8 Minute Read

Be Still

To the best of your ability, get rid of all distractions. Take a couple of minutes to breathe deeply, to quiet yourself in the Lord’s presence. Then, prayerfully ask the Lord to speak to you in this time and let Him know that you will be listening and will make whatever adjustments He will reveal to you.

Today’s Bible Reading:

Ezra 10:1-44
1 Corinthians 6:1-20
Psalm 31:9-18
Proverbs 21:3

Listen to the Lord

Slowly and reflectively read the following verses and listen to what God will say to you through them. Then, consider writing down any insights He reveals to you.

Proverbs 21:3 (NLT): “The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.”

Reflections from Scripture:

The Old Testament is filled with accounts of animal sacrifices. It’s appalling, and it should rightfully be so. It was never intended to be a thing of beauty. It was always meant to remind the worshiper of how grave their sin was in God’s eyes and that their sin required a bloody death sentence. Yet, it also reminded them that a gracious God made it possible for a substitute to die in the place of the sinful worshiper.

When Jesus, the ultimate and final sacrificial Lamb (John 1:29), came and died for sin once for all, “there is no need to offer any more sacrifices” (Hebrews 10:18). In fact, God was so determined to end animal sacrifices that He had the Romans destroy the Jewish temple in 70 AD.

Yet, when Solomon penned Proverbs 21:3, the practice of slaughtering animals was still essential to Jewish life.

Proverbs 21:3 (NLT): “The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.”

However, did you notice that the LORD places a higher priority on something other than sacrifices? What did He value more? “When we do what is right and just.”

Essentially, Solomon was saying that God values the act of worship (OT sacrifice). Yet, He loves much more the act of pursuing holiness (being set apart for Him by complying with His words).

This wasn’t the only time God said this. Listen to what God said through Samuel to a sinful King Saul:

1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT): “But Samuel replied, ‘What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.’” 

Again while God values the act of worship (in the Old Testament, it included sacrifices), He much more loves the actions of obedience and holiness (being set apart for Him).

So, let’s end by fast-forwarding to the New Testament in which we live. The principle is the same: God values a life of obedience and holiness much more than our acts of worship.

In fact, if we show up for public worship and are going through the motions but realize that there is unconfessed, unresolved sin in our hearts, then we must immediately stop worshiping, work to resolve the sin situation, and only then can we come back to worship. Otherwise, our worship is utterly distasteful to the Lord. Just listen to what Jesus said as the Old Testament was coming to an end and the New Testament was about to be initiated.

Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT): “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

Friend, God wants you and me to worship Him. He desires that people would worship Him (John 4:23). Yet, our worship is utterly abhorrent to Him if we have unresolved sin in our hearts. 

So, determine to make things right with Him today. And then, offer up your worship to the God you serve and love.

Spend Time in Prayer

Lord Jesus, it is often easy to go through the motions of worship without giving it a second thought. Yet, I realize from looking at Your Word that any “worship” I offer to You is utterly distasteful if I have unresolved sin in my life. So, Lord, help me to see sin for what it is. As Your Holy Spirit points it out, I will confess and repent of my disobedience so that when I worship You, we both enjoy it. I pray this in Your Name, Amen.

Matt Ellis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida (fbcpolkcity.com). His latest book is God’s Grace in the Real World. Connect with him on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash