Think about the person that is the closest to you. The person that is the dearest in your heart. Now imagine that you and that person make a covenant for life, to do whatever you can to be a blessing to each other.
Now, how would you feel if all the sudden that person started to completely ignore you every time you spoke to him or to her, never giving you any word in response?
How would you feel if he/she showed constant initiative in relationships with other people, but never with you, except when they need something, to immediately leave after getting it?
What if that person started to gossip, about you, to the knowledge of everyone, yet still called you his/her best friend in public?
What if that person started to advocate everything that you ever stood against?
Would you still keep your covenant? and if so, in what terms?
There is a reason why we call disloyalty “stabbing in the back.” Nothing produces sharpest emotional and internal pains as the sense of being betrayed by a loved one. And very few things are as difficult as loving back faithfully those who have hurt us willfully. Loving enemies take a whole different level when those are part of your close circle of friends, of your family, or even your very own household.
But…what if that traitor was you?
Today we are going to look at a story of love and loyalty in spite of treason. Of God’s love and God’s loyalty in spite of Israel’s treason, and truly, in spite of our treason.
I invite you to turn in our Bibles to the book of Hosea, a prophet who started his ministry in the middle of the 8th Cent. BC to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, at a time when Israel had already been divided in two kingdoms.
When Hosea started his ministry, Israel was going through a time of prosperity. On an earthly perspective things seemed to go very well. However, spiritually, things were at the verge of despair. Idolatry was everywhere, and God was ready to judge it severely. But not without a final warning.
And so God speaks to Hosea. And here are the first words He speaks to him, that we find in Hosea 1:2,
“When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.’”
Can you imagine a student just graduating from The Master’s Seminary and having this as a first assignment? Hosea was to go and marry a woman who was a woman of whoredom, a prostitute (or soon to be prostitute), and it was meant to reflect God’s union with Israel. God had done the same thing. We read in Ezekiel 23:2-4,
« Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother. They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.”
God did not choose Israel virgin. Christ’s Bride will not be a virgin either.
So Hosea marries Gomer, who would give birth to 3 kids. The first one, Jezreel, was born of their union. The two other ones “No mercy” and “Not my People” we are not sure. Eventually she leaves him for another man, who probably abandons her, since she is found again on the slave market. And he buys her for 15 shekels, which is half of the price of female slaves as given by Moses in Leviticus 27:4, plus some barley, which was really animal food. That’s all she was worth, nothing more than half a slave and donkey’s food.
And Israel was not worth much more. In fact, her sins of idolatry, immorality and spiritual adultery had become so repulsive to God, that He had only one solution. Abandoning her would do no good, for she would only become worse. He had to kill her.
And this is what we read in Hosea 5:14,
“For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. O even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue.”
About 20-30 years after Hosea started to minister the kingdom of Assyria invaded Israel and destroyed it. The writer of 2 Kings wrote as a conclusion of the history of Israel: [17:18].
“the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.”
None was left but the tribe of Judah. Total destruction. Game over. (pause)
But what about Hosea, this prophet whose name means ‘salvation’? What about his message? Did it not have an impact? Did it not bring Israel’s love back to God? (pause)
Not yet. But it will happen. God made a covenant with Israel, and He will be faithful.
Let us turn to our passage for today, Hosea 6, 1-6, where we see God’s love and faithfulness triumph over sin and even death, through the means of human repentance.
In this passage we will look at two aspects of repentance, so that we would be motivated to know God intimately.
READ Hosea 6:1-6
I. Repentance is turning to God (v.1-3)
The first aspect of repentance that we see in this passage is found in verses 1-3. In these verses we read of a desperate plea from Hosea to turn to God. Repentance is first to turn to God. And Hosea gives us here three incentives to turn to God, based on His faithfulness. In verse 1, for restoration. In verse 2, for eternal life. In verse 3, for intimate knowledge of God.
