Mercy Not Sacrifice
The Lord stated, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Mercy is religion in practice and knowledge is the guide to a good life. Without these two factors, religion is an empty form, and is condemned by God (Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 1:11; Psalms 51:16–19; Mark 7:6).
The prophet Samuel stressed this truth when he said to King Saul, “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 heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). The king thought that by offering sacrifices to God, he can please Him. But he was wrong for the Lord wanted His obedience not his gifts.
As used in Hosea 6:6 the word “mercy” stands for character traits that God would have His people develop through His enabling power (Matthew 19:19; 22:39). In like manner, the word “sacrifice” stands for the forms of religion, which tend to overshadow practical religion (2 Timothy 3:5). Thus, “mercy” means righteousness by faith whereas “sacrifice” means righteousness by works. Christ says, the forms of religion without the spirit of religion are worthless (Mark 7:7–9, 13; John 4:23, 24).
The Jewish ceremonial system, in itself, had no value (Hebrews 9:9; 10:1–11). It merely pointed to the Messiah. God is not pleased with external obedience to it (Micah 6:7). What He asks of man is “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). To obey has always been better than sacrifice (Matthew 7:21–27).
David wrote that the sacrifices that God accepts are “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” which the Lord do not despise (Psalm 51:17). And Isaiah preached the necessity of doing merciful acts, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, earn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
Thus, the sacrifices that are acceptable to God are sacrifices of righteousness (Psalms 4:5) offered by pure motives out of a sincere heart (Deuteronomy 33:19; Psalms 51:19). These sacrifices stand in opposition to the useless offerings and empty rituals (Isaiah 1:13; Jeremiah 6:20).
The apostle Paul warned, “that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:1–5).
This warning shows that all future gospel workers should be alerted to the empty forms of religion and false sacrifices that will be attacking the church. Therefore, they are to personally strive to overcome sin and to also speak against the sins of disobedience among their congregations.
To cure the church members of empty ceremonial religion, the Lord advises His people saying “buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see” (Revelation 3:19).
This symbolic “gold” refers to “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6 also James 2:5) and the works that result from faith (Timothy 6:18). The white raiment refers to the righteousness of Christ (Galatians 3:27; Matthew 22:11; Revelation 3:4). And finally, the eye salve refers to the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8–11) and the spiritual grace which enables the Christian to discern between right and wrong. Thus, the end time church is called to experience the victory that comes with true repentance, consecration, and devotion to God.
In His service,