IT'S A QUESTION AS OLD AS THE AGES: HOW do you please God? For centuries, the answer was simple: One demonstrates one's love for God by making a sacrifice—an offering of some kind. The Bible is filled with examples of people placing objects on altars as evidence of their devotion to God. The book of Exodus, for instance, includes detailed descriptions of the kind of burnt offerings, sin offerings, wave offerings, heave offerings, drink offerings, meat offerings, and peace offerings that the Israelites sacrificed during the 40 years they spent journeying back to the land of their fathers.
Yet Moses, who established the guidelines for such sacrifices, didn't believe that God desires material gifts alone. The point, he and other leaders in the Bible explained, is as much the love for God that prompts the offering as it is the object itself. As Moses put it: "What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?" Deut. 10:12, 13. The action, Moses implied, should be a mere representation of the devotion to the Divine that fills one's heart.
Indeed, later prophets emphasized that going through the motions of sacrificing material possessions could actually mask spiritual barrenness. Micah, for example, emphatically repeated the spirit of Moses' words: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Mic. 6:8.