GOD desires from us MERCY & the KNOWLEDGE of His NATURE
September 16 Bible Reading: Hosea Chapters 4-6
"For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6).
The above verse is one of the key verses in the book of Hosea that reveals the heart of God and what He truly desires from His people. It is significant to note that Hosea, perhaps more than any other prophet, reveals the loving heart of God. It is evident that God desires to bless, and not to chastise His people as He puts a premium value on His relationship with His people.
Israel’s loyalty to Jehovah God did not last but vanished like a cloud and evaporated like the dew (v. 4). They brought sacrifices and engaged in religious services as their substitutes for obedience, but those activities made no difference in the way they lived. However, God required something totally different, as was expressed by the prophet Samuel to King Saul through the following statement: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15:22). So, God would not accept the sacrifices and rituals from the Israelites just as He had declared through the prophet Amos: "Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings" (Amos 5:22)
The crucial charge that the prophet Hosea brought against the Israelites is their lack of loyal covenant love (Hebrew: ‘ḥesed’) toward God and toward others. The word ‘ḥesed’ has the idea of covenant loyalty. The Israelites had failed to acknowledge God, and were not loyal to Jehovah. Hoping to win God’s favor, they had offered sacrifices, but their commitment was only temporal and fleeting. Once their troubles vanished, so did their commitment to God. Like Adam, they had “broken the covenant” and proven themselves unfaithful to God. This was the reason why God has condemned them through His prophets. God had sent His prophets to His people because He wanted them to respond in heartfelt reality!
What God actually wanted from His people was to show ‘mercy’ to others and ‘devotion’ to God (4:1). God valued moral obedience as the only end for which positive ordinances were instituted as of more importance than a mere external ritual obedience (Ps. 50:8-9; 51:16; Isa. 1:11-12). Also, God wanted them to gain in their ‘knowledge of God’ that was a genuine recognition of God’s authority that would generate their total obedience to His commandments (Jer. 22:16; 1 John 2:3-4).
As a spiritual application, our ‘knowledge of God’ should fill our minds with reverence of His majesty, fear of His goodness, love of His holiness, trust in His promises, and submission to His will. While ‘mercy’ refers to our duty to our fellow human beings; ‘the knowledge of God’ refers to our duty to God, including inward spiritual worship. We will extend ‘mercy’ to others only because it has been experienced in our own relationship with God!
Today, let us be assured that God values our relationship with Him more than He desires our service. God desires mercy from us and not sacrifice, which was even pointed out by the Lord Jesus Christ twice (see Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Let us never forget that religious behavior can never substitute for a heart that is wholly submitted to God!