20170610 Hosea 6 v 6 Mercy, not Sacrifice
The Torah Portion for today is rather difficult and uncomfortable to discuss because it deals with body functions, things that we generally don’t discuss in a public forum. But it deals with cleanliness and good hygiene. Hashem was interested in the health of His people. We have been studying this theme since Chapter 11. What was God trying to tell us throughout these 5 chapters? (Wait for an answer from the Congregation)
Hashem was setting guidelines for us to follow so that we could live our lives in harmony with His precepts and His will. He wanted us to be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Some of these instructions were fairly detailed and mundane. In today’s age of modern medicine, we tend to skip over these chapters as being irrelevant. When we do that we miss what the Lord is trying to tell us. We need to dig down a little deeper and understand His intent.
The Book of Hosea is a difficult read. Hosea is instructed to marry a promiscuous woman. This set the stage for a painful parallel between Hosea’s marriage to Gomer and God’s relation, indeed His marriage, to the Children of Israel. Although Hosea did address the southern kingdom of Judah, his primary focus was the northern kingdom, Israel, often referred to as Ephraim.
Israel had degenerated into idolatry. In fact, the very establishment of the Northern Kingdom, by Jeroboam, was founded in a fraudulent premise. Jeroboam erected a temple and altar in the city of Dan to offer sacrifices so that the northern 10 tribes would not feel the need to make the trek to Jerusalem 3 times a year for Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. However, God had said that they were not to offer sacrifices anywhere except where He had put His Name. Of course that would be Jerusalem, the site of the Temple.
Hosea started his prophetic ministry around 750 BCE and continued until ~ 710 BCE. Even though he is referred to as a minor prophet, he had one of the longest terms as God’s prophet.
We see in Israel of that day what we see in today’s religious scene. Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a very dangerous and infectious disease. Hypocrisy means saying one thing and doing another or saying one thing and believing another. It’s a dangerous and infectious disease because it infects and affects each one of us from one time to another. It is an age-old problem for God’s people sometimes came to the temple just to worship out of a sense of duty. They came to offer sacrifices as an obligation. They came to do worship to just get it over and done with. God’s people had forgotten that love of God that was to motivate them to show their love to the Lord. The simple fact is when Yeshua came and lived on the earth, he ran into that very same problem. Yeshua came to the Scribes and Pharisees who were the religious leaders of the day and who were trained in religion and righteousness. Yet, they too liked to follow the law so much that they forgot the Lord’s Gospel of love and forgiveness. Finally, Yeshua had to look at them and say in Matthew 15:7-8
Hypocrites! Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, (8) ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
NOT LIP SERVICE
The prophet Hosea talks about that very same problem in our text today. The hearts of the children of Israel were far from the Lord. So Hosea comes to the conclusion, as he reminds them and reminds us today as our theme:
OUR LORD DESIRES MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE. This divine mercy is —
- NOT MERE LIP SERVICE (NOT SUPERFICIAL)
If you have a King James Version of verse 6 it uses the word mercy. The Hebrew word is חסד chesed. Chesed is generally translated as mercy, Strong’s number H2617. However, in the Holman Christian Study Bible as well as the Tree of Life version, the word chesed in this verse is translated as loyalty.
Hosea, even though called a minor prophet, comes with the same message that the major prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah did. He came with a message of warning for repentance, because the children of Israel once again had slid into the valley of disobedience. They were turning away from the Lord instead of toward him. The Lord was going to give them one more chance.
The Lord says, “Here is my prophet.” The Lord is coming to the end of his patience for them. 4″What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah?
In other words, “What can I do with you Israelites? What can I do with you my chosen people? My children, you do not listen.” Hosea says that in the next verse:
Hosea 6:5 Therefore I cut them down by the prophets. I slew them by the words of My mouth. Now the judgments pronounced against you: light will go forth..
Over and over, the Lord had sent his prophets to his people and told them, “Turn away from those false gods.” Over and over, the Lord had sent warnings to them and said they were going to be forsaken. God said they would be killed with his words and finally he said: My judgments flashed like lightning upon you. The Lord raised up throughout their history enemies who would defeat them. This was God’s judgment against their disobedience. This was God’s judgment against their unfaithfulness. Finally, as Hosea says, the Lord says, “What am I going to do?”
