I love when you read a passage and then read an entirely different passage and they coincide in a way that breaks through and penetrates the tough skin of your heart. Almost like when one person recommends a movie and you’re like, “hmm, I’ll have to check it out” but then you never rent it. But then if your mom and best friend recommend the same movie, it seems worthwhile enough to expend effort to pursue. When you read two similar passages of Scripture, and then a third which amplifies the meaning for you, you think: Wow, I better get this one. I better allow this to soak in, to make a difference in me. To allow Him to turn this stony heart into one of flesh.
This recently happened to me regarding my own sacrifices to God.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills… Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me… The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.”
“What 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…my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them… I will hide my eyes… I will not listen…”
1 Thessalonians 1
“…you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
God instituted the sacrifice of bulls and goats. So then why does He say He does not desire them? Because they were being done as a mere outward routine and as religious pride instead of an outward expression of an inward reality. The inward reality is that we know we blow it. We are humbled in His presence. We do what He asks out of love for Him, not out of duty to Him (though we do owe Him everything!). They were to sacrifice out of obedience, but with their hearts close to Him all the while, not far from Him. But they weren’t doing this. So many aren’t. Often I’m not.
For example, I have a little sacrificial checklist that my heart, blackened by sin, likes to use to earn favor with God. Like “completing my Bible reading each morning” and “submitting to my husband’ and “being kind to all those around me”. All these things are great and beneficial, and there are many things like this that we are even commanded to do (not unlike the sacrificial system). Though, all the while I am up at 6:00 am, reading as quickly as possible to get to something I REALLY want to do. And I’m submitting to my husband only after I have tried every possible way of getting my own way in an area, even calling names, picking fights, and disrespecting him, transgressing directly the commands in Ephesians. And while I may be kind to someone’s face, in the wickedness of my heart, I am often so critical and judgmental, leaving no room for an ounce of true brotherly love, but only superficial “nice-ness.”
But ohhhhhh I am SO holy. Right? I check everything off my list and say “I did it God! Now what are you going to do for me, since I MUST be one of your favorite children. I do a lot of things that you command us to do in the Bible- that I read every day. Everyone else sees that. Don’t you see it, God?”
Blech. Do you ever have those moments where you seem to see things as God sees them and you just want to vomit?
While God doesn’t desire us to sacrifice to earn anything, He DOES desire sacrifice… the sacrifice of thanksgiving. And what do we have to be thankful for? Jesus, THE sacrifice on our behalf. We can be thankful for the ability (which is a gift in itself!) to turn from our idol of religiously trying to earn God’s love and favor and acceptance. Or whatever your idols may be, before Jesus or now- whatever we daily serve in place of Jesus. We can turn from these to serve the living and true God.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t make sacrifices. We are to die daily. We are to serve, to humble ourselves like Christ, to do things we don’t want to do, and to even do things that aren’t “our gifting.” When I serve at Church, or when I have to make my husband a smoothie for his breakfast the next morning (something I really dislike doing for some reason!), these are opportunities to serve the living God and serve others. But my obedience MUST match my heart or I will have obeyed in vain.
Now don’t read me wrong.We aren’t to disobey or duck out of serving in an area because our heart isn’t right. Get your heart right. Give a sacrifice of thanksgiving for His sacrifice, with a contrite, broken and sincere heart. Serve God and wait for Jesus.