When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me (Hos 5:13-15).
When the Lord rebukes Israel through the prophet Hosea, Israel recognizes that she is sick (Hosea 5:13). She can see that something is wrong. But instead of turning to the Lord who can heal her she turns to Assyria. Israel flees to man and the strength of man to cure her disease. Yet the Lord says that Assyria cannot heal her and cannot make her whole again (Hosea 5:13).
Israel was under political oppression. Their enemies were closing in. But their enemies were not the problem. Their sin was. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, their covenant disobedience, they focused on the symptoms of the problem. They thought the disease would be cured if they just had a bigger army. They thought the answer was in an alliance with other nations. The problem however, was their disobedient heart, not their lack of chariots.
The Lord says in Hosea 5:15 that he wants Israel to acknowledge their offense or their guilt. The answer for Israel is not more chariots or horses. The answer is not getting in bed with Assyria. The answer is repentance. Here is what Israel refuses to do. They are willing to try to fix things. They are not willing to repent and confess that they are wrong.
We are all this way. God in his mercy disciplines us. He gives us consequences for our sins. It might be a broken relationship, the loss of a job, a child that is in rebellion, a rebuke from a parent or friend, a note in book reminding us that our worship is out of line, etc. But like Israel we are not interested in repentance. We are interested in alleviating the consequences of our sins. We want to remove the embarrassment of our sin, but not the sin itself. So we try to fix things. We try to cover things up. Instead of repenting of our sin of selfishness, we try to be more generous. Instead confessing that we have harmed our children with our anger, we try to be kinder. Instead of admitting that our worship is not in accord with the Scriptures, we run another outreach program. We do everything but the one thing necessary, admit we are wrong, confess our sins, repent, and turn to Christ. But the gospel does not begin with you getting your life together. It begins with repentance.