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Saturday, January 25, 2014

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In the Old Testament, sacrifice was a part of the worship experience. This began with Abraham, continued in the tabernacle, and ended after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sacrifices were central for the Temple services and were increasingly promoted.  But there is a prominent theme throughout Scripture that insists that sacrifices should be considered secondary to justice, obedience, and faith.

In fact, Isaiah translates the message of the Lord with very strong language, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, of lambs or goats” (Isaiah 1:11). The prophets with one accord repeat the message of the Lord, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). The people of Israel often understood worship as ritual acts of sacrifice; just as their pagan neighbors did. But God wants his children to understand the essence of true worship. That is why Jesus repeated the same words, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13).

Proverbs 21 warns us twice about wrong intentions when we come to worship (vv. 3 and 27). Proverbs 21:27 clearly states, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with wicked intent!” The wicked person sacrifices to win divine favor, to cover up wrongdoings that will continue, or worse yet, out of hypocrisy. That is why Proverbs 21:3 admonishes those who want to be faithful to God “to do righteousness and justice [because it] is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).  How often do we worship God with wrong motives or even with no intention to change?

“Dear Lord, help me to come into your presence to worship You with a grateful heart for what You have done for me.  Help my motives to be pure realizing my need of You.  And when I leave Your presence, I will need the Holy Spirit to keep me close to You.  Amen.”

Oleg Kostyuk
Host, “Cross Connection”
Hope Channel, Inc.