Text: Hosea 6:1-7
Summary: God doesn’t desire your sacrifices. God desires you. More specifically, He desires that you show steadfast love toward His Son, your future Bridegroom.
1 “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” 4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. 5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. 6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.
Father, we pray today that you would reveal your heart toward your people. Reveal to us why you sent Jesus Christ and what you desire most from His followers. I pray that we would understand more of your heart toward us today. Please reveal it. Lord, we want to know it. Lord, we want to live it. Lord, thank you. In Jesus Name, Amen
One thing that’s really helped me in my reading of Scripture is the title of Jesus in Revelation. He is called the Word of God. And every time that I open up Scripture, I know I’m not learning a principle. I know I’m not just gaining insight and facts and information. But I am meeting a person. Every time we open up Scripture, we are meeting the Word of God, Jesus Christ.
And I think the highest description of the Christian is also given in the book of Revelation. We are called the Bride of Christ. I can think of no loftier, no more precious a title for the believer than Bride of Christ. And so with those two things in mind, we read Hosea. And we know right away what the takeaway of this book is.
Hosea was a prophet commissioned by God in Hosea 1 to go after this woman named Gomer and make her his wife, and Gomer is a prostitute. And I can think of no more difficult assignment than for a prophet of God to pursue and to marry somebody whom he knows in advance is going to break covenant with him.
And sure enough, she does repeatedly. And probably one of the low points of Hosea’s life is when he has to go to one of her lover’s house and redeem her and buy her back and bring her home. And that is a picture of Jesus the Bridegroom coming to earth and trying to woo His Bride. And what God is telling us through this couple’s story is that this is a picture of the history of God’s people toward God.
We read in Matthew 9 the story of the calling of Matthew, the tax collector. Matthew is so overjoyed that he throws a party. And of course there are other tax collectors and other “sinners” who gather at Matthew’s house. And the Pharisees are watching this unfold. They are criticizing the fact that Jesus is dining with “sinners.” And Jesus makes a remark.
12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus says He didn’t come to save those who think they’re righteous, those who do not know they are sick. He says He came for the sick. He is a physician for the sick. And then He references the passage that we read at the outset in Hosea 6:6. I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.
And so first from this text, we have to understand that our greatest sickness is sin. Because we are born in the line of Adam and Adam sinned. Adam transgressed the covenant. That’s what Hosea 6:7 says, that he is a transgressor and what can a transgressor do but to transgress. What can a sinner do, but to sin. That was who we were before we met Christ.
And if you are physically sick with cancer, with heart disease or diabetes, with all kinds of serious sicknesses, wouldn’t you do whatever you could to be well, physically well? But how many of us take sin as the most serious problem of my life, more serious than cancer, more serious than dying? The most serious thing that you and I as believers have to deal with is sin.
You have to see the juxtaposition of Matthew 9 with Hosea. To a bunch of Pharisees who are so well trained in the sacrifices, He is saying to them, go locate your story in Hosea’s story. And if they were humble, they would read Hosea and possibly God would save them when they realized that God does not delight in sacrifices.
And so before I talk about what God desires, I first want to talk about what He does not desire. He does not desire sacrifices. You see this in places like Micah 6. You see this all over the Old Testament. God does not desire sacrifices. He makes it plain in places like Joel, at a time when there’s a famine, when people cannot sacrifice. He makes it clear, He’s not interested in the sacrifice.
He’s interested in something much greater that we’ll talk about in a moment. And if you think about what we’re experiencing in our world today, one way to interpret the times that we’re living in is that God has put an end to the sacrifices. And you might say well, we don’t sacrifice animals, the sacrificial system ended in the Old Testament, and we’re people of the New Testament. There’s no such thing as sacrifices today. So, what kind of sacrifices did God put an end to?
God put an end to people who go through the motions of religious life. And that happened in the Old Testament, through the actual sacrifices of animals, of bulls and rams and lambs, and grain offerings and drink offerings. It happened in the Old Testament where people just went through the motions and gave sacrifices.
And don’t we also in the New Testament, in modern-day, don’t we also do the same? We attend church, we go through the motions, we attend small group, we listen to sermons, and we just go through the motions. And if your heart is not right, God says, I am not interested in your sacrifices.
And in some ways this is such an opportunity for many people in the body of Christ to be saved, because God has put an end to the sacrifices. One of Satan’s greatest tricks is to cause the body of Christ, and I know this from firsthand experience, to be so busy with sacrifices, with meetings, with activities.
