Monday, January 25, 2010


I was doing my reading this morning out of Matthew 9 when I came across this verse, which Jesus quoted from Hosea 6:6; "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Wanting to take this verse in context, I flipped back to Hosea to read and found this;

1 "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.

2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.

3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
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."

4 "What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.

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.

6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."

A few things jumped out at me.  First, verse 1 says "let us return to the Lord."  This reveals something that I've found true in my life...whenever I feel distant from God, I find that it is I who have moved away from Him, and never He who has moved away from me.  And when I do "return" to Him, He is always there.  Also, the rest of verse 1 seems to say something else I've found true; God will allow and use tests, trials, and pain, to form us into the people He wants us to be.  Just as a Father disciplines those He loves, so it is with our Father.

Verse 2 is one of those prophecies that was ultimately fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  What jumped off the page here, is the end of this verse...the purpose of the reviving and restoring is so that we may "live in His presence."

Verse 3 again puts the onus on us - to acknowledge the Lord.  That word "acknowledge" is tricky; what it actually means doesn't translate quite the same...but it literally means "to know" or "to be known" by God and implies an "intimacy."  Let us "acknowledge" God would more accurately be "Let us 'know' [intimately] God."  When you look at it that way, the only way to do that is through a personal relationship with Him.

Verses 4-5 outline God's "warning" to his people, that they are missing the mark.  How?  God gives the answer in verse 6; it's "mercy" that He desires, not "sacrifice."  In other words, relying on the outward expressions of faith, the things you do, rather than a love of God and love of fellow man, is not going to get you any closer to Him. What He most desires from us is a heart that is recklessly pursuing Him.  He desires us to show mercy to our fellow man, to look after the orphan, the widow, and those in need.  Ultimately, someone who is "broken" before Him.

King David "got this" as evidenced in Psalm 51.  This Psalm is his confession to God over his sin and here, he writes these words;

17  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
       a broken and contrite heart,
       O God, you will not despise."

Does God desire sacrifices? long as their done with the proper heart...a broken heart, a mold-able heart, a heart that is seeking Him.  The moment we rely on our outward actions to gain us favor with Him, that is the moment we step out of His desires.

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