Jesus said, "'Go and learn what this means, "I desire mercy not sacrifice."'" Matthew 9 :13a (NRSV)
This refers to Hosea 6:6 "For I desire steadfast love not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." (NRSV)
And 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, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul*?' He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (NRSV)
* This would seem to refer to child sacrifice in ancient times - this is reflected in the story of Abraham and Isaac, which may signal the end of this practice.
Psalm 50:13-14 "Do I eat the flesh of bulls. or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving*, and pay you vows to the Most High" (NRSV)
* In another translation - a thankful heart.
This progression would indicate that ancient religious practices kept in ignorance were superseded by more enlightened practices. In this case living a better life is preferred by God to ritual sacrifices.
In Ezekiel the idea that God punishes families to the third and fourth generation is replaced by individual responsibility.
So our understanding of God evolves according to our ability to understand.
When Jesus comes this understanding is further progressed. Jesus taught us to love God and neighbor and to love our enemies.
Now our understanding is progressing to supersede ideas like judgment and hell, death and punishment, original sin and redemption.
God punishes no one.
His love is for each of His children to the least.
Rather than taking things literally we should see the spirit of scripture - the vibe.
Know what goodness is - not the dark side of hatred, revenge, and violence; but the light of love, forgiveness, and non-violence.
"to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you God." Micah 6:8b (NRSV)
"'I desire mercy not sacrifice." Matthew 12 :7 (NRSV)
(Scripture quotations (marked NRSV) are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.)