What am I going to do with you, Ephraim? What am I going to do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist and like the early dew that vanishes. This is why I have used the prophets to cut them down; I have killed them with the words from my mouth. My judgment strikes like lightning. For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings (6:4-6 CSB).
The Lord warned Israel about her failure to repent (6:4-5). God is not pleased with half-efforts. He always wants our whole heart. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV).
The Lord wanted a proper relationship with the whole nation. The clergy-laity distinction still persists in very many evangelical minds, (except when the churchgoer is in a dispute with their pastor). “You’re supposed to do that because you’re a pastor or missionary,” or “I don’t have to do that because I’m not in full-time Christian service.” Wrong! God wants you to share your life with him.
So the Lord sought a whole-hearted, lasting response. The Lord wants us after the troubles have disappeared, when our lives are bright and happy. Israel had tried to satisfy God with a little affection when they were in need.
God reminds them of his displeasure. Spiritual judgments would fall on them. The messages of the earlier prophets, like Elijah and Elisha, had fallen on deaf hears. The people were hardened, not helped. There is a serious danger of having your heart hardened while you listen to God’s word. Lord, give us hearts of flesh; soft, responsive hearts always. Physical judgments would also fall on them. Their crumbling nation was sufficient proof of this. Let us listen to Christ’s words to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-19).
The Lord taught Israel about true repentance (6:6). God permitted no substitutes. From the time of Cain, people have been trying to buy God’s pleasure with something less than what he wants (Genesis 4:3-7). Even performance of God-appointed ritual is insufficient, if we lack a heart for God and an urge to please him. Attendance at a church preaching the gospel of God’s grace will do you no good, unless you love the God of grace.
The living God pointed out the way of true worship to them as Jesus did to the woman at the well. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24 ESV). The Lord wants mercy or steadfast love, which as Jesus emphasized, means love for people as well as love for God (Matthew 9:13; 12:7; cf. 1 John 3-4.) The Lord wants us to know him. To know God is to recognize and appreciate his involvement in my life as holy, sovereign and loving Father.
Do you know the Lord in this way, with a love that reaches out to all people, including people that know the Lord and yet with whom you disagree?
Grace and peace, David