RITUAL WITHOUT REALITY

What can I do with you, Ephraim?
    What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
    like the early dew that disappears.

I want you to show love,
    not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
    more than I want burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:4 & 6

The Lord really nails the Israelites here. He describes their relationship with him as shallow, superficial and fickle. Their love for the Lord is like a morning mist or early dew, here one minute gone the next.

He also complains that their relationship with Him is ritual without reality. The Israelites were doing all the right rituals, they were offering sacrifices but there was no reality behind those rituals. They weren’t a way of expressing love and getting to know God. They had become just empty rituals. They were done out of habit not out of love.

Jesus quoted these words of Hosea’s not once but twice to the Pharisees in Matthew 9:13 and 12:7. The Pharisees too were fixated on following the right rituals. They were careful about washing the right way, eating the right things, in the right way with the right people, praying in the right ways at the right time etc etc . Jesus uses Hosea’s words to call them out for being more interested in their religious rituals than the realities they pointed to. Despite all their rituals the Pharisees didn’t really know God at all, they didn’t really love him in any meaningful way.

We can’t duck this one either can we?

Its a sobering thought to realise that we can be doing all the right things religiously but spiritually be far from God.

The Lord isn’t satisfied with a few scraps of rituals thrown His way on a Sunday. We can sing all the praise songs we like, put money in the offering, raise our hands in praise but unless those actions are genuine expressions of love for God and matched by practical love for others, they are all ritual without reality.

Hosea reminds us that our God has no time for morning mist love that is fleeting and not rooted in concrete actions in our everyday lives. He has no time for outward religious activity that is unconnected to a deepening inward spirituality.

Let’s end by noticing the most important thing we are reminded of in these verses. That God’s deepest desire is that you know the reality of loving and knowing Him for who He is.

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