Sunday, June 25, 2006

Matt's Messages - Real Repentance

“Real Repentance”
June 25, 2006
Hosea 6:1-7:16

Last week in our study of this Israeli prophet in the last years of the northern kingdom, we heard God charge Israel with a lack of knowledge of Himself–a deliberately chosen rejection of knowledge of God Himself. And God said that because Israel had broken her covenant and chosen to not know God, judgment and destruction would come upon her. He said, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (4:6) and He promised to do the destroying Himself.

Chapter 5 ended with the Lord prophesying, “I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me” (5:14-15).

And it appears, at first glance, that chapter 6 begins with that very seeking.

But is it genuine? Is it authentic? Is it “Real Repentance?”

Because you know and I know that there are two kinds of repentance: the real kind and the fake.

Fake repentance sounds like real repentance but there’s no real change in the heart.

Fake repentance looks good at first glance but the inside isn’t there.

We’ve all seen it with children, haven’t we?

“Say you’re sorry.”
“I’m sorry!”
“You don’t sound sorry!”

And you know that they are not.

Well, you and I are just more sophisticated than children. We’re not necessarily any better.

And I believe that one of the reasons this passage is in the Bible is to teach us about the dangers of false repentance. And to call us to the real deal.

These first three verses sound really good don’t they? “Come, let us return to the LORD!”

But is it real repentance?

Some Bible scholars think so, and I respect their opinion. It’s possible that these are the words of Hosea calling the people to repentance or these are the words of Israel some day down the line–inserted here to give hope.

But I don’t think so.

I think this is a case of fake repentance. Israel just going through the motions.

I think that Israel is presuming upon God here.


“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. [These are words taken directly out of the previous chapter. The LORD promised to tear them and injure them. But Israel expects Him to heal them. V.2] After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”

Now, that sounds to me like presumption. Like Israel didn’t really expect any elongated discipline for their sin. Israel expects to be quickly forgiven and cleared of all charges.
Kind of like Catherine the Great who said something like, “God will forgive me; that’s His job!”

I think a lot of people have that kind of a view of God. “God will forgive me; that’s His job!”

Now, there is the ditch on the one hand of not believing that God will ever forgive, that God is not gracious, that God is not generous.

But the other ditch is just as dangerous and it is what I think Israel is doing here–presuming upon God’s grace.

“After two days he will revive us; [at least!] on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. [That’s what He says He wants!] As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Count on it! Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, all we have to do is call and He’ll be there!

What’s missing in this little speech?

Sin. Humility. Brokenness. Real Repentance.

Israel expects to just breeze back in with little to no consequence for their actions.

Gomer has been off with another man but expects Hosea to welcome her back with an indulgent smile.

Israel expects revival without real repentance.

And it’s not going to happen.

But we do the same thing don’t we?

We expect God to bless us and never consider our own personal sin.

Most of our prayer times lack confession.

We don’t examine ourselves very often and when we do we quickly move over our sin.

Now, I’m not calling here for morbid introspection. Some of us are prone to that and need a different message–one of “look to Christ 10 times for every look at your sinful heart.” And as the Puritan Richard Sibbes said, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in me.” Some of us need to hear that.

But most of us need to hear a call to real repentance.

Most of us need to hear a call to self-examination, regular confession, and a real turning from our sin.

Remember, repentance is not just something that happens at our new birth. Repentance is a way of life for the Christian.

Martin Luther said that the Christian life is “a race of repentance.”

And we can’t expect revival without it.

Personal revival or corporate revival.

Revival won’t come unless and until there is real repentance.

Do you desire personal and corporate revival? It begins with real repentance.

That’s now what we are seeing here. God sees through their words to their hearts. V.4

“‘What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love [Hebrew: HESED, covenant loyalty] is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.”

You say you love me now but a few minutes later your love has Alzheimer’s. There’s no real repentance here. But there will be real judgment. V.5

“Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.”

It is coming. It’s so sure that my words have made it so. Why?

“For I desire mercy [Hebrew: HESED], not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

This is what God wants. God wants covenant loyalty. That word “mercy” in v.6 is translated “loyalty” in the New American Standard Bible. Hesed. Others translate it “steadfast love.”

And God wants knowledge of Himself. We use the phrase around here a “love relationship” with God. That’s what He’s talking about here.

