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The problem of sacrifices and burnt offerings

This entry is part 15 of 15 in the series The problem of ...

‘I desire Mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

You may have heard or read this before.  It’s part of when Jesus called Matthew to be one of His disciples.

The Calling of Matthew

Mt 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Mt 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mt 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You may have noticed (hopefully you did) that part of what Jesus said in this passage is in quotes – ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’ Three of the Gospels record something of this passage – however, only Matthew records that particular statement – ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’.  

Not only is it not surprising that Matthew was the only one – it’s significant.

We (Christians) tend to focus on the part about the healthy not needing a doctor – but only the sick.  The part about mercy and sacrifice – I feel like we (Christians) tend to think this message was meant for the Jewish leaders – but not for us.  Which is unfortunate.

Let’s back up a bit.

What’s the significance of Matthew recording the quote about mercy and sacrifice?

Matthew was a tax collector – something that’s fairly well-known.  The tax collectors in that area / time were working for the Romans.  They were also Jewish.  And for both those reasons – very much hated.  

Did I mention Matthew was Jewish?

Being hated for being a Jewish tax collector for the Romans – Matthew would have understood what Jesus said in a way that the other Gospel authors probably would not have grasped.  I suspect that, in many ways, we (Christians) are not unlike the other authors of the Gospels.  We don’t fully understand the significance of what Jesus said to the Jewish leaders when they questioned Him.

To be sure we’re all starting from the same place – what just happened in the Gospel passage we looked at was that Jesus chose someone who would have been among the most hated in the Jewish community to be one of His disciples.  This was incredibly “wrong” according to the culture of the time, as we see here –

DISCIPLE A student, pupil, or learner. In the New Testament it is used for Jesus’ followers. Often references “the Twelve” but also indicates a wider group of followers.

Development
Master-disciple relationships were common in the land of Israel, although the terms for disciples are almost completely absent from the Old Testament and early Jewish literature. In the New Testament, however, the Greek word for disciple is often used. Found in the Gospels and Acts, it functions as a technical term for adherents of Jesus.
In the Greek world, philosophers, religious leaders, and mystery cults attracted disciples. A person became a disciple as he sought out a teacher and followed him and his principles. Similarly, in the rabbinical tradition, a “learner” or “student” (תלמיד, tlmyd) attached himself to a rabbi (literally “my great one,” with the additional meaning of “teacher” or “master”) or to a movement. Followers of Old Testament prophets could also be described as disciples. Although master-disciple relationship was a common phenomenon in the land of Israel, talmîd is used only once in the Old Testament (of a student in musical instruction; 1 Chr 25:8) and the Greek equivalent does not occur at all in the Septuagint. None of the terms appear in any Jewish literature until the time of Philo (i.e. at approximately the same time as Jesus). Later in rabbinical literature, talmîd switches meaning to become a specialized term for the student of Torah.
In the New Testament, the term “disciple” is used in the Gospels and Acts. In nearly all instances it is a technical term in reference to a follower of Jesus, although John the Baptist, the Pharisees, and Paul are also said to have disciples (Matt 9:14; 11:2; 22:16; Mark 2:18; John 1:35–37; Acts 9:25). In John, a group of Jews call themselves the disciples of Moses (John 9:28).  1)Nässelqvist, D. (2016). Disciple. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

We see that, while the actual word may not have been used, the concept of Rabbi / teacher and disciple / student was known at the time.  You may remember, the Apostle Paul – before his conversion to Christianity, when he still went by the name Saul – was a student of Gamaliel.   It was that very same Rabbi / student relationship.

GAMALIEL I (Γαμαλιήλ, Gamaliēl). A first-century AD teacher of the law of Moses, under whom Paul studied (Acts 5:34; Acts 22:3). He was part of the school of Hillel and a member of the Sanhedrin.  2)Major Contributors and Editors. (2016). Gamaliel I. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

So yes – the Jewish leaders would have been extremely upset at this Jesus – who the people called “teacher” – for selecting a Jewish tax collector as one of His disciples / students / followers.  That was a position reserved for the best of the best.

