I think we’ve all been here…
For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
No amount of activity for God will ever take the place of a heart that is right with Him. Through the ages God’s people have been persuaded that they could please Him through their service and their offerings, regardless of their heart condition. King Saul offered generous sacrifices, hoping God would overlook his disobedience (1 Sam. 15:22-23). David may have assumed that after all he had done on God’s behalf, God would overlook his sin (2 Sam. 12:7-15). Ananias and Sapphira thought that their generous gift to the church would compensate for their deceitfulness (Acts 5:1-11). Paul was certainly one who had thought his zealousness would please God. After his conversion, however, he concluded that even if he had faith to remove mountains, gave all he had to feed the poor, and offered his body to be burned for the sake of God, and yet had a heart that was not right, it would all be for nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
We are susceptible to the same misunderstanding as all of these people were. We can be deceived into assuming God is more interested in our activity for Him than He is in the condition of our heart. God has consistently made it clear that He will not be pacified by even the most generous offerings and zealous service if our hearts are not right with Him (Mic. 6:6-8). No matter how much we do in God’s service, regardless of how active we are in our church, no matter how honorable our reputation in the Christian community, He will not overlook a sinful heart. His desire is that we devote ourselves to knowing Him and loving Him with all of our hearts.
1 Samuel 15:22-23
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”