altogether; the Israelites continued to observe the sabbaths and the feast-days (Hosea 2:11). But the simile before us may be used with a still wider application. It describes -
I. THE NATURAL STATE OF MANKIND. Human nature since the Fall has been spoiled and worthless. There clings to it a radical defect Godward. Man is like a cake which has its warm side to the earth, and its cold side towards heaven. Some unrenewed men are very kindly in feeling and unselfish in action towards their fellow-men, but all the while their hearts remain cold and ungrateful towards God. We remember the young man who came to Christ, of whom it is said that "Jesus, beholding him, loved not turned."
"Low, but majestic, though most strangely formed
II. THE CHARACTER OF MANY WHO MAKE A PROFESSION OF RELIGION.
1. In this connection various ideas are suggested.
1. Hypocrisy. Ephraim boasted that he was a nation sacred to Jehovah all the while that he addicted himself to the idolatry of Baal and Ashtaroth. So, still, the man who shags at meeting and swears at market is a hypocrite. It is in vain to call out "Lord, Lord," if we do not the things which Christ says. Obedience in the letter is valueless, when divorced from obedience in the spirit. The bottles of profession are of no use if we do not pour into them the wine of principle.
2. Inconsistency. The people of the northern kingdom betrayed this in "mixing themselves" spiritually with the uncircumcised and unclean Gentiles. And, in our own day, how many there are whose fixed resolve seems to be to wear the Christian name, and at the same time take care not to part from the world l Their business habits assume the form of an ingeniously adjusted compromise between the service of God and that of mammon. And in social and domestic life they try to retain some relish for the pleasures of religion, even amidst the pursuit of amusements that are distinctively worldly. But it is a wretched thing to be "neither fish nor flesh" as regards character. It is impossible to "run both with the hare and the hounds." Spiritually, each of us is really either one thing or the other, and we should seem to be what we are. The Lord's command is," Be not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2); "Come out from among them, and be ye separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17).
3. Half-heartedness. There are many who name Christ's Name by partaking of the Lord's Supper, whose religion, as reflected in their daily lives, seems little more than nominal. You cannot say that they are wicked sinners, but neither dare you call them saints. They are too good to ban, and too bad to bless; too good for hell, but not nearly good enough for heaven. Their character is one of insipid negative respectability. Then there are those also who make only a half-and-half profession - who confess Christ's Name so far as to attend public worship, but stop short at the threshold of the guest-chamber, where the Lord's Supper is spread. Perhaps they think that only conscientious scruples keep them back; but God, who knows the heart, may judge that it is rather half-heartedness. For, if Christianity be true, it is a tremendous verity. And if it be right to hear Christ's gospel preached, it is dutiful also to obey his other precepts; as, e.g., to "do this in remembrance of him," and, "whatsoever we do, to do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus."
III. THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF MANY TRUE CHRISTIANS. Indeed, we might almost say, of all. For where is the believer whose spiritual condition satisfies his own enlightened convictions as to what he ought to be? Our personal deficiencies abound; and these are due either to our moral ignorance or to our moral supineness.
1. Our Christian character lacks thoroughness. The process of sanctification is designed to renew us "in the whole man," and yet we know that in fact a holy character is never perfected in this life. Every believer has within him a mixture of good and evil, and the purer he becomes he is the more ready to acknowledge the imperfection of his nature. Many true Christians, however, do not co-operate with God's Spirit so earnestly as they might, in striving to rid themselves of indwelling sin. They carry with them that Laodicean lukewarmness which the Lord abhors (Revelation 3:16); their Christian character, in wanting thoroughness, is like "a cake not turned."
2. It also lacks all-sidedness. A man may be a true believer for a lifetime, and yet neglect entirely to bring some important departments of conduct into contact with the fire of Divine grace. He may try to regulate his domestic affairs by the law of Christ, and forget all the while to subject his business concerns to the same law. Some good men trust God absolutely about their souls, but only partially about their temporal affairs. Some are zealous workers in the cause of Christ, but would rather avoid putting money into his treasury; while others seldom refuse to give a subscription, but give it on the understanding that they are not to be expected to take any personal trouble. Now, if we distinguish in this way between one duty and another, both of which are equally binding, what are we but "a cake not turned"? To avoid such defects, we must enlighten conscience and strengthen its authority; and expose our whole nature, in spirit and soul and body, to the fire of gospel truth and grace. - C.J.
