Mercy, not sacrifice

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Are you merely ‘going through the motions’ today? Or are you coming to be refreshed in the gospel and to meet with God?

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Bible passage Hosea 6:1 – 7:2

Hosea 6

Israel Unrepentant
 1 "Come, let us return to the LORD.
       He has torn us to pieces
       but he will heal us;
       he has injured us
       but he will bind up our wounds.

 2 After two days he will revive us;
       on the third day he will restore us,
       that we may live in his presence.

 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
       let us press on to acknowledge him.
       As surely as the sun rises,
       he will appear;
       he will come to us like the winter rains,
       like the spring rains that water the earth."

 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.

 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.

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

 7 Like Adam, they have broken the covenant—
       they were unfaithful to me there.

 8 Gilead is a city of wicked men,
       stained with footprints of blood.

 9 As marauders lie in ambush for a man,
       so do bands of priests;
       they murder on the road to Shechem,
       committing shameful crimes.

 10 I have seen a horrible thing
       in the house of Israel.
       There Ephraim is given to prostitution
       and Israel is defiled.

 11 "Also for you, Judah,
       a harvest is appointed.
       "Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people,

Hosea 7

 1 whenever I would heal Israel,
       the sins of Ephraim are exposed
       and the crimes of Samaria revealed.
       They practice deceit,
       thieves break into houses,
       bandits rob in the streets;

 2 but they do not realize
       that I remember all their evil deeds.
       Their sins engulf them;
       they are always before me.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Explore the Bible

Failing religion
It’s so easy to think that what God wants from us is civility – that we’re respectable, upright people who do the right thing. As long as we’re not too bad and do the right things, God is happy enough.

But Hosea blasts that kind of religion out of the water! Through Hosea’s life and message, God screams and shouts and weeps that he doesn’t want our respect, he wants our love (v 4; 2:19).

Learning love
‘Go and learn what this means’, Jesus said, quoting our passage: ‘“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’ (Matthew 9:13). Have we learned what this means? The NLT renders it: ‘I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.’

And that’s the problem: we can so easily live on the surface, and convince ourselves that keeping our own rules and laws is really what God wants. The Pharisees were good at that kind of ‘sacrifice’.

But what God wants is wayward sinners to receive his love like the rising sun and the falling rain (v 3), warming and refreshing our hearts. That’s what grows the fruit of stable and steady love for God (v 4b), producing love (mercy) for neighbour.


Have you been merely going through the motions in your faith? ‘Come, let us return to the Lord…’ in repentance and faith.

Angus Moyes

Deeper Bible study

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Isaiah 6:3)

The Bible celebrates the God who ‘heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:3; compare Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 61:1). Hosea does the same, but he also asserts that God first inflicted the wounds! This is an uncomfortable thought. It is unpopular today to think of our sufferings as evidence of God’s working with us in judgement and mercy, but the prophets undoubtedly thought in this way. Such an approach is problematic if we apply it as a blanket answer to all suffering. It is especially problematic when we apply it to the suffering of others. Still, many of us, as Christian believers, can think of some of our own difficulties as self-inflicted or our troubles as divinely allowed, yet for our own good.

Many other biblical passages assert, with Hosea, that God might use the circumstances of our lives to shape and guide us. Jesus used the image of the vine to say that God prunes those of his people who bear fruit, in order that they may bear more fruit (John 15:2). The letter to the Hebrews similarly teaches that God, as heavenly Father, chastises those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:6). The letter of James offers a slightly different but complementary approach: ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance’ (James 1:2,3). Finally, the book of Proverbs declares that a forthright rebuke testifies not to the enmity but to the faithfulness of a friend (Proverbs 27:6).

If God has wounded us, says Hosea, it is for a purpose: that we might take stock of our lives and make amends. ‘Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds’ (6:1).

Robert Parkinson

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Jeremiah 17,18

John 7

The quick-fix gospel

Like the Israelites in Hosea’s day, we can all too easily become hypocritical in our love for the Lord. With our mouths we confess him, but our hearts are sold out to ‘other gods’.

Nevertheless he continues to pursue us and search our hearts until at last we turn back to him in true repentance. It is then that we can experience his love in all its fullness. Listen to this imagined duologue between God and man, written by Heather Henry.


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  • Rachael Hampton | Wednesday, 11 October 2017

    V3 Amp. 'Let us be zealous to know the Lord - to appreciate, give heed to and cherish Him.' How wonderful to know that when our hearts truly seek Him and His ways - zealously, no less - His coming to us with refreshment and life is as certain as the sun coming up each day. May all those in dark times know Spring showers of His touch, even as Roger did when he received that comforting word of love. Thank you triune God for being to us everything we need. Amen.

  • Frank Collins | Wednesday, 11 October 2017

    EILEEN we in our home group have started once a month to take a book of the bible and treat it as you would in a book club or reading group . Read it at one sitting. Several times if you can. Listen to it on the Bible Gateway by your favourite reader again in one sitting. Not as a bible study, looking for the plot, were the characters credible , are there parallels for today's 21st century reader, what did I like / didn't like in the book etc etc. Stimulated a good discussion . We started with Ruth now on Ezra, will follow with Nehemiah, Song of Songs will be a challenge! It raised some interesting thoughts e.g. I hadn't thought of that before! The leader still has to read up on it but that's a help as well to steer away from 'Pail says or The gospels say' ...... because it's not our usual bible study. It's good fun as well.

