Priorities — Justice, Righteousness & Mercy

Sacrifice is a pretty big deal in the Hebrew Scriptures (HS). But other things were more important.

To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Prov. 21:3

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6

God doesn’t care for religious expression that ignores justice and righteousness. And God is not impressed with worship going to idols and political leaders.

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty. Amos 5:21-27

The prophet Micah addresses God’s priorities over sacrifice.

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:6-8

Though not addressing sacrifice here, Jeremiah shares God’s values and actions.

…but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. Jer. 9:24

God exercises justice, and God called the Israelites to do the same.

Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you. Deut. 16:20

God’s ultimate priorities also show up in other places, as seen through both judgment and admonition. Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. Ez. 16:49-50

Then in the New Testament, Jesus addresses these same themes. For example, justice, mercy and faithfulness are the more important matters.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matt. 23:23

And twice Jesus addressed the teaching of Hosea 6:6 listed above–Matt. 9:13 & 12:7.

While there is much more evidence that could be presented from both the HS and NT to bolster the argument, I believe this is sufficient to demonstrate that God is more interested in justice, righteousness, mercy, faithfulness and kindness than in mere religious performance.

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