The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but he loves the one who pursues righteousness.
We get mixed messages about sacrifices from the Old Testament. The underlying message would seem to be that God really doesn’t want burnt offerings and he does want us to ‘do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8). Why then would the writer of Proverbs single out the sacrifices of the wicked as those which God particularly dislikes? Is it to enable the poetry of the contrasting phrases to work or is there something more going on here. Proverbs is not designated as ‘wisdom literature’ for nothing and I think we can be pretty sure there is more to discover from these words.
Is this something about honesty and integrity? Sacrifices, supposedly to honour God, made by those who live less than upright lives, are dishonest acts. They deceive those who make them and those who observe their making. We can be sure they do not deceive God.
And as for us, we may not be much given to burnt offerings (except occasionally by mistake in our kitchens!) but we do talk about sacrificial giving of time, talents and money. Giving which is costly and a personal response to God’s love. God delights in the prayers of the upright, who sacrifice with honesty and integrity and who truly pursue justice.
God of justice, we know how difficult it is to act justly in all circumstances. We pray for wisdom. We know how easy it is to kid ourselves that we are doing all we can. We pray for integrity. We believe that you desire our prayers and so we pray that the prayers we bring and the lives we live may be your delight. Amen
Val Morrison, Elder and Lay Preacher, Doncaster United Reformed Church