Furthermore – Matthew – being Jewish would have understood the significance of His being chosen – and would have especially been the one of the four Gospel authors who would have recognized the quote in Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees when they question him as one of the disciples.

Just for a reminder, the quote is ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’.

Here’s a question for you, the reader.  Do you know where this is from?  

It’s from a book in the Bible that I have rarely heard mentioned in a sermon – Hosea –

Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Why is Hosea such a problem?

Before getting into the significance of what Jesus said – how about a little side trip into why Hosea seems to be a little talked about book.  

First – a surprise –

Interwoven in these themes of divine wrath and judgment, however, are many strands of a counter-theme, the theme of divine blessing and salvation. God promised “the fathers” long ago that through their seed would come blessing to all humanity (Gen 12:2-3). Thus, in spite of the imminent judgment about to fall on the people, there is yet hope for the future. Many texts throughout the prophetic literature speak of this hope of salvation in the midst of judgment, the most important of which are Isaiah 4:2-6; 9:2-7; Jeremiah 31:31 ff.; Ezekiel 36:22-28; Hosea 1:8-2:2; Micah 7:18-20.  3)The Zondervan Quick-Reference Library: The Books of the Bible

Given that Hosea is mentioned as part of this list – it seems like it should be a much discussed book, doesn’t it?  This reference book considers it one of the top five instances of hope of salvation in the midst of judgment that we can read in the Bible.

And yet – how often have you heard it in a sermon?

I’m guessing it’s not very often.  Maybe that’s because of the way it starts –

Hosea’s Wife and Children

Hos 1:2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, …

Notice – these verses are not part of the referenced verses of hope – Hosea 1:8-2:2.

Having pointed that out, let’s also look at Hosea 1:8-9.

Hos 1:8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.

These are not the kinds of verses that people flock to church to hear.  Far from it.  It’s the kind that are more likely to keep people away from church.

And yet – they are also the kinds of verses that we very much need to hear.  Not all the time – but when we need them, we need to hear them.

By the way – we also need to hear the whole story.  Not just the bad.  And not just the good.  Both.  Because they really do go together, as The Books of the Bible points out – Many texts throughout the prophetic literature speak of this hope of salvation in the midst of judgment.  And then we see things like this –

Hos 1:8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.
Hos 1:10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited, and they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
Hos 2:1 “Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’

If we leave out either the “good” verses or the “bad” verses – we miss the message.  And we miss the whole point of God’s love for us and His offer of salvation for us – in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve it.

Only talking about the “good” stuff might leave us with the impression that we can do whatever we want, because God loves us and will save us – no matter what we do and no matter what we think about Him.

Only talking about the “bad” stuff leads us to think that God is mean – a horrible God that only exists to punish people.

Neither of those views is truly “good”.  Neither is correct.  Both are misleading.  And, maybe surprisingly, both lead us away from God.  It must be the complete message.

Back to sacrifices and burnt offerings

We could just give the message –

‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’.

However – to a Christian today – this very likely has little to no meaning.  It certainly won’t come across to most of us the way it would to the Jewish people in Jesus’ time – especially to the people Jesus was addressing.

Let’s continue this by giving you the whole verse –

Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

OK – we see that Jesus gave a kind of summary of the verse.  There are two things Jesus left out – but two things His listeners would have known –

  • God desires mercy – not sacrifices.
  • Rather than burnt offerings- like the burnt offering image at the top of the page – God wants to be acknowledged.

Mercy

First, let’s realize that there are two points of view as far as what the word “mercy” actually represents.

God’s Mercy

One of the most essential qualities of God (Ex 34:6, 7; Dt 4:31; Mi 7:18–20). Specifically it designates that quality in God by which he faithfully keeps his promises and maintains his covenant relationship with his chosen people despite their unworthiness and unfaithfulness (Dt 30:1–6; Is 14:1; Ez 39:25–29; Rom 9:15, 16, 23; 11:32; Eph 2:4).
The biblical meaning of mercy is exceedingly rich and complicated, as evidenced by the fact that several Hebrew and Greek words are needed to comprehend the many-sided concept. Consequently, there are many synonyms employed in translation to express the dimensions of meaning involved, such as “kindness,” “lovingkindness,” “goodness,” “grace,” “favor,” “pity,” “compassion,” and “steadfast love.” Prominent in the concept of mercy is the compassionate disposition to forgive an offender or adversary and to help or spare him in his sorry plight.