I. EPHRAIM'S UNHAPPY MIXTURE. He hath joined himself with the nations in their idolatrous and profane conversation. There was a threefold mixture. A local mixture, of place and company. A civil mixture, of affinity and alliance. A moral mixture, in regard of manners, religion, and conversation. For God's people to comply with those who are wicked and ungodly in their practices, and to conform themselves to their customs and manners, is a thing very grievous and insufferable. The conformity of God's people to the world is contrary to their election, and God's special designation of their persons to eternal life. It is also opposed to their redemption. We are redeemed for another purpose than this. We are called out of the world, and God has thereby distinguished us from other men who are in the world. Our sanctification too is an argument against conformity to the world. It engages us to self-mortification and to spiritual quickening.
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
I. THE CONDUCT OF EPHRAIM.
1. The persons with whom he associated. Described as "the people," that is, the idolatrous remnants of the nations originally possessing the land. The separation of Israel from other nations was a type of the separation into which God has ever called His believing people from persons of sinful and worldly principles and character. Scripture injunctions, in relation to this, are far from being regarded by professed Christians as they should.
2. The character of Ephraim's association with these parties. "Mixed himself among them." Friendly and intimate association. It is such intercourse the Christian ought to avoid. We are not required to abstain from all intercourse, but from such intimacy as would bring us into evil influence. In unrestrained intercourse with the world, a Christian is often led to go farther than consistency sanctions. A Christian too much mixes himself with the world —(1) When his chosen associates and most intimate friends are selected from the world.(2) When he allows himself to participate in the dishonourable principles or pursuits of worldly men.(3) When he is found frequently mingling in the pleasures of the world.
3. The voluntary and spontaneous nature of this association. Ephraim was not forced into, but he "mixed himself" among them. To a certain extent, the Christian not only may but must mingle with the world. That is a very different thing from courting the society of men of the world.
II. THE CHARACTER OF EPHRAIM, AS THE RESULT OF HIS CONDUCT, "A cake not turned." The figure intimates —
1. The undecided character of his religion.
2. The worthlessness of such religion.
(1) (2) (3) (4) III. THE PERSONAL INSTRUCTION WHICH THE CONSIDERATION OF SUCH A CHARACTER MAY SUPPLY. 1. How important that worldly minded men and undecided persons should correctly understand their real position. 2. How needful that they who have any regard to their spiritual interests should exercise great circumspection as to the characters and habits of those with whom they familiarly associate. 3. How desirable that Christians, by a more decided and elevated tone of spirituality in feeling and conduct, should make the line of separation between the Church and the world more apparent. This is required in view of your own spiritual well-being, and in order to the graciousness of your influence on others. (H. Bromley.)
(2) (3) (4) III. THE PERSONAL INSTRUCTION WHICH THE CONSIDERATION OF SUCH A CHARACTER MAY SUPPLY. 1. How important that worldly minded men and undecided persons should correctly understand their real position. 2. How needful that they who have any regard to their spiritual interests should exercise great circumspection as to the characters and habits of those with whom they familiarly associate. 3. How desirable that Christians, by a more decided and elevated tone of spirituality in feeling and conduct, should make the line of separation between the Church and the world more apparent. This is required in view of your own spiritual well-being, and in order to the graciousness of your influence on others. (H. Bromley.)
(3) (4) III. THE PERSONAL INSTRUCTION WHICH THE CONSIDERATION OF SUCH A CHARACTER MAY SUPPLY. 1. How important that worldly minded men and undecided persons should correctly understand their real position. 2. How needful that they who have any regard to their spiritual interests should exercise great circumspection as to the characters and habits of those with whom they familiarly associate. 3. How desirable that Christians, by a more decided and elevated tone of spirituality in feeling and conduct, should make the line of separation between the Church and the world more apparent. This is required in view of your own spiritual well-being, and in order to the graciousness of your influence on others. (H. Bromley.)
III. THE PERSONAL INSTRUCTION WHICH THE CONSIDERATION OF SUCH A CHARACTER MAY SUPPLY. (H. Bromley.)
III. THE PERSONAL INSTRUCTION WHICH THE CONSIDERATION OF SUCH A CHARACTER MAY SUPPLY.
II. EPHRAIM'S INDIFFERENT TEMPER. "A cake not turned." Take the figure as an amplification of their sin. They were only baked on one side, that is, they were of an imperfect and indifferent temper in religion. This may be an expression of hypocrisy and false-heartedness in religion; of neutrality and indifferency in religion; of deficiency and imperfection in religion. Cakes not turned are mere notion and speculation in religion, which proceed not to practice and operation: purposes and resolution without practice; the practice of some things, but omission of others; extravagance and the following of two extremes. Take the figure as an amplification of their punishment. As a hungry man catches the cake from the hearth before it is baked, so the enemies of Ephraim were hurrying to devour her. There was no respite for repentance and turning to God. No opportunity for escape.
