God does not want a people who simply adhere to a set of rules, no matter how well intended. God said in the book of Hosea, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6 ).
Sacrifices meant nothing because their hearts were unfaithful to God. God wants obedience and not sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22), mercy and not religious rituals.
God longs for our devotion and loyalty. Do we depend on God or religion? Do we feel comfortable because we read the right Bible version or stay away from movies? How about the attitude, “I don’t drink, smoke, cuss, or chew, or go with girls who do”?
The Pharisees were the ultimate in requiring religious behavior. They extended the laws of God and added their own, resulting in legalism. Their desire to follow the law made them blind to the better thing. Jesus said godly behavior starts from the heart and extends outward.
Faith or Emudah
The Hebrew word for faith is אמונה (emunah – Strong’s #530) and is an action-oriented word meaning “support”. Our Western concept of faith places the action on the one you have faith in, such as “faith in God,” but the Hebrew word places the action on the one who “supports God.”
Emunah means faithfulness, persistent determination, holding steady, holding firm, holding true to what is true: the faithfulness of God. Our readiness to fully devote our lives to the service of God and sacrifice our life for the sake of God are expressions of our emunah in God.
Emunah presumes a relationship with God. When one is aware of such a relationship, is forever changed by it, this special relationship cannot be fully articulated. Emunah Shlemah is a complete faith; it is more than intellectual, but gained with your whole being, as in “You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Emunah means to believe in the truthfulness of a person as well as having emotional trust in a person. In the desert the children of Israel complained that God brought them out there to kill them. God says that they did not have emunah. (Deut 9:23, Ps. 78:37). They did not trust God.
Trust is Grossly Underestimated
Trust (faith, enudah) is important in every relationship we have. Trust removed can destroy friendships, marriages, businesses, and governments. Trust is grossly underestimated. It impacts us daily, not only in our relationship with God, but with every relationship and every endeavor in which we are occupied. Trust affects our homeschooling.
When faith is developed it has the potential to create deeper relationships. Our righteousness that comes from God is by faith. God wants a committed faithfulness and emotional trust in him. God wants a relationship with us. He wants to dwell with us. He sent his Son to die on the cross so that we could have a relationship with Him.
God Wants a Relationship With Us
God seeks an intimate, loving relationship with his children. Like the other fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) faith is a category of relationship. The fruit in our life is from our relationship with God.
This faith involves decision making and has to be renewed regularly. Faith is response in relationship; it is an ongoing thing, a process. We continually receive faith as a gift, like manna.
We are amazed to hear the stories of Israel losing trust in God again and again, resulting in disobedience and sin. However, we do the same thing each time we lose faith in God.
Faith develops in the context of our ongoing relationship with God. We easily relate to being a child of God or a servant of God, but find it hard to grasp being a friend of God. God desires to establish a connection, an association, an affiliation, a very special link and bond between Himself and His children.
Faith and Kindness
In Hebrew the word for kindness is chesed. Dwight Pyror’s article on Abraham speaks of the faith (emunah) and kindness (chesed) of God:
Faithfulness, or emunah, is one of the most treasured and trusted character traits of God Himself.
“O LORD God of hosts, who is like Thee, O mighty LORD? Thy faithfulness (emunah) surrounds Thee” (Ps. 89:8 NASB).
On the last day of his life, Moses declared in prophetic utterance:
For I proclaim the name of the LORD [YHWH]; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness (El emunah) and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He” (Dt. 32:3-4 ).
Even in the midst of God’s terrible judgment upon His rebellious children and even Jerusalem itself, the grieving prophet Jeremiah could find comfort in God’s covenant loyalty and faithfulness.
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses (chesed) indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness (emunah). (Lam. 3:21-23).
That God’s chesed and His emunah often are joined together in Scripture is not surprising. Chesed is the Hebrew concept that speaks of God’s grace in seeking us out and initiating covenant with us, and then His loyalty and fidelity to the covenant so joined. Though Israel be fickle, He remains faithful because He is a God who abounds in chesed v’emunah.
God wants relationship, and He even provides the faith (emudah) through His Holy Spirit which will bring forth appropriate actions to develop that relationship. What a God!
Also see Emunah: Faith and Faithfulness, an excellent article by Glenn Blank.