A Tale of Holy Love, Unfaithfulness, Justice, Mercy, and Grace
Dew like love, insincere confessions, spiritual adultery, love for raisin cakes, hard-hearted stubbornness. Israel was missing the mark quite a bit in her attempts to pursue pleasure and vain glory while also trying to retain God’s blessing and favor. She wanted to appease her sinful desires while also claiming the promises of God.
So she voiced insincere confessions, she continued ritualistic sacrifices, and she sought to keep the outward appearance of the Law. But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t what God wanted.
The crux of the matter and of God’s controversy with Israel was not what she did or didn’t do so much as where her heart was. It wasn’t a matter of outward devotion but rather of inward relationship. I know that I’ve stressed this time and time again throughout this Hosea study, but God stresses this throughout His message through the prophet Hosea. His heart’s desire for Israel is most beautifully and succinctly summed up in this verse from chapter six:
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
As one Bible commentator wrote, “This verse is the climax of Hosea’s theology.” I concur. The rest of the book expounds, explains, and builds on this simply worded concept. God desires relationship, love, and heart knowledge above rituals, outward expressions of worship, and insincere sacrifices. It’s not that God doesn’t want sacrifices. He just doesn’t want sacrifices at the expense of love. He doesn’t want loveless offerings. Our sacrifices should be an outpouring of our love for God and not mere ritualistic acts.
Israel was guilty of just going through the motions. They made the appropriate sacrifices at the right time, said the right words, celebrated the correct feasts, and did all the right things outwardly. But their hearts were far from God. They gave lip service but not heart sincerity. They gave acts of worship but with no thought of who God is and all that He is worthy of. Their devotion and service to God was merely outward, superficial, and external. It didn’t reach into their hearts and transform their lives.
So God called them on their bluff. He pointed out the error of their ways and told them what He wanted above all else—above neat and tidy sacrifices, above eloquent words, above all the outward expressions of worship Israel did. God wanted their heart. He wanted their undivided love. He wanted a relationship.
And He wants the same thing with us.
But are we also guilty of just going through the motions? Do we faithfully attend church each Sunday but forget about God the rest of the week? Do we daily read our Bibles but have no idea who God really is? Do we say all the right things, know how to eloquently pray in group settings, and can easily use “correct” church lingo, but have not a personal relationship with God? Do we wear an outward form of religion but not possess a changed and transformed heart?
God would rather have our hearts and our sincere love than have us do all the “right” things. He would rather we be passionate about knowing Him deeper and falling further in love with Him than have us religiously attend church every Sunday morning without fail. He would rather have sincere, devoted followers who are passionate about Him and His work than those who spout noble words but do nothing to build His kingdom. Just like Israel, God wants our hearts, our undivided love, and a sincere, intimate relationship with Him. This is the crux of the matter.
So will you give these things to Him?
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. … When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
~Isaiah 1:11, 15-17