Hosea 4, Religion That Frustrates God

Intro: Read Hosea 6:1-3 – 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. 2 After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight. 3 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.

  • The first 3 verses of chapter 6 seem to describe a truly penitent Israel ready to return to God and do right. These are the words a prophet is looking to hear from those in his audience. We will return to God – repent. Connected with their expressed desire to return to God, they anticipate that He will bless them again immediately (“after two days… on the third day”) and everything will be good again (sun and rain will appear). Certainly God will always respond favorably to the penitent heart and provide revival and healing. True repentance is affected through knowledge of God, and a desire to know God better (v. 3). When connected with the words of 5:15 it would appear that this is what God has been looking for. His discipline of His people has been successful. But wait…

I. God’s Frustration with His People: Hosea 6:44 “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. Do you think God ever gets frustrated? That may be a perplexing picture, but we know what frustration is, and we know what frustrates us. So we can relate to the feeling. In Hosea that is one of the Lord’s objectives – To help Hosea, and his audience, relate to the feelings or emotions of God. (we noticed this in our previous studies.) I believe this verse expresses what might be considered God’s feelings of frustration with His people, in the same way we become frustrated with another person – “What am I going to do with you?”

  • Note: Now God is not frustrated in the same way we are. He is not incapable, or ineffective through a lack of ability. I get frustrated with my own weaknesses. God has no weaknesses. His purposes never fail. But I believe that God’s intense love for Israel and His desire to bless them is set against His absolute holiness. He wants to be merciful, but cannot overlook their sin (Justice). What is the root of His frustration?

A. “your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away.” (Hosea 6:4) What can you almost always know about early morning fog or the dew on the ground? It will dissipate as soon as the sun gets up. It will not last.

1. God is frustrated when His people fail to truly repent. He is frustrated when their desire to obey (faithfulness) is shallow. He is frustrated when they easily return to sin. Hailey comments on Hosea 4:6 – … “This would indicate an attitude lacking in deep and genuine repentance, suggesting that in their minds they need only to intimate a disposition to return to Jehovah for Him to readily accept them. This would reveal a low estimate of the demands of Jehovah on His people.” Do you think we ever underestimate what God demands of us?

a. We live in society where people can commit the most heinous and obvious wrong, and simply say they are sorry, and expect everything to be OK. (The abusive husband who cries and asks for forgiveness the next morning so his wife won’t leave him.) This attitude is the natural result of a lack of knowledge of God and His holiness. When we know God (as He is seen in scripture) we can only understand the tragedy of our sin, and the surety of our judgment, and our absolute dependence on His forgiveness. Job 42:5-6 5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. 6 Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”

b. We recall the powerful description of true repentance in Joel 2:12-14Even now, declares the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing–grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. God does not demand a pound of flesh (cannot pay back what you owe), but He does require a broken heart.

c. God was frustrated because He had done so much to bring them to repentance, and nothing worked. Hosea 6:55 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 is speaking in the past tense. I have taken drastic steps to wake them up. The NLT renders this verse… “I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces— to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light.” God as Israel’s father has sought to correct them in both word and deed. The prophets (Elijah, Elisha, Obadiah, Amos, Joel, etc) came with warnings of the need to repent; ignoring these, God in His providence sent His judgments to punish them and bring about their repentance. But even when there was a sign of reform it was selfishly motivated and short-lived. What else can He do?

d. Is God frustrated with us? Does He see the discipline of His words going unheeded day after day? Do we seek God when crisis comes, but forget Him when the crisis passes?

B. “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) It is frustrating to God when His people offer shallow external obedience and fail to truly know Him or love others.

1. The word, “for” connects us to the previous thought in vs. 5. God sent all those prophets and judgments because He wanted something from His people. He desires mercy, not sacrifice; He desires the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. This is a powerful statement. He wanted them to know Him; that is, He wanted them to appreciate His character: His love for them, His holiness; His compassion. The knowledge of God is the root of true obedience.

2. He wanted them to offer sacrifices. But those sacrifices were not an end in themselves. They were designed to teach Israel about God.

        • He was holy – sin had to be atoned precisely.
        • Sin was serious business – death was the only remedy.
        • He was merciful – He would forgive their sins against Him.
        • Everyone needed mercy – God treated everyone alike. In that they could understand how they were to treat each other with mercy. This was His delight, not sacrifices and burnt offerings.

3. But His people had not learned this lesson. They came to God’s temple with their sacrifices in an attempt to buy God off while they continued their sinning. They thought the sacrifice was all God wanted. But He demanded more.

4. Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 twice, under different circumstances. On those occasions, I believe He as well was frustrated by what He saw.

a. After Jesus called Matthew, the tax-collector, to be His disciple, He went home with him to eat. Matt 9:10-13 – Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

1) To avoid being contaminated ceremonially the Pharisees disassociated themselves from people of moral inferiority. Comparable to a doctor refusing to enter a hospital because he hated diseases. Jesus’ analogy of the physician drives the point home: But when He heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. (Matthew 9:12) But, what does a doctor do when he really hates disease? He goes where the sick are and treats them and helps them. This is what God does. What God wanted from His people was to know of His love and mercy toward humanity and go out and show the same love and mercy. But the Pharisees did not learn this lesson and Jesus was frustrated at them. Is he frustrated at use when we shun or exclude those who need God’s mercy?

b. The second time Jesus quoted this verse He and His disciples were passing through the grain fields on a Sabbath journey. His hungry disciples reached out and picked some of the heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands and ate the grain. The Pharisees insisted that they had violated the Sabbath. Jesus responded: Matthew 12:3-7 – 3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

1) The Pharisees prided themselves on their strict obedience to the Law. They did not want to violate the Sabbath; in order to avoid violation they built a hedge of human traditions around the actual law of God and excluded those who broke those traditions.

2) One of the purposes of the Sabbath law was to exhibit God’s mercy to His people in providing a day of rest. It was as well a preamble to the coming of Jesus, our true Sabbath rest. To use the Sabbath law to erect a barrier of moral superiority and condemn others was to miss the point. God desired mercy, not sacrifice (Sabbath-keeping). Jesus’ words do not argue for disobedience or even a lower standard of precise obedience, but rather they argue for learning what God wants us to learn our precise obedience. To use God’s law simply to hypocritically condemn others, while never becoming more like God ourselves frustrates God’s purposes.

Conclusion: We too need to “go and learn what this means”.

  • True repentance demands that we come to know God and make a real commitment to change. We need to respond to the words and discipline of God, and stop frustrating His desire to bless us.
  • We need to see the character of God in His law and learn to be merciful as He is merciful.

For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)