“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.” Hosea 6:1 ESV
Return – “Although ‘in their distress’ (5:15) the Israelites do indeed resolve ‘come, let us return to Yahweh’ (6:1), the people are not really transformed. Israel continues to lack insight into its own guilt (cf. 6:2-3 with 14:2-3[1-2]) and does not exhibit constancy (6:4b), steadfast love, or knowledge of God (6:6).”
Not much has changed since the time of Hosea, has it? Distress leads to a form of repentance. When things get bad, God comes to mind. Like the fertility cults of the ancient past, we turn to God in order to improve our lives. We make promises. We offer sacrifices (bigger tithes, more services, whatever it takes). We show penance. But just like the Israelites, we lack insight into our own guilt. We think like pagans. “If we just do this, then God will be happy with us again and life will return to normal,” we say to ourselves. Perhaps we aren’t even aware of the implicit selfishness of our actions. Perhaps we don’t see that our motives are not based on God’s perspective but rather on our own desires to remove the pain. But the result is no different. We move toward God only long enough to reduce our distress. But there is no long-term consistency, no abiding faithful loyalty, no true understanding of His heart. When the pain is gone, so are the vows.
The sad pattern of sincere capriciousness is evident for both corporate and individual. A nation turns to God in a time of crisis. Ten years later no one notices any difference. A man or woman, struck by anxiety and guilt, pleads and prays. A month later nothing has changed. It took one thousand years of waiting before God sent Hosea to warn the people about their fickle faith. I am afraid that we have also used up the clock. The long-nose of deferred wrath is shortened by our lack of compassion for God. As the parable of the great debtor clearly shows us, having proven ourselves unworthy of His grace, He may withdraw the benefit and require us to pay.
Hosea’s summary is fitting: “they turn . . . to powerlessness.” We turn back to our plans, our attempts to control our destiny, our beliefs that power and money will make us free. We follow the path of Ba’al, with the same result. And, by the way, Hosea also makes it clear that the proof of our pagan Christianity is not in our theological constructs but rather in our actions. If God can describe what it means to be in His image in His self-definition of Exodus 34:6-7, are we compelled to ask ourselves if we can be described by the same terms. Where is our compassion as intense as the care of an unborn child? Where is our patient endurance? Where is unmerited favor poured out? Where is hesed? If you made journal entries into your spiritual account based on the characteristics of God’s declaration to Moses, how would you fare? Are you like Hosea’s Israel or are you like Yeshua’s servants?
Topical Index: shuv, return, Exodus 34:6-7, Hosea 6:1, Matthew 18:21-35
 M. Graupner, shuv, TDOT, Vol. XIV, p. 487.