In last week’s lesson we saw that God was calling Israel to court, as it were, leveling against them a lawsuit for their unfaithfulness. His chief accusation in chapter 4 was against the priests who had neglected their positions as the teachers and preachers of God’s word, thus leaving the people to perish without the knowledge of God. He now continues his accusations, indicting the rest of the cultural leadership of society for leading the people astray into the pagan worship practices of the surrounding nations. The people of Israel had forgotten their knowledge of God, nevertheless, God knows them through and through, from their deeds to their hearts.
The Israelites are clinging to deeds which do not permit them to return to their God because they have become thoroughly ensnared in the spirit of whoredom which underlies their pagan practices (5:4). As we saw in Psalm 106, they were trapped by their idolatry until they lost their very humanity by practicing the demonic rituals of child sacrifice. Reading back through the entire psalm it becomes clear that they fell into this unspeakably evil practice because they did not remember the Lord: forgetting his love, his works on their behalf, and his salvation; and they despised his gifts, murmuring against him in the disobedience of their hearts (Psalm 106:7, 13, 21, 24, 25).
Even still, alongside their pagan idolatry, they are continuing the outward forms of worshiping the Lord (5:6). But these “empty rituals devoid of true faith” are so offensive to God that he pledges they will not find him because he has withdrawn from them (5:6). Because they refuse to abandon their sin, “God will let them see what life without his provision is really like.”
Commenting on Hosea 5:6, James Boice writes:
As true religion declined they seem to have made more of their sacrifices, worship, high holy days, and festivals. They would have said “how meaningful,” “how moving,” or “how spiritual an experience” it all was. But God says that it was actually worthless because it had nothing to do with him. He was not in it; and if he is not in it, it is not true worship, no matter how “meaningful,” “moving,” or “spiritual” it may be. . . . The one thing that is most important as far as evangelical theology is concerned [is] the preaching and hearing of the Word of God.
Dr. Boice then goes on to offer the following advice: “I cannot say whether your worship, prayer, Bible reading, or other religious activity is like that [devoid of God himself]. But you know whether it is the real thing or not. You know whether or not your soul is being satisfied by true fellowship with the living God. If it is not, then you must turn from the sin that is barring you from God’s presence and come to him in Christ where that sin has been forgiven and a door of access into the presence of the Father has been opened.”
I urge you to prayerfully consider this advice.
I, Even I
Hosea continues describing the desolation that will fall upon Israel because they have broken the covenant and abandoned their God. Their sins will lead to God pouring out his wrath upon them like water (10); their determination to sin will leave them oppressed and crushed in judgment. So God will himself cause their entire society to decay and fester as he removes his restraining hand and gives them over to the evil intents of their hearts (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 1:24).
God then declares the terrifying lengths to which he will go in his wrath against their sin:
For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
and like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear and go away;
I will carry off, and no one shall rescue.
I will return again to my place,
until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,
and in their distress earnestly seek me. — Hosea 5:14-15
The LORD himself, in his holy and righteous anger, will tear them apart as mercilessly as a roaring lion, and then he will turn his back and leave them utterly forsaken—until they repent and seek his face.
But how? How can they return and repent when their worship practices no longer anticipate the Christ, through whom alone the door to forgiveness and access into the presence of the Father is opened?
In one of the most passionate pleas in all of Scripture, Hosea calls sinners to return to the LORD, an invitation which is at the same time the solution God has provided so that sinners may answer the call:
“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.” — Hosea 6:1-2
And here we see the loving grace of an offended God which reaches out to his sinful people in order to redeem and restore them to himself. The very hands which tore them and struck them down will heal them and bind them up. God’s purposes in sending the curses upon his disobedient people were always for their restoration. But as has been proved time and again, sinners cannot maintain their own obedience; they cannot fulfill the requirements of God’s holy Law on their own; even if they get the worship rituals right, the blood of bulls and goats will not atone for their sins.
The sacrificial system was never meant to satisfy the requirements of the Law, but it pointed forward to the One Who would fully satisfy all righteousness by his once-for-all perfect sacrifice. Jesus himself is the Lion of the tribe of Judah who became the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. On the cross, Jesus Christ died as the substitute for every sinner who places their faith in him.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. — 1 Peter 2:24
As our representative, Jesus was torn, that we would be healed; struck down, that we would be bound up. In him the wages of our sin are paid (Romans 6:23) and in his resurrection we too are raised up on the third day (Ephesians 2:4-6). On the cross, the Son of God was forsaken by his Father so that we would become children of God (1 John 3:1). In Christ we are crucified so that in him we may live.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. — Galatians 2:20
Because of Christ, sinners can be made new. And sinners made new can turn from their wicked ways in true repentance of the heart and return to the Lord, pressing on to know him who has forgiven them and cleansed them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Repentance isn’t a one-time event for the Christian. It is a daily gift, the privilege of the children who have open access to their Father through the door opened to them by Christ. Therefore:
“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 6:3
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. — 1 Thessalonians 5:24
 Richard D. Phillips, Blow The Trumpet!, sermon on Hosea 5:1-15, Second Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC, 6/23/2019
 Tim Chester, Hosea: The Passion of God (Scotland, UK: 2014) 97.
 James Montgomery Boice, The Minor Prophets, Vol. 1, An Expositional Commentary: Hosea – Jonah, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1983) 51-52.
 Boice, 52.