Q&A: Sacrifice or No Sacrifice

Sacrifice or No Sacrifice

Question

How is it Moses commanded Old Testament sacrifices (Ex 29:18, etc.), but others, even God himself, deny them? (Psa. 40:6; 51:16; Isa. 1:11-15; Jer. 6:20, Hos. 6:6)

Answer

Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have opened; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

Psalm 51:16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

Isaiah 1:11-15 The multitude of your sacrifices - what are they to me?" says the LORD. I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations - I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!

Jeremiah 6:20 What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.

Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Moses indeed commanded the use of sacrifices in the worship of God (Ex. 29:18, et al.). God desired his people to keep his law(s) which included sacrifice. Others obeyed and God accepted their sacrifices (1 Sam. 7:9; 26:2, 5; 2 Chron. 7:1-4; 29:18; 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 16:15; 23:21-23; Ezra 3:5; 8:35; Neh. 10:33). However, sacrifices were to be delivered with a true heart, with open ears to his ways, and true conviction, not a mere meaningless outward observance without submissive obedience. Covenant faithfulness - loyalty, not mechanical rituals - was required of God's covenant people. Some were offering "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim. 3:5). God condemns ritual without the reality of a true relationship with him. God desires an obedient heart and obedient sacrifice and not one to the exclusion of the other (Matt. 23:23). It was these false sacrifices that God abhorred, not the true ones.

As proven throughout the Bible and even in our own experience, we see that we often fail in our obedience to God. We are sinners (Rom. 3:23). In our depravity, we substitute ritual for real relationship. What is the answer to our lack of obedience? Christ, the obedient and final sacrifice (Isa. 53:5; Rom. 3:24-25; 4:25; 5:9; 1 Cor. 15:3; Col. 2:13; Heb. 4:15; 5:9; 7:27-28; 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5). Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave (1 Cor. 15:1-4). As the faithful and loyal Covenant High Priest, he offered a perfect sacrifice, perfect substitution, with a perfect heart of obedience. We are justified before God by Christ the final sacrifice. Now, as Christians, Christ works in us to both will and do his pleasure (Eph. 3:20; Phil. 2:13). His Spirit dwells in us. His perfect life was substituted for our imperfect lives. In him we have present and final victory (Rom. 8:35-39).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).