Theological Significance. The theological import of the above statements is obvious. At the heart of the concept of mercy is the love of God, which is freely manifested in his gracious saving acts on behalf of those to whom he has pledged himself in covenant relationship. In the OT it was his chosen people Israel whom he elected to be his own and to whom he showed mercy (Ex 33:19; Is 54:10; 63:9). God persistently puts up with his disobedient and wayward people and continuously seeks them out to draw them back to himself. The psalmist describes God as a father who pities his children who reverence and trust him (Ps 103:13). Hosea pictures God as a loving father who looks down from heaven with a yearning heart of compassion upon his rebellious and wayward people (Hos 11; cf. Jer 31:20). He also regards Israel as an unfaithful and adulterous wife whom God loves as a faithful husband in spite of her apostate and sinful condition (Hos 1–3; cf. Is 54:4–8). Isaiah depicts God as a mother who has compassion on the son of her womb (Is 49:15). These pictures reveal God’s mercy in rich and different ways. Other dimensions include forgiveness and restoration to favor (2 Kgs 13:23; Is 54:8; Jl 2:18–32; Mi 7:18–20), and deliverance from distress and perils (Neh 9:19–21; Pss 40:11–17; 69:16–36; 79:8, 9; Is 49:10).
Because of what Israel as a covenant nation had learned about the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, devout Jews instinctively lifted their voices in petition for divine mercy and forgiveness in times of need, eloquently expressed in the penitential psalms (Pss 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143) as well as other OT passages (Ex 34:6; Neh 9:17; Pss 57; 79; 86; 123; Is 33:1–6; Dn 9:3–19; Jl 2:13). It is the remembrance of God’s mercy that gives the repentant person the hope and assurance of divine favor and of reconciliation with the offended Lord.
In the NT a very descriptive Greek word is used for Jesus’ mercy toward the needy (Mt 9:36; 14:14; 20:34). It expresses his pity and compassion by means of an intense verb literally translated “to be moved in one’s bowels.” The Hebrews regarded the bowels as the center of the affections, especially that of the most tender kindness. Our Lord is thus described as being fervently moved in his inner feeling of benevolence toward the needy and spontaneously acting to relieve their suffering—to heal (20:34; Mk 1:41), to raise the dead (Lk 7:13), and to feed the hungry (Mt 15:32).
The OT concept of God’s mercy expressed in his faithfulness to the covenant people is found also in the NT (Lk 1:50, 54, 72, 78; Eph 2:4; 1 Tm 1:2; 1 Pt 1:3; 2:10). The most characteristic use of mercy in the NT is that of God’s provision of salvation for mankind in Jesus Christ (Rom 11:30–32; Eph 2:4). God is “the Father of mercies” (2 Cor 1:3), which he bestows on those who believe in his Son. It is because he is “so rich in mercy” that he saved those spiritually dead and doomed by their sins—“only by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved … all because of what Christ Jesus did” (Eph 2:4–6 LB). It is out of God’s mercy that one is forgiven and granted eternal life (1 Tm 1:13–16).  4)

We can see instances of many of the things mentioned above, even in the few verses from Hosea that we looked at.  A further reading / study of the book would continue to make all of these points.

And, once again, we see that the complete message is important.  Without the complete message – the intent of things like God’s mercy cannot be demonstrated.

