Read: Proverbs 21:3
The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. (NLT)
Over and again the thought captured in this proverb is repeated throughout Scripture—so many times so that it is readily apparent that this is a big deal, a very big deal, to God. In fact, we might say, the truth contained in this proverb is the main thing. And apparently the writers of Scripture needed to repeat it so often because God’s people—and by extension, you and I—have a habit of forgetfulness when it comes to keeping the main thing the main thing.
The prophet Samuel said it this way to Saul in I Samuel 15:22, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
The psalmist put this very concept into a moving song of repentance in Psalm 51:16-17, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
The prophet Micah wrote, “He has showed you, O man, 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.” Another prophet, Amos, delivered the same message in the form of a stinging rebuke to God’s people, “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept 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.” (Amos 5:21-24)
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting the main thing: “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices…but you have neglected the more important matter of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23) And to his very own church in Ephesus who forgot to keep the main thing the main thing, Jesus had this to say: “I know your works…yet I have this against you: You have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:2,4)
I could go on and on with verse after verse that tells the same story, but I think you’ve got the picture. A heart that is in tune and in love with God is not best revealed in sacrifice or giving or fasting or feastings or busy effortful-ness. It is revealed in obedience to God, in actions of righteousness toward our fellow man, and in a motivation of love for our Lord in all that we do.
That is the main thing.
Keep it the main thing. That’s what pleases God!
“The first mark of a disciple is not a profession of faith,
but an act of obedience.”
Your Assignment, Should You Choose To Accept It
Perhaps you can make this prayer yours today: “Dear God, loving you is the main thing, and it is my heart’s desire to do that very thing every moment of my existence. Help me not to lose sight of love’s high call, because that’s what I’m prone to do. Keep me loving you first, only and always in my thinking life, in my relational world, and in the use of my life’s energies. May that be the defining mark of how I lived when I reach the end of my earthly journey—that I loved you with all my heart.”