“Ephraim is a cake not turned.” Hosea 7:8
If you have cooked or baked long enough, you would probably be acquainted with the dreadful experience of turning out food that looks cooked from one angle, only to discover that it is only partially so.
Moving from the kitchen to something that is more visceral in our urban jungle, imagine a half-completed high-rise building. The builder has gone bankrupt and the project is now abandoned. It has become a Catch 22 situation because it costs too much to tear down or to complete it. Instead of being a part of the city that one can be proud of, it has become an eyesore.
As old as this verse in Hosea is, God’s people have always experienced the problem of “mixture.” The Bible uses many other metaphors to describe and warn us about this condition. We recall the Lord’s message to the Church in Laodicea, that she had become “neither hot nor cold.” It carries the same idea of mixture though metaphorically, it seems like a contradiction to Hosea’s.
This is a reality that we need to grapple with as we live out our Christian life and calling. Our motives are mixed. There is a lack of integrity. I am not talking about public-private hypocrisy. Integrity comes from the root word “integer,” which means “one.” Our life is not one, integral or whole. It is only cooked in parts, built up in parts.
Due to this mixture in our hearts, we need to come before God constantly in brokenness and humility. The Bible constantly seeks to alert us to our mixed condition. God calls our attention to - not away from - it.
Jeremiah 17:9 despairs, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The next verse gives hope, for “I the Lord search the heart...” Before His Word and in His presence, we need to constantly bring and open our hearts. Like the ancient psalmist, we need to constantly declare, “Search me, O God!” (Psalm 139:23)
There is one part of Jesus’ teaching which seems tolerant of mixture. You would have read the message of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. There is a current reality of mixture. There will be a separation, a result of judgment. As to who is useful wheat or useless tares, this can only be known in the future and that task of separation and identification belongs to God. This task is not ours nor is it to be done presently. We are too quick to apply any warning about mixture to others rather than ourselves.
We like to imagine who the wheat and tares in the church are. The Bible says: Let others be.
Instead, focus on your own heart and life. Allow the gaze and grace of God to deal with the mixture. In fact, it is when we are conscious of our own brokenness that we are more ready to forgive others. “Forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us.“ Brokenness is the wellspring of compassion.
Don’t leave the cake unturned.