A Tale of Holy Love, Unfaithfulness, Justice, Mercy, and Grace
“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 we 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.”
This is probably one of the most well-known passages in Hosea. Often quoted in reference to God’s faithfulness and His desire to bring restoration, this passage is generally looked on in a positive light—a confession of sincere repentance, an acknowledgement of the need to return. But is it?
Is this really what it appears to be? What do you think?
In order to answer this question, let’s analyze the verses. In the entire “confession” there are only two actions that Israel is claiming they need to do—return and know. They recognize the need to return to the LORD and to press on to know Him. But why? What are the reasons why they realized they should do these things?
Remember, we just finished chapter five, which was entirely devoted to the LORD’s warning that He would leave Israel and forsake her. Her sin was too great and her desire for it too strong, so He had to leave and remove His presence and blessing from Israel’s life. Now directly after this section of doom and gloom comes Hosea 6:1-3. Interesting timing, isn’t it?! Now remember that the chapter and verse breaks are not divinely inspired but merely put in semi-logical places to make navigation easier. Therefore, it is imperative that as we study specific sections and passages, we do so within the context of the surrounding verses, taking into account what took place before and after.
So that’s the context for Hosea 6:1-3. Now back to the passage in question.
The Israelites committed themselves to two actions—to return and to know. But as you look at the reasons why they made this decision, what do you notice? Take a moment to go back and reread the passage.
Israel’s reasoning revolved around what God would do for them. They didn’t acknowledge their sin. Sure, they acknowledged their need to return to God, but they never confessed their huge transgression and spiritual adultery. Rather, they saw that they were in a tough place and figured that if they said the right words and did certain things God would bail them out. They acted as if God needed them and though He may have distanced Himself for a while, He would quickly come back. After all they were His special people.
But it doesn’t work that way! God does not need us. We need God. He is not a genie that we can ply for requests and favors if we say and do the right things. Nor is He one that can be fooled by mere lip service and not heart surrender.
While much of what Israel said in Hosea 6:1-3 was truth, they slightly twisted the truth by moving the focus onto themselves. It was all me, me, me, and us, us, us rather than God and His will alone. Instead of earnestly and sincerely repenting of their sin and seeking God’s forgiveness because they recognized the error of their ways, it was mere lip service. An attitude of “Oh, God will leave us if we don’t return and try to know Him! Okay, we can do that. And when we do He will heal us, bind us up, revive us, raise us up, and come to us. Sounds like a good deal. I’m in.”
To Israel it was all about the benefits versus the relationship. They were concerned about the lack of blessing and prosperity rather than the break of fellowship with the living God.
But how often are we just like Israel? When we sin, do we more acutely feel the pain of God’s methods of discipline or the spiritual separation that is a result of our sin? Are we more interested in the stuff that God has to offer or the relationship that He is extending? When life gets tough and trials come, do we run to God and seek to know Him so that He can fix everything? Or do we run to Him so that we can draw on His strength and trust that He will get us through, come what may?
Throughout the Bible, God has given us many great and precious promises. Promises of healing, protection, and blessing. But God never intended for these promises to become more important than Himself. He never intended us to seek Him just so we could claim the benefits. At the end of the day, He wants relationship. Period.
It’s the reason and purpose around which the entire story and history of mankind revolves. God created mankind to walk in fellowship with Him, but then man sinned. So God made a temporary way for that sin to be atoned for and then ultimately sent His Son to deal with it once and for all, so mankind could be reconciled to Him and return to the fellowship that we were created for.
God doesn’t want us to become distracted and desirous of the promises and blessings He has to offer. For they are mere bonuses, perks, and icing on the cake. He wants us to desperately and whole-heartedly desire Him, and Him alone.
So let us be careful to not fall in the footsteps of Israel and make an outward confession of repentance with selfish, wrong motives. Let us not be more interested in what God has to offer rather than who He is. And above all else, let us desire an ever deeper relationship with the God who redeemed us, rescued us, and pursued us with His love. May our relationship with Him always be our number one priority.
"I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold I'd rather be his than have riches untold
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or land
Yes I'd rather be led by his nail pierced hands
Than to be the king of a best domain and beheld in sins dread sway
I'd rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today"
~"I'd Rather Have Jesus" by Jim Reeves