Have you ever thought you knew what someone else wanted, but it turned out you didn’t? Maybe they complimented something once, so we assume they always want that one thing. Or it could be that they told us they liked it, but we never checked back to see if their taste changed. Whatever the case, even though assumptions usually get us in trouble, we still operate on them more often than we should.
Not only do we assume what people want, we also assume what God wants. We often forget that God looks at our heart more than our actions. We treat Christianity as if there are boxes we have to check off to make God happy so He will bless us and hopefully let us go to Heaven. Go to church often: check. Give some money in the offering plate when it passes: check. Do something good for someone else every now and then: check. What if I told you that’s not what God wants?
In Hosea 6, the people assumed they knew what God wanted. They had sinned and thought, “Hey, all God wants are some sacrifices and He’ll come rescue us.” While that was God’s promise to them, they had forgotten what moves God isn’t our outward act, but our inward posture. God’s response to them in verse 6 was, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings” (NLT). They had assumed what God wanted and were wrong.
I think what God said to them is what God wants to say to us today. He would rather we love Him than to check a bunch of religious boxes. He would rather we get to know Him on an intimate level than to do things in His name for our own glory. When you love someone, you put their needs above your own. That’s what God is looking for from you and me today. He’s looking for a selfless love from us that gets to know Him so we don’t have to assume what He wants. It starts with us putting away our religious list and spending time in His presence.
In Matthew 9, Jesus is at the home of Matthew eating with some unsavory people. The top religious leaders saw him dining with them and asked, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” (NLT) They asked it loud enough that Jesus heard them, which meant that Matthew and his friends heard. Jesus said, “Heathy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.” Then he challenged them to go and find the meaning of the scripture that says, “I desire mercy [that is, readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin)” (AMP).
I figured if Jesus wanted them to find the meaning, He probably wanted us to find the meaning as well. The original passage is found in Hosea 6:6. It says, “I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me” (GNB). The first thing God wants from any of us is an unconditional, constant love. A couple of verses back, He says His children’s love vanishes as quickly as the morning dew. The kind of love that irritates God is the conditional kind that depends on what He does.
God loves you no matter what you do, and He expects the same. Jesus was upset with the Pharisees who asked about His eating with sinners because they were the same ones who were astonished at His miracles and His teachings. When His actions didn’t meet up with their expectations, their love waned. What Jesus was pointing out to them in the Scripture He sent them to was that they really didn’t know God, and He would rather they know Him instead of knowing the Law.
We have to be careful of the same trap. We cannot let our love for God depend on expectations we have of Him when we don’t fully know Him. God knows that the more we know Him, the more we love Him. The more we love Him, the more we will have a readiness to help those in spiritual danger. They are the ones who need our help the most. Jesus knew it, and He wanted us to know it too. The heart of God beats for the lost, and He’ll do what it takes to reach them, even if it doesn’t make sense to others. When we truly know Him, our heart beat for the lost like His.