And at the end of the day, you look back and if you’re honest, you realize, I didn’t actually connect with the Lord. My heart was not really in it. I was so busy but my heart was not engaged with the Lord. And is God interested in all the sacrifices and activities if we’re so busy that we don’t even realize who we’re doing it to?
And so God in His mercy, He has put an end worldwide to sacrifices. We cannot even gather and do the things we want to. It’s such an opportunity for so many people to be saved in the body of Christ. It is His mercy.
1 Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
So the people of God in the time of Hosea were going through judgment. The people of God today, we are going through a similar judgment. And what does God do when He is judging His people? It says He is the one who tears us in order to heal us. He is the one who strikes us down. Why? In order to bind us up.
If God sees a majority of His people just going through the motions and just offering sacrifices, it would be such an unloving thing for God to just let it go, year after year, decade after decade. And then at the end, people who are so busy, offering these sacrifices get into His presence, and they expect to be welcomed and they’re not welcome. That would be such an unloving thing for God to do.
So what does God do from time to time in our lives? In history, He judges His people. And when He judges his people, it is one of the most loving things He can do because He doesn’t want anyone in the body of Christ to miss out on heaven. I remember times in my life where God is tearing me down in order to heal me.
When He struck me down in the past in order to bind me up, it was the most loving thing, although at the time it was painful. And you have to think of a potter and a lump of clay. He’s trying to shape us but let’s say we don’t want to be shaped and we’re trying to be shaped according to our own image, according to our own plans and our preferences. And this lump of clay is becoming more and more grotesque as the days go by.
And what does God do? In His mercy, He puts His hands on that lump of clay. He adds water, He starts massaging it and it’s so painful at first. And then He puts that lump of clay through fire in order for that thing to emerge as a beautiful ceramic piece.
That is what God is doing with His people. And that is what God does personally along in your spiritual journey. We must recognize that when there are times when the Lord is tearing us down, it is not because He hates you. It’s not because He’s angry. He wants to heal you. When He strikes you down, it’s not because He’s angry and frustrated. He wants to bind you up.
And He wants to shape you according to His perfect design and will. He wants to make us look exactly like Jesus Christ, formed in the image of God. That is God’s plan. So if God does not delight in sacrifices, where people are just going through the motions, where people are just so busy that their hearts are far from the Lord, but they think they’re fine with the Lord and they’re just so busy.
And even at our church, we have such a small church, but I remember the days when we’re trying to pull off a whole service. I would say a vast majority of us were preparing food, preparing slides, getting the instruments ready, getting the electronics ready. There were times when we had to haul what we called an arc that we put the sound mixer and all the speakers on, which weighed hundreds of pounds. And we were pushing it up a hill. And we were doing this every Saturday night to pull off a Sunday service.
And then after a while I had to say, shouldn’t Sunday be Sabbath? Why is the majority of us so tired on Sunday. And so if you remember, there were times back then when we said, okay, let’s just do Sabbath Sunday. We’re just going to strip down the service and no microphones or slides, just me. And I’m going to just speak. And I know God was trying to speak to us back then.
And now, whether churches worldwide did it or not, or realized what they were doing, or not, now we are all forced to stop sacrificing, to slow down, and to look in the mirror and ask, are we actually connecting with the Lord? Because He does not desire sacrifices. He doesn’t delight in them. How do we know what God actually desires? He says in Hosea 6:6
6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 But like Adam they transgressed the covenant.
Depending on your translation, it either says mercy in v.6 or steadfast love. I want to argue today that it should be steadfast love. The second half of the verse, similar to steadfast love is knowledge of God. And then v.7, the word covenant is there. So you put those words together, steadfast love, knowledge of God, and covenant.
The word here for mercy/steadfast love that Jesus Himself quotes and says to a bunch of Pharisees to learn what this means, is a difficult word to understand. The meaning slightly changes depending on the context. It can be mercy of a person to another person. It can be favor. It can be loyalty and steadfast love.
If you look at the whole book of Hosea and see what’s going on, what is God saying to a Gomer like people? Imagine Gomer coming back from her lover’s house and meeting with Hosea on his birthday and cooking Hosea this wonderful home-cooked meal, an amazing sacrifice of her time, sweat and tears. And then after the sacrifice, she goes out of the house again back to her lover’s house.
How would Hosea feel with that kind of a sacrifice? And that is what God is addressing in this book. Does he want our sacrifices while we don’t love Him? While there’s no steadfast love? While there’s no knowledge of God, real knowledge of God? While there’s no covenant? Instead, there’s transgression of this covenant. Is God pleased that we just keep going through the motions when our heart is disengaged?
