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My Prophet Hat: Mercy, Not Sacrifice

This series of articles is taken from one book of prophecy named Hosea after its author.

You have likely heard this one. “I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) Jesus quotes this Scripture as recorded in Matthew 9:13. He tells the critical Pharisees to go and learn what this statement means. He wasn’t telling them that sacrifices were unimportant. God commanded Israel to sacrifice. Of course, most of them were sacrificing to Baal. In Jesus’ context He was eating with “tax-collectors and other notorious sinners.” (9:10) According to the NLT the Pharisees saw these dinner companions as “scum.” (9:11) Jesus saw them as “sick people.” (9:12) Where was the mercy? Where was the compassion? Where was the empathy? Where was the pity? Where were their hearts? People who offer sacrifices in some religious ritual without the understanding of their own need for mercy is detestable to God. I want mercy for ME, but I don’t want to give mercy to YOU. Think about how horrible this not only sounds but is. If I get my blessing, I could care less about the rest of you. This is like the person who pushes everyone down as they enter the store at 9:00 AM on Christmas Eve so they can get the last Fuzzy Wuzzy before they are sold out.

Sacrifices offered in hypocrisy are like drinking spoiled milk. Hosea is not the only prophet to express this sentiment of God. God says, “There is no use now offering me sweet incense from Sheba. Keep your expensive perfumes! I cannot accept your burnt offerings. Your sacrifices have no sweet fragrance for me.” (Jeremiah 6:20) Isaiah continues the theme: “I am sick of your sacrifices,” says the LORD. “Don’t bring me any more burnt offerings! I don’t want the fat from your rams or other animals. I don’t want to see the blood from your offerings of bulls and rams and goats. Why do you keep parading through my courts with your worthless sacrifices? (Isaiah 1:11-12) Amos gets in on this too. “I hate all your show and pretense-the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I will not even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.” (Amos 5:21-24)

This is not about sacrifices or music per se. It is about duplicity. It is about hypocrisy. This is about missing the point of any kind of worship experience. Everyone comes before a Holy and Righteous God needing mercy and grace. We could not dare to approach the throne of God without Him lovingly accepting us. We have nothing to offer God to appease His wrath for sin. He is not some pitiful idol who is made to belch smoke and cinders by some slave stoking a fire. He is no Wizard of Oz, some little man behind a curtain speaking bold and threatening words through a megaphone. He is not some tin-horn dictator who is here today and gone tomorrow. He is no cowardly bully pushing littler boys around. He is the Creator, the LORD, the Almighty, Pure, Sinless, Holy, and Righteous God who could crush us with his little finger except for his Mercy. What is He looking for in His people. Surely it is not our sacrifices which are mere filthy rags in His sight. He is not hoping for some rosy pronouncements of faith in some hollow ritual. He is looking for mercy and justice to be shown to others because we ourselves cannot live without mercy. We give to others the very things we cannot live without. We give air, water, food, love, a ride, a kind word, medical care, the gospel, encouragement, warnings, and truth all under the banner of MERCY. When will we learn this simple yet profound lesson of life?

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