Hosea writes to a spiritually unstable people, often wavering in their vows to return and seek God. What, then, are we to make of this declaration: “Come, let us return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1)?
Is this an expression of genuine repentance, or another vain commitment, a faithless promise?
Even well-intentioned repentance, if performed in our own strength, will be like the dew that goes early away. Time and again, Ephraim and Judah had vowed and fallen away. They had promised and grown weary of keeping their promise. “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?” God asks (v. 4).
Like Ephraim, when I hear that question, my gut reaction is to say to God, “Give me another chance! I can do it this time!” But I cannot. God does not desire my own sacrificial efforts, or any vain attempt on my part to earn His favor. Such pursuits are not repentance.
Yet how often do I substitute “sacrifice” for faithful love? Do I measure my spiritual walk by the fruit that I bear, rather than by what He has done? Do I walk alone, rather than in the light of His fellowship and the communion of the saints? Do I engage in the Word and prayer as to-dos, rather than as feast of grace? When I sin, do I try to earn my way back into God’s favor, rather than leaning wholly upon Christ?
We all have Ephraim hearts. We are quick to turn aside and to seek refreshment from strange waters (Jer. 2:17-25). But God, in His great mercy, has offered deliverance even to us. God’s rebukes mercifully drive us to Christ:
“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.”
– Hosea 6:1-2
Our hope of return to the Lord is not in our efforts, but in Christ. In Him we are struck down, as God visited His just wrath against our sin on the cross. In Him are we raised on the third day. God does not desire vain sacrifice from us, for Christ Jesus, the true sacrifice, has already satisfied the demands of justice.
Therefore, let us know; “let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). He has come to us as the spring rain, making even the wasteland and desert glad (Isaiah 35:1). Let us lay aside vain pursuits and walk in His steadfast love. How rich indeed is His mercy, how unfathomable His redemption!
Written By Caleb Faires