So clearly, we know what God desires. Not the sacrifice, but God desires steadfast love, true knowledge of God, loyalty and staying in covenant with God. That’s what Jesus is telling the Pharisees, learn what this means, locate yourself, see that the biggest problem in your life is your own sin.
The biggest sickness of your life is sin, you keep transgressing the covenant. And when you hear the word sin, it is not to make you feel like a worm, although some pastors may use it in that way. The word when you are called a sinner, it’s not for you to feel condemned or guilty or like a worm that’s just writhing in the dust of the earth in God’s presence. That’s not how you’re supposed to take that word when God says the biggest problem is your sin.
All that we can do as sinners is sin. All we can do is transgress. All we can do is break covenant. So what does God want for people who are born with this sin nature? God wants us with our own expression of our will to turn, repent, and return to the covenant again.
And as soon as you sin, transgress and break covenant, He wants you to turn, repent and get back in covenant with Him and express steadfast love. It is an act of your will. And this is similar to what I said last Sunday when you surrender your life as a believer or nonbeliever. It is an expression of your will. And so when you know that you’ve sinned, you don’t stay as a sinner, you don’t stay condemned. That is a wake-up call. And you have a choice at that point, to go further in your sin, further away from God. Or to say, this is not what God desires.
He doesn’t want me to break covenant. He doesn’t want me to stay a sinner. He wants me to turn and surrender, and this is all an act of the will, and repent. And then from that point on, He wants to meet with you. And then we express our steadfast love toward Him.
There is one place in the Scripture that I want to use to highlight this message. King Saul. He was such a favored man of God. And God would have established His kingdom through Saul, and if Saul was a godly king, we never would have heard of David.
That’s what we read about in 1 Samuel. The Israelites are surrounded by the Philistines, it says in 1 Samuel 13. And Saul had made a commitment to wait for Samuel the Prophet and there was an appointed time. And because Saul couldn’t hear from the Lord directly very well, he was relying on the prophet of God, who in his life was Samuel.
And Samuel was speaking, and whatever he was saying it was as if the Lord were speaking directly to the hearer, in this case Saul. God through Samuel was telling Saul to wit for Samuel to arrive. And this was a test. Wait for Samuel to arrive seven days. And Samuel was a little bit late in 1 Samuel 13, and the Philistines were starting to gather and surround the Israelites.
And in the midst of chaos and panic, what does Saul do? He offers a sacrifice. Is God pleased when you offer a sacrifice in the midst of your panic and unbelief? Is God pleased with that kind of a sacrifice. When you’re so burdened and you’re so fearful of COVID, or whatever you’re facing in your life, and you’re so fearful because the enemies are crowding in upon you, and so you go to church and you offer your sacrifice. You don’t even deal with the fear and the burden and the unbelief, is the Lord happy with that one hour, two hours, that you spent laboring at church?
If you look at the life of Saul, God is not pleased. And from that moment, judgment came upon the household of Saul. If you thought that wasn’t bad enough, two chapters later in 1 Samuel 15 Again you have to understand that when Samuel speaks, it’s as if the Lord is speaking. And Samuel tells Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites, every man, woman, child, infant, animal, everything, totally wipe them out.
And God gives solid victory, He wipes them out. But there was only one problem. Saul didn’t kill the king Agog. And he didn’t wipe out all of the livestock. He saved the best ones. And God already speaks to Samuel. Samuel already knows what happened. And so he goes into Saul’s presence, and he hears the animals, the bleating of the sheep.
And to the end, Saul does not repent. Saul doesn’t recognize this and instead Saul blames his men. He says they wanted it, and then he tries to excuse himself, and says, well I wanted to offer a sacrifice to the Lord with the animals. And here is the famous words of Samuel speaking on behalf of God.
22 And Samuel said, “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 listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
So Saul’s rebellion. His disobedience is described as rebellion is as the sin of divination. He presumed that God would be okay with holding back some of the choice livestock, because he would offer some and keep the rest and enrich himself. And that presumption, God calls iniquity and idolatry.
And because of this, not only will the kingdom not be established through the line of Saul as it said in 1 Samuel 13. Now the kingdom has been taken away from him, and then King David comes upon the scene.
God desires obedience that comes from a genuine knowledge of Him. That means when you do something, hopefully you’re doing it because the Lord told you to do it. You’re not doing it because your pastor told you to do it, but because you yourself heard from the Lord to do this.
I hope that’s where all of your obedience springs from. You’ve heard from the Lord yourself. And even if the Lord tells you to do something, I hope you check in with the Lord. It’s not like you start it and then you do it for the rest of your life. God called me to be a pastor, but I don’t know if He’s going to call me to do this for the rest of my life. He may have another assignment for me. And so we should be checking in with the Lord, should we keep doing this, Lord?
