There's a steady stream of critique of sacrifice as an effective medium between Israel and Yahweh. I thought I would lay out some of the verses here as I process this dimension of the OT:
Psalm 51:16-19--"You have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
"Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar" (NRSV).
This psalm is of course usually located in relation to David's sin with Bathsheba. This is the current heading to the psalm (which is not inspired). Certainly the psalm has a richness when read in that light.
But the final two verses make it clear that the psalm--at least in its current form--could not come from David but must date to period between Jerusalem's destruction and when Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of the city.
In this context, these words are not a wholesale rejection of sacrifice but a sense that sacrifice is of no value if a person is not truly repentant.
Isaiah 1:11-13, 15-17--"What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
"When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me... I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity ... even though you make many prayers, I will not listen... Wash yourselves ... learn to do goo; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow..."
Here we have the same basic theme as Psalm 51. Sacrifice really isn't that important to God. What is really important is obedience, and obedience has to do not with going through motions but with justice in the prophetic sense.
Micah 6:6-8--"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings... Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams... Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression... what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
As with the other passages, there is no sense of any need for a Levitical system. Micah, like Isaiah, indicates that what the LORD requires is justice (in the prophetic sense), not sacrifice.
Similar to this passage is
Amos 5:21-24--"I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them... But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
Hosea 6:6--"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
Psalm 40:6-8--"Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, 'Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."
Hebrews of course reads this passage against the backdrop of Christ and can build its case quite well off of a change that took place in the text of this psalm by the time it was translated into Greek ("a body you have prepared for me").
The psalm itself is different from Psalm 51 in that the individual in question is not repenting of sin but actually thanking God for rescue and seeking deliverance. The rejection of sacrifice in this context is more striking than in the passages above in that sacrifice is not contrasted with justice or a right attitude. The psalmist simply says that obdience and willingness to obey God's law is what He wants.
1 Samuel 15:22--"Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the voice of the LORD? Surely to obey is better than sacrifice..."
This is the classic moment where Saul has sacrificed without waiting for Samuel. This statement does not reject sacrifice, but clearly places obedience as far more important.
Psalm 50:8-15--"Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house... For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills... If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving... Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you..."
This is a fascinating argument against one of the functions that sacrifice plays in many cultures, indeed, that is alluded to in various biblical texts. This is the idea that sacrifices feed and empower the god. It is the image evoked from those biblical passages that speak of a "sweet smelling savor" before the LORD.
But this psalm rejects that function for sacrifice. God couldn't care less. He is interested in right living and thanksgiving for His favor.
A final text is very interesting indeed:
Jeremiah 7:21-22--"Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God..."
A look at Jeremiah 6:20 and 7:18 places this statement in context. Sacrifices are not part of God's original covenant with Israel, obedience was. By the way, the NIV adds the word "just" here because otherwise the verse seems to imply that Leviticus was either not known or not accepted by Jeremiah.
If the other prophets were similarly unaware of the tradition that saw the Levitical system as instituted by Moses, that has certain implications for how we take their comments about sacrifices. In particular, prophets like Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, and the psalmists would not see sacrifice as a "biblical" mandate (a little anachronistic to use the word "biblical" for their time period) but as something that was truly unimportant to God.
Of course I suspect most of us find this "prophetic critique" of sacrifice encouraging, although it does wreak havoc with those who hold to a rigid penal substitution view of atonement. Apparently, God does not need a sacrificial surrogate to allow Him to forgive sins or accept humanity.
Even Hebrews, which says that "without blood shedding there is no remission of sins" (10:22), in my opinion does not represent some mechanistic view of the need for sacrifice. After all, where does the author go with this idea? Where he goes is to the fact that there is no more need for sacrifice because Christ has taken care of it. In my opinion, the Hellenistic author has no real commitment to the need for blood sacrifice, but finds in that idea the possibility of arguing that no more blood sacrifice is ever need again!