Hosea 6:1-11 What God Is Looking For

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

Are [Your] Words Of Repentance Real?

1.  Today we read from chapter six and verse one.  At the beginning of this chapter a very reverent and beautiful poem is written.  To begin, I will read to verse three.


"Oh, let us return to the Lord.
The Lord has torn us, and indeed
He has beaten us, but he will dress our wounds.
In two days the Lord will bring us to life
On the third day he will make us stand.
We live in his presence.
Let us know the Lord.
Let us pursue in knowing the Lord.
The Lord always appears like the light of dawn
Like the rain that befalls us
Like the spring rains that moisten the ground
He does visit us," (6:1-3).

3.  It is written in the context of the word of the Lord.  This section, which is sandwiched between the Lord's words, sounds like it's quoted [from somewhere].  It even sounds like a song.  They think that [someone] quoted [these] words or possibly a song here, which came up out of the people rather than Hosea himself doing the calling out that we have here.  If this is a song, then it must have been a song of repentance that had been sung during worship.

4.  So then, what kind of situation was it where these words of repentance used to be expressed and sung?  We can imagine it easily enough.  It must have been a serious and crisis type situation.  It was a tradition in Israel for the people and the king to fast and express their repentance during a crisis situation like in famine or war.  We can see this type of scene many times in the Old Testament.

5.  I touched on it a bit last week, but what is at the background to these words in Hosea is said to be the Syro-Ephraimic War in which the allied forces of Syria and Israel fought with the troops of Judah.  This war is sketched out in the words of chapter five and verses eight and so.  The end of chapter five concludes with the following words, "I am becoming a lion against Ephraim.  I am become a young lion to the house of Judah.  I will tear them, and go on.  I will carry them off, there will be no one to save them.  I will leave and go back to my place until they admit their sin, inquire after me, and find me in their suffering," (5:14-15).  In this way Israel was truly in the condition of a hunted animal that had been torn apart by a lion.  While in such a condition the people assembled at the temple, offered up sacrifices, expressed these words of repentance or maybe sung them as a song of repentance.

6.  Hosea re-told to the people themselves these words of theirs.  He recited to them what they themselves were saying (Did they really know?!)  It must have also been a question that he delivered out to the people.  You say, "'Oh, let us return to the Lord.  Let us know the Lord.  Let us pursue in knowing the Lord,'" but he asks "Is that what you truly mean?"

7.  To repent means to turn to the Lord.  It means exactly that.  And as we have it recorded here it is but to earnestly seek to know the Lord.  "To know the Lord" is not [the same as] "to know about the Lord."  What this means is comparable to the deep personal bond that a husband and wife ought to have by virtue of their relationship.  The issue put to test here is whether or not they are really seeking for that level of a relationship.

8.  We, too, often express our repentance.  In worship services we voice our repentance together.  At times, we might even sing such expressions out so beautifully.  But, [when] we [do] so, I think we might need to listen carefully again to the words that come out of our mouths at those times.  At such a time it just might be that the same question is being shot at us, that is, "Do you really want to turn to the Lord?  Do you want to know the Lord?  Or are you just wishing to run away from your troubles?  Do you just want to be healed?"

9.  Actually, the real way things were for the Israelites was not the way it was spoken here in beautiful, reverential language.  Their expression of repentance during a crisis situation was essentially not much different from the worship which they offered Baal in seeking for an abundant harvest and prosperity.  What they were really looking for was neither to turn to the Lord nor to know the Lord, nor even to live by loving the Lord.  Most of the time it is human [nature] to dispense with that and to seek for that which we have already seen before in the text.  "The Lord has torn us, and indeed he has beaten us, but he will dress our wounds."  They were probably only thinking in the words that come next in the text, "In two days the Lord will bring us to life.  On the third day he will make us stand," as meaning only a revival of their country and of their recovery from being occupied territory [under the hands of foreigners].  But, going back to the basics, a relationship with God alone is life.  A person first "lives" by being joined to God.  Their expression of repentance was not at all wrong in and of itself.  But, they didn't know what they were stating.

Your Love [Is Like] The Morning Fog

10.  Thus, the Lord's words of lament continue over against their words of repentance.  I will read from verse four to verse six.


"O Ephraim
What should I do with you?
O Judah, what should I do with you?
Your love is like the morning mist and
The dew that quickly disappears.
Therefore, I will cut them down
By the prophets and will
Destroy them with the words of my mouth.
The judgment I execute will appear as the light does.
I take pleasure not because
There are sacrifices but love,
Not because there are burnt offerings
But knowledge of God," (6:4-6).

12.  The Lord raised a cry of lament over Ephraim and Judah, "What should I do with you?"  The one who was distraught and worn out was not the Israelites who were in their troubles.  It was God himself who [was crying as] he had his eye on a people who would not come to the Lord or even admit their sin even while in their predicaments.  It was not the people but God who was truly grieving.