Man’s Mercy

We are made in God’s image –

Ge 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Ge 1:27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Given that we are only made in God’s image – it makes sense that our “mercy” would be only a shadow of God’s “mercy”.  Here is God wants from us, in terms of mercy –

Man’s Responsibility to Show Mercy to Others. Because God has freely extended his mercy irrespective of worthiness or faithfulness, men are to respond by showing mercy to others, even though they do not deserve it or seek it. Indeed, men are commanded to be merciful, especially to the poor, the needy, widows, and orphans (Prv 14:21, 31; 19:17; Mi 6:8; Zec 7:9–10; Col 3:12). God regards mercy more than the ritual sacrifice (Mt 9:13). In the light of Christ’s sacrifice and of the revelation that comes by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, man’s obligation to be merciful toward his fellow men is made clear and vivid. God’s mercy in Christ actually puts men under obligation to act toward others as God himself has acted toward them. The Lord made mercy a foundation for his teaching (Mt 5:7; 9:13; 12:7; 23:23; Lk 6:36; 10:37; Jas 3:17). His coming was anticipated and announced in the context of the mercy which would characterize his mission (Lk 1:50, 54, 72, 78).
Members of the Christian church, as participants in the covenant community, are to show compassion and practical concern for each other. They are to give aid and relief, love and comfort to one another as Christ freely gave to them in their need. The apostle James teaches the essential nature of such good works as being of the very essence of genuine faith (Jas 2:14–26). It was the mercy which the good Samaritan had toward the man who was beaten and robbed which was singled out by the Lord for special commendation (Lk 10:36, 37). To be full of mercy is a distinguishing virtue of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:7).  5)Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Mercy. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1441). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Given The Fall – that shadow degrades to a very cloudy shadow of God’s “mercy”.  We can’t even come close to doing the little bit above.

Sacrifice

And so – sacrifices were required in the Old Testament.

Sacrifice.  The act of offering something as a means of atonement, worship, or thanksgiving. The offering may involve slaughtering an animal or making an offering of grain or another agricultural product.  6)Difransico, L. (2014). Sacrifice. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

And, in the New Testament, we see Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice – one atonement for all of our sins – past, present and future.

Before that though – let’s look at atonement in the Old Testament, since everything in the OT is a foretelling of what’s to come –

Atonement

Old Testament. The Hebrew term frequently translated “atone” has the basic meaning “to wipe out,” “to erase,” “to cover,” or perhaps more generally “to remove.” In the KJV it is translated by such expressions as “to make atonement,” “forgive,” “appease,” “pacify,” “pardon,” “purge,” “put off,” and “reconcile.”
The most common OT expression of the means of atonement was the sacrifice and offering up of the blood of a victim. To appreciate the concept of sacrifice it must be understood that God provided for the sacrifice, while man performed the rite. Man is not to be viewed as attempting to do something “on his own” to obtain forgiveness. The sacrifice took place at the initiative of God and was to be seen as God’s gracious provision for sin. “I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls” (Lv 17:11). In the account of Abraham’s willingness to offer up his son Isaac, God provided the sacrifice (Gn 22:9–14). In Genesis 15:17–21 God called Abraham to arrange the covenant sacrifice. Far from being something man did to satisfy God, the sacrifice was an act of God for man.
In a sacrifice the shedding of blood was the central act. Life was in the blood (Lv 17:11); in the pouring out of the blood, life was given up; that is, death occurred. Elsewhere blood may be a symbol for life, but in the sacrificial motif it symbolized death. Some scholars have argued that in the pouring forth of the blood, life was made available to the people. It was the life of the flesh, however, that was in the blood, and the flesh was sacrificed. In the NT it is by virtue of the resurrection that the life of Christ is made available to believers.  7)Lyon, R. W., & Toon, P. (1988). Atonement. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, pp. 231–232). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

We see here – atonement in the Old Testament involved blood – pouring out the life blood of an animal as a sacrifice of atonement.

And then, in the New Testament –

Atonement. In Christian thought, the act by which God and man are brought together in personal relationship. The term is derived from Anglo-Saxon words meaning “making at one,” hence “at-one-ment.” It presupposes a separation or alienation that needs to be overcome if human beings are to know God and have fellowship with him. As a term expressing relationship, atonement is tied closely to such terms as reconciliation and forgiveness.

