The whole idea behind sin offerings in the Bible is for a man to acknowledge his sin and to recognize that there is a price to be paid for it. Now, God didn’t make a very big deal out of it—all it took was a little goat. That the little fellow had to die because you sinned would have an effect on a normal person, I should think. For the most part, when we do something wrong nothing happens—at least that’s what we think. In a society that’s in covenant with God, the sin offering (which was entirely voluntary) served as a regular reminder of the cost of sin. Sin has a price tag. Men need to remember their covenant with God and acknowledge that they have damaged their relationship and to make amends. It’s a simple concept and one that nearly everybody understands.
Hosea, speaking for God, says this:
I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something foreign. Though they offer sacrifices as gifts to me, and though they eat the meat, the Lord is not pleased with them. Now he will remember their wickedness and punish their sins: They will return to Egypt. Israel has forgotten their Maker and built palaces; Judah has fortified many towns. But I will send fire on their cities that will consume their fortresses.
So what I learn from this, going through the motions of religious service is not good enough. You have to walk in covenant with God being attentive to the way you are supposed to live a life. It’s not good enough to ask, what would Jesus do? We should ask what did Jesus say, I should do? And then we have to live it. Now let me put this clearly, if you go to church every Sunday morning and you carry out all your religious duties—meanwhile you are sleeping with your neighbor’s wife—you are in the same place as the people Hosea was preaching to.