Gianna Pellegrini has performed music for our graduation ceremonies 2012-2015. She currently works as the worship intern for Spotswood Baptist Church. Gianna has been leading worship since she was 13, starting with a small congregation, and has gone on to lead thousands on the east coast in churches and conferences, and received several medals in 2015 Assemblies of God Fine Arts competition. Gianna has a passion for ending human trafficking and its effects (particularly in India).
Gianna is twins with our office assistant, Alisha Pellegrini. Read her blog here.
“Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.
“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…”
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
The book of Hosea has always fascinated me. I immediately felt a connection with the people of Israel—I also tended to play the harlot with the Lord, I also forgot my first love. For the past few months, verse 6 of the 6th chapter has struck a chord with me. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice…”
Let this reality hit you—Hosea is speaking to an unrepentant Israel, one who was loving other gods and living in sin. Israel was claimed for the Lord and brought out of captivity. What Hosea asks for is not sacrifices or superficial religious acts—Hosea is asking for the heart of Israel. To even just acknowledge the Lord.
How often do I forget to do even that! I have the privilege to work “in ministry” a large percentage of my work week. A lot of my efforts are put into helping worship services go smoothly so our congregation can worship. A lot of times I sacrifice. I do works of service, yet some days I do not acknowledge the Lord.
In Hosea, there is this picture of marriage. Hosea takes Gomer, a prostitute, purchases her with his own money, marries her, has kids with her, provides for her, yet time and time again Hosea must go to the filthiest places and take her out. Now, to be fair, I don’t know exactly how the prostitution industry worked in Hosea’s time. But I have had a glimpse of how it is today.
In December of 2016, I had the chance to travel to Pune, India on a mission’s trip with some family friends (this could be a blog in and of itself). One of the things I had the chance to do was visit the Red-Light district. We went in broad daylight. Even then, in one of the more relatively clean cities in the country, the district was a sobering place to be. Gorgeous, smiling women were lined on the street—some were young, some were older, some were marred by the industry, and some looked like an everyday person walking down the street. Yet, everyone knew why they were there. Without getting into details, my friend is regularly able to visit and minister to the women working in the brothels and just be Jesus to these women. He takes on all the children he can, he provides financial support, he prays for them, he never judges them and always loves them. Imagine you. This is you.
We’re living a life voluntarily (contrary to many of the women in Pune) in filth. Yet Jesus comes into our filth, He takes our sin and cleanses us of a life of harlotry and sets us free. He follows us to even the dirtiest places because He’s purchased us as His own. That’s love. To just offer sacrifice defies common sense and is just plain insufficient. The Lord cares more for my heart than my doing. I’m realizing that to keep “doing ministry” while forgetting my first love makes me no different than Gomer. Because stopping the adultery is just the first part. Hosea was Gomer’s husband—he loved her and pursued her.
In chapter 2 of Hosea, he delivers this from the Lord:
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her…
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”
In biblical times, for a husband to “allure” was a huge act of grace. It wasn’t just tempting; it was active pursuing. A husband would forgive previous acts of ignorance and do all means necessary to win his bride back. Jesus has that same grace towards His bride. Even a bride who is “prone to wander.”
You. Me. We are the bride of Christ. A marriage needs more than just religious or superficial acts. The Lord desires mercy rather than sacrifice—that we would know Him rather than give any offering.
I hope this encourages you as much as it does me.