Hosea 6:4. Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early.
Who is Hosea talking about? The 8th century B.C.E. prophet says that Israel’s love for God is like a morning cloud (or mist)…that goes away early, especially for those who worship Baal. Who is Hosea talking about? The 8th century B.C.E. prophet says that Israel’s love for God is like a morning cloud (or mist)…that goes away early, especially for those who worship Baal.
Hosea lived in a society that was literally coming apart. Assyria threatens to conquer them and finally does years later. The worship of Baal increases and sexual fertility rites destroy families. Israel has six Kings killed in 25 years, four by their own successors. A massacre of people in a nearby valley was likely done by Israel. And their own priests call for more and more sacrifices as a solution to honor God and save Israel.
But Hosea brought something new. He reassured Israel that God’s love would always return, even to the once unfaithful. That gives Israel new hope.
Twice in Matthew, Jesus used the verse in Hosea that God spoke. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” He told Pharisees who criticized him for eating with tax collectors and sinners to think about that verse. He told critical Pharisees who chided him when he let his hungry disciples eat grain from fields on the Sabbath, seemingly against religious law, to think on that verse.
Hosea says God wants mercy and love for others despite their being unfaithful in even large ways. God always returns. Don’t just go through the motions of worship (sacrifice), instead acquire knowledge of God’s love.
Jesus not only repeats God saying “I desire mercy (love for others) not sacrifice,” not wanting the Pharisees to put the law before mercy, but also goes beyond Hosea and tells us God’s love is always there – not leaving and returning, but constant. In our humanness we forget this, just as Jesus did on the cross.
Centuries apart, and both living in times of destruction and division, they speak to us with the message that God will not forsake us. It is not ritual that saves us, but mercy and love that will endure.