March 06, 2010

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Hosea 6:1-6

After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us.
Hosea 6:2


Like many of the prophets, Hosea spoke against religious activity that was not sincere worship of God. In the northern kingdom of Israel where Hosea prophesied, there was plenty of worship. But the worship of Baal had corrupted the worship of God. Priests, set apart by God for holiness, were now promoting the very opposite. “The more the priests increased,” God said, “the more they sinned against me” (Hosea 4:7).

Through Hosea, God reminded the people that renewal of the heart was more important than merely following religious rituals. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” God told them. Centuries later, Jesus said these very words to the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 9:13).

It seems that the tendency to just go through the motions of worship confronts every generation of God’s people. How can we avoid that critical mistake?

In 1 Corinthians 15:4, Paul writes that Jesus was “raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Many have wondered which Old Testament passages Paul had in mind, but Hosea 6:2 is often suggested as a possibility. In Jesus Christ, mercy and sacrifice come together perfectly. His sacrificial death atones for all our tainted worship. And his resurrection restores us to a life of worship with which God is pleased.

If true worship is what you seek, stay close to Jesus.

Forgive us, Lord, for often being more concerned with “talking the talk” than “walking the walk.” Fill our hearts with your mercy so that our love for you in Christ will grow. Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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