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Today's Little Lift

    by Jim Bullington

Mercy and not Sacrifice (October 19, 2010)
Date Posted: July 9, 2024

Inasmuch as the correct attitude (mercy) is of more importance to God than the correct form of worship (sacrifice), one would expect a huge difference between the Old testament Law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That change is borne out in many ways. This series will highlight some of the differences between the two covenants as they relate to mercy and sacrifice.

Form of worship includes many things such as location, posture, apparel, special formulas or words, and other such considerations. Note that form differs from attitude in that form can be mimicked by the worshipper regardless of his or her sincerity or other condition of heart. Form (sacrifice) is external while attitude (mercy) is internal. Form can be detected by the five senses while attitude may be impossible to detect or know.

An illustration of this principle can be seen in this parable which Jesus gave: “He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men——extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'” (Luke 18.9-14). Notice the outward manifestations (forms) of worship that were evident when the Pharisee prayed. At the same time, notice the lack of outward manifestations (forms) that were evident when the other man prayed. He stood afar off, cast his eyes downward and beat upon himself due to apparent humiliation with his own sinful self. “This man,” Jesus said, “went down to his house justified rather than the other.” Why? Because God desires mercy (attitude) more than sacrifice (form)!

Apparel was of great significance to God under the Old Testament. The outward adorning of one who approached Him as an intercessor (priest) was a matter that demanded meticulous attention. Exodus 28 contains some of the instructions that relate to the garb of an Old Testament priest (see especially verses 4-42). These appointments included a breastplate, and ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban, a sash, and linen trousers. Each of these items were to be made in a particular way and constructed out of explicitly defined materials. All of these things had to do with the form of worship (sacrifice) that was offered to God. While God demanded the proper form (that which He had explicitly defined), He also demanded the proper attitude of heart of the worshipper.

In the New Testament (the Gospel of Jesus Christ), apparel has no inherent value as regards worship to God! That is quite a contrast! The apostle Peter wrote the following to this point: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward——arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3.3-4).

Over the next few days, we will continue this contrast of worship form in the Old Testament with worshipper attitude in the New Testament. We would do well to lift our voices in praise to God who removed the cumbersome system of Old Testament law and fulfilled it with the perfect One, Jesus Christ. (continued)


1. What special instructions were given in Exodus 28 regarding the garments of the priests?

2. List the extent of detail into which God went to set forth the making of these special garments.

3. What “apparel” did Peter say was important for the female believer who wished to please God?

4. Continue your list of New Testament passages that explicitly regulate the form of Christian worship?

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Biography Information:
Jim Bullington - A Christian writer whose insight into the scriptures is reflected in practical application lessons in every article. The reader will find that the Bible speaks directly to him/her through these articles. God is always exalted and His word is treated with the utmost respect in this column.
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