A. For Restoration (v.1)
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up”
The first reason that Hosea gives for repentance is that it brings restoration. Sin, as we saw earlier in the book, is compared to unfaithfulness. To adultery. To the breaking of a holy covenant. If a spouse walks away from her husband, she can’t just come back 2 years later and say, “Hi honey! I’m back! I missed you, I’m yours now!” You’re going to need some reconciliation, some restoration, some healing, and some time.
Now, what is interesting about Hosea’s plea is that it is not for his generation. He calls for a return to the Lord, “for He has torn us.” But when we looked previously at Hosea 5:14, we read, “I will be like a lion.” The destruction had not happened yet. But Hosea knew it was coming. He was reminded of it every day. “Jezreel, No Mercy, Not my people! Time to eat! Jezreel, No Mercy, Not my People, time to go to bed! No mercy, don’t forget to brush your teeth! Not my people, remember to pray for your mom, she has been gone for a couple of days now, I don’t know where, but I’m afraid I know why.”
Was Hosea consumed by the love of the present age? Certainly not! He knew God’s heart of pain because of sin. He knew that when people sinned against God, when he sinned against God, he inflicted pain to His Lord; that every deed of rebellion and pride was nothing else than a flagrant act of spiritual adultery. And like God, Hosea wanted the restoration of all things. His hope was future, and based on God’s faithfulness.
Yes, God will tare us in pieces. But it is so that He may heal!
That’s what God had revealed to Moses with His covenant, (Deut 32:39) “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” The phrasing is the exact same one as Hosea 5:14.
Hosea knew His God. He knew he could trust Him to fulfill His word. He knew it was worth it to turn to Him.
Yes, God tore. It was all Him. It was his plan, His holy judgment. And He did it because of love. To keep His bride from being even more corrupted, even more guilty and condemned. He wanted to keep Israel pure for the holy purposes He had for her. His judgments of love for her were not new. In fact, she would not have lasted a single year without them. Yet, the times were for Israel to die.
Hos 11:8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? [two cities destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah] My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
God tore, but He will heal. In fact, we know Him as the healer. He healed Sarah from her barrenness, He healed Israel from the bites of the snakes, He healed Naaman the leper. He even promised Solomon healing for the entire nation, if only they humbled themselves to seek Him and turn from sin (2 Cho 7:14).
God tore, so that people could be healed and discover again His goodness. In the same way he struck down, so that they could be bind up.
While Israel had broken every single stipulation possible from the covenant God had made with them and Moses, God, on His side, was to remain faithful. If only Israel could repent, blessings would flow again.
Restoration from sin is not based on who we are. It is based on God’s character. No matter how much we may sin against Him, He is always willing to restore.
2 Tim 2:12-13 “If we deny him, he also will deny us; [but] if we are faithless, he remains faithful.”
Well, let’s be honest with ourselves. “If” we are faithless, is truly “when” we are faithless. In the story, we are not Hoseas. We are Gomers. Our sins are many. Our unfaithfulness and spiritual adulteries to God are countless. But how precious that our God is not like us! He remains faithful,
B. For Eternal Life (v.2)
Hosea’s first incentive to turn to God was for restoration. The second incentive is for eternal life.
“After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”
Here we see God’s faithfulness triumphs over death. Israel had gone so bad that God had to kill her. But even death would not stop God from fulfilling His covenant. Israel would need revival, they would need to be raised from the dead, because her sins lead her to God killing her. But His faithfulness would overcome.
In Hebrew, when you mentioned a number and added one more, it meant completion. It meant that you could not get more.
Job 5:19 He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you.
Pro 6:16 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
Pro 30:18 Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand
Amo 1:3 Thus says the LORD: « For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment
And so when God says that after two days He will act, that on the third day He will bring life, He means that it will surely happen, that nothing can stop Him. The time is set. There will be a resurrection for Israel. As Paul wrote in Romans 11:26 “All Israel will be saved.”
Today, she will die. Tomorrow, she will be gone. But on the third day, she will live again, revived, and in God’s presence forever, to live with Him.