(T. Herren, D. D.)
(J. Reid Howat.)
I. THE GROUNDS OF THIS IMPEACHMENT.
1. Ephraim has "mixed himself among the people"; he has missed the practical design, of religion, which is entire separation unto God. Many persons seek to combine in themselves contradictory qualities. They would be spiritual on one side and carnal on the other. They have a side that is religiously baked, and a side that is carnally crude. They are religiously blistered and carnally sodden.
2. Ephraim was indisposed to look to God, to call upon Him, to count on Him as the unit of power against the enemy. Religion was kept for ceremonies and state occasions; it was not an everyday working religion. They had a notional knowledge of God, but they did not seek after an experimental knowledge of Him. Jehovah was in their notions, He was not in their trust. Had He been in their trust they would have turned round to Him in their trouble. The cake would have been browned on both sides. And how many now have a name to live and are dead! To a certain extent they have the right notion, but it does not determine their practice, nor lead them to seek the confirmation of experience. Hence the cake is done only on one side. Better never to have known the truth at all, than for the truth never to influence the practice and issue in experience.
3. Ephraim was proud (ver. 10). Pride is always a one-sided and therefore spiritually false thing. Pride is based on fleshly comparison. No one could be proud who saw himself in the Divine light. If self-complacence creeps into our hearts, it is quite time the cake was turned.
4. Ephraim used temporal things inordinately and licentiously. They were carried into intemperate excesses. There is a possibility of ruining the cake through self-indulgence.
II. THE TEACHINGS THAT UNDERLIE EPHRAIM'S IMPEACHMENT. These teachings strongly emphasise —
1. The need of a proper balance of character. Zeal is only one side of the cake. Zeal without knowledge, or contrary to knowledge, is a cake unturned. The like applies to fidelity and love, knowing and doing, energy and repose. Faith itself is a cake of two sides; because faith has its waiting as well as its working sides.
2. The need of a proper balance of truth.
3. The general drift of the whole subject suggests to our mind the need of a correspondence between what Christ has done for us, and what He-is doing in us by His Spirit. To be well baked we need the Cross of Christ translated into experience. Paul knew Christ's Cross as a means of experimental crucifixion. To him it meant a death experienced within, in which the world became dead to him and he to it.
(James Douglas, M. A.)
1. The man who lives for pleasure alone is a cake not turned. One side of his nature is unduly baked, the other is entirely neglected. Pleasure has its uses, but pleasure as a business is a very poor business indeed. There are many such persons, both in the lower and in the higher grades of society. The man who lives for pleasure is dead while he liveth. He is a wretched parasite; he is a reproach to his species. One side of his nature is burnt to a crust by the fires of unholy desire; the other side of his nature is raw dough. Both are worthless.
2. The man who lives for business alone is a cake not turned Business is good. Even though it be honourable, and the methods of its pursuit unobjectionable, the man who lives for this life alone loses this life as well as the life that is to come. The man to whom this world is a god is a wretched idolater. This life is never truly lived except it is used for the good of others and for the glory of God. If a man lives for business alone, one side of his nature is scorched by the friction of the world's cares, and the other is raw dough.
3. A man who lives for culture alone is a cake not turned. No man can claim the honours of culture, portions of whose nature lie fallow. A true culture sweeps across every faculty. Man has earthward, manward, and Godward relations. If lacking in any of these directions, it is a partial, defective, and unauthoritative culture. Tried by this true standard many claimants for the honour of culture will be found wanting. That is not true culture which fails to cultivate the nobler, the Diviner elements of the soul.
4. A man who is half-hearted in religion is a cake not turned. Ephraim, though proud and haughty as a tribe, had been lacking in moral back bone, in loyalty, in consecration, in the service of God. There are such professors of religion to-day. A half and half man is a failure always and everywhere. To-day Jesus Christ calls for men with one heart, and that heart on fire with His love. We want no unturned cakes. We want men with convictions. It is said Of some men that they are very pious Godward, and very crooked manward. That is a severe criticism when it is true. That is not Christ's model man. He is symmetrical: he is baked through and through. Christ alone can make such men.
(R. S. M'Arthur, D. D.)
