In Hosea chapter 6, Hosea pleads with Israel to return to the Lord. In their sin they had not only broken the Law of God, but had broken covenant with him. He points to the Lord in his faithfulness to restore them if they would just repent and know him again. But God cries out in the latter part of the chapter, revealing his frustration with a faithless people. Because of their inability and unwillingness to uphold their end of the covenant, the Israelites face wrath, but because of God’s faithfulness to fulfill his covenant promise, he grants mercy.
“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.”Hosea 6:1-3
In vs. 1-3 Hosea includes himself in a plea for the people of Israel to return to the Lord. In the midst of their punishment, Hosea points to the Lord’s faithfulness. His purposes are to reconcile them and spare them from his wrath and Israel’s response should be to return and press on to know the Lord so that they may live before him.
What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah?Hosea 6:4-6
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.
In his frustration, God now addresses his people. The Israelites have acted wickedly, but God’s personal plea reveals the heart of the matter- their love. He does not criticize their deeds here, but their affection for their God- It is as precarious as the morning cloud and dew. They did not uphold the end of the covenant made between God and his people just as Gomer did not uphold her vows in marriage to Hosea. Her love resembled the tainted love that the Israelites had for their God. Sacrifice and burnt offerings were means of atonement given by God to temporarily satisfy wrath, but it was not the heart of the covenant. God desired steadfast love and the knowledge of God for his people. Since they had not upheld their commitment to do so, they therefore would be cut off, slain by the word of God, his judgement shining light on their sin.
But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood. As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the priests band together;Hosea 6:6-11
they murder on the way to Shechem; they commit villainy. In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there; Israel is defiled. For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed. When I restore the fortunes of my people,
In v. 6 God references and compares Israel’s sin to Adam’s. God’s bond with Adam suggests that it was the first covenant made between God and his people. God’s covenant commitment to Adam promised blessing (Gen. 1:29-30) contingent to their obedience and faith. Their lack of faith and disobedience would lead to judgement. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden, they received a curse for breaking their covenant (Gen. 3:17-19). God established new covenants throughout the history of his people, from Noah to Abraham to Moses to David- all of which were broken on their part, but faithfully upheld by God.
A harvest of judgement awaited the Israelites, but there would come a day when God would redeem his people. The Israelites looked forward to the hope of the Messiah (Isa. 42:1-9), the chosen one who would bring forth justice to the nations and bring them out of darkness by being a covenant for the people. The prophesy in Isaiah 42 pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ, who not only satisfies the wrath of God, but becomes the covenant himself for the people. Israel proves time and again that humanity could never uphold their end of the covenant, yet God is faithful and merciful. God proved that he alone could uphold the covenant promise, so he sent his Son to uphold it for his people. Instead of his word cutting them off and his light judging him, the Word and Light of God would become their salvation. God established a final covenant, the new covenant in Jesus’ blood (Luke 22:20). All who rest in the covenant of Christ are justified not by works or ability to uphold the covenant, but in faith in Christ alone, the everlasting promise of God.