God isn't impressed with our good works unless it is from the heart, a heart that desires to return the love He has for us. It must have been confusing to the people of Israel when they were being taught they were doing the right thing by men respected because of their "higher learning" of the scriptures. They did the sacrificing of animals as prescribed in scripture but their hearts were far from the intention God had in asking them to perform them. Every sacrifice made should have asked the question, "Isn't there a better way? Why must there be all this blood". Instead, their hearts had become hardened.
The same is true of today. The Gospel is presented by some as a way of getting what you want from God. Rituals and traditions twist the true Gospel of Jesus Christ into a way of religion that satisfies one's own soul, not really understanding it but feeling exonerated because they have followed along with everyone else. The Bible seems too difficult so it is left to others to explain it in the way that makes everyone feel good, except God.
Speaking to Israel in the Old Testament God says:
"To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. 12 "When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. 16 "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. 18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:11-18 (NKJV)
The people of Israel of that time were doing all that religion had taught them but their hearts were far from God. They did the rituals, the sacrifices and worshipped one hour and the next hour was doing things repulsive to God.
At one point God had this to say:
"O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away. . . .
6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." Hosea 6, verses 4 and 6 (NKJV)
What God really wanted from them (and us) is, "mercy", which is hesed in Hebrew and means a steadfast and loyal love, a love coming from a covenant relationship, a love that responds to His love, knowing that God will never change in His love for us. It's a love that yearns to know Him on a personal basis, as one Friend to another.
Jesus was still emphasizing this in the New Testament.
"As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him. 10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Matthew 9:9-13 (NKJV)
Jesus knew His time had come to go to the cross to become an end to all blood sacrifices. His sacrifice on Calvary would institute a new covenant between man and God, a covenant based on faith in Him and not the blood of animals.
Jesus and His disciples were the Garden of Olives:
"Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. John 17:1-5 (NKJV)
"And this is eternal life, that they may know You,"
Let those words become part of you in your daily walk with the Lord. Knowing God is not only our duty but as we read the Bible, as we pray and meditate, it becomes an honor, our privilege, and great reward.
If you do not know God in this way, as a Friend, the only thing stopping you is you. Give up your traditions, your rituals, your good works trying to appeal to His liking. He has gone beyond "liking" you with a love that loves you even though you have sinned, have mocked Him, and have cursed Him. All God asks of you is your love in return and faith in knowing the sacrifice on Calvary 2000 years ago settles it all. Ask Him to be your Lord and Savior now and follow up by asking God to give you His Spirit to guide you from this day forward.