330) What Does God Want?

Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you by God.  How often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing.”  –Luke 13:34

     In the Biblical stories we see many wonderful blessings by God, but we also see many troubles and much that goes wrong.  In this verse from Luke 13 Jesus laments this long and sad story of the relationship between God and his people.  Jesus says, “How I have longed to gather you in, but you were not willing.”  What does that mean, ‘not willing?’  Not willing to what?  What is it that God wants from us?

     Well there are a few quick answers we can give.  We can say, ‘God wants us to believe in him and obey him.’  That is a good and true Biblical answer, but it doesn’t say enough.  It is not enough to say,‘Yes, I believe, next question,’ as if that takes care of that.  As for obedience, we might say, ‘Well, nobody’s perfect, and that’s why we get forgiven,’ and leave it at that.  But it seems clear in the Bible that God expects far more from us.

     But one might wonder why there needs to be any talk at all about what we must do?  Isn’t salvation the freely given gift of God, received by faith and not by works?  Why then speak of what we must do?  Wasn’t it all done for us on the cross?

     Let’s begin, then, with what God has done for us.  The Bible says that God is our Father and we are his children.  Children need not do anything in order to get born into a family.  Conception is the result of a miracle of God, and a decision by a mother and a father, and so a child is born into a home and a family by doing absolutely nothing.  And we became God’s children by Jesus’ death on the cross for each of us and by the Holy Spirit working faith in our hearts to become believers.  All we are and everything we have in our spiritual life and our physical life is from God and by God, and not by anything we have done.  Jesus used the illustration of a hen gathering her chicks.  The chicks do not have to earn the hen’s care.  She is just there for them.  The hen is their mother.  They were born into her care.  In the same way, all that we have as children of God is freely given.  We do not have to earn or seek anything.  It is ours.  “You did not choose me, I chose you,” said Jesus.  That is the ‘amazing grace’ we like to sing about.

     So where’s the problem?  We can see the problem in Jesus’ own words; “I wanted to gather you in,” he said, “just like a mother hen, but you were not willing.”  Not willing to what?  We are back again to the question, ‘What is it that God wants?’

    The answer is very simple:  what God wants is our attention.  His gifts and salvation are freely given, but he does not want us to say ’no’ to it all.  God does not want us to refuse him.  In the Bible we see God forgiving everybody all over the place for everything.   He even seems at times to be overdoing it.  It sometimes looks as if people are making a fool out of God.  They will return to him in the most hollow and superficial ways, and he still forgives them.  It is as if He cannot help himself.  There is, in the Bible, a great deal of the forgiveness of sins by God.  But God does then demand their attention, and when they (we) insist on going our own way and abandoning God, God will, eventually, let us go.  God will not force you to spend eternity in heaven with him if you wanted nothing at all to do with him here on earth.  God gives us all things freely.  The Bible says that God even sends rain to the good AND to the wicked.  But if we turn our back on God, God will, in the end, let us have our way, and we will be without him forever.  ‘I wanted to gather you all in,’ said Jesus, ‘but you were not willing.’

     God, first of all, demands our attention.  He warns against turning away and ignoring him and despising him.  What is the most effective way to show another person that you despise them?  It is by ignoring them, by paying no attention to them, by refusing to respond to them when they say something to you.  Kids do this to their parents.  It is called ‘tuning them out,’ and it is, as I well recall, extremely irritating.  When spouses do this to each other it is called the ‘silent treatment,’ and there also it can quite exasperating.  When someone cares about a loved one and wants to speak to them about something important, there is nothing more aggravating than to be ignored.  This is what we do to show someone that we despise them and have no regard or respect for what they have to say.  God freely gives us all things, but he demands our attention and we would be foolish ignore him.  But once God has our attention he can do his work in us; strengthening our faith, assuring us of his forgiveness, speaking into our hearts the comforting word of the Gospel, and then, conforming our lives to his, making us into his people for now and all eternity.  If we just give God our attention, he will take care of the rest.  But that will not happen if we are not willing to pay attention.


Hebrews 2:2, 3  —  If every disobedience receives its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?

II Peter 1:19  —  We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place.


Eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be completely yours and utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.   —Book of Common Prayer