Take your Bibles if you will and open with me to Hosea chapter 6. We will be looking at all of chapter 6 this week, verses 1-11, as we continue in our series through Hosea titled “God’s Redeeming Love.” In this pageant, this living parable, we see Hosea and his wife Gomer representing God and His people. As Gomer left Hosea running to a life of unfaithfulness, Hosea pursued her and eventually had to redeem her, he had to buy her back from the slave market where she found herself bound and offered up for auction. Hosea as we know represents God, demonstrating His covenantal love for His people. And Gomer represents the people of Israel who were living in blatant unfaithfulness, idolatry, and spiritual adultery.

Chapters 1 and 2 have introduced us to the people and circumstances, chapter 3 gave us that beautiful picture of redemption as Hosea bought Gomer from the salve market and brought her back home. Chapter 4 gave us the list of charges, the indictment against Israel and as we finished chapter 5 last week, we learned about the awesome holiness of God and the tragic consequences of sinning against Him. There in chapter 5 verses 14 and 15 we read, “For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue. 15 I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”

And we will learn that they do indeed seek God desperately as the consequences of their sin begins to come to pass in their midst. God has said through the prophet that if the people will repent and return to Him that He will restore them, protect, them, and provide for them. As the people listen though we find out very quickly that they are pragmatists at heart. They want the benefit of returning to God but they refuse to take the steps God requires for their return. He tells them to repent and return and they proclaim that they will indeed return, but they do not repent! That is where we pick up in chapter 6, in this message titled “Mercy, not Sacrifice”, and we begin with verses 1-3. There the people proclaim:

Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but 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 in His sight.  Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.

Our first point then demonstrates for us that the people are returning to the Lord, but they are Returning without Repentance. Somehow they have missed the heart of Hosea’s message. The key for restoration eludes them. They are seeking the benefits of reconciliation and want the promises and protection of God, but they simply refuse to even consider what God has instructed them to do. For there to be a return to the Lord there must be a rejection of their sin and unfaithfulness. There must be a turning away from the idolatry in repentance. They must leave one to follow the other and cannot continue to believe that they can have both God and their idols at the same time.

They seem to believe that they can confess their desire to return to God and that He will then automatically and without question take them back. But it doesn’t work that way does it? God does not take us, “Just as I am.” In fact, in that oversung hymn we often here the emphasis “Just as I am…O Lamb of God, I come. I come.” And we skip over the verse there. “Just as I am, without one plea (we have no answer, no excuse, no explanation, no remedy for our sin, except for One). Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” There is a requirement for coming to God – there is only One Way to come to Him in fact – and that Way is through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus. God does not take us just as we are, He requires a change, a change of heart. He requires the new birth. And the first fruits of regeneration are repentance and faith.

If we come to Him dragging our sin with us, hoping to have both the benefit of fellowship with God and the pleasure of fulfilling our sinful lusts at the same time then we have not understood the gospel call, or the holiness of God one wit.

So do you recognize what is missing when they say, “Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up…” What are they seeking? Healing from the judgment. They want to feel better! This was not a change of heart or mind toward sin, this was a cry for deliverance from the effects of their sin, for deliverance from judgment. They think that if they return to God then the judgment will stop.

Hosea 7:14, as we will get to it in the next week, Lord willing, tells us, “They did not cry out to Me with their heart when they wailed upon their beds. They assemble together for grain and new wine, they rebel against Me.” This is not repentance. This is a desire for deliverance from discipline and judgment. They were tired of the inconvenience and discomfort of judgment for their sin. For them we see that the supposed remedy was not repent and return, but simply, return. Tell God we are coming back, but all the while their hearts were bent on rebellion and continued iniquity. They wanted God and their sin all at the same time. Those who believe in the false doctrine of the so-called carnal Christian live like this – claiming by means of a cheap grace and an easy-believism, that if they will just pray a prayer, just sign a card, just shake a preachers hand, just join a church, then whatever else happens God is now and forever their co-pilot and they will be with Him in heaven when they die. They have their hellfire insurance policy. No eat, drink, and get married….errrr, be merry, for tomorrow we die!

What we find in these first verses of chapter 6 is the truth of the hope we have if we repent and return to God abandoning and abhorring our sinful ways. But they twist it, they leave repentance out of the equation, and in reality all they are saying is that they are sorry they got caught! If there had been no consequences, no discomfort, no discipline, then they would have never thought to return to God. And even as they think about returning to Him it is 100% pragmatism at work. If we come back things will get better, so let’s come back!

This is a child having been sent to his room who promises that if you just let him come out of his room he will do what is right. Not because he has had a change of heart, no, because he is still serving self and is willing even to modify outward behavior in order to experience the inner satisfaction of getting his own way.

The people here are promising to come back because they got caught, not because they have responded rightly to conviction and rejected their sin. There is still work to be done then, still a message to proclaim, still truth to apply to a stiff-necked, hard-hearted, pragmatic people.

They know full well the consequences of their sin. They list them. But the problem to them is not the sin that lead to consequences, no, the problem is that there are consequences at all. When you make a very poor decision and there are negative consequences, we all know what to do right? Blame others and play the victim! My rights! My free speech! My desires! My lust! My sin! It is all Me, Mine, My….and it is all someone else’s fault for bullying us. Right?

The people say here, “He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.” They know this is God and that this is judgment and they know that if they return to Him He will heal them. The problem is that when they come to Him they come on their terms, for what they can get from Him, instead of on His terms, which would be evidence of repentance and submission.

The phrase here, by the way, “He has stricken, but He will bind us up”, this is a reference to a shepherd. We have all seen the pictures of the shepherd carrying the sheep over his shoulders. Poor sheep. Poor, dumb, disobedient sheep. That picture is not sweet if you understand what has happened. The sheep strayed, multiple times, a repeat offender. So the shepherd’s remedy is to use the rod. The shepherd carried a rod and staff. The staff is the “shepherd’s crook” – with the pointy end he killed snakes and investigated questionable terrain. With the crook he pulled sheep out of danger. The rod though, that is different. It was the size of a small billy club and could be used to fight off lions or bears if you were not a sling shot sniper ace…and it was used to break the leg of a wandering sheep. The shepherd used the rod of correction to wound the sheep, to strike him, to make him lame, so that then the sheep had to be carried. The shepherd would bind the broken leg and carry the sheep until the wound healed. During that time the sheep would bond with the shepherd and would be less prone to wander. It is a living example of Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

We should find comfort in both the protective staff of God and also the disciplining rod, that brings us back, that corrects us when we have strayed.

The people here have been chastised. They are suffering the judgment of God as a consequence for their continued iniquity. They believe then that if they declare a desire to come back and just acknowledge God then He will heal them and take away the consequences, the things that they are reaping because of what they have sown.