Hosea 13:14, “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting?”
God’s love is stronger than death.
So is it worth repenting from sin? Yes it is, but it comes with a condition. To repent, you must turn to God. When Israel repents, she will live before God. Actually, the word used here literally means “to His face.”
Repentance is turning to God, in order to be with God and to fellowship with Him. It means commitment, consecration, loyalty. It’s not just an external change. It is personal and intimate.
But in the same time, once you belong to the family of God, through repentance and faith, you become part of the elect ones. Those that God saves are those that He has chosen to love. His love is active. It is faithful, and stronger than death, as Solomon wrote:
Son 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.
Son 8:7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.
God has already showed His faithfulness to Israel to some degree, as on the third day He rose Christ from the dead. Christ, representing Israel, proved to the world God’s triumphant love over sin and death. When Paul wrote that Christ rose on the third day according to the Scriptures, he was referring to this very passage. This verse was the hope to Israel. Now that Christ has overcome sin and death fully, the hope of Israel to be raised again is even firmer. But it will only happen with repentance.
C. For Intimate Knowledge of God (v.3)
The third appeal for repentance, after restoration and eternal life, is for an intimate knowledge of God.
“Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord, his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth”
This particular verb “to know,” in Hebrew, had two aspects to it. It could mean to know because of observing and reflecting, or to know on an experiencing level. In all cases, it is a personalized and internalized knowledge. When Adam “knew” his wife, Eve, it was really intimate, very personal.
Israel did not have that kind of knowledge of God. They had religious knowledge, external knowledge, but no personal relationship with God.
Hosea 4:1 There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land.
God was in a covenant with a people that did not even know Him. They had gone so far, they did not even know Him. Yet how amazing is it that God remained faithful to His promise, never abandoning them. Even in the midst of their rebellion, He continued to bless her with promises:
Hosea 2:20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.
Again, Hosea’s plea rests on God’s character. He knows that God will be there. It is worth pursuing Him, pressing hard and running towards Him, because He will always be there to love and bless. His coming is as sure as the dawn. Not only you can count on it because for every single day of your life it has come, but you know that when it arrives the darkness flees, the world lightens up with colors and life and the song of birds, and the pleasant warmth refreshes and energizes your body.
But even the sun when it comes, can kill, if there is no refreshing. And God will bring that too. He will come as the rain that waters the earth.
The rain for Israel meant a lot. Let us turn to Deuteronomy 11:10-12 to study a biblical theology of rain:
“For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it, like a garden of vegetables. But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the LORD your God cares for. The eyes of the LORD your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”
In verse 3 Hosea used two words for rain in the Hebrew text. Two different types of rain. Like the rain of the beginning of the year and the rain of the end of the year. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He wanted them to live by faith. And therefore He brought them in a land that would depend on rain. He wanted them to know that He was a faithful God. For all the years of Israel, whenever the rain came, they were reminded that God cared. That He had not abandoned them. That He loved them.
Tasting the faithfulness of God in forgiving after repenting is one of the sweetest flavors in the whole universe. Have you not experimented that; when you come broken to God and He is just there waiting, not to put the knife deeper in the wound but to take it out? When you feel so dirty, useless and unworthy and yet God is there waiting to have fellowship with open arms, with a heart overflowing with love, reminding you that He will not abandon you and that He will renew His mercies again even before tomorrow?
We have no excuse not to come back to God. God is waiting for us. No matter how dirty we are He will clean us. No matter how wounded He will heal us and bind us. Only pride tells us that we are too dirty for God. Only pride.
And this is what burdened Hosea. He had that knowledge. He knew His God was faithful, full of love and mercy. If only Israel could look at Him, and turn to Him, turning from sin would make so much more sense!
