Over this past year, the following phrase kept coming to mind: I DESIRE MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE. I found that this is indeed God’s message to His royal priesthood. When did God give such a message to His royal priesthood?
Three times in the Bible we find God gave His chosen people the message: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. Each time God gave this message, His royal priesthood had fallen into strict legalism. I therefore believe God’s message to UBF today is the same, God desires mercy, not sacrifice.
First, the prophet Hosea spoke God’s message to Israel in a time of crisis. In Hosea’s time, Israel was in a crisis. Hosea says that it was God who had “torn them to pieces”, the very people who were God’s treasured possession. God had injured them. Through Hosea, God called Israel to “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.” (Hosea 6:1) Why did God do such a thing to the very people He called and loved? Why did God injure his holy nation, his royal priesthood? Hosea tells us why: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6).
Second, Jesus spoke God’s message to people of God who separated themselves from unclean people. Once Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house with tax collectors and other “sinners” (Matthew 9:10). The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus would eat with such people who had lost their godliness. The Pharisees had a noble desire to be holy. They hated anything that was unclean. Why then did Jesus eat with people who lived such unclean lives? Jesus tells us why: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
Third, Jesus spoke God’s message to people of God who taught people to obey God. The Pharisees taught people to know the Bible and to live according to its teachings. They taught people to obey God and respect the Sabbath. Why then did Jesus rebuke them? Jesus tells us why: “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)