Ephraim, what will I do with you?
Judah, what will I do with you?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that vanishes quickly.
5 Therefore, I have attacked them by the prophets,
I have killed them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth like a light.
6 I desire faithful love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God instead of entirely burned offerings. Hosea 6:4-6, CEB
One of the “Christian” subjects that I think is hardest to talk about in a recovery context is sacrifice. Sacrifice refers to different things in different places of scripture, so let me set the table a little bit. There may be a couple slightly boring days before we get to the more interesting stuff, but bear with me please! This is just how my mind works. We’re going to work through a couple of passages and then talk about what sacrifice might look like in our everyday lives as faithful people in recovery.
In this passage, God is talking and taking his people to task because they’ve become more interested in trying to preserve themselves through playing politics with other nations rather than relying on God for their protection, provision, and security. God’s words here imply that the people must think (wrongly) they are still in good standing with God because they’ve maintained their rituals- they regularly sacrifice to God to cover their sins (these sacrifices are acts of worship and devotion to God). God’s response shows that you can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. Either you’re dedicated to living out God’s vision for life and perform acts of worship from this earnest space or you’re not dedicated to living out God’s vision for life therefore your acts of worship fall on deaf ears. The acts of worship in and of themselves are not the problem. The problem is that they’re disingenuous.
In other words, we can’t fool God. We earnestly seek his vision for life or we don’t and, when we don’t, we can’t make him think that we do through worship trickery. In this context, God uses the term sacrifice as a sort of shorthand for this worship trickery. The people have decided they’re going to provide for themselves and secure their own future through political maneuvering. The God of their understanding, then, is themselves. They are no longer submitted, they are operating under their own strength.