II. Repentance is Turning From Sin (v.4-6)
And this is what we see next. After Hosea finishes his plea for repentance and His desire for Israel to turn to God, God Himself comes in the picture and addresses His people, exposing their sin, first of superficial love (v.4), secondly of apathy (v.5), and thirdly of religiosity (v.6). And that is really what we see in the rest of Scriptures. You can’t simply put on God and His righteousness without also putting off sin. Maybe you can put on some informative knowledge of God without ever taking action, listen to sermon after sermon and never really doing anything about it, but that is not the intimate knowledge that God desires for His children.
A. Superficial Love (v.4)
“What shall I do with you O Ephraim? What shall I do with you O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away”
We see here that God struggles with Himself on what to do with Israel and Judah because of their superficial and empty love. It is almost as God is getting frustrated. The situation has become hopeless. Israel keeps ignoring God. They ignored His prosperity , His calamities, His promises and His wrath. As much God would like to deliver Israel, there is no point in really asking this question. It is rhetorical. God knows what He is going to do. He will soon judge Israel, and do it very severely.
And here is the first reason that God gives why they stand condemned: their love is like a morning cloud. It is like dew. It shows up early in the morning and evaporates within a few hours. It is a short-lived love. There is no commitment attached to it, no loyalty, no sacrifice. It is a self-serving , self-centered and superficial love. It shows up when it wants and leaves right after. It bears the name of love but it is no love at all.
The term used for love here is also an important one. It is a term that means both love and loyalty. The Bible often translates it as loving-kindness or steadfast love. It is a love that is often associated to God’s covenant. It is the love that God revealed to Moses, saying that to those who know Him, He loves to a thousand generations. Talk about a commitment! It is a word that is very often connected with God’s faithfulness. It’s not only that it is a deep, profound and intimate love, but it is also constant. stable, renewed every day. When God promised David a son that would have an everlasting kingdom, based on that same steadfast love, He protected David’s line for 1000 years to fulfill His promise!
And what a contrast between Israel’s love and God’s love!
And what a contrast between our love for God and God’s love for us!
We live in a generation where there are many church-going people and many who would happily affirm that they “love” God. But they love God in their own terms.
This is our generation. We love His hand, but not His face. We praise Him for His earthly blessings, but the thought of spending even one mere hour with Him in fellowship and praise for His character seems like torture. We love God like we love a part-time job. We fit it where we can and the rest of the agenda belongs to us. We love God but we rejoice much more in seeking our own pleasures than what truly pleases Him. We love God and yet we have prostituted ourselves to Hollywood. We love God and yet we can’t make disciples because we don’t live out what we preach. Could we teach someone to pray? Could we teach someone to evangelize? Could we teach someone to fast, live thankfully, sacrificially and by faith, and to have enriching and growing private times in the Word?
The truth is that even God’s great commission, so dear to His heart, is something that we can only fulfill like morning clouds, because the depth of our knowledge of Him is simply not there.
Let God have pity on this generation! May His grace transform us, may His heart burden us, to pray for ourselves and for those around us!
B. Apathy (v.5)
Secondly, Israel’s love was not only superficial, but they were apathetic to God’s Word.
“Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.”
Because of Israel’s lack of true love and intimate knowledge, God had sent them prophets to speak His words. Like sheep, God gathered them, time after time, and with the most powerful speakers of their generation, His chosen prophets, He slain them with His Word. And not only He hammered them, but also He sent judgments to be as visible as the light, so that no one would miss them.
But they were apathetic. The best sermons from the best speakers might entertain them, yet it did not make them change. The judgments might have been as visible as the light in the sky, they still missed the message.
Is our generation apathetic also? I believe more than ever. The holy fear of God is almost non-existent. “Struggling” with sin is “cool.” We even meet and talk about it and feel bad about ourselves. We go to church Sunday after Sunday, and maybe we might learn some, but we barely change. We might learn some new stuff, but our love for the Lord remains stagnant. We can’t remember the last time the love of God made us cry, we can’t remember the last time that reading His Word impacted us so much that we simply could not take His truth out of our mind.
We go to church without praying for our pastor, without praying for one another and without praying even for ourselves that we might be blessed. We go to church without expecting much and the next day we live as if nothing had happened.