Day by day, month by month, at least year by year, check in with the Lord, should we continue this? Should we keep doing this ministry? You call me to this, should I keep doing this? And you keep asking because God wants our obedience. It is so much easier not to have steadfast love, not to have a genuine knowledge of the Lord, a genuine hearing of His voice, a genuine covenant, where you love Him and He loves you. You know it is so much easier to offer sacrifices, to go through the motions, week after week, and not even pay attention to our hearts.
During this COVID-19 lockdown, I pray that we would pay attention to our heart. Is their steadfast love? Is their knowledge of God, true knowledge of God? Do you hear His voice? Do you see Him. Are you in covenant with him.
The good news for sinners who keep on breaking covenant is that God’s love for you is greater than your sin. God’s love for you is greater than your sin. And so if you’ve sinned day after day, week after week and you haven’t even checked in. And now that you’re finally checking in with the Lord and you see your heart is so far, the good news is that God’s love for you is greater than your sin.
And so if you recognize that you’ve broken covenant with Him, you’re not in steadfast love with Him, you’re not actually pressing on to know Him, then start in this moment. And then tomorrow if you transgress and you break covenant, and your love for God wavers and shakes and breaks off, then tomorrow surrender, repent, return, and then express your love for Him.
For the New Testament believer, it’s even more simple. Who are we expressing steadfast love toward? It is to Jesus Christ. God the Father sent Jesus Christ and Jesus is our Bridegroom. And over the course of our lifetime, Jesus is preparing His bride. So the simplest description of the Christian life is we’re growing in steadfast love as the Bride of Christ toward our Bridegroom.
In the beginning, we’re like Gomer more days than we’re not. It’s okay, Jesus, like Hosea is pursuing you. Think of what Hosea had to go through. He is a type of foreshadowing of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t do it just once as recorded in the book of Hosea. Jesus does it every day of your life. The day when you’re not pursuing Him, does He stop pursuing you? No, He is pursuing you every single day. His love for you is greater than your sin.
And what happens as your steadfast love grows? The days when you look more like Gomer decrease, it becomes less and less. And you become more and more like the Bride of Christ. And it’s hopefully in our journey that the days of looking like Gomer decrease to almost zero. And the days of looking more and more like Jesus and the Bride of Christ become greater and greater.
That is the journey of the Christian. He is the bridegroom. We are the bride. The day when you realize I’ve been acting like Gomer, I’ve broken covenant, I don’t know the Lord, I don’t have steadfast love to Him, or I’m just going through the motions. In that moment of realization exercise your free will and surrender, repent and return to the Lord.
And Jesus, He will always receive you. He will always receive you. That is why He came to save the sick. The greatest sickness in our life is sin, but God’s love for you in Christ is greater than your sin and my sin.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, we thank you so much for your love for us that is greater than our sin. As we read through the book of Hosea, we see the fatherly love for Israel, for Ephraim, for Judah, how like a father, you bent down and you fed your children. How you healed your children, how you cared for and cherished and nurtured your children. But your children grew rebellious. And also there’s a picture of Hosea and Gomer, the righteous husband pursuing an unrighteous bride.
We thank you that Jesus, you are the Bridegroom and you far surpass Hosea. That is what we’re supposed to see when we read books like Hosea. Jesus, you far surpass Hosea. You are the Word of God, every page of Scripture that we read has something to say about you, Lord Jesus, and you far surpass Hosea.
And even if our sins far surpass Gomer’s sins, or Ephraim’s sins, or Israel’s sins, the good news of the gospel is that your love for us far surpasses our sin and it is far greater than our sin. And the moment we realize that we’ve broken covenant, we have a choice. And I pray that every brother and sister would turn from their sin, surrender before the Lord, repent, and receive healing and forgiveness and express steadfast love.
We pray that the covenant between us and the Lord Jesus will grow stronger and stronger by the day. We pray that over the course of our lifetime, the days when we look like Gomer would reduce less and less, and the days that we look more and more like Jesus would increase. So that at the end of our journey, we are a spotless bride and it is a match made in heaven. We look like somebody who is worthy of marriage to the greatest husband who’s ever lived, the Bridegroom of the Bride, the righteous Son of God, the Lamb of God.
We pray that as it says in the Old Testament, the lion would roar. And the people would come trembling before you. I pray, Lord Jesus, for those who are hard of hearing. I pray that we would hear the Lion of Judah roar, so that we would wake up from our slumber and return to the Lord. Thank you for showing your grace in a time of worldwide judgment. We see your grace in the midst of your judgment. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen