Summary: Mercy not sacrifice is what God desires, what is mercy? Why does God want us to love him? How is it that he takes pleasure in our love for him?
Last week I started the sermon series on the “wrath of God”, and we determined that God longs to redeem or rescue his people, so much so that he will pay the price of their rescue we discovered this in chapter seven of Hosea, a book that was written around 740-733 BC at the end of the Kingdom of Israel.
We now understand this thing about God and that is he longs to rescue people. What I’m keen to do today is look at another characteristic of God which comes through in relation to how the people of Israel, this soon to be doomed ‘at the time of Hosea’ kingdom treat one another.
Let’s have a look at chapter six of Hosea.
Now as we read our way through this chapter we come across what looks like Israel turning from their ways of wandering away from and turning away from God and coming back to Him with repentant hearts, but this is not the case. What our old mate the prophet Hosea has foretold here is something that will one day happen. It is yet to occur. This is future stuff this is the type of prophecy that is foretelling, that kind of sometime in the future this will occur! That sort of words that appear to be carried on the wind, rustling in the leaves of time, one day this will happen, lilting heavenly harp music in the background, words soon forgotten if not written down a kind of forecast of future days.
So it’s a good thing that Hosea wrote it down then! It was going to occur but when?
Israel had never prayed like this before as a nation, but it would one day occur.
Not only would the return to God occur, and the nation be restored, it would happen quickly and God’s people would acknowledge Him just as they did the restoring rains that fell on dry and weary lands.
As I read this I get this vision of a nation returning to its God, to ‘The One’ who had previously sustained His people but rather than grumbling about Him, rather than turning from Him and crying out to other gods [small g] they live in His presence, the place to where God has restored them!
The following verses after the first three verses of chapter six, the prophet Hosea addresses the problem that is Israel’s or more to the point is Israel at the time of Hosea.
Verses 4 and 5 really get down to the nitty gritty of how God is feeling about these bod’s, this once great nation. “What can I do with you Ephraim? [Read Israel for Ephraim] What can I do with you Judah [Judah is the southern kingdom]. Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew it disappears”
That’s verse 4 and it comes across as a real condemnation of these two kingdoms that were previously one kingdom. This sounds very much like unrequited love, that’s love that is all one sided, poured out by one - but going down the drain of the other, never impacting the heart of the one to whom it is given, poured out with arms wide open but never held in a warm embrace, it is never to be returned. Love that is one sided love that is not a relationship. there is no relationship. It is left like an over looked ……………….. fan behind a barricade trembling and un-noticed, no autograph and only a glimpse of possibility , going nowhere.
Just as faith without works is dead, love in one direction never truly lived. But in the case of Israel and Judah, there was mist of love that disappeared the heat came on and it evaporated.
God spoke and the prophets proclaimed, The nation would be ended – there had been too much blood shed, the city of Gilead was full of wicked men, a city that was blood stained, a rebellion that had taken many lives, there had been murder committed, prostitution. Israel was defiled. This nation was polluted with evil; it was given to the worship of lesser god’s, and a lesser king who was himself under the authority of a foreign king, when it should have been responding to the King of Kings, to God himself.
Through the nations own actions it was out of sorts with God it came under his wrath, wrath that always is a natural or is that supernatural consequence of turning away from God. It’s as if living outside of God’s will brings with it self-harm.
The nation continued to give sacrifice but without faithfulness to God - empty sacrifice, like showering praise of someone so that you can manipulate that person. Like telling someone you love them to get your own way, flowery words, sweet actions but unfaithful in intent.