Read Hosea 6
What God Wants
God is concerned with more than mere ritual. A man can perform all the right actions and still be lacking when it comes to his spiritual maturity and his relationship with God. There must be a proper motivation behind the proper actions. Thus, Jesus said in John 4:24, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
An oft-quoted passage from the prophecy of Hosea reads, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). One who has a poor attitude toward God or toward his fellowman cannot worship acceptably. One who is ignorant of who God is and what God wants cannot offer a proper sacrifice.
The word that is rendered “mercy” in the KJV and NKJV is translated in several different ways in other versions: “goodness” (ASV), “steadfast love” (ESV), “loyalty” (NASB), “faithful” (CEV). The original Hebrew word refers to man’s kindness toward other men, especially toward the needy. Yet there is a secondary definition that carries with it the notion of affection toward God and piety.
The people to whom Hosea prophesied were guilty of not only poor motives, but sinful actions. Notice some of the phrases used to describe them: “they transgressed the covenant,” “dealt treacherously with Me,” “a city of evildoers,” “defiled with blood,” “bands of robbers,” “they commit lewdness,” “harlotry” (Hosea 6:7-11). “Sacrifice” and “burnt offerings” were far from their minds because they were obsessed with sin, both toward man and God.
Even today, we can be guilty of the same. If our Monday through Saturday life does not look like a Christian’s life, how acceptable is our worship on Sunday? Even if we are doing the right things, God may be displeased because we have not truly committed ourselves to Him.
Christianity is a way of life, not a one-day-a-week hobby. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).