Sacrifice is such an interesting word, and between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there’s a big shift in the way it is viewed. I may have studied the Bible in undergrad, but I would never consider myself an expert. Still, join me for a little walk through scripture in regard to sacrifice.
Of course, in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel offered burnt sacrifices as a way to have their sins forgiven. In fact, it’s described this way (later, in Hebrews):
Hebrews 9:22 – Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Then, in the Psalms, I start to see a shift:
Psalm 40:6 – In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
Psalm 50:14 – Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,
Psalm 50:23 – The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
Psalm 51:16 – For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
And in Proverbs:
Proverbs 21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
And in Isaiah:
Isaiah 1:11 – “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 well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”
THEN CHRIST COMES.
And now we learn a whole new way of looking at what we offer:
Matthew 9:13 – Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 12:33 – And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus dies, the temple of the curtain is torn from top to bottom, symbolizing that his death was a sufficient atonement for sins. It was the final sacrifice– by Old Testament definitions. (Hebrews 10:12 – But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.)
After that, we are encouraged to be LIVING SACRIFICES:
Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Ephesians 5:2 – And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Hebrews 13:15 – Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
1 Peter 2:5 – you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME IN 2017?
Well, I don’t know. But I see that my body is to be a living sacrifice, which makes me wonder: how do I honor God with my body? How can I treat my body right as the temple of the Holy Spirit and how can I use my body in ways that glorify God and promote holiness? I see I am to walk in love “as Christ … gave himself up for us,” so there is still that element of being poured out for the benefit of others. This, I think, includes my time, my heart, and my money. I see that I need to offer a sacrifice of praise– perhaps to carve out time to worship my God even in my busyness. I see that I am to do good and to share what I have; again, this encourages me to open my wallet again and again. Mercy and love are prioritized; they should be my priorities too.
So, that is what I am trying to do this year.
I am learning my friends’ love languages and trying to love them on their terms, not mine. That means taking the time to think through what would best show them how special they are and then making it happen. For example, I am a hermit. I’m happy to sit alone in my home all weekend, writing. But some of my friends feel best loved when I spend quality time with them. So, that means getting out of my house.
I am trying to become a more gracious, merciful, generous, and thoughtful friend to others and follower of Christ. To care about righteousness and justice. I am a work in progress, trying to keep my hands open.