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Friends in Christ Weekly Message
June 7, 2002

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
    the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6 (NRSV*)

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

Hosea 6:6 (NIV*)

I'd rather for you to be faithful
and to know me than to offer sacrifices.

Hosea 6:6 (CEV*)

I wouldn't normally give the same passage in three translations, but in this case they each translate differently at one key point - steadfast love, mercy, faithful. More likely than that any of them missed the boat is that each conveys an aspect of what was intended, so reading them together should give a richer understanding. This passage is not just an isolated verse. Matthew reports two instances where Jesus quoted it (9:13, 12:7). Other prophets - Amos, Isaiah, Micah - say about the same thing.

We shouldn't get hung up in words like sacrifice and burnt offerings, and think this applies only to these common practices of the Hebrews at that time in history. The deeper meaning refers to whatever outward means is used in our religious life. So read for that regular church attendance, rituals like the Lord's Supper, tithing, daily Bible reading, or whatever might have a similar place in your own formal religious experience.

The point being made is not that these things are wrong. Rather, the prophets and Jesus are making the point that what is in our heart and how we show that in our daily life are what is really important. Are we loving, merciful and faithful? If we don't live in the right spirit in our lives, our formal religious practices are empty and hollow.

Let us be wary of feeling good that we do the "right" things in our formal religious practice. Rather, we need to humbly and prayerfully seek to have God's love and mercy manifested by the way we live our lives.

Bill Samuel

* New Revised Standard Version © Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, New International Version © International Bible Society, Contemporary English Version ©1995 American Bible Society.

©2002 Friends in Christ, Inc.

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Document last modified on Saturday, 27-Dec-2003 12:00:28 EST