  • Enyobi Chukwunonso | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Today's reading is exactly for me. So, help me God

  • Jacky Taylor | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    #Thequick-fixgospel . I found this very helpful. Thank you.

  • Rae Bigwood | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Well, ( producing love (mercy) for neighbour). This neighbour was our electrician who out of respect was offered the job of wiring my father in laws house. He has now gone and we have found cut wires, jobs unfinished, gas pipes cut etc. Then, in steps Hosea and I come recognise that the problem was myself. I agree. Thankyou Father your timing is always perfect and I come to love and respect you more. lol

  • Angela Munday | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    God makes it as easy as He can for us as He pours out His love on humanity...."I want you to know me. I want you to show love." ( verse 6 ) As we meet here together day by day we prepare ourselves to receive and give love. RACHAEL, I echo your prayer "Thank you triune God for being to us everything we need." Amen.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Thank you Angus Moyes 'learning love'. .I go back to Col 3:17 and remind myself to look at my motives as it is not what we do, but why we do it that counts.

  • Eileen Smith | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    FRANK-- that sounds a very helpful way of looking at Scripture & seeing it in a different way. I usually listen to said reader on Bible Gateway while reading Scripture on here or when I read the daily BIOY -- reading the full chapter not just the section & I sometimes read & listen to the shorter books at one sitting. I find that listening when reading helps me to concentrate on what I'm reading! Usually too when starting a new Book I try to listen to an over view of the book -- the blessings of the internet!

  • Derek Forster | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way, Lead us from night to never-ending day; Fill all our lives with love and grace divine, And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

  • Lynda Spencer | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    FRANK, I also am very interested in what you are doing! In our Bible Study group we are currently exploring the book of Esther, and I'm thinking the way you are looking at books would have been / would be a great way to complement our usual chapter-by-chapter week-by-week approach. I'm going to suggest we at least read the whole book together in one sitting. Thank you!

  • Carol Stockman | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    God tries to teach us things through our experiences but that is so hard to take sometimes. My operation to remove my breast cancer was postponed on Tuesday because my blood pressure was dangerously high. Please pray that with the GP s help it will return to an acceptable level and the operation can be done. Help me Lord to truly believe you have my best interests at heart and give me your peace at this time.

  • Eileen Smith | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Just prayed CAROL & will keep doing so until we hear that you can have the operation -- the Peace of the Lord be with you.

  • Jennifer Yohannes | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Praying for you CAROL.

  • David Chipchase | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Also praying for you CAROL. ROGER, your comment yesterday was deeply moving.

  • David Chipchase | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    CAROL, I just told my wife about your trials. Jan is a breast cancer survivor. She also has a deeply intimate knowledge of debilitating pain. She also had innumerable delays getting to surgery. She sends you her deepest, empathetic best wishes and promises you will receive her prayer support.

  • Rebecca Huie | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Carol, I join the others who are praying for you. May the Lord hold you close & work miraculously on your behalf. Praying that the operation will be soon and successful. Roger, thank you for sharing your story here- praying for you and for all WL family. We serve a mighty God! His name be praised!

  • Ruth Lewis | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Prepare: I come to be refreshed in the gospel and to meet with God!!! When I visit WL this is actually what happens!!! I am so grateful to God for all of the WL family and the administrators of this web site. God 's Blessings be on you all!!!

  • Tim Berry | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Praying for you CAROL. May you be aware of God's awesome love for you at this difficult time, and may you know His peace deep in your heart. If at any time you should feel that He is not with you, remember "FOOTPRINTS" . He says,"My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you during your times of trials and suffering. When you feel all alone and there is only one set of footprints, that is when I am carrying you".

  • Ruth Lewis | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    Continuing to offer up prayers on your behalf dear CAROL. I know God has the perfect plan for you. We often don't understand what He is doing, but we must continue to walk down the road called faith and praise Him as we go, trusting that he is working everything out for our good, as it says in Romans 8:28. This is one of the first Scriptures I learned when I started reading my Bible. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 is another comforting verse of Scripture also, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Psalm 94:12 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.!!! Psalm 130:5, I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope. Amplified Bible, Classic Edition. Last but not least is, Ecclesiastes 3:11, He has made everything beautiful in its time. ESV The above Scriptures have been a comfort to me since I left the world, and have come to Christ. I pray they will bring you peace comfort and joy as you wait patiently. Psalm 40:1 written to God by David says he waited. I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. CAROL, God hears you and all of us who are praying for you!!!

  • Ruth Lewis | Thursday, 12 October 2017

    I am sorry for such a long comment CAROL, The Scriptures kept coming to mind and I knew they were from God to encourage you to keep your eyes on Him. Psalm 121English Standard Version (ESV) My Help Comes from the Lord A Song of Ascents. 12 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

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