God's purpose in judgment is that His people would turn from their sin and return to the Lord and be restored. Hosea 5:15 expresses that hope, "In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me."
Hosea 6 explains a surface repentance on the part of Israel. They think God's judgment will only be a few days, not knowing that it will lead to their eventual exile. They were treating God like he was, according to Warren Wiersbe, a "celestial lifeguard who should rescue them from danger but not deliver them from their sins." They are sad about their suffering but not remorseful for their sin.
God is swift to say that He wants their love and devotion (hesed means "loyal love") represented by covenant loyalty and not sacrificial ritual (6:6-7). A key theme in Hosea is Israel's breaking of the covenant they made with God at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:20). Israel was "blessed to be a blessing" to all the nations of the world (Genesis 12:2,3; Isaiah 49:6), but they broke the covenant and were not a light for others to see the one true God. The covenant had stipulations. If they obeyed it, there would be special blessings, but if they disobeyed, there were severe penalties (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). They had been unfaithful while God had been very faithful and patient. Soon, they would be carried off to Assyria for their unfaithfulness to the covenant of God.
Hosea describes Israel's true character in a series of similes and metaphors. These all begin with a "like" or "as" in the chapters. Can you spot them? Their loyal love was like morning mist or dew that is gone by mid-morning. Basically, it was temporary and superficial. They were like Adam who turned away from God's blessings and plunged us all into sin and death (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
In the middle of all of this, Hosea interjects a solemn warning to the southern kingdom of Judah (6:11a)! There would be an appointed time of judgment for them as well (Stay tuned for 2 Kings 25!).
The metaphors continue as the nation of Israel is referred to as a dying man, flaming fire, unturned bread, senseless dove, and faulty bow. They are guilty but they do not "cry out" to God "from their hearts" (7:14) or "turn upward (to the Most High)" (7:16) even though he "longs to redeem them" (7:13).
Are you sincerely "pressing on to know the Lord" or are you, like Israel, going through the motions without a love for the Lord behind it? Talk to Him about that right now.
Also, if you are caught in some sin, cry out to God from your heart and turn to Him. He really does long to redeem you! Talk to a trusted friend as James instructs us to do:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another,
and pray for one another so that you may be healed.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
Lord, we know that You desire mercy rather than sacrifice. You are our greatest love. You are our gracious Redeemer. Thank You that You have loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31:3). Draw us close to You with true repentance and wholehearted devotion and obedience. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.