Have you ever noticed all the commandments in the Old Testament about God not wanting sacrifices? Consider a few examples.
Isaiah 1:11, “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?” says the Lord; “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”
Micah 6:6-8, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, 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 has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Psalm 40:6, “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.”
Psalm 50:8-9, “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds.”
Psalm 51:16, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.”
What gives? Clearly God commands in the Old Testament the offering of these types of sacrifices. Just read Leviticus!
What makes the last quote from Psalm 51 even more befuddling is that the psalmist says this right before he talks about going ahead to offer burnt offerings in the last verses! “Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar” (Psalm 51:18-19). What is going on here?
The answer lies in David’s words between Psalm 51:16 and Psalm 51:18-19. Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” You see, these verses and dozens more like them in the Old Testament highlight an important distinction about worship as the true God has always intended it. God will not accept from us an offering for our sin, only an offering up of our sin to him.
This is the incredible truth about Biblical worship. Every other religion requires offerings to be made for sin; in Christian worship we come broken and humbly to give over our sin to God. As the Westminster Larger Catechism states in Question #194, we acknowledge that we are “debtors to the justice of God; and that neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction of that debt.” When it comes to your sin, God wants you, God expects you, to come and offer a broken heart, a contrite spirit, over your sin to Him in worship. You are to recognize that only the Lord has the power to remove it and all its devastating consequences from your life.
Both Old Testament saint and New Testament believer are to know this truth – in order for sin to be covered, not the worshiper but God himself would ultimately have to make an offering for it.
In Jesus, thanks be to God he has.