“God Desires Living Sacrifices”
Hosea 6:1-11

Hosea was a prophet. He was called by God to speak to the Israelites in both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Both kingdoms were doing their own thing and paying no attention to God’s Word or God’s prophet. Hosea must have felt like giving up. In chapter four Hosea gave a charge against Israel, there was no faithfulness, no love, and no acknowledgement of God in the land. Then in chapter 5 Hosea described the judgement they would receive for those sins. This judgement would remain until God’s people admitted their guilt and truly sought God with all their heart and soul and mind.

This was a familiar theme for the Israelites. The Old Testament Scriptures tell us stories of their ancestors behaving in the same manner. For Hosea, a man who had studied the Scriptures, it had to have been a familiar theme. Can’t you just see him pulling his hair out with frustration? 

Today’s chapter begins with a plea from Hosea, for Israel to return to trusting in God.  

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

This was the very response God was looking for. 
Hosea had the right heart and right response to God’s chastening. He didn’t argue with God, he wasn’t promoting that they resent God’s correction. No, Hosea was leading them in humble prayer. 

Much like a rebellious child, who in their anger screams at the parents, yelling, “You don’t love me. If you did, you wouldn’t punish me.” Yet, the parents do love the child and it is out of this love they punish the child. But the children’s rebellion and lack of submission won’t allow them to see their parent’s love or respond to that love. God understood their stubbornness and sent a prophet to lead them in submissive prayer. Hosea prays with full confidence that God not only loved them but would fully restore them. Maybe Hosea recalled the story of Jonah in the big fish, or maybe there was even a bit of prophecy of Jesus who was torn and stricken for our sake and then gloriously resurrected on the “third day.” 
Hosea continued to walk in confidence in verse 3, pleading to his fellow Israelites to join him in pursuing the knowledge of the Lord. Hosea was confident that if they repented and returned to knowing God then God would come to them like the rain, like the winter rains and spring rains that watered the earth. This was an analogy the Israelites would have instantly recognized. In Israel, the only way crops were watered was by rain. They waited for the rain with great expectation. The winter rain was to prepare the earth for seed, the spring rain to prepare the plant for harvest. When we anticipate and wait for God with this same type of expectation we are told in Hebrews 11:6, 

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” 

Hosea had studied God’s Scripture and had seen God’s character provided like this over and over again. Hosea believed. Hosea’s confidence was established by reading Scripture and spending time with God. Not so for the people and their priests. In verses 4-6, Hosea explains how God’s people were missing the point and not reaching God’s heart. Verse 4 states that 

“Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.” 

It wasn’t like they were without love, it was just that whatever love they had, was quickly dissipated, like the early dew. We have read in Hosea 5:6 that they still brought sacrifices, but they had forgotten mercy. Mercy was forgotten when the knowledge of God was abandoned, Hosea 4:1. 
Here’s the rub. 
Yes, God required sacrifice, that was the easy part. 
Obtain a perfect lamb or dove and give it to the priest. 
Job done, did what was required. 
However, God would rather have right hearts, 
full of truth and mercy, than sacrifice. 

This verse was quoted twice by Jesus to the religious leaders of His day in Matthew 9:13

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

and Matthew 12:7, 

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Israel brought animals for sacrifice but they never brought themselves as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1, 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

True and proper worship is presenting our bodies, our lives, as living sacrifices. This means living daily in a deep, close relationship with God. We have a “call to worship” at the beginning of each time we meet on Sunday, together. In view of God’s mercy, that call should remind us to be totally present in relationship with God and others while we are here. 

Hosea proceeds to describe their transgressions of idolatry, in verses 7-11. Notice in verse 9 it was not just the people, but the priests were also sinning. 
They were going to places of sacrifice and killing and committing shameful crimes. In verse 10, because of the horrible things seen in the house of Israel, God decided not to bring the Israelites in exile, back from Babylonian to the northern kingdom but instead he had them return to Judah, the southern nation. 

Chapter 7 began with the words,
“Whenever I would heal Israel,”

Hosea was reminding them that He was willing to heal them from their sin and its effects, as soon as they treated God as He really was, omniscient and one who knows what was going on. 