Biblical Data. The word “atonement” occurs many times in the OT but only once in the NT (Rom 5:11 KJV). Modern translations generally, and more correctly, render the word “reconciliation.” The idea of atonement is ever-present in the NT, however, and is one of the fundamental concepts of Scripture.

Foundational Concepts. God is seen as taking the initiative in man’s salvation; thus atonement is the work of God, who opens the possibility for sinful human beings to receive pardoning grace. For the sinner, who cannot know God, who cannot bridge the gap between himself and God, a “new and living way” is opened up by God.
The need for atonement is bound up with man’s thoroughgoing sinfulness. All of Scripture points to the radical nature of that sinfulness. The prophet Isaiah affirmed, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Is 53:6). According to another prophet, Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). David the psalmist cried, “There is none that does good, no, not one” (Ps 14:3). Paul described the degeneracy of man caused by his disobedience and idolatry (Rom 1:18–32) and summed it up: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Elsewhere Paul described men as “enemies of God” (Rom 5:10), as “hostile to God” (Rom 8:7), as “estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Col 1:21). Adam’s race is just like Adam: “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom 5:12).
The problem of the sinfulness of man is compounded by the holiness of God, who cannot look upon sin. Isaiah saw the holy God in the temple and drew back because of his own sinfulness (Is 6:1–5). Not only is man terribly sinful, but God is fearfully holy. Consequently man dreads God and can do nothing to change this situation. He is lost, helpless, standing under the awful judgment of God. He cannot justify himself before God and cannot merit God’s concern.
The possibility of atonement, then, rests entirely with God. The nature of that atonement, as illustrated in biblical history, affirms simultaneously the nature of both God and man.  8)Lyon, R. W., & Toon, P. (1988). Atonement. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 231). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Once again – we see the importance of the complete message.  Without recognizing our need for atonement – reconciliation with God – the chance to live with Him again – we can never even begin to appreciate what God did for us with Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.  We can never realize just how much God loves us. 

Without the full message – as I’ve said earlier – we might think we don’t need any kind of sacrifice – because we’re perfectly good people as we are.  Or maybe that God loves us as we are – so there’s no reason to change.  Or even that God is mean for requiring a sacrifice – especially that of His son.  Or, finally – that God is horrible for not allowing everyone to go to Heaven just like we are – even those of us who totally reject Him.  No – the full message is absolutely required – otherwise it’s too easy to fall into the trap of believing one of the previous statements, which are all based on an incomplete message of what God actually said.

The complete message of mercy and sacrifice

Here’s part one – the “bad” part – from chapter 6 –

Hos 6:4 “What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.
Hos 6:5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth;
my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.
Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hos 6:7 Like Adam, they have broken the covenant—
they were unfaithful to me there.
Hos 6:8 Gilead is a city of wicked men,
stained with footprints of blood.
Hos 6:9 As marauders lie in ambush for a man,
so do bands of priests;
they murder on the road to Shechem,
committing shameful crimes.
Hos 6:10 I have seen a horrible thing
in the house of Israel.
There Ephraim is given to prostitution
and Israel is defiled.

After another four and a half chapters of the “bad” stuff – we reach part 2 –  these verses in chapter 11 –

Hos 11:8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboiim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
Hos 11:9 I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come in wrath.
Hos 11:10 They will follow the LORD;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
Hos 11:11 They will come trembling
like birds from Egypt,
like doves from Assyria.
I will settle them in their homes,”
declares the LORD.

And we see – yet again – that the passage from chapter 11 is so much more profound and meaningful when it’s accompanied by the passage from chapter 6. 

Chapter 6 – by itself – is a hopeless message.  Chapter 6 – without the first 5 chapters – is also a message of a mean God – one who unjustly punishes His people.  Without knowing the many, many times God’s people turned away from Him and did the very things He warned them to not do – we can’t begin to appreciate that these people more than deserved the message of Chapter 6.

Chapter 5 – by itself – is an overly optimistic message.  It could very well be the message of “do whatever you want – because God will save you anyway”.

