God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, informs the people of Judah that their sacrifices and offerings are abominable (Isaiah 1:10-15). This is difficult to understand, knowing the importance God placed in Leviticus on the sacrificial systems, calendar, and liturgies. Why does God make strong statements against obeying the Lord’s laws?

To gain insight, see that God prefers that His people, “Learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). God’s people became accustomed to going through the motions of the sacrifices to atone for sins without actual concern for their sins or for the God they sin against. Besides this, they are obviously mistreating one another. God didn’t give the sacrificial system to Israel so that they would go on sinning, but rather that they might know God is Holy and enjoy access to God’s great grace.

Christians today can make the same mistake. Years later, the apostle Paul warns in Romans 6 against sinning in order that God’s grace might abound. The grace of God compels us not to continue to live in sin, but rather consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to righteousness (see Romans 6:1-14). Before Jesus, God delighted in Israel’s sacrifices made with pure and obedient hearts. But when those religious rites acted as subterfuge to gloss over sin, then God took no pleasure in them.

In the same way God takes no pleasure in our looking at Jesus’ finished work simply as a “get into heaven free card” while we neglect God’s call to love. Such actions miss the point of Jesus’ grace just like Israel missed the entire point of the sacrificial system—to enjoy sweet, obedient, communion with God.