“I desire mercy and not sacrifice and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).
Do not misunderstand. God required animal sacrifices and burnt offerings under the Mosaic Dispensation and the Patriarchal Dispensation (e.g. Genesis 4:4; 8:20-21; 22:1-14; Exodus 10:25-26; 12:5-6; 20:24; 24:4-5; Leviticus 1:1-17; 9:1-24, etc.).
However, God wanted more. Homer Hailey comments, “The sacrifices and burnt-offerings initiated by Jehovah at Sinai were now being abused by the people. They thought that by these outward tokens of devotion, void of true piety, all of their wickednesses were taken care of” (Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets, pp. 156-157). (1) He desired mercy (eleos- in Matthew) and not sacrifice alone. (a) This passage is quoted by Jesus to teach that concern and help should be extended toward those in spiritual need (Matthew 9:9-13). (b) This passage is quoted by Jesus to teach that concern and help should be extended toward those in physical need (Matthew 12:1-8). (2) He desired knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. He did not want mere ritualistic sacrifice. He wanted them to truly understand Him and His will for them. He wanted them to live by His will for them. Earlier in this book, God said, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you…” (Hosea 4:6).
There is a lesson for us. God wants us to do more than assemble and worship. He wants us to be merciful to others. He wants us to truly understand Him, and His will for us.
“The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day – and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18).
Timothy was facing the temptation of distancing himself from the gospel and from Paul (2 Timothy 1:8). These were not easy times for Christians. Many had turned from Paul (2 Timothy 1:15; 4:10a; 4:16).
Two examples were used to encourage Timothy. The first example is Paul. Paul said, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). The second example is Onesiphorus. Paul said, “he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains” (2 Timothy 1:16).
Paul desired that the Lord repay Onesiphorus for his kindness. He desired that the Lord have mercy (eleos) on the household of Onesiphorus. Remember that these were difficult times. He desired mercy (eleos) for Onesiphorus in the judgment day. Jesus said, “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Mark 9:41); “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). The Hebrews writer exhorted, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them – those who are mistreated – since you yourselves are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3). Onesiphorus had done this.
Do you want mercy? If so, be merciful.