6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6 is an exhortation to repent, as a wandering Israel was encouraged to “return to the LORD” (v. 1).

The mention of a sacrifice in verse 6 refers to the atonement priests would make on behalf of the Israelites. The Hebrew word for “sacrifice” here refers to a slaughtering of an animal, or the sacrificing of an animal on behalf of one’s self or community. 

The Law required that man make sacrifices on behalf of his sin. Indeed, “sacrifice” and “burnt offerings” serve as parallels within verse 6. In order to be considered clean and to avoid divine judgment, the shedding of blood was required (see Lev. 1).

Yet the law to burn a sacrifice was meant to drive you to a place where you obey from your heart. 

Here God reminds Hosea that He is not after ashes and wood and spilt blood, but after love, sacrifice, and commitment. He is not after “sacrifice” alone, but loyalty; He is not after “burnt offerings” alone, but “knowledge” of Himself. Here, “knowledge of God” refers to an intimate knowing. 

As one knows his or her spouse, so we are invited into a monogamous and intimate relationship with God. God delights in our faithfulness.

Note the word “delight”: God takes great pleasure in His relationship with us. His heart burns for our own. He cares that we obey Him, but only if we obey Him with a sincere heart. But all too often we become ritualistic—we rely on our sacrifices to “check the boxes” rather than know the God who made the boxes. 

We take shortcuts: we’d rather tithe our way through sanctification than actually do the work of studying God’s Word. We’d rather donate to the church bake sale or spend a Sunday a month volunteering in the nursery than actually spend time with Him, alone in prayer. But God does not delight in our “good deeds” of the week. 

He doesn’t want one area of our life—He wants our whole heart. He cares more about our devotion to Him than our donations to Him.

  • Why do you think the author chose the word “loyalty”? What role does loyalty play in our relationship with God?
  • In what area of your life are you just “checking the boxes”?
  • Thank God for His grace. Pray that you would grow in intimacy with Him. Ask that He would help you be loyal to Him and His Word.