By Scott Armstrong
“Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds” (Hosea 6:1).
(Read Hosea 5:15 – 6:6)
This passage records a conversation between God and his people. The Lord starts in 5:15 by longing that his rebellious children will seek him. Israel responds in 6:1-3 in what seems like genuine repentance. And then God seemingly goes berserk in 6:4-6. Why does he respond by “cutting them in pieces,” “killing them,” and “flashing lightning upon them” (v.5)? Does any of that make sense?
Let’s look closer. Israel is treating forgiveness as a given. God was always so forgiving before; why wouldn’t he be now? “Sure, we’ve sinned, but he’ll still heal us” (v.1). “Two or three days of good sacrifices and he’ll come around” (v.2). They take his forgiveness for granted so much that they actually act like they can sin during the night, ask forgiveness, and as surely as the sun will come up the next day (v.3), God will forgive them.
Be careful here. That kind of attitude is fake and God knows it. Their love is like the morning dew on the grass that disappears by noon on a hot day (v.4). The point is clear. Fake repentance is sickening to God. He will not forgive those hearts.
In fact, God does not have to forgive anybody. He longs to; he desires to (Hosea 11:8-9). But sin is serious. I think nothing makes God madder than when his own people sin and then ask forgiveness only to cover their bases. My old youth pastor used to call it “fire insurance”—just lifting up a quick prayer to make sure you’re still going to heaven and not hell. There is no changed heart and certainly no changed life. “God will forgive me; I’m going to do what I want and get forgiven later.”
Read these verses again. Then read 1 John 1:9. The messages are not contradictory. If we genuinely confess our sins with all our heart, he will forgive us. Bank on it. But true confession does not include mouthing a prayer without any plans to change our actions.
Is there sin in your life and, if so, how do you view it? According to our Lord, it is physically sickening (Rev. 3:16). He calls us to be holy—a work that only he can do. What he needs from us is a heart completely turned toward him. Examine yourself. Is today the day for genuine repentance?