13.  The Lord grieved for their love and said, "Your love seems like the morning mist, like the dew that quickly vanishes away."  This "love" is the word "hesed" which was translated as "mercy" in chapter four and verse one.  As I have stated previously, this means an unchanging love based upon the covenant.  For example, it is the kind of love that is required in the marriage vows, which is maintained during all kinds of situations.  It is not just the simple emotion of "liking someone a lot."  Just as it says in many passages of the Bible, it has "love" co-written along with the word "faithfulness, loyalty, sincerity, or truth."  Without loyalty along with it "God's kind of love" is impossible to have.  The Lord so much wants us to recover a relationship with him based on love and loyalty, a relationship of husband and wife.  But, he cannot so much as find among his people this loyal love of hesed in its purity.  What he does see is but something like the morning mist.

14.  Properly speaking, to say that [your] love (hesed) is like the morning mist is in and of itself a contradiction in terms.  But, that was really how the Israelites were.  And it might just be how our world many times is.  It is [always] evident on its own whether or not true love (hesed) accompanies [one's] words of repentance.  If a person doesn't have the mind to truly turn to the Lord or seek to know him, but repents only because he or she wants to escape from his or her pains, then when those troubles linger, the words of repentance will also be done with.  Or even if they were successful in escaping from their troubles, their [words of repentance] will most assuredly be done with and lost because since they have gotten over their troubles, they no longer need God.  Either way, that it wasn't the Lord that was so earnestly being sought after had become clear in the way it is put here.  It became evident that their love was no more than the morning mist and that it was no more than the fog that vanishes when the sun comes up.

15.  With that the Lord has but to announce judgment again.  He says, "The judgment I execute will appear as the light does."  However, what the Lord is really hoping for is not their judgment and destruction.  Therefore, he says to them, "What does the Lord want from you?"  "I take pleasure not because there are sacrifices but love, not because there are burnt offerings but knowledge of God."

16.  People might say, "Haven't we offered up so many sacrifices?  Haven't we offered up festival sacrifices, burnt offerings, grain offerings, fattened animals, sounds of harps and songs of praise?"  Actually, Hosea the prophet shortly before this period of time spoke on how a great many sacrifices they had offered up.  But, many sacrifices do not take the place of turning to the Lord.  What we do for the Lord cannot be a substitute for pursuing after our knowledge of God and knowing Him.  It is not a substitute for our relationship based on hesed and loyal love.  For this reason the Lord says, "I take pleasure not because there are sacrifices but love, not because there are burnt offerings but knowledge of God."

17.  And no matter how religious they might look, if a relationship of love with God does not exist, this reality will show up on its own between one person and another.  A relationship of love between people cannot come into being.  The result of their [true condition] had been that on the one hand, even though in Israel they had offered up many sacrifices in the temple, on the other hand, their every day living in society was far from the will of God.  The Lord indicted them for this condition as follows:


"They broke the covenant at Adam
There they betrayed me.
Gilead is a dwelling for those who practice evil
The footprints of those who have sinned in blood shedding are written there.
The body of the priests murder like thieves lying in wait
For people on the road to Shechem.
They practice such evil!
In the house of Israel I have seen awful things.
So Ephraim commits lewdness
Israel has defiled itself.
O Judah, for even you
A time for being cut [in harvest] is set," (6:7-11).

19.  It is not sure what event happened in the place called Adam but it says they "broke the covenant."  Since it looks like there was a place for melting metal, a foundry around Adam at the plains of Jordan (First Kings 7:46), perhaps it is under indictment because they made idols there.  The following is recorded about Gilead as an event in the time of Hosea.  "[But] a captain of his (Pekahiah's), Pekah son of Remaliah, stirred up a rebellion and in the citadel of the palace at Samaria he united with five hundred Gileadites and with Argob and Arieh he slew Pekahiah.  Thus Pekah replaced him and became king," (Second Kings 15:25).  That wasn't the only tragedy of blood shedding.  The Lord referred to but one example.  After Jeroboam II departed this world, Israel would indeed experience one overthrow of the state after another.

20.  In addition, the text says, "The body of the priests like thieves lying in wait murder people on the road to Shechem."  It is not clear whether they actually murdered or it is speaking of exploitation going on in the temple.  But, either way, the priests, who were supposed to offer sacrifices before God and hold rituals before Him, were not holding God up as God and were not even thinking of men as men, or people as people.  Can we claim that we are not in the same horrible state like them?  We, too, had probably better hear again and again the word of the Lord which he had spoken with pain and grief.  "I take pleasure not because there are sacrifices but love, not because there are burnt offerings but knowledge of God."

21.  "Oh, let us return to the Lord.  Let us know the Lord.  Let us pursue in knowing the Lord."  The Lord wants so much that these words really become our own words.  The Lord is not looking for sacrifices or burnt offerings.  What the Lord is looking for is for us ourselves.  As for sacrifices, the Lord prepared [one] himself.  In putting his only son on the cross he made the true sacrifice that is proper for offering up during a rite of love.  This [sacrifice was made] so that we will truly love the Lord and become persons who know the Lord.  [It was made] so that the first song of repentance [that we have seen in this passage of scripture] will truly become our own words.

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