“I desire mercy, not sacrifice…” Matthew 9:13, Hosea 6:6

As Jesus was interacting with the Pharisees He challenged them to fully understand these words.  He was quoting from Hosea 6 when God was tired of his people taking part in the Old Testament’s sacrificial system, but not having steadfast love for Him or their neighbor.  By implication Jesus was charging that the Pharisees might have all of the right actions, but they had missed the heart of what true worship is.  True worship is to have hearts that are orientated correctly toward God, toward each other, and toward ourselves.  As followers of Jesus, we proclaim that we are never going to get that kind of heart on our own, but instead we need God to recreate in us new hearts, take our brokenness and give us hearts that are chasing after the things that God is passionate about.  He needs to remove the sin from our lives so that we can have life.  We always need to be moving toward living out the hearts the God has given us, hearts that are bent toward mercy.

But does this verse imply that worship is not sacrifice?  Does it mean that everything that God said in the Old Testament about how to worship Him should be thrown out the window?  I don’t think so.  I think that the essence of worship, the essence that was revealed in books like Leviticus, should still be looked at as “sacrifice.”  To worship is to sacrifice.  I am not saying that we need to start bringing animals and tarps (for easy clean-up) on Sundays, but I am saying that if we are not viewing our acts of mercy as a sacrifice, or if they are not a sacrifice because they are too easy, then we are as bad as the Pharisees in Matthew 9.

Also, if you are looking at an act of worship (prayer, Bible reading, mentoring or getting together with your mentor, singing songs of praise, giving a friend encouragement in the Lord, giving financially to the spreading of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, serving a family or person who has fallen on hard times, whatever…) and you decide NOT to do it because you will have to give something in your life up… then you also have missed the idea of what worship is.  To worship is to sacrifice something.  But, this also means that you can look at all you have given up for the sake of doing something for Jesus (giving up being single for the sake of married life, DINK for life with kids, living alone for living in community, not watching a TV show so that you can spend more time doing loving others, getting up early to shower for the sake of every nose you are going to interact with that day, you know… whatever…) as an act of worship!

What about you?  Is there anything in your life that you are doing in order to get the new heart and the new life from God?  Is there anything that you are doing because you feel like you should instead of doing it out of the heart that God has given you?  Are the acts of mercy that you do on a day to day basis done as an act of worship to God?  Do you shy away from worshiping God because you it would require you to sacrifice something?  What sacrifices have you made, or are you going to make, in your life that you need to stop regretting and dreading and instead worship God, who has given you the chance to give something up, through the experience?

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