“do not delight in sacrifice.” David understood the heart of God. Sacrifices and offerings do not buy God’s acceptance. In fact, when God initiated the Old Covenant with Israel, He barely mentioned sacrifices at all. Sacrifices and offerings that are acceptable to God are actually given “after the fact,” that is, after the person has humbled himself and repented. Sacrifices and offerings were never designed to make a person with an evil heart acceptable in the sight of God. An evil and arrogant person who has no real intention of obeying God cannot simply do a sacrifice, make an offering, or pray to God, and then be accepted by God. God is much more interested in obedience and a humble heart than in a person’s making sacrifices (1 Sam. 15:22; Ps. 40:6-8; 51:16-17; Jer. 7:22-23; Hos. 6:6 [quoted in Matt. 9:13 and 12:7]; Micah 6:6-8).
The Bible says that when a person is evil and unrepentant, the sacrifices and offerings he makes, including prayers, are simply rejected by God. God’s favor is not for sale (cp. Prov. 15:8; 21:27; 28:9; Isa. 1:11-15; 58:1-8; Jer. 6:20; 14:10-12; Hos. 5:5-6; Amos 5:21-23; Mal. 1:10; 2:13-14; James 4:6. Verses that specifically mention prayer include: Job 35:12-13; Prov. 15:29; Isa. 59:1-2; Ezek. 8:17-18; Micah 3:4; Zech. 7:12-13; James 4:3).
Sadly, often in religion the true heart of God is ignored. People who sin are told to do certain things like pray or make donations but are not told that without being combined with true repentance, the act is of little or no value. David made it clear that God did not “delight” or “take pleasure in” dead animals, but that He was very pleased with a humble and repentant heart.
[For more on God being more concerned with love and obedience than sacrifices, see commentary on Matt. 5:24. For more on God not speaking much about sacrifices when Israel came out of Egypt, see commentary on Jer. 7:22.]