Consider How We Honor and Worship God
The first five books of the Bible talk a lot about God’s expectations of his people, about what God desires. He gives Moses his laws to guide them in right behavior, both what they’re supposed to do and what they’re to avoid.
The Bible also discusses—sometimes in excruciating detail—the complex array of sacrifices and burnt offerings God expects his people to regularly give him. Many of these occur according to the calendar, while others relate to life events.
It seems the people are never far away from an occasion to worship God through offering a sacrifice.
Because of the repeated emphasis on sacrifices in the Old Testament, it’s easy to conclude they’re the focal point of worshiping God. Or are they?
Hosea casts into doubt this assumption regarding the importance of animal sacrifices. He does this when he shares God’s perspective on this involved practice—which, incidentally, seems both wasteful and barbaric to most people today.
What God desires, according to the prophet Hosea, is that his people offer mercy and not sacrifices. He wants them to acknowledge him rather than present him with slaughtered animals.
Though it may be an overstretch to say that God wants them to stop offering animal sacrifices, he certainly is calling for a change in perspective. Could it be that the people’s hearts are not in the right place when they offer their sacrifices?
They might be going through the motions of a ritualistic religious practice while having lost all connection to the reason behind the rite—and the God who instituted it.
So it is when we blindly follow traditions that evolved over time without a thought or care to the original goal of the practice.
If God doesn’t want dead animals anymore, consider what he wants instead. He asks that his people be merciful to others. Giving mercy—and not insisting on judgment—emerges as a form of worship, one which God desires.
Think about it. We honor God by how we treat others and not some religious ritual that has ceased to hold meaning for us.
Next, God says that he wants his followers to acknowledge him. The original intent of the burnt offerings was to point to him, acknowledging him as Lord. But if the burnt offerings now fail to do that, it makes sense to eliminate them and encourage the people to focus directly on him.
When we offer mercy to others, we honor God by reaching out to other people. When we acknowledge God as Lord, we honor him by reaching up to him.
Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.