In verses 4 through 7 of Hosea 6 now we see the true heart behind their plans. The Lord here is saying to the people through Hosea that the people have Rituals without a Relationship.

“O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away. 5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and your judgments are like light that goes forth. 6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. 7 “But like men they transgressed the covenant; There they dealt treacherously with Me.”

Ephraim, remember, is another name for Israel to the north, so He addresses Israel and Judah here. He asks, “What shall I do to you?” You declare a desire to return to Me but there is no repentance and you participate in the rituals of worship but there is no real change in your hearts, you still do not know Me, so “What shall I do to you?” It is never a good thing when a parent asks a child to pick their punishment, is it? Because whatever the child picks it probably won’t be severe enough and so will be amended upon its application.

God says to the people that their “faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away.” In Jude 12 we are warned about apostates, those about whom it is said, “They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds.” There is no substance, no true water that will help plants grow or water the earth. Their faithfulness is like a morning fog that does not good in nourishing but only obscures visibility. One of my friends in England refers to times in the morning when the fog is so heavy it looks as if someone came and painted the whole landscape gray. No color, no vibrancy, only a vast gray obscurity wherever you look.

On days like this where the fog seems so dense and impenetrable, when the sun rises within a very short time the fog is gone, color pops, light shines, and there is no sign of the previous conditions of the early morning clouds. In reference to faithfulness this means that the people obscure the truth and anything that they do that is believed to be righteous does not last, it does not stay around when the light of truth is shined on it. It vanishes like the fog dissipating when the sun comes up.

The Lord is looking for consistency. For growth. For progress. Instead the people are stuck in a rut of ritual with no true relationship and therefore no true source of power for their spiritual endeavors.

The people also have changing commitments. One day they pursue knowing God, then the next they worship Baal or Ashera. They are double minded. It is like the stony soil in the parable of the sower. In Matt. 13:5, 20-21, “5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” These are those who embrace the Word believing it will bring a life change to them, believing their acceptance will bring benefits and blessings that they have been missing. Yet when the sun comes up, when things heat up, when things get difficult, there is no depth and no root, no stability or solid foundation for them to stand upon. And they whither in the heat. Just like the fog that burns off in the sunlight, the people’s commitments to God were on shaky ground, built in the sand of self-satisfaction, and they could not withstand the pressures of daily life so their commitments faded quickly away.

This question, “What shall I do with you?” is followed with more charges. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and your judgments are like light that goes forth. God, through the prophets, is using His Word to cut the people to pieces, He is saying. To cut them down so that then He can build them back up again.

These verses reveal a lack of love for God. Who do the people love? Who do they serve? Themselves. If they loved God they would come to Him on His terms and not try to come to Him on their terms for what they can get from serving Him. This reminds us of Jesus’ words to the Church at Ephesus. In Revelation 2:2-5 Jesus addresses this great church and He says, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”

It is significant that many who preach Hosea and also Revelation 2 say to their hearers that there is a warning here for those who have “lost their first love.” And there is an encouragement to come back, to find the spark, to rekindle your love for God, almost as if you and God need to go spend time at a romantic get-a-way at a bed and breakfast in a shack somewhere…but notice here, it does not say that the church lost their first love. It says they left it. This is an intentional abandonment – they turned and walked away. While nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ we do confess that our love can grow cold. The remedy then is not romance, but repentance! “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Look there – works are evidence of love! “If you love Me, keep My commands.” (John 14:15). But note, the works must be preceded with repentance, with a turning from sin and self in faith to Christ.