For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:6
Jesus quotes this verse from Hosea twice in the Gospel of Matthew and I think it deserves a look today. We talked about this verse yesterday in Sunday school and I used an analogy for the youth that I have picked up from another pastor along the way and expanded it. What does it mean that God desires steadfast love and not sacrifice. Didn’t God command that the sacrifices be made?
The heart of the issue goes to the heart of our intentions. Let’s say that I brought home roses for my wife because it is Valentine’s Day and such a gift is expected (practically a commandment if you watch any advertising). If I hand them over and say, here are your roses, I hope you like them (imagine this being said in a huffy, grudging tone) and I do the whole thing from a sense of “duty” and it shows; you can imagine how those roses will be received.
If I take the exact same actions but the tone of my speech is one of love and caring (I bet you can hear the difference in your own mind), then the roses are received with gratitude and they show genuine care and affection. God does desire our worship and for us to walk in His commandments and instructions, but He doesn’t want us to do it grudgingly or out of a sense of “requirement.” Scripture even says this in another place. God love a cheerful giver. God isn’t telling the people not to offer gifts or sacrifices at all, He is simply asking that their heart be in it.