Hosea continues in chapter 7 with His declaration of the sinful ignorance and willful blindness Israel was exhibiting. 
Somewhere along the line Israel thought either God did not see their wickedness or somehow would forget their wickedness. Maybe it was because they themselves forgot. Often sin done in secret is deliberately forgotten and somehow we think God doesn’t see it as well. Verse 2 reminds us, 

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

Check point.

Have you forgotten? 
Do you think God does not see? 
Just because we are sitting in church it doesn’t mean we don’t do things God would not approve of. 
Many church-going people sin gravely but then come to church and make a profession of godliness, pretending those things aren’t a part of their life. 

We read in verse 3 that they may not have been pleasing God but they were certainly pleasing the kings of their day. In verses 4-7 we read why, because their hearts were inflamed with desire and passion after idols, like the oven being heated by a baker. Somewhere in the midst of this idol worship they felt good, passionate with desire. There was an energy that kept them going. All of that energy went to the idols. In verse 7 we read that none of them called on God. 

How does that happen?  

Verses 8-10 blames it on the pride and stubbornness of Israel. They were like a flat cake not turned over. 
In that day, bread was often made like a cake that was cooked on both sides, something like a pancake, or naan. By serving both the Lord and idols, Israel was like an unturned pancake, burned on one side and uncooked on the other. To make matters worse, Israel didn’t seem to recognize what was going on. In their blind ignorance they did not return to God. This may sound ridiculous but humans have an amazing ability to deceive themselves when they like the sin they are in. Jeremiah put it like this in 17:9, 

“The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?”

How many of us can easily see this in other people’s lives? How easy it is to deceive ourselves and yet be apparent to everyone else around us. 
I guess Israel’s behavior was not so unusual. Samson, one who is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews, chapter 11, after Deliliah cut his hair, we read in Judges 16:20, 

 “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”

This was where the people of Israel were, and where some people are today. 

They are so far away from God, 
they are already suffering the effects, 
and they can’t even see it. 

Hosea continues with figurative language and now compares Ephraim to an easily deceived and senseless dove. Like a bird fluttering about, not sure where to go. So, instead of returning to God, they go to Egypt and Assyria to find the answers. Poor choices. 
They thought they were doing the right thing and that they could escape God by running to other nations. Not so, God said He would throw a net over them and catch them. 

Hosea tells it like it is. Israel saw their problem, but not their sin. They knew they needed help, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t see the reason for their problem. Again they act like a teenager, they “wailed upon their beds” but did not come to the Lord. They looked for remedies in all the wrong places. In their opinion, they were in the right, and everything and everyone was in the wrong. Hosea adds another image of a faulty bow that could not shoot an arrow straight. They were like a useless weapon, everything that came from them was not straight and missed the mark.

We have been reading through the books in the Old Testament which is a narrative of God and His creation. The humans God created continually mess up. Many points along the way, God gets fed up and decides to get rid of them. One time God creates a flood. Another time, on Mt. Sinai, Moses convinced God it wasn’t in His best interest to annihilate the Israelites. The chosen nation of Israel divides into two nations and ends up being taken into exile. Prophets come and go but basically have a similar message, “Wake Up! God cares more about having a living and vibrant relationship with you, than He does about your sacrifices and how well you do the do’s and don’t do the don’ts. God desires living sacrifices, not perfection. Today we are in the New Covenant with God. For those who come to God under the New Covenant there is a precious promise, Jeremiah 31:34
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”
No more sacrifices are needed for our sins because of the atoning substitute of Jesus, crucified in our place under the New Covenant. Because of this, God forgets our sin.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  – Romans 12:1-2

Right now we are participating in “corporate worship.” You have brought your bodies as living sacrifices to fill your hearts, souls and minds with God’s Word. But worship continues throughout the week. Daily we are called to be in worship. The reality is that each day we worship something. 
God wants us to choose Him and not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. It is my prayer today that each of us finds more time this week to hang out with God and worship. 

Let’s pray.