Putting Relationship Over Religion
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6, ESV)
I am very blessed to have grown up with a present, God-given father. To call me a daddy’s girl is a little bit of an understatement. When I was a child– and let’s be honest, even now– there was nothing my dad wouldn’t do to make me happy.
Sometimes, that meant taking down the swing set during the winter to rebuild it inside, just so I’d never have to miss a beat of playtime.
Sometimes, that meant watching Beauty and the Beast for the 500th time and singing along to all of
Sometimes, that meant chasing down the ice cream man blocks and blocks from our house because he wouldn’t stop on our busy street.
No matter how silly; no matter how ridiculous, my dad was always there. So naturally, when holidays like Christmas or Father’s Day rolled around, I always wanted to give my dad a really good gift, something that would show him how much I loved and appreciated him. But every time I asked him, he’d always say the same words:
“You don’t have to get me anything, Peanut Girl. I just wanna spend my day with you.”
And that is a perfect picture of how the Father loves us. He does ridiculous things to capture our hearts and put smiles on our faces. He sent His son to die for our sins and bring us closer to Him. He comes to each of us individually with an invitation to relationship. In some cases, He waits decades before we give Him our hand and our heart.
And once we finally get with the program, there is an innate desire in us to give Him something to show our affection towards Him. But just like my earthly daddy, our Heavenly Father knows that as a child, there’s nothing we can give Him in our own power or wealth. He wants nothing except for one thing: to be with us.
That’s why Jesus excused Mary from Martha’s busy work. That’s why God was so pleased with Lot and saved him from the judgment in his city. All over the Bible, people are blessed by God simply for having the pure and passionate desire to just be with Him.
In today’s key verse, found in Hosea, the Lord is laying into Israel for all their disobedience through the generations. Yet, in the midst of all his venting and disappointment, the Lord gives us a precious piece of His heart. He so earnestly shares Himself with us and beckons us into a true and beautiful relationship with Him.
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
The invitation is so pure, and yet for all of our chatter and busy-work, we miss it. We miss the Lord’s urgings to lay down religious routine and empty tradition. Believe me, I can see the beauty and the comfort in religion. There is something breathtakingly reverent in candle-lit Christmas Eve services and stained-glass windows and reciting a written prayer or a hymn. But if our heart doesn’t resonate in those things– if we don’t appreciate them or do them as an act to be nearer to Him– then all we are doing is going through motions in order to satiate the societal obligation to faith we feel in our own flesh.
Instead, the Lord begs us to lay aside those things that don’t matter. He asks us to put down our routines because, at the end of the day, they will never replace the sweetness of being in His presence. No sacrifice, no offering, no production, no ritual should ever distract us from bearing our hearts and sitting before Him to adore Him.
There is nothing more precious that you could give to a Father that doesn’t need anything. God didn’t create religion; a funny thought that almost seems backward, but it’s the truth. Man created religion. God created an opportunity for beautiful, sustaining, reciprocal relationship. It is the end goal to every radical thing he’s ever done to win us back to His marvelous light. By spending time with Him, we cultivate two things that mean more than any sacrifice: steadfast love and a truly intimate knowledge of who He is.
Real talk: the Lord is so hungry for you to realize this today. Forget about the to-do list of things you keep to try and prove to God how you love Him. The reality is, what He desires is so much more simple than that. All He wants is for you to get alone, close the door, and enjoy quality time with him, whether that’s reading his word, soaking in some worship music, or just sitting quietly before the Father.
Friends, don’t pass up that precious opportunity to know God better with a love that doesn’t fail. It’s worth far more than anything else you could give Him.