Hosea 6:1–11 (NKJV)
6:1 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.
In the midst of the judgment measured out by Yahweh, the people cry out (perhaps through the voice of Hosea), professing their own faith that God will restore if they return to Him in faithful worship. They even praise God and invoke His mercy, forgiveness for their sins. While this is admirable to a degree, the Lord is not quite done with this lesson about the need for repentance.
4 “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.
5 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.
6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
7 “But like men they transgressed the covenant;
There they dealt treacherously with Me.
8 Gilead is a city of evildoers
And defiled with blood.
9 As bands of robbers lie in wait for a man,
So the company of priests murder on the way to Shechem;
Surely they commit lewdness.
10 I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel:
There is the harlotry of Ephraim;
Israel is defiled.
11 Also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed for you,
When I return the captives of My people.
The Lord responds by pointing out the fact that Israel’s repentance is often short-lived and fickle. His word, His prophetic message, has cut their defense to pieces. The Lord inserts a statement that is telling: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” The Lord again reminds them of their tragression of the covenant, and their harlotry with idols and false gods. The priests have become murderers and thieves, committing lewd acts. They are defiled. Although redemption will come, and restoration will happen, it will be delayed. The recompense (payment) for sin can be extreme. But the harvest of Judah, the return of the captives, will come.