At this point, the Lord has run out of patience. The problem lies within their hearts. Verse four continues “For your loyalty is like a morning cloud or like dew rising early, vanishing.” Their love and devotion for the Lord is short lived. It is like the dew that disappears with the sun. It is superficial. This brings us to the theme verse that God desires loyalty (mercy) rather than sacrifices.
Hosea 6:6 For I delight in loyalty and not sacrifice, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. TLV
Hosea 6:6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6 I’d rather for you to be faithful and to know me than to offer sacrifices.
The Lord speaks the same message to us today. He wants our love to be more than skin deep. He wants our total devotion. Do we live out the words of the V’haftah in loving the Lord with ALL of our heart, mind, and being? It is so easy to be distracted by attractions of our daily lives. We have all sorts of enticements that attempt to lure us away from Torah. The internet can be a blessing as well as a curse. Even in using it for legitimate purposes, it can draw us away from meaningful Bible study and prayer. Stay focused on His Word. Set a time for prayer.
The Lord is telling ancient Israel and us today that He would rather have our loyalty than our sacrifices. He wants us to dig down, don’t be superficial and live lives of faithfulness.
- FAITHFULL LIVES
It was a last chance here for the children of Israel. Time and again, the Lord had warned his people. God had sent them prophets to turn them from the false gods. He had sent them judgments. Now they are in the Promised Land, and they had another chance to repent. They knew of repentance.
As Hosea chapter 6 starts: 6:1 “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.
Of course, they look at the Lord and blame him for hurting them when he had not; but they also understood that he was able to heal them. Their God was able to help them only if they would turn.
V2 After two days He will revive us. On the third day He will raise us up, and we will live in His presence.
It reminds us about the Lord’s resurrection when after three days, he was restored to life and the tomb was empty. These people would say: “The Lord will restore us.” They knew God’s mercy and that it wasn’t just a hit and miss prospect. His mercy did not depend on them and their obedience – as they often disobeyed. Listen to how they describe the mercy of God and his forgiveness:
v3. “So let us know, let us strive to know Adonai. Like dawn His going forth is certain. He will come to us like the rain, like the latter rain watering the earth.”
Just as day chases away night, just as rain waters the earth, that is how sure and certain is the Lord’s love. He comes to his people time and time again to show his people his mercy that they might live in the joy of God’s salvation. These were the words of warning. These were the words of encouragement from Hosea the Prophet.
As our text began, what does he say about all of this? He writes: Hosea 5:15 I will go and return to My place until they admit their guilt. The Lord was waiting for them to repent, because they had followed false gods and had forgotten the Lord. The Israelites had often merely offered sacrifices out of a sense of duty and obligation. So Hosea waits for their repentance. Hosea continues: Then they will seek My face. In their distress they will seek Me earnestly. As we come to the end of these words and read the rest of the story, we find that the children of Israel did not repent at this warning. The children of God did not understand this mercy instead of sacrifice. The Lord raised up enemies against them once again. They were taken away as slaves never to be returned to the Promised Land. As slaves in a foreign land, just as Hosea said: And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” They had dwelt in the Promised Land. They forgot the Lord. They were taken away as captives. They remembered how good it had been. The Lord desired mercy, not sacrifice. They finally remembered the Lord in their misery.
REPENT 1 Samuel 15:22
Today we have the benefit of 66 books of Scripture. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of Israel and Judah. We can live deeply rooted and faithful lives before the Lord. When He said he desired mercy or loyalty rather than sacrifice, God was acting like a father who would rather his children live a life of integrity and obedience so that judgement would not be necessary. God would rather have His children obey Torah so that they would not need to offer sin offerings.
In 1 Samuel 15:22 Samuel said: “Does Adonai delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Adonai? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay heed than the fat of rams.
In the days ahead, let’s focus our minds and hearts on being faithful, mature Believers so that judgement and discipline would not be necessary. Remember, that is what God desires.