Sacrifice or Relationship: Definitely Relationship

Hi folks. Hope you had a great weekend.

Last week we looked at sacrifices and some passages dealing with them. We saw that mankind’s sin had to be paid for with a life and that God used sacrifices to teach man about His holiness and obedience. We also saw that animal sacrifices could never take away our sin, they only pointed to the one sacrifice of the Messiah that could redeem us.

We also looked at the statement, to obey is better than sacrifice. Let’s look at some other passages and see if this is true and why.

“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.” Psalm 40:6.

“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17.

Here we have David, who knew all about God’s sacrifices as well as his own need for forgiveness for his sins, saying that God does not desire an animal sacrifice. Instead, he states that the sacrifices God desires are a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Both show a desire to be obedient to God.

I also find it interesting that in Psalm 40, David says God did not require burnt offering and sin offering, both of which God told the Israelites to do. So why would David say that? More on that in a moment. Let’s look at another passage.

“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6.

“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.

“But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Matthew 12:7.

What we see here is a passage from Hosea in the Old Testament, and then we have two instances of Jesus quoting the passage in the New Testament.

In Hosea, God Himself says He desires mercy rather than sacrifice. In that passage, God is speaking about Israel’s sin and how they ignore Him and the plight of others. God would rather them have an understanding of Him, a relationship from which true obedience would come, rather than empty motions of sacrifices.

When Jesus references the Hosea passage in Matthew 9, He is sitting down to eat with tax collectors. The pharisees don’t like that fact as they consider tax collectors beyond redemption. Jesus tries to get them to see that they were in the same boat as the tax collectors.

Those who think themselves righteous cannot see their need for repentance or redemption. The tax collectors saw their need, the pharisees did not. But if they understood the passage, they would see how God offers mercy to sinners.

In Matthew 12, Jesus is confronted by pharisees who are upset that Jesus’s disciples aren’t following their strict rules regarding the Sabbath. They couldn’t see beyond the rule to the spirit of what God created the Sabbath for. They were more interested in the empty actions of sacrifice than the meaning behind it.

In this instance, Jesus invokes the second part of the Hosea passage which mentions sacrifice to show that going through the motions is not what God intended. You cannot just follow the rules and expect God to be pleased. You have to act out of a desire for relationship and obedience.

Let’s look at one last set.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8.

“To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3.

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with wicked intent!” Proverbs 21:27.

The Micah passage tells us what God requires, but there’s no mention of sacrifice, only acting justly, showing mercy, and a relationship with God. And the same sentiment is repeated in the first Proverbs verse. This is what David understood. He saw the reason behind the commands for sacrifice, that God wanted a relationship with His people.

But I find the second Proverbs verse telling. Here we have a statement that blows the idea of works out of the water. A sacrifice offered by the wicked is of itself an abomination. No details stating it was offered incorrectly or that all the rules weren’t followed. Just the fact that a sacrifice is already deemed unacceptable if given by the wicked.

And the second clause builds on the first. Not only is a sacrifice not acceptable from the wicked, one who does not follow or respect God, but if he offers it with the wrong intentions, he has made the situation worse. God is not to be toyed with.

Do these examples in scripture answer our original question, is obedience better than sacrifice? Is God more interested in a relationship than sacrifice?

Yes to both. Obedience, mercy, and acting justly all point to a relationship with God. Which is what God has wanted from the beginning.

So what can we say? God desires a relationship with us. To that end, He commanded sacrifices to teach us obedience and holiness, and to teach us about the ultimate sacrifice He would provide, His Son, Jesus. And through the process of obedience to Him, by which we show our love for Him, He develops that relationship with us.

I have enjoyed this study. God has shown me some interesting things apart from this topic. I hope you have enjoyed it to. I’ll have another study or exposition post next week.

Until next time.


Do you know Jesus? Do you have a personal relationship with Him? According to scripture, all anyone must do is recognize their sin condition, realize that Christ died to pay for that sin, and ask Him to save them from it. Salvation is a gift of grace we receive by faith. Meet Him today! Contact me at kenneth@kennethmbriggs.com if you need more information.


Thanks for stopping by! Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think!

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