Saturday, May 21, 2011

God wants relationship

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hosea 6:1–7:7

TO CHEW ON: "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice;
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

In this meaning-packed little verse we discover what God did and didn't want from Israel back in Hosea's time.

He didn't want sacrifices and offerings that were insincere and showy piety. His feelings about sacrifices made with the wrong attitude is clear. Here, for example, are His strong words through prophet Micah:

What can we bring to the Lord?
      What kind of offerings should we give him?
   Should we bow before God
      with offerings of yearling calves?
 Should we offer him thousands of rams
      and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
   Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
      to pay for our sins?
 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
      and this is what he requires of you:
   to do what is right, to love mercy,
      and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:6-8, NLT

What He did want was relationship. It's the kind of relationship wrapped up in the phrase "knowledge of God."

[Knowledge = da'ath  means knowledge, understanding, intelligence, wisdom, discernment, skills.]

Earlier in his message, Hosea had pointed to a lack of knowledge as the reason why the people were in their present distressed state: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" Hosea 4:6

Jesus referred to this knowledge not as knowing something intellectually, but knowing a person: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" - John 17:3. It's a relationship powerful enough to change mere life to eternal life.

He also wanted mercy. The way Jesus applied this verse (He quoted Hosea 6:6 at least twice - both times in response to criticism from the Pharisees) sheds light on what receiving and extending mercy might look like in our own lives.

In one instance it was after the Pharisees chided Him for eating with tax collectors and sinners. He replied: "Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not call the righteous but sinners to repentance" - Matthew 9:13.

Another time the Pharisees were critical of Jesus' hungry disciples harvesting a few grain heads on the Sabbath. According to the Pharisees, this was work and work of any kind on the Sabbath was a strict no-no. Jesus debunked their rule with examples of historical exceptions, concluding: "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" Matthew 12:7-8.

For us today, this little verse speaks on at least two issues:
  • God is still more concerned with our knowing Him than serving Him or keeping rules — especially when those two things are done in a rote way to soothe our consciences so that we can keep on living the way we like.
  • He extends mercy to us, but also expects us to give this mercy to others, so that they too will know God in relationship.
PRAYER: Dear God, Thank You for pursuing a relationship with me by sending Jesus. Now Jesus' words, "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,'" feel like a stone in my shoe. Help me to understand this mercy, and live it out in the circumstances of my life. Amen.

MORE: Mercy

Enjoy the lively "Mercy is Falling".

Bible Drive-Thru

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