“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. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that he may live before him. 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.” (Hosea 6:1-3)
What does God require of us? We could answer this via Micah: “…to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God…” To walk humbly with your God means a continuous life of repentance, understanding and knowing that we cannot do this apart from a supernatural work of God’s Spirit. God desires steadfast love from His people, and that is communicated in Hosea 6.
When we read the verses above, we can leave with a warm, fuzzy feeling that I have done what the Lord requires. What more can be asked of me than this wonderful statement of repentance. I’ve actually heard wonderful songs echoing the words of these verses. But, as I have said many times, context is so very important.
I didn’t include the next three verses, but they actually tell us what God thinks about Israel’s “repentance.” Here they are.
“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. 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. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:4-6)
The Puritans were keen on “repenting of their repentance.” They understood that our hearts are deceitful. When one of our children hurt someone else, we say to them, “Tell them your sorry.” They mutter “Sorry,” and we are suspicious. “Do you mean it?” And the answer is, “Yes.” But we can’t see into the heart. We are not forgiven based on the act of repentance. We are forgiven based on the work of Christ.
Thus, God desires “steadfast love” from us – a love that we gain because Christ first loved us. And he desires “the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” To know God is know the Son, and to know the Son is to be given God’s Spirit, which will give us the new hearts that He desires.
So, verses 1–3 demonstrate the false repentance of Israel. It is clear that they do not truly desire to draw near to God, they merely want a quick rescue from their current position. God recognizes the empty words of the people and expresses his dissatisfaction of their vacillating faith. God wants more than empty and heartless actions. He does not desire empty “sacrifices.” Instead, he wants our steadfast commitment to His Glory. He does not want the motions of a “burnt offerings,” He wants us to draw near to Him through a growing knowledge and relationship with Him.
The question that we must ask ourselves is, “Are we drawing near to God with deep and lasting commitment? or are we going through the motions with false repentance in our hearts?” Let us look to Jesus, and pursue God’s desire for our lives.