I. TO THE SOCIAL CIRCLE. Too often we have —
1. Courtesy minus friendship.
2. Appearance of wealth minus money.
3. Claims to "family" and learning.The amount of goods in the shop window is generally in inverse ratio to the amount in stock. This comparison may be applied —
II. TO MEN IN THEIR RELATION TO COMMERCE. Too often we have —
1. Better goods than "any other house."
2. Tradesmen "retiring from business." The words "from this place" being purposely omitted.
3. Sales at a-tremendous sacrifice.There is ever a-connection between demand and supply. Half-baked customers create Ephraimitish tradesmen. This comparison may be applied —
III. TO MEN IN THEIR RELATION TO RELIGION. Too often we have —
1. Profession without practice.
2. Letter without spirit.Profession is valueless without practice. So also is letter without spirit. So far as we have either without the other, we are as "cakes not turned." Christ ruling in our hearts adjusts all human relations.
(J. S. Swan.)
I. GOD DEMANDS THE CONSECRATION OF MAN'S ENTIRE BEING. The cake should have been baked on both sides. Body, soul, time, possessions, should all be devoted to God. He claims it. The claim is based on —
1. What God is in Himself.
2. What He is relatively to us.
3. Our highest interests. The example of the best beings.
II. SOME CONSECRATE TO GOD ONLY A PORTION OF THEIR BEING. Baked on one side only. This indicates —
2. Lack of supreme love to God.
3. Aversion to submission.
4. Love of present pleasure.
5. Ignorance of the ease of religious service.
6. Indecision of character.
III. THE CONSECRATION OF ONLY A PORTION OF OUR BEING TO GOD WILL END IN DESTRUCTION. It is destructive of —
1. Complete devotion.
2. Force of character.
3. True usefulness.
4. Thorough enjoyment.
5. Final perseverance.
6. Future glory.
(B. D, Johns.)
I. A REBUKE TO LUKEWARMNESS AND INDIFFERENCY WITH REGARD TO THE THINGS OF GOD AND ETERNITY. In the Christian community there are numbers who are neither bread nor dough. They have enough of Christian profession to exclude them from the designation of heathen, not enough of heartfelt godliness to entitle them to the name of disciples indeed. They have the name, but want the reality. The Christians of the unturned cake are very skilful in evading all impressions of sacredness. It is not enough to profess Christianity, we must also feel and live it.
II. A REBUKE TO THOSE WHO VAINLY IMAGINE THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO SECURE THE SOUL'S SALVATION AND YET GRATIFY TO THE UTTERMOST THE SINFUL PROPENSITIES OF THE FLESH. There are some who occasionally feel, and that profoundly, the claims of Gospel truth and righteousness. But Wait a little. Swiftly passes the morning cloud. The world and the flesh soon resume their ascendency. There are some whose entire life is a uniform and sustained effort to keep up an alliance betwixt the spirit and the flesh; betwixt God and the world; betwixt duty and carnal inclination. They will not follow the Lord fully. God will not tolerate a rival. We must either serve Him altogether or not at all.
III. A REBUKE TO THE COLDNESS AND UNSPIRITUALITY OF PROFESSED BELIEVERS. A cake cold upwards and warm underneath. Its baking may be so conducted that while the under side is intensely heated, the upper part is as cold as when first placed over a fire. So many professors. To the heavens they are cold, to the earth only are they warm.
IV. AN INTIMATION OF THE CONDITION AND DESTINY OF THOSE WHO ARE GIVEN UP AND FORSAKEN OF GOD. Cakes left in the oven to be burnt and destroyed there.
(James Cochrane, M. A.)I. WHO ARE EPHRAIMITES? Three classes. Real Christians, who are entirely for God. The profligate, who make no pretension to religion. Some stand between both, and seem to partake of each. These are the characters we search for.
II. EXPOSE THEIR CONDUCT AND THEIR CONDITION.
1. This indecision is unreasonable.
2. It is dishonourable.
3. It is wretched.
4. It is peculiarly dangerous.
III. ENDEAVOUR TO BRING MEN TO DECISION. "Choose you this day whom ye will serve."
(William Jay.)I. Half-hearted men NEVER ATTAIN TO LOFTINESS OF CHARACTER.
II. Half-hearted men NEVER ACCOMPLISH ANY GREAT WORK.
III. Half-hearted men FAIL TO SECURE LIFE'S GREATEST BLESSING.
(A. Hampden Lee.)
Homiletic Review.The description is applicable —
I. TO MEN WHOSE CONSCIENCES ARE THUS CONSTITUTED. Scrupulous in some things, they are frequently overscrupulous, and sometimes unscrupulous. The evil is aggravated when little things are its subjects, and when the weightier matters of .the law are omitted, or when others' sins and not our own are considered.
