For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hos. 6:6 ESV)
What We Are Like:
It is often easier for us to imagine a God who desires us to fulfill basic duties. In this Old Testament verse, that duty was sacrificing an offering in the Temple. Today we might think that attending church, giving our tithe or volunteering our time is what God desires. Certainly those are good things, but the God of the Bible desires our hearts to have "steadfast love". Other good translations say "mercy". The second half of the verse has another but related emphasis. The God the Bible wants us to know him. This is not knowledge about him, but relational knowledge. This is knowing him as a person, not a mere academic theological. Knowledge of theology is not bad, but it can be disconnected from things like wonder of worship, sense of purpose in life, sense of connection, and understanding of one's own existence in relation to God. The God of the Bible desire "steadfast love" and "knowledge of God".
Explaining the Text:
This Old Testament passage of Hosea 6:6 is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 9:13. The religious leaders of the day questioned why Jesus ate with sinners. Before quoting the first half of Hosea 6:6 Jesus says those who are not sick have no need for a physician. Steadfast love for God and people fulfills the two great commandments. Steadfast love means loving God and loving people. Jesus was befriending those who had a need.
It is easy to congratulate ourselves on a job well done. It may be true that we have done well. However, our focus on that success may keep us from seeing the needs of those around us. A part of love is seeing the needs. We can only direct our focus on so many things. It is a common experience. When driving, we can have a conversation with someone beside us. We can drive and adjust the radio. Switch off the radio and add our phones things become a bit more complex. Then add it all together. Have a conversation, follow the navigate in a new location from your phone and solve a dispute in the back seat may keep us from focusing on the most important thing, driving safely. Likewise, when we think have our Christian duty conquered, and think about how well we are doing, we may not see those who have needs right beside us. We are focused on self, rather than God and others.
Application to Us:
Whether it is a phone call to a shut in, or a food for the grieving or simply loving the unlovely, God wants our hearts. God does not desire us to focus on achievable duty but on a heart full of steadfast love, compassion, and knowledge of him. We cannot do this under our own power, we need the grace of God. We must not see the steadfast love as a new duty, but a heart empowered by the Holy Spirit to love God and love others.
3rd Verse of Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies
Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, radiance divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.