When we find a passage of Scripture which tells us about what God desires, ought we not to perk up and listen especially closely? That is just what we have in Hosea 6:6–“For I DESIRED mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
May I suggest that a study of what is involved in this statement will be a profitable way to spend our time. Let us give some special attention to God’s Desire.
Let us consider God’s Desire–
ONE—–As Spoken of in Hosea 6:6
When Jesus walked upon the earth His associations with the religious leaders of the day were characterized by one MAJOR and CONSISTENT problem: hypocrisy, insincerity, lack of heart involvement in their service and worship. He constantly came into contact with this hypocrisy and therefore we see Him constantly rebuking that same spirit (cf., Matthew 23:28; Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1). In Matthew 6:1-5 Jesus rebuked these hypocrites for giving their alms and praying their prayers TO BE SEEN OF MEN. He urged that His disciples ought not to follow their example.
We can be assured that the hypocrisy of the first century did not begin in the first century. These people to whom Hosea and the other faithful prophets preached and with whom they pleaded were also guilty of play-acting with regard to service and worship to God. Notice some of the other prophets’ messages: Isaiah 1:11-15; 43:22-24; Amos 5:21-25; Micah 6:6-8. Notice also from the writings of Hosea that Israel was very hypocritical (Hosea 6:4; 7:14; 8:2; 9:4). Instead of loving and serving God with pure hearts based upon what God had revealed to them through Moses (i.e., knowing God), Israel was outwardly making some sacrifices and going about to do their own thing. Their hearts were not in their worship to God. Their hypocrisy and their rejection of knowledge of God made any of the offerings unacceptable to the God of Heaven.
TWO—–As Applied by Jesus in Matthew 12
Read Matthew 12:1-8. There was an accusation made here against the disciples of Jesus that they had violated the Sabbath. The fact is that they had NOT violated the Sabbath, but only the tradition that had developed about the Sabbath. We can know beyond question that they did not violate the Sabbath because Jesus declared them to be GUILTLESS (v. 7).
Jesus defended His disciples. First of all, He pointed out that those making the accusations were not themselves sincere else they would have condemned David for His sin (vv. 3-4). Secondly, Jesus made clear that the interpretation that had been made by these hypocritical religious leaders could not be accurate (v. 5). If so, then the priests would be violating the Sabbath every Sabbath day. They were simply wrong in keeping all of the extra tradition that had accumulated over the years regarding the Sabbath. Their charges against the disciples had no standing in the Law. Thirdly, Jesus used Hosea 6:6 to defend the GUILTLESS state of the disciples. When Jesus quoted from Hosea, He was saying to these religious leaders that they were in the same condition of Israel in Hosea’s day. They were not worshipping God with their heart. Their kind of worship was NOT WHAT GOD DESIRED!!!
There are many who abuse totally this passage from Matthew by making a feeble attempt to have the text support such foolishness as: situationism; the end justifies the means; hierarchicalism. A proper understanding of the text allows for no such interpretation. This actually is just one more encounter that Jesus had with the play-acting religious leaders of the day. That Jesus would quote from Hosea 6:6 makes this abundantly clear. Jesus is here rebuking the same spirit and attitude that Hosea spoke against in Hosea 6:6.
THREE—–As Applied to Our Worship (John 4)
Are there lessons for us from Hosea 6:6? Do we really appreciate what it is that GOD DESIRES in our worship today? Is there any of that spirit of Israel to be observed among us? Notice John 4:23-24…
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit
and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (24) God is a Spirit: and they
that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
In this conversation that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well we are taught much about the worship that God desires from us. In fact we have the three basics of worship: (1) We must worship the right object: GOD; (2) We must worship with the right attitude, involving our heart: IN SPIRIT; (3) We must worship God according to what He has outlined for us in His word: IN TRUTH.
Whenever Christians get away from the concept of being the AUDIENCE as we assemble together for worship, we will have taken a long stride toward acceptable worship. The fact is that we in the pews are to be active participants in worship and the only audience for our worship is God!
Generally speaking, most faithful congregations will have less problem with the IN TRUTH aspect of worship. If we have faithful and qualified elders, they will see to it that we do not swerve from the pattern given in the New Testament for our worship. However, there is one consideration that might be needed by some regarding IN TRUTH. Some seem to have a tendency to leave off one or more of the five avenues of worship. Any of the five could be excised by one who sits in the pews, but likely the most common item left out of worship is the singing. How many members sit in the assembly and do not participate in the song service? Do those who leave off this aspect of their worship think that they have worshipped God acceptably–IN TRUTH–according to the New Testament pattern? Is it any more acceptable to leave off part of worship than it would be to add something to it?
More commonly, today we might struggle with the IN SPIRIT aspect of worship. It is vitally important that our worship be offered up to God from a sincere heart. Surely we can learn this lesson from ancient Israel. GOD’S DESIRE is for our worship to come from the very depths of our hearts.
Such being the case, how could we just kind of “mouth through” the songs and not let them come from a heart that is filled with the love of God and having a strong desire to praise God and teach and admonish our brothers and sisters in the family of God (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)?
How is it possible that we would partake of the Lord’s Supper and be thinking of a hundred other matters besides the suffering endured by our Lord. One of the great problems of the Corinthian saints was the way they were abusing the Lord’s Supper. Their spiritual sickness came, in part, from this abuse (1 Corinthians 11:30).
How is it possible not to listen when God’s word is being taught and we have opportunity to hear from our loving Heavenly Father through His written word? How could we be thinking about how we will be first in line at the local eating establishment–wishing the preacher would hurry up and shut up?
How is it possible not to purpose in our hearts and give liberally, sacrificially, and cheerfully?
How could we be so like the Israelites of Hosea’s day by thinking of other matters when some brother stands before us to lead us in prayer to our Heavenly Father?
Brethren, these are some extremely serious matters that we need carefully to consider. Hosea speaks loudly and convincingly of the need to take heed to GOD’S DESIRE. We must learn and benefit from the things that were written before (Hosea 6:6; Rom 15:4).