ESV - 6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
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Micah 6:6-8 6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. We know Micah is a prophet. He is saying that our God, the God of love, who is love, wants mercy, not judgment. God wants us to be exactly like Him. When we are born again, we get His spirit. We act justly because He is just. We love mercy because He is love and gives mercy. We walk humbly because He has done all this for us and we can take credit for none of it. Why is that? Let’s look at the following verses: Mark 12:28-34 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." 32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." As we can see, God wants mercy because He loves us. He loves people and He does not want to judge us because of His great love for us. His mercy is what He gives us when we deserve judgment. This is why God's love covers a multitude of sin. We know that there are more than the 10 commandments alone. There are over 600 commandments. Interestingly enough, the teacher in the above scripture knew the laws very well and was able to realize the most important ones. Love, is the key. God loves us and does not want to judge us; so, He made a way to give us mercy. It is Jesus, the one who said, “I am the way the truth and the life.” Jesus is the way to heaven, the way for the Father to have mercy on us. Knowing that God loves us and has mercy on us we are now empowered to go do great things, not because we love God, but because He first loved us. Matt 9:12-13 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Who is really talking here, God or Jesus? God is doing the talking here. Jesus even said He only says what He hears the father saying, so in this it is God talking. God wants mercy. He wants to extend us mercy for no reason other than He loves us. Wow! Many people think God is angry with us; but, He actually loves us and does not want to judge us or harm us in any way.
In typical prophetic hyperbole (overstatements), even though at face value the verse seems to be saying that God wants mercy INSTEAD OF sacrifices, God is actually telling his people that does NOT want mercy INSTEAD OF sacrifices… and he does NOT want sacrifices INSTEAD OF mercy… he actually wants mercy PLUS sacrifices. As long as a functioning Temple was standing, God will always desire mercy PLUS sacrifices, because sacrifices often accompanied making physical restitution between you and your fellow man. See this quote from gotquestions.org: Leviticus 6:2-5 covers other situations in which the stolen property is restored, plus one fifth of the value. Also of note in this passage, the restitution was made to the owner of the property (not to the government or any other third party), and the compensation was to be accompanied by a guilt offering to the Lord. The Mosaic Law, then, protected victims of theft, extortion, fraud, and negligence by requiring the offending parties to make restitution. The amount of remuneration varied anywhere from 100 to 500 percent of the loss. The restitution was to be made on the same day that the guilty one brought his sacrifice before the Lord, which implies that making amends with one’s neighbor is just as important as making peace with God. Allow me to substantiate my answer using King David: Ps. 51:14-19 is David’s prayer to have mercy on him and to restore him after his gross sin with Bathsheba. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar. Notice firstly that David recognizes that mere mechanical sacrifice participation is not what God desires: Ps. 51:16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. Is David saying that God’s prescribed system of sacrifices is worthless in regards to repentance and restoration? Not really. Indeed, David recognizes that what God truly wants is a heart poured out in genuine repentance: Ps. 51: 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. The reason we KNOW that God desires mercy AND sacrifices is because David goes on to assure us that God wants them both: Ps. 51:18, 19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar. Conclusions: So, next time you see a prophet rebuking Isra'el for bringing sacrifices (like Hos. 6:6 or Isaiah 1:11-15), just know that there is nothing wrong with WHAT they are doing by bringing sacrifices per se; rather, it is what is in the heart that God is looking at. God hates hypocrisy. Why bring sacrifices if you are going to continue sinning against your fellow man? I essentially see the same principle demonstrated in Matt. 5:23, 24. Here Yeshua tells the crowd to reconcile to your brother PLUS bring your offering to the altar. God isn't asking for reconciliation INSTEAD OF your offering… he delights in reconciliation PLUS your offering. Mercy PLUS sacrifices is what God desires, and this accords with God’s gracious Torah (Law) that places value on both. It is important to note that the qualification of a proper heart attitude is clearly implied in Leviticus 16:29, 31 where the people are asked to “afflict (Hebrew=‘anah) their souls” (KJV). Accordingly, only those who had inwardly prepared their hearts were eligible to receive the gracious gift of God’s forgiveness.
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