He wants covenant love and knowledge of Himself rather than sacrifice or burnt offerings.

Now, this verse does not mean that God didn’t ever want sacrifices of burnt offerings. Of course, He did. He required them in the Old Testament Law, and He fulfilled them in the New Covenant sacrifice of our Savior.

But Israel thought that they could do the sacrifices without the mercy/love.
And they thought that they could do the burnt offerings without the knowledge/acknowledgment of God Himself.

They thought they could get away with the outside stuff and skip the inside.

But God wanted their hearts!

They wanted to simply placate God instead of pleasing Him.

And that’s not what God wants.

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”


He wants our hearts.

But that’s not what Israel was offering. V.7

“Like Adam, they have broken the covenant–they were unfaithful to me there. Gilead is a city of wicked men, stained with footprints of blood. As marauders lie in ambush for a man, so do bands of priests [priests!]; they murder on the road to Shechem, committing shameful crimes. I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel. There Ephraim is given to prostitution and Israel is defiled. Also for you, Judah, a harvest is appointed.”

Israel from town to town and up and down had become idolatrous with spiritual adultery.

It’s not because God didn’t desire to give them revival, it’s because He knew that their repentance was not real. Chapter 7, verse 1.

“Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people, whenever I would heal Israel [I wanted to!], the sins of Ephraim are exposed and the crimes of Samaria revealed. They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets; but they do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds. Their sins engulf them; they are always before me.”

That doesn’t sound like real repentance.

Paul Tripp defines repentance as “a radical change of heart that leads to a radical change of life.”

There is no repentance here.

How are you doing with your “carpenter ants?”

Last week, I told you about the little black intruders in our house and my plans to exterminate them. [Note to blog readers and email subscribers, this was in the audio version of last week's sermon only.]

Well, I haven’t got it done yet. I was out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday this week and it rained on Friday night. So, I haven’t been able to spray the perimeter and send some poisoned granules back to the queen.

And this week, I’m going to Denver for the EFCA National Conference on Tuesday.
If I don’t get it done on Monday, it’s not going to get done this week.

So, all of my big words last week about really killing those big black ants didn’t issue into any reality, yet.

Last week, I said that those ants are like our heart-idols. We’ve got to do away them.
We’ve got to eliminate them.

We’ve got to exterminate the flesh.

No more excuses. No more playing games. No more saying one thing but really doing another.

Because God desires real repentance and relationship with His people.

That’s where revival comes from.

God desires real repentance and relationship with His people.

Fake repentance just gets you more in trouble!


In chapter 7, God uses 4 colorful word pictures to show how foolish fake repentance makes somebody.

The first is an oven. V.3

“They [Israel] delight the king with their wickedness, the princes with their lies. [The leaders are happy with the spiritual state of the nation.] They are all adulterers, burning like an oven whose fire the baker need not stir from the kneading of the dough till it rises. [In other words, there’s a lot of hot coals of sin sizzling away in that furnace.] On the day of the festival of our king the princes become inflamed with wine, and he joins hands with the mockers. [A drunken orgy in the palace of God’s king!] Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him with intrigue [that is, the others at this party don’t really love the king, they are out to get his place]. Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. All of them are hot as an oven; they devour their rulers. All their kings fall, and none of them calls on me.”

Did you know that during 30 years of Hosea’s ministry, four of the six kings that lived then assassinated their predecessor and only one of them died in his bed?

They said, “Come, let us return to the LORD!” But they were burning and burning and burning inside.

Friends, if we have fake repentance, our inner sins will inflame us even more.

You might talk a good talk here at church, but if you aren’t right with God on the inside, then it’s just going to burn and churn and burn and churn and it will come blazing out. Guaranteed.

The second word-picture is a half-baked cake. V.8

“Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over. Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realize it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice. Israel's arrogance testifies against him, but despite all this he does not return to the LORD his God or search for him.”

“A flat cake not turned over.”

In other words, it’s burnt on one side and raw on the other. Good for nothing.

That comes because Ephraim/Israel puts her trust in other nations. And Ephraim has gotten old and gray, his death is on the way, but he doesn’t realize it. He is so full of himself that it gives the lie to his words of repentance.

His repentance is fake. And He is more and more foolish and more and more good for nothing.