II. TO THOSE WHOSE ZEAL IS PECULIAR. Like thorns under a pot, it smokes and crackles to-day and to-morrow is extinct. The religion of those who blaze forth with transcendent glow, for a time, and then disappear, is "a cake not turned."
III. TO THOSE WHO CARRY THEIR RELIGION ONLY TO CERTAIN PLACES. To the sanctuary, the prayer-meeting, and the communion-table, but not into the family, the store, the bank, the senate. Or they may be outwardly consistent amidst home environments, but abroad, or at fashionable watering-places, they follow the multitude to do evil.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
I. ORTHODOXY WITHOUT LIFE. It is the most serious temptation to which Christians are exposed to substitute creed for conduct. If one is sensibly weak in his spirituality, he will try to make up for it by redoubled emphasis laid upon his orthodoxy. It is as though a soldier should plant his flag upon a high position, and then go to sleep under its folds, trusting to his standard to win the battle, instead of to his own viligant and energetic fighting. Creeds are the flags of the Church — very necessary as symbols and summaries of faith, but worthless as a substitute for Christian living. When I see a Christian growing more and more zealous for every punctilio of his creed, while he is growing more and more selfish and worldly in his life, I say he is going forward by the wind, and going backward by the tide; when I see a Christian very unctuous in his prayers and exhortations in the Church, and very bitter and harsh in his conduct in the family, I say he is going forward by the wind and going backward by the tide. There is a constant need that we re-adjust our conduct to our creeds, not that we should believe less, but that we should live more. To avoid inconstancy, some people contract their belief to the size of the life, as a tailor takes in the seams of a coat which is too large, in order to make it fit the wearer. This is a bad method. Most of the heresies and false doctrines which have sprung up in the Church have resulted from the fitting over of theology to conform to a shrunken spirituality.
II. PIETY WITHOUT PRINCIPLE. It is a fearful proof of the deceitfulness of sin, that one may be at the same time very zealous for God and very dishonest towards men, lifting up hands of prayer and exhortation on Sundays and stretching out hands of fraud and peculation on week.days.
III. MORALITY WITHOUT RELIGION. It is a saying very hard to be received that morality and holiness are entirely different qualities. Morality is the religion of the natural man; holiness is the religion of the renewed man. The one grows on the stock of Adam; the other grows on the stock of Christ. Morality, even at its highest pitch, is not holiness; for holiness is something of God, wherever found, like the sunbeams which inhere in the sun and are inseparable from it, even while resting on the earth. Honesty, sobriety, purity, — these are the highest qualities of morality; and noble qualities they are. But love to God, communion with God, consecration to God, — these are the attributes of true religion. Let us look to it that our cake is evenly done; that our orthodoxy has life as well as soundness; that our piety has principle, honest and square and straightforward, as well as unction; that our morality has holiness as well as uprightness.
(J. A. Garden, D. D.)
Homilist.I. WRONG COMPANIONSHIP. What is a wrong mixing with people? Not intermixture in marriages. Not intercourse in business. Not associating with men for spiritual usefulness. It is doing as the Ten Tribes did, mixing with others for worldly advantage and unholy gratification. It is said that Pythagoras, before he admitted any one to his school, inquired who were his intimates, justly concluding that they who could choose immoral companions would not be much profited by his instructions.
II. MORAL WORTHLESSNESS. Ephraim had become as useless, in a spiritual sense, as a half-baked cake. It no longer fulfilled its Divine mission, maintaining and promoting the worship of the one true and living God. "Usefulness is the grand purpose of our being." The man who does not make the world better than he found it, must be accursed.
III. SOCIAL DESPOILMENT. "Strangers devoured his strength." How many souls lose their strength under the influence in which they mingle! Their intellectual power, social sympathies, moral sensibilities get used up, and they become the mere, creatures of circles and circumstances.
IV. UNCONSCIOUS DECAY. Moral strength goes so slowly from men that they are often not conscious of its loss until they are reduced to the utmost prostration, Look at these aspects of character, and learn practical wisdom. Form no friendship with sinners. Avoid a worthless life. Allow not the social influences of your sphere to steal away your strength, to eat up your manhood. Do not think that decay cannot be working in you merely because you are unconscious of it.
(Homilist.)"grind in the counting-house or factory. Similarly, the passion for repute prevents many from obtaining that celebrity which their natural talents might otherwise readily win for them; their souls are so intent on listening for outer applause that they do not concentrate their attention upon the work that is to win the reward. Scores of literary reputations are thus annually wrecked through over-haste in the making.
(J. M. Ludlow, D. D.)
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