“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6 ESV).
If someone asked you, “What matters to God?”—how would you respond?
We sometimes struggle to feel the impact of the words of Scripture because we do not belong to the world of the Bible. We do not understand worshiping God with sacrifices; we might think we do, but we don’t. Within the ancient world, sacrifices and altar worship provided a solemn connection between the people and God (or in the case of non-Israelites, their gods).
The words of Hosea struck his audience in a very specific way. God desired steadfast love more than sacrifices? The knowledge of Him more than burnt offerings? The prophet’s answer: Yes.
What matters to God? Steadfast love and the knowledge of Him. The term translated as “steadfast love” in Hebrew refers to covenant faithfulness, or covenant loyalty. In other words, obedience. It does not refer to an emotional feeling about God, but rather our steadfast and faithful obedience to Him.
The deliberate construction of Hosea’s statement places “steadfast love” parallel to “the knowledge of God.” This communicated something significant to Hosea’s ancient reader: Demonstrating steadfast love to God is equivalent with the knowledge of God. In the Bible, one knows God by obeying Him. Obedience gives us knowledge of God, not theory or speculation. Therefore, if you want to know God, obey Him.
But God also commanded the Israelites to sacrifice. We often read such declarations in the Bible through our lenses that do not value sacrifice, which reduces our reading of these passages to something binary—either this, or that. That is not what the prophet is saying.
Sacrifices were important; God commanded them. They served a role. The question wasn’t sacrifices or steadfast love; rather, it established a priority. Steadfast love matters more to God than sacrifices, but that did not negate sacrifices altogether. The point Hosea was making to his audience is that sacrifices were meaningless without obedience.
The same can be said for some of our religious practices today—including prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, singing worship songs, and the list goes on. These activities, while important, mean little to God if we do not also walk in obedience to Him.
So, what would you say if someone asked you, “What matters to God?” May your answer be, “Let me show you by my obedience to Him,” and then let them see your steadfast love for God as you walk in His ways.
Father, may we choose to walk in Your ways today, so that we might grow in our knowledge of You and live obediently to You in everything that we say and do. Amen.