It’s only the combination of chapters 6 and 11 – along with the first five chapters and the intervening chapters 7 through 10 – that will allow us to truly appreciate what God has done for His people.  It’s only the entire message that can allow us, as we saw earlier – to truly appreciate the hope of salvation in the midst of judgment.

In the same way, getting the entire message is the only way to understand 

Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Acknowledgment of God

I didn’t mention it earlier – but let’s look at the phrase acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Let’s see what “acknowledgement means.  In other words – is it simply a case of saying “Yes – God exists” – or is it something deeper?

1847 דַּעַת, דַּעַת, דַּעַת [daʿath /dah·ath/] n m/f. From 3045; TWOT 848c; GK 1981 and 1982 and 1983; 93 occurrences; AV translates as “knowledge” 82 times, “know” six times, “cunning” once, “unwittingly 2 + 1097” twice, “ignorantly + 1097” once, and “unawares + 1097” once. 1 knowledge. 1A knowledge, perception, skill. 1B discernment, understanding, wisdom.  9)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Oh yes – it’s deeper.  Much deeper.

Understanding and wisdom.  That’s a whole lot more than just admitting existence.  
Reminds me very much of the need to know the whole message from God.  We also need to know, as much as we are capable, God – not just acknowledge, the way we use the word today.

And, speaking of today – these words are meant just as much for today’s Christians as they were for the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time.  We cannot and should not dismiss them as merely being meant for the Jewish leaders two thousand years ago.  We are no better than them.  Actually – no different from them.  We need to hear and do something about what Jesus said just as much as they did.  

Conclusion

Now that we’ve looked at all these things in more detail than many have seen before – let’s see how Hosea, God’s prophet, end his book of prophecy.

Hos 14:9 Who is wise? He will realize these things.
Who is discerning? He will understand them.
The ways of the LORD are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.

Could we really expect anything else to end this book?

Who has enough knowledge to realize the importance of these prophecies?  Who has enough understanding to see that the message must be delivered in its entirety?  Who can understand enough of God that they can discern the path God has set for us – and be able to tell when we are / are not following that path?  Who is capable of recognizing when we stumble – and then get back on the right path?

Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Since The Fall, we aren’t capable of mercy – not the way God means it.  We are capable, to some extent – with the aid of the Holy Spirit – of acknowledging God.  And then we are capable of beginning to understand the importance of Hosea’s words from God.  Then we’re capable of beginning to see hope of salvation in the midst of judgment.

How about you?

Does this help give you a deeper understanding of God?

Let’s add one more thought that should help with that.  God desires mercy, not sacrifice.  Think about that from the Christian point of view.  In the Old Testament, that meant mercy – rather than all the various sacrifices God’s people were required to make as payment for their sins.  For us (Christians) – it means mercy rather than the sacrificial death of God’s Son, Jesus.  Yes – God would much rather have had us not need the death of His Son in order to atone for all the things we’ve done – are doing – and will do.  And while we’re at it – let’s go all the way back – to Adam and Eve.  God would rather have had them live with Him in the Garden forever – rather than have had any of these sacrifices.  God would rather have had literally none of these things be required – but because of our choices, they were and are necessary.  How that for depth of understanding?

Does it maybe give you a very different understanding of God – maybe a view that He’s not mean, but very loving?  Maybe one that God is indeed very loving, but still has q requirement for justice – and in His love gives us His Son as our means of sacrifice and atonement?

It’s an amazing love that God has for us,  It seems like the least we can do is to acknowledge that – acknowledge God – in the way that He means, not the trivial way in which the word is used today.  

Please – join me in increasing the depth of our acknowledgment.

References   [ + ]

1. Nässelqvist, D. (2016). Disciple. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
2. Major Contributors and Editors. (2016). Gamaliel I. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
3. The Zondervan Quick-Reference Library: The Books of the Bible
4. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Mercy. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 1440–1441). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
5. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Mercy. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1441). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
6. Difransico, L. (2014). Sacrifice. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
7. Lyon, R. W., & Toon, P. (1988). Atonement. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, pp. 231–232). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
8. Lyon, R. W., & Toon, P. (1988). Atonement. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 231). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
9. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.


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