Summary: Words and actions must match if repentance is to be genuine
Is your repentance genuine?
We all know the story of the little boy who cried “wolf” and when the wolf did eventually come no one believed him and he was eaten up. I am sure you have met people who say sorry for something and then turn around and do the same thing all over again. There words did not match their actions. They were saying the right things but were failing to follow through in the way they subsequently lived. In these two chapters of Hosea that is exactly the charge that God brings through Hosea to the people of Israel. Let me set the context for this part of the book of Hosea. In chapter 5 God pronounces judgment on the people of Israel. In verse 14 there is a dire warning of the people being taken off to the lion’s (Assyria) lair and in verse 15 God wanted the people of Israel to admit their guilt and to seek His face and His forgiveness.
6 verses 1-3
In the opening verses we hear words of repentance spoken by the people of God. Look at the opening sentence – “Come, let us return to the Lord.” It all sounds so promising. The right words are being spoken by the people and if we ended on verse 3 it would be a wonderfully positive response by the people to the judgment of God. In verses 2 and 3 the people acknowledge that the punishment from God is justified and that they need to turn and acknowledge God. They pray that in response God will bless them with the rains of refreshment and they base this on the knowledge of His faithfulness to the covenant – hence as surely as the sun rises … God will answer their prayer of repentance. As I said if we were to end here it would be wonderful and we would believe things had changed in the lives of the people of God in response to Hosea bringing the Word of God to them. The words are right and they are confident that God will hear and heal them.
6 verses 4-6 – these verses shatter the illusion of verses 1-3. Verse 4 begins with two rhetorical questions and the only possible answer in light of what follows is ‘nothing.’ The repentance of the people and their love for God disappears as quickly as morning mist when the sun rises. It evaporates as it is has no depth and no substance. Their repentance is superficial. Their love for God is not the faithful covenant love which God has for them. It is like Gomer telling Hosea that she loves him only for her to go off with the first man who makes eyes at her. Her words, their words, do not have any meaning or depth. There is no change of character of behaviour with these words. God’s word (v5) had brought judgment upon them for their spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness. In verse 6 God tells them what He desires from them. He wants mercy – covenant loyalty from them and not just the outward acknowledgement of His existence in sacrifices. In essence He wants His Bride’s heart to be bound to Him in love, loyalty and faithfulness. No religious ceremonies or sacrifices can be a substitute for the heart of the people being committed to God. Just as Hosea wanted faithful love from Gomer so God desired the same from His people. The outward rituals were superficial if there was no inward reality. Please note that God is not condemning sacrifice but He is saying that if the outward ceremony is not matched by an inward reality then it is an empty gesture at best before Him and blasphemy at worst.
6 verses 7- 7 verse 10. To prove His point God, through Hosea, lists the sins of the people. The continual breaking of the covenant and the commandments shows just how far the people have strayed from God. They talk about repentance and about coming back to the Lord God but their actions take them in the opposite direction. Please note that the breaking of the covenant and the commandments are done deliberately and knowingly. How true is that of so much sin in our lives today? We knowingly and deliberately break the laws of God.
Let me quickly run through the sins listed here by God. At the heart of it all is the breaking of the covenant, just as Adam did in the garden of Eden to bring sin and death into the world. Their cities are noted as places of sin and even their priests, who should know better and live faithfully, are leaders in sin. To the extent that God (in verses 9 and 10) describes what He witnesses as ‘shameful crimes…a horrible thing.’ The result of their sin is that the people of God have prostituted themselves before other gods and with other people. God does not hide their sin and nor does He seek to excuse it but simply states it for what it is. I want you to hear that this morning from God in the book of Hosea. God does not excuse your sin and He does not try to reason it out. Sin is not a mistake, it is not an accident and it is not something you stumble into. These people prostituted themselves to other gods and all the time they were telling each other “Come, let us return to the Lord.” Friends, listen to me here, there are so many people sitting in churches throughout this land this morning, and even in here today, who are telling others “Come, let us return to the Lord” and all the time their lives are full of prostitution and unfaithfulness before God to whom they say they are turning back.