The Essence of Worship and Sacrifice

Yael Eckstein  |  February 4, 2022

Hands lifted up in praise at church.

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

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

“If God is so perfect, and can do whatever He wants, why does He need us to always pray to Him and tell Him how great He is?” My son was not just trying to get out of worshiping God. He was asking a question that I remember thinking about when I was a child. After all, God is perfect in every way and yet He commanded us to worship Him. There must be something that He gets out of our prayers and offerings.

My father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, in his book How Firm a Foundation, quoted William James, an American philosopher, who said that the reason we pray is that we cannot help praying. We are human and God is God. So, we pray.

But can the same be said for all Temple offerings that God commands in the Bible? If the reason we worship God is because we feel the need to, why did God want us to serve Him with sacrifices?

I don’t know the mind of God, but I believe that God wants us to serve Him by sacrificing so that we’ll learn to sacrifice for others. When we sacrifice to God, we put God first and our own needs take a back seat. We give up a part of ourselves in order to fulfil His will. God does not need our sacrifices, but He wants us to learn how to sacrifice.

The Essence of Worship and Sacrifice

This is what our verse today in Proverbs means, “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want our sacrifices. Of course He wants them. That’s why He commanded them. But the purpose of the sacrifices, and the purpose of our worship, is to teach us to put someone other than ourselves first. That’s the essence of worship and sacrifice.

When we learn how to put the needs of others first, then we are able to “do what is right and just.”

As God Himself said, “I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight” (Jeremiah 9:24).

Your Turn:

A great way to “exercise kindness, justice, and righteousness” is to sow into the sacred work of The Fellowship, caring for the poor and needy.