Thankfully no more tests or papers for you all for the next couple of weeks. I rejoice with you and love seeing you get a break! I want us to think for a moment today though, about tests. When you take a multiple choice test, if you mark the answer “C” and the correct answer is “A”, you get it wrong, don’t you? You don’t get credit for the answer and your grade is lowered because of it. There is only one right answer-and no in-between on multiple choice questions.
There is a right and wrong answer to our walk with God as well-and no “in-between”. The right answer is “steadfast love” and “knowledge of God”. As I read this Scripture this morning, I got to thinking about this. What exactly does “steadfast love” for God look like? Hosea starts to define it by saying it is the knowledge of God as opposed to burnt offerings. We don’t do burnt offerings, of course, in our day but I believe this could be any “religious” act we think gets us close to God. Maybe it is doing daily devotions. Maybe it is going to church faithfully. It could be making sure to say a blessing before eating. The tricky part to all of this, I think, is that these things are not wrong, and in fact, I do think they are important. Where we get it wrong is thinking that we can do “acts” and then we are “done” with our obligation to God. That they will suffice for a relationship with Him. The Israelites certainly thought along these lines-they performed their burnt offerings, and then lived their lives apart from God’s standard.
Since God chose to use the term “steadfast love” here AND this is the book of Hosea, a book with a marriage that is a disaster in terms of faithfulness, I can’t help but think of how steadfast love should look between a woman and a man. Would steadfast love be a boy sending “loving” texts to his girlfriend each morning, but flirting with all the other girls at school? Would it be a woman faithfully cooking her husband a meal every night (a “thing”) but keeping up a relationship with an old boyfriend on online where they make plans to meet sometime? No. That is not steadfast love. The heart is not in it.
It is the same with God. The deeds are valuable, but only if the heart is in it. The right answer to the “test” of our relationship with God is our heart. It is a heart’s desire to please Him daily, to call sin sin, confessing it and repenting to make our relationship right with God again. It is the knowledge of God, truly knowing He is king, and serving Him as our Lord because of that knowledge. It is then that we have “chosen” the right answer for this test!