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Proverbs 21:3, To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
This is a proverb that tells us what is important to Jehovah, the eternally existent one.
I want to know that because what is important to the Lord ought to be important to me and you if we are his children.
God commanded the sacrificial system in the Old Testament and he expected Israel to operate in the system that he prescribed.
But this proverb applies equally to us in the church as it did to the children of Israel because we practice a sacrificial system of our heart's making.
For the natural man seeks to do outward acts or good works without having a pure heart as the foundation of those works.
The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was prescribed by God for a purpose.
The sacrificial system was designed to be a teacher and a revealer of God's nature and to be a revealer of the fallen nature of man and as such it was a gift of God.
The system was designed to teach the necessity of dealing with sin and, at the same time, demonstrated that God had provided a way for dealing with sin.
The burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt or trespass offerings composed the basic sacrificial system of Israel.
These sacrifices were commonly used in conjunction with each other and were carried out on both an individual and on a corporate basis.
The sacrifices and offerings that were brought by the people were to be the physical expression of their inward devotion.
An outward act that matched the heart! That is the definition of sacrifice.
Sacrifice is the physical elements the worshiper brings to Jehovah to express devotion, thanksgiving, or the need for forgiveness.
The sacrifice acknowledged God's requirement that blood had to be shed for sin.
But instead of the sinners blood being shed, an innocent animal's life was substituted for the guilty party.
The one bringing the offering was to lay a hand upon the animal so as to identify that the animal was taking the person's place and then the offerer was to kill it.
The priest then collected the blood and sprinkled it around the altar and the sanctuary, and the worshiper cut up and skinned the animal.
However if a bird was brought, the priest killed it.
But the offerer was intimately involved in the sacrifice.
The offerer actually killed the animal unless it was a bird and spilt the blood of the animal by his hand.
It was a to be a very personal sacrifice and was not to be done by another.
The lesson taught was that personal sin required the shedding of blood by the sinner in order for the sin to be atoned.
Through the use of an animal God was teaching substitutionary atonement for the sins of the offerer.
But the sacrifice was to be voluntarily given from a pure heart which desired forgiveness for sin, or a pure heart which desired to express devotion or thanksgiving to God.
It was not designed as a stand alone religious ritual.
It was not designed to take away sin but to show that the wages of sin had to be paid.
And the payment required blood!
But being fallen man the heart was easily forgot and the ritual of the sacrifice became an end in itself.
People simply performed the ritual and expected that forgiveness took place for their sin without the inclusion of the repentance of the heart.
It became a way to transgress the moral law.
Simply sacrifice and be done with it, go and sin some more.
As we have learned in our Pastor's study the prophets spoke harshly about what the people had turned sacrifice into.
They tended to ignore faith, confession, and devotion.
They thought just the act of sacrifice ensured forgiveness.
Isaiah in chapter one preached that the sacrifices were worthless when they were not from a repentant heart and an obedient life.
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? ...Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me;...your appointed feasts my soul hateth: ...Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Micah proclaimed that God was not interested in the physical act of sacrifice by itself but in the life and heart of the one making the sacrifice.
Micah 6:6-8, Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Hosea recorded God as desiring mercy to be offered and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Malachi chastised the people for offering the lame and sick animals to God instead of the best as they were commanded.
By this, the people defiled the altar and despised God.
The Pharisees cleverly used the system of sacrifice by claiming that something was corban or offered to God and therefore not available for the care of their parents.
By this they made their assets unavailable, they fenced their assets from their needy parents by claiming them for sacrifice but instead using them for themselves.
But the prophets did not preach the abolition of the sacrificial system because it was God prescribed.
They, instead, denounced the people's misuse of it.
God wanted more than the physical performance of meaningless sacrifices.
He desired the offerings to portray the heart of the worshiper.
But instead it revealed the hypocrisy of the offerer.
Proverbs 15:8, The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: Why? Because it comes from a heart that does not match the sacrifice! It comes from a heart of hypocrisy!
Sacrifice, to be accepted by God must follow a heart of repentance and devotion and a desire for forgiveness of sin.
So sacrifice became an outward ceremonial instead of coming from a desire to obey God from a repentant heart.
To do justice and judgment requires a heart for justice and judgment.
Sacrifice can simply be done as an external form, a penance somehow justified within as impressing God.
But God looks at the character of our service. What motivates our service?
The love of justice and judgment reveals the very nature of God and will never be put away as will sacrifices and the sacrificial system.
Justice is doing right and that is eternal with God.
When men depend solely on the act of sacrifice to mean anything with God they face God's wrath but when men display justice and judgment they face acceptance with God.
God is not pleased with external forms of religion.
God is not counting the number of years you have served him.
He is not numbering how many times you have been to church.
Does he record the numbers of people you have witnessed to this week or how long you have spent in prayer?
God looks on the heart. Is the heart one of obedience to his word.
Is the heart a heart of repentance and desire to do right and to exercise justice and judgment in our daily lives.
What kind of service does the heart display?
Is the outward service cheerful but given from a heart grudgingly?
Is church attendance a duty with just a body in the pew but with a heart elsewhere. God is not impressed with that sacrifice!
Sacrifice is received by God as a sweet smelling savor only from a heart that send forth the same savor.
Only from a heart that exercises justice and judgment in accordance with God's word.