Mercy or Sacrifice?
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings."
Prophet Hosea used these words in the Old Testament to remind the Israelites what was really important to God and what He really wanted from them. He wanted them to repent of turning away from God and He wanted them, in my opinion, to realize He would rather have them show mercy than spiritual obligations and He would rather them acknowledge Him in their lives and not just offer sacrifices. In those days people offered burnt offerings and sacrifices for their sins, and it didn't forgive them only put them off until next time when they'd have to sacrifice again.
It was not until Jesus came, lived, died and was resurrected and established the church to ultimately abolish sin that people no longer had to offer sacrifices to carry their sins forward until next time, but now had actual "forgiveness" of sins from God. Jesus even quoted this scripture in Hosea to the religous leaders of his day during his earthly life, before he was crucified, In Matthew Chapter 9 after He has called Matthew to be one of his disciples he was eating dinner with Matthew and some others. The Pharisees complained because Jesus was "associating" with sinners and He reminded them what God wanted from His followers "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."
In both accounts in the OT in Hosea and in the NT in Matthew it was a case of people getting caught up in the routine of relgion, going thorugh the motions, and taking God for granted. They were missing the point of knowing God in the first place. The manner of obeying God (The Law) became more important than actually knowing God. They were so caught up in the routine of following the Law of Moses that somewhere along the way it lost the personal touch of God.
It was no longer about knowing God, but following "His" rules because we are supposed to or have to. When that happens, you become so focused on the law, ritual, practice, or tradition that people stop mattering. Does this sound familiar in today's world? Churches and Christians who are more concerned about tradition, demoninationalism, keeping a certain set of rules, or doing things the way they've always been done, that they lose touch with the whole reason they should be doing anything in the first place.
Hosea reminded the Israelites and Jesus reminded the Pharisees God wants "you" more than he does your offerings. He wants your heart sincerely, not your sarifices habitually. I believe God wants us to show mercy to others, not comdemn them because they don't meet your standards. God want us to acknowledge Him with our lives and how we treat others, not attend church and where the name christian, but ignore the needs of others or judge them harshly. God wants our honesty and vulnerability, not our shallow religious words or practices. I think we all need to go learn what God really wants from us and the church: "I desire mercy, not sacrfice."