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What God Really Wants

What God Really Wants

Isaiah 58:3-9

Matthew 5:13-16

It seems that from the very beginning... regardless of nationality or ethnicity or any other measurable, definable qualifier... we’ve all asked the same question.

“What does God want?” What should you and I do... in order to please God?

Ancient people's came up with all kinds of rituals and ceremonies designed to do just that...

Archaeologists have even uncovered proof that many ancient civilizations practiced human sacrifice to please their gods. The Incans, the Mayans, the Aztecs... even some ancient Israelites practiced child sacrifice to the god Molech... a practice that angered God to say the least!

The story of Abraham offering Isaac shows us that the potential to participate in human sacrifice to God himself was a very plausible, even for God’s people! In that story, God went to extreme measures to show that human sacrifice was not what God wanted.

Those who didn't practice human sacrifice certainly practiced animal sacrifice. And that wasn't the only kind of sacrifice there were also personal sacrifices. Fasting is one example: an individual would willingly “give up” eating or drinking or sleeping or speaking... in an attempt to demonstrate their devotion to God.

Of course, by the time of Isaiah the prophet, Israel had an elaborate system of sacrifice and rituals in place.

But was any of that what God actually wanted - sacrifices and fasting, rituals and ceremonies?

No! At least that’s what God's prophets said over and over again.

Of course, God had actually instituted the sacrificial system... but it had become a barrier to pleasing God, instead of a means of glorifying God. Do you remember the story of Jesus, overturning the “money changers” tables in the temple? We’re told, “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves (for making sacrifices).” Jesus then said, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Matthew 21:12-13)

God’s desire was the hearts of His people. The rituals and sacrifices and fasting were only meant as a means of leading people to devote their hearts and lives to God.

Along the way... the people lost sight of that truth. They thought God was like some genie in a bottle. If they rubbed it with the right sacrifices and words they could get what they wanted.

So they fasted, and on the same day they oppressed and mistreated their neighbors.(Isaiah 58:3) They offered food to God, but failed to feed their hungry neighbor. They tithed... but failed to look after parents who were sick and destitute.

So God sent His word, through his prophets, in the hope of warning the people, to get their priorities straight.

Micah declared, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

And Isaiah said, "This is the fast that God requires: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to let the oppressed go free, to feed the hungry, to bring the homeless into your house, to clothe the naked." (Isaiah 58:6-7) "Then," said the prophet, God will be pleased.(Isaiah 58:8-9)

Isaiah wasn't saying that the people should stop making sacrifices to God. He was saying that offerings and sacrifices aimed at devotion to God should be aimed at bringing wholeness and life to the broken and oppressed. Our sacrifices of righteousness should be offered to God with the intent of helping others... the “least of these” among us. Without that devotion and righteousness all the sacrifices and rituals we can conceive are empty and meaningless.

God no longer asks us to sacrifice animals: Thank God! I could see PETA at the door! Christ is the sacrifice for our sins. You and I couldn’t buy God’s favor or salvation with 1000 sacrifices!

There’s nothing we possess that could repay God for the injuries our sins have caused. So God graciously gave us a suitable sacrifice: his only Son. And Christ gave himself over to the wicked to have his body broken and his blood shed for our salvation. Jesus became the lamb of God slain for our salvation.

God no longer asks for fatted calves and rams to be sacrificed on the altar. But God still wants our sacrifices... He still desires our hearts. Jesus even said, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Maybe we need to sacrifice our negativity; our hatred; our dissatisfaction. Maybe we need to rid ourselves of envy; and gossip - of half truths and whole lies.

Maybe we need to become encouragers... people of prayer... a people who strive for the very best in every single person... a people who (as God’s Words says) strive to live at peace, with everyone, in-so-far as it depends on us.

God wants us to offer devotion and worship that grows out of a genuine faith. God wants us to give a sacrifice of love for one another.

We still perform rituals and ceremonies and make gifts and offerings to God. But those actions should be expressions of a deeper, richer, fuller love and devotion. All our rituals and gifts are meaningless if our hearts are not right with God.

What does God want? God wants justice and mercy. God wants righteousness and love. He want each of us to shine the light... doing good and bringing glory to Him!

We cannot buy God's favor. God has given it to us and all we can do is respond in faith and love.

Jesus said that we are the light of the world. It is our job to shine the light of God's love and justice for all to see. Sometimes it is hard... I know. Sometimes it seems that all we can do is pray, but often times we fail to do that.

Pray for the lost and the oppressed. Love your neighbor with the same intensity that God loves you. Feed the hungry and cloth the naked in whatever ways you can.

That is what God really wants...

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