And the reason why our churches are suffering is because we have lost the practice of repentance!
In our language we call Christians “believers.” In eastern Europe, they call them “repentants.” That’s because the whole life of the believer should be a constant relationship of turning more and more boldly towards God, giving up sin and treasuring Him. Repentance as continual habit was Luther’s first thesis of the 95 theses. The Catholic Church wanted to sell indulgences, Luther wanted people to be sold for Christ! It was the importance of repentance as the correct understanding of it that begun the Reformation!
But how often do you repent? When is the last time you confessed your sins to God? when is the last time you asked for forgiveness because of your sins to your spouse, or parents, or roommates?
Not only we forget how precious it is to have a vibrant personal and intimate relationship with our Lord, but also we forget how important it is to turn away from our sins.
Is there apathy in our hearts? Have we lost our eagerness towards God? Have we settled for little expectations in our Christian life? for our Church? for our family? for our studies?
May God give us grace to find repentance as our daily task!
The first sin of Israel mentioned in verse 4 was that of superficial love. In verse 5, their sin was of apathy. In verse 6, we see their sin of religiosity.
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
That love that God displayed, that steadfast love, covenant love, this is the love in which God rejoices. It does not matter how many religious rituals Israel could do, without their love and without them knowing Him, what was the point? The sacrifices of animals and their burnt offerings were useless.
But Israel was religious. Very religious. They would offer burnt sacrifices, which is the burning of an entire animal. It wasn’t cheap. Some offerings, you could partake of the meat. With burnt offerings, you didn’t. It was costly. Israel would do that. But their worship was empty.
In Hosea 7:8, God compares them to a “cake not turned.” In the Middle-East people would often bake some circular cakes that would look kind of a thick pancake. They would be cooked on hot stones, and the importance was to flip the cake at the right time. If you forgot to turn the cake, you would end up with one side that is burnt, and the other one doughy and raw. And that was exactly Israel. Their external religious zeal was overdone. They would offer many sacrifices. They would take care of their priests. But on the other side they were raw. Uncooked, undone, without true knowledge of God, without a genuine love for Him.
They could sing praise songs to Him all day, yet without even thinking once that God could actually be listening to them. They did it because it was part of the show. They could listen to powerful sermons all day, but never be changed.
They might have been faithful to give monetary gifts, but they did not offer what God really wanted. Consecrated hearts. Genuine, authentic, intimate love, which at the end of the day, is way more costly.
We may have many dollars to give away, but we have only one heart. And it is either beating for God, or for something else. And giving what we love in this world for a personal love of God, that is costly. That is true sacrifice.
They could boast about their religion, but they did not know their God. And to be honest, we do that all the time. We boast about Christianity but so little about Christ! And we boast of our “knowledge” of our religion when the level of intimacy that we have with God is but a morning cloud.
We are in a lot of ways very close to Israel. We are no Hoseas. We’re on the other side. But it’s because God’s character is so great that our sin is so disgusting! If God was not that faithful husband, loving us, His bride, in spite of our constant adulteries, our sins would not seem so atrocious. If God was not so committed to us, to our holiness, to impart spiritual blessings and steadfast love to us continually, our unfaithfulness would not seem so debase.
But when we enter that covenant of faith with our God, when we give Him our lives to redeem us, we can no longer live according to our own standards! The way God loves is the way we should love.
And this is why we must turn from our sins with zeal, and humility, and perseverance! Without repentance, we cannot know Him! Unless the love that we receive from Him also becomes our love for Him and for others, we cannot know Him experimentally and intimately like we should.
We are no better than Israel. We too deserved to die. But the reason why God did not kill us was become His Son died for us. His wrath was poured on Him like that young lion, coming to tear in pieces, with no one to rescue.
Oh! May God give us to hate our sin! May He give us to turn from sin, from our superficial love, our apathy, our religiosity, to love and cherish Christ!
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation [Hosea, Jesus] for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”