Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22).
God calls us to worship Him, no doubt. But God also said over and over in Scripture that He desires some things more than our worship. Provided below is a listing of many passages on this principle for your study and reflection.
Better Than Sacrifice – Old Testament
Psalm 50 – It would be helpful to read this whole Psalm! “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God” (vs 23). God wants us to be thankful and obedient when we worship.
Psalm 51:16-17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. God wants our hearts to be broken before Him.
Proverbs 21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice (See also Proverbs 15:8; 21:27; 28:9)
Ecclesiastes 5:1-5- Draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools. Keep your word when you promise Him something.
Isaiah 1:11-17 – God “hated” and “despised” their sacrifices because of their wicked lives. He told them to cease to do evil, and learn to do good. They needed to repent and wash themselves, and then worship Him.
Jeremiah 6:20; 7:9-11,22-24 – God asked for the purpose of their worship. God’s house had become a den of thieves. Jesus quoted this passage in Matthew 21:13. See also Jeremiah 11:15.
Hosea 6:6 – I desire mercy and not sacrifice. Jesus twice quoted this passage (Matthew 9:13; 12:7).
Amos 5:21-24 – Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. Just as in Isaiah, God hated their worship and wanted them to stop it. He wanted to see justice and righteousness in their lives first.
Micah 6:6-8 – We may want to offer the Lord “thousands of rams” and “ten thousand rivers of oil.” We might even want to offer our own child to Him. But what does the Lord require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?
Zechariah 7:5 – Did you really fast for Me, for Me?
Malachi – Just read the book of Malachi, and you will see several examples of people worshipping God, but with corrupt motives and impure lives. God deserves and expects better than that.
Better Than Sacrifice – New Testament
Matthew 5:23-24 – First be reconciled to your brother, then offer your gift to God. Our relationships with others matter! How effective is our worship when we are at odds with the brother in the next pew?
Matthew 6 – When we fast, pray and give alms, Jesus wants a heart of humility. Don’t put on a concert for others to see your righteousness.
Matthew 15:7-9 & John 4:23-24 – God wants our obedience, that we worship Him in truth. He also wants our hearts, that we worship Him in spirit.
Matthew 23:23 – According to Jesus, there are weightier matters of the law like justice, mercy and faith.
Mark 12:32-34 – Loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Romans 12:1-2 – We are to be a living sacrifice.
1 Corinthians 11:28 – But a man must examine himself…then partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Hebrews 13:15-16 – Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Did you see a consistent pattern in all of those passages? Men, as we consider our worship to God, we must also reflect upon our heart, our character, our behavior and how we treat others.