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Are sacrifices required or not? (based on Psalm 40:6 and Laws in Leviticus).

March 2, 2010

Were burnt offerings old hat by the time King David was around?

Reference: Psalm 40:6 and Leviticus 1-7


In Psalm 40:6 David seems to come to a realization that God does not desire sacrifices.  Does that mean that the commands about sacrifice were only for the people of Israel at the time of the Exodus?


Psalm 40:6 is not the only place where scripture seems to disparage the practice of burnt offerings and sacrifice.  Some of the places, especially in the prophets, it is God himself who seems to express his anger about sacrifice and offerings.  These instances however, do not constitute a change in practice or a contradiction in scripture.

In Psalm 40:6 David is expressing a profound realization, namely, that God wants our obedience more than our sacrifice.  The proper response to a God of such great mercy is to live a life of obedience.  That is powerful worship.  David is saying that going through the motions of sacrifice is not worship, but when we allow our wills to become aligned with the will of God, he is greatly praised.

David is simply coming to the realization that many of us come to when we start to understand God better.  It is the truth our relationship with God and our acceptance by him is not based on religious do’s and don’ts it is about allowing our lives to be transformed by God and aligning our will with his will.  David points this out in the very next verses when he says, “I desire to do your will,​ my God;​ your law is within my heart.”

This does not mean that the sacrifices and burnt offerings listed in the first several chapters of Leviticus are not important.  These still would have been a central part of David’s faith, but now he knows that it is not the sacrifice itself that allows him to be close to God, rather it is his own willingness to pursue the will of God.  The tradition of sacrifice is still alive and well today in our faith, but in a much different way.  Christ is the centerpiece of our faith, and he himself is our sacrifice.  When we remember him, we remember the sacrifice that covers us all.