Who would like a cake that was burnt on one side and raw on the other?

I wonder if Gomer ever baked one like that for good old Hosea?

False repentance makes you good for nothing, and you don’t even realize it.

You say you are living for God, but you aren’t effective for the kingdom, and in time, you don’t even know that you’re not the real deal.

False repentance makes you good for nothing, and you don’t even realize it.

And it makes you dupe, too. D-U-P-E. A sucker. You fall for anything. V.11

“Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless–now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria. [Make up your mind!] When they go, I will throw my net over them; I will pull them down like birds of the air. When I hear them flocking together, I will catch them.”

This word picture is that of a dove. Or we would say, “a stool pigeon.”

Ephraim couldn’t make up their minds, and they fell for everything.

First Egypt, then Assyria. Like a dumb bird.

And God says that He’s a fowler going to hunt them down. V.13

“Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me.”

There is no real repentance here.

They’ve lied so long they can’t tell what is true!

And they don’t look to God. V.14

“They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from me.”

Notice that they do cry. Tears do not always mean real repentance.

I’ve sat with several people who have cried and cried over their sin but did not really turn from it.

Paul calls that “worldly sorrow.” Not godly sorrow. (2 Cor. 7:10)

It’s what Esau had when he lost the birthright and the blessing.

Sorry he got caught. Sorry he didn’t get the blessing.

Not really sorry for his sin against God.

Real repentance (v.14) cries out from the heart to God. It doesn’t just “wail upon their beds.”

V.15 “I trained them and strengthened them, but they plot evil against me. They do not turn to the Most High; they are like a faulty bow. Their leaders will fall by the sword because of their insolent words. For this they will be ridiculed in the land of Egypt.”

The last word picture is that of a faulty bow. It doesn’t do what it was made to do.

God laments that He trained them and strengthened them, taught them like His own child, but they rebelled. They didn’t do what they were made to do. They are like a bow that can’t be trusted to send a arrow where it belongs.

And they are going to suffer for it. Even down in the land of their enemy, Egypt, they are going to be laughed at.

They aren’t what they were meant to be.

That’s what fake repentance does to us. It turns us into something that we were never meant to be.

Are you just pretending?

Are you just going through the motions?

If so, you are a faulty bow. You aren’t what you were meant to be.

But you don’t have to.


Did you notice how willing God was to revive His people?

Chapter 7, verse 1. “Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people, whenever I would heal Israel.”

Verse 13, “I long to redeem them...”

All of chapter 7 is a back and forth between them and God.

I would do this, but they did that.
I would do this, but they did that.

V.7 “None of them calls on me.”
V.10 “He does not return to the LORD his God or search for Him.”
V.14 “They do not cry out to me from their hearts.”
V.16 “They do not turn to the Most High God.”

That’s what He wants!

He wants real repentance.
He wants real relationship.
He wants healing and wholeness in our covenant love.
He wants real repentance.

And He calls us to it today.

Hosea 6:6 is a famous passage in the rest of the Bible because it shows up in the Gospel of Matthew on the lips of our Savior.

Jesus had called Matthew the tax collector to be his disciple. And Matthew had thrown an evangelistic party to celebrate His conversion to the Messiah.

Well, the Pharisees got wind of this little party. They saw that he was eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners–people who knew that they were sinners!

And they asked the disciples (Matthew 9:11), “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners.’” You can hear the pride and arrogance in their words!

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who a need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy (covenant love), not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Pharisees were sinners, too, but they couldn’t even see it.

Their repentance was fake. And they had even fooled themselves.

But Jesus is after sinners. He loves them!

He loves sinners!

He came to seek and the save that which was lost!

He loves sinners!

He isn’t surprised at your sin or shocked by it!

He wants to redeem you from it. He wants to forgive and restore and bring revival.

But you have to believe that you’re a sinner, too, and that that’s a bad thing.

And you have to respond to Him in a real turning in your heart to Him.

A real repentance, not just words. But if you do, He will restore you.

If you are not yet a Christian, He will save you.
And if you are a Christian, He will revive you.

It’s not cheap and easy. Fake repentance doesn’t realize how costly God’s grace is.

It cost Him the death of His own Son to be this generous!

It’s not cheap and easy. But it is free to you and to me.

Jesus is calling us all to real repentance.

Will you answer the call?