10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13, ESV)
5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:5-8, ESV)
Matthew records Jesus as quoting from Hosea 6:6 on 2 different occasions. For reference, the passage in Hosea reads:
4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:4-6, ESV)
So, assuming this is important, perhaps it’s time we figured out what it means?
Wisdom begins with knowing the difference between lots of ‘doing’ by us (dew that melts away quickly as the sun rises) and true mercy, which chastens and pursues us, admonishing us to eat from her table and not the one which severs us from God (see Proverbs 9) – only there do we truly find grace in time of need.