Hosea 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Hosea was probably one of the most fascinating prophets of the Old Testament. It has been said that no other Old Testament book (in relation to the book's size) is quoted more in the New Testament than Hosea is.
Here in this verse, which is part of Jehovah's response to the remnant of Israel in the last days, the Lord makes an interesting, and maybe somewhat perplexing statement in relation to worship. Is this God's way of saying that He does not care what we do and is not interested in sacrifice and worship?
Well, as Jesus quotes this verse in Matt 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, we recognize that He is speaking to the Pharisees. Even thought they claimed great spiritual insight and were teachers of the laws and prophets, they had failed to learn the fundamental truth of the prophet's statement. The Pharisees had never learned the meaning of this passage, which teaches that kind hearts and helpful deeds are more pleasing to God than outward ceremonial.
Sacrifice is right, but mercy is first in importance.