First Reading: Hosea 6:3-6

Mercy and Knowledge of the Lord

Why is worship alone not sufficient to be a Christian?

3 Let us acknowledge YHWH.
Let us press on to know YHWH.
As surely as the sun rises,
YHWH will appear.
He will come to us like the rain,
like the spring rain that waters the earth.
4 Ephraim, what shall I do to you?
Judah, what shall I do to you?
For your love is like a morning cloud,
and like the dew that disappears early.
5 Therefore I have cut them to pieces with the prophets;
I killed them with the words of my mouth.
Your judgments are like a flash of lightning.
6 For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice;
and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

World English Bible

Hosea was a shepherd from Judah who traveled north to prophesy in Israel. During his ministry, leadership in both kingdoms were guilty of the same charges: corruption among the royal and priestly families, worship that paid lip service to the Lord, oppression of the poor by the rich. On top of those crimes, both kingdoms were locked in a border war, woven in alliances with the regional powers at the time. Instead of acting like brothers who worshiped the same God, they were enemies who claimed YHWH as their own.

After railing against the Israel and Judah (5:8-14), Hosea addressed the lip service of those who presumed on the Lord's mercy. For the shallow, simple worship would sooth the wrath of the Lord. Worshipers would rededicate themselves with oaths that were easily forgotten. [6:3]

Through the mouth of Hosea, God vented his frustration. He saw through their reasoning which chose convenience over commitment. [6:4-5] The Lord wanted compassion for one's countrymen (even if they lived in the "other camp"). He desired intimacy (i.e., "knowledge") of the faithful. These far out shined any formal worship. In fact, worship that does not come from the heart was worthless. The ones who worshiped without love of God and neighbor were wasting their time. [6:6]

Do our hearts desire the Lord and beat for our neighbors? This question is the measure of sincere worship.

Reflect on the quality of your prayer and worship. What obstacles hinder your spiritual life? Pray the Lord will keep you from growing a sluggish heart.