Proverbs 21:3

Better than Sacrifice

To do justice and judgment

1. It is God’s will for His people to do justice and judgment.

a. These two terms appear together 23 times in the Old Testament.

b. The two terms are very similar in meaning.

c. One of the reasons why David was considered to be a man after God’s own heart was because in II Sam. 8:15 it says that “David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.”

d. If people feel they are not getting a fair shake, they will revolt. Thus, judgment and justice are essential for any people.

e. In Israel’s theocracy, these were pillars of the national government.

f. They were necessary to hold the nation together. They are essential for our government too.

2. Justice:

a. The term appears 157 times in the Old Testament.

b. Definition: Justice; righteousness; that which is right either before the law or before God.

c. This term speaks of the CONCEPT of justice.

3. Judgment:

a. This term appears 421 times in the Old Testament! It is an exceedingly important concept in God’s mind.

b. The term is closely related to the term “justice.”

c. It speaks of judgment in the sense of a law or ordinance; also of the act of deciding a case; or of the sentence or execution of the law (penalty).

d. Thus, while the term justice spoke of the CONCEPT of justice, this term speaks of the APPLICATION of justice.

4. Consider some of the passages where the two concepts appear together:

a. The character of God:
• Isa. 30:18 – God is a God of judgment. It is used to describe the very character of God.
• Ps. 89:14 – Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne:

b. The character of the Messianic Kingdom of God
• Isa. 9:7 – Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.
• Jer. 23:5 – Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

c. The desired character of young men in the nation of Israel
• Prov. 1:3 – One of the reasons Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs was so that young men would learn justice and judgment. He wanted these concepts drilled into their hearts.
• Solomon wanted his sons and the young men in his country to do that which was RIGHT, fair, and just.
• And obviously he was not interested merely in them being “instructed” in justice and judgment.
• He was more interested in the actual “practice” of those principles.
• As Solomon wrote in this proverb: to DO justice and judgment.
• It is the practice of the principle that matters. It is OBEDIENCE to the laws of God which are based upon justice and judgment.

d. Violation of the principle
• Ecc. 5:8 – “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.”
» God takes note when a nation ignores these principles.
» Judgment and justice are not being executed when the poor are oppressed.
» Judgment and justice are not being executed when violence reigns in a nation and there is no justice.
» Those who pervert justice to their own benefit DO often seem to get away with it… but not in the long run. God sees all.
» Ultimately, justice and judgment WILL reign supreme… if not in this life, at least before the judgment seat of God.

Is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice

1. In this section of the proverb, God places side by side two significant principles of Jewish life and worship: justice/judgment vs. sacrifice.

a. Both are given significant places in the Old Testament economy.

b. Both were clearly God’s will for the Jew.

c. Both are integral parts of the Old Testament revelation.

d. Both were required by God.

e. But one was MORE important than the other.

2. DOING justice and judgment is more important and more acceptable to God than sacrifice.

a. This fact is mentioned several times in the Old Testament.

b. I Sam. 15:22 – And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

c. Isa. 1:11-17 – “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.”

d. Hos. 6:6 – “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

e. Micah 6:7-8 – Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8He 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?”

f. Mark 12:33 – “And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Jesus told this man that he was “not far from the kingdom of God.”

g. Matt. 23:23 – “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Both are important. Both needed to be attended to. But one was “weightier” than the other.

3. The REASON doing justice is more acceptable than offering sacrifices.

a. It is possible to offer all the right sacrifices and keep all the right feast days… and at the same time be trampling over the poor… and “buying” off the judges… and ignoring justice and judgment.

b. It is possible to offer sacrifices from a wicked mind and heart.

c. Prov. 21:27 – The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?

d. Religious activity in Israel was of little value unless it was accompanied by OBEDIENCE to the law.

e. Ungodly kings in Judah often offered the proper sacrifices, while at the same time they perverted justice in the land.

f. Ungodly merchant men often offered the proper sacrifices, while at the same time cheating their customers. That was not just.

g. Ungodly poor men often offered the proper sacrifices while at the same time they cheated other poor men.

h. Ungodly wealthy land owners could offer the proper sacrifices, while at the same time they unjustly kept back the wages of their workers. (James 5!)

i. Religious activity is not a good gauge of anything.

j. Religious activity tells us very little about a man’s character.

k. That was true in Old Testament times, and in the church age too.

l. Religious activity in the Roman Church during Medieval times flourished—while corruption and injustice flourished as well. The priests and monks all went to mass, genuflected at just the right time, took communion… while at the same time they were persecuting believers who refused to bow to Mary. There was plenty of religious activity—but not much justice.

m. Think of the religious activity that took place in the bigoted Southern churches during slavery. They all dressed up and went to church. They sang their hymns. They put money in the plate. They taught Sunday school classes. Then they went home and mistreated their slaves. There was plenty of religious activity, but not much justice.

n. And in our day, the same kinds of things occur. We have religious men all over the country going to church, reading their Bible, even coming to prayer meetings… yet they cheat on their taxes… they make thousands on unjust business practices…

o. Religious activity has never been a reliable gauge of a man’s character… in any age.

p. That’s the main point of this proverb.

q. The REASON doing justice and judgment is more acceptable than religious sacrifice is that religious sacrifice is often abused and used as a CLOAK to cover bad character… bad behavior… and make self LOOK good.

r. God is very much aware of that ancient ploy.

4. Notice that DOING justice and DOING sacrifices are external works.

a. One work is better than the other… but both of them can be done perfunctorily and without any heart involvement.

b. We have seen how easy it is for men to be engaged in religious activity without any heart involvement.

c. But men can also DO DEEDS of justice—with the wrong motives.

d. A man could treat others justly and fairly—in order to be seen as a fair and just person—selfish motives.

e. A judge might work in the courthouse and make wise and just decisions based on the law—but only be doing it for the money… or to advance his career.

5. The New Testament highlights a more important principle than DOING: the heart!

a. For the believer today, just and righteous DEEDS are the natural result of an abiding relationship to Christ.

b. DOING deeds of righteousness is better than empty sacrifice.

c. But even doing deeds of righteousness can be done with the wrong motive.

d. The Lord rebuked the Pharisees for praying, fasting, and for their righteous and good DEEDS—because the motive was all wrong. They DID deeds of righteousness and justice, but they did them in order “to be seen of men.”

e. Doing deeds of justice is better than sacrifice; but doing deeds of justice with the right motive and empowered by the Holy Spirit is better than them all!

f. Psalm 51:17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

g. Sacrifices are good; deeds of justice are good; but the REAL sacrifice and the REAL deeds of righteousness are the ones that are sourced in a broken spirit… and from a contrite heart.

h. This truth ought to cause us to be continually examining our hearts. Our deeds may be in line with the Scriptures. We may be active in our religious duties. But how is our heart?

6. This proverb teaches that the inward heart of obedience is far more important than the outward ceremonial.

a. On certain occasions the Lord has bypassed the outer ceremonial as long as the inner obedient heart was right.

b. David ate the showbread that outwardly and ceremonially was reserved for the priests.

c. God has accepted the inward obedient heart without the ceremonial. But He has never accepted the outward ceremonial without the inward heart.