Throughout Leviticus and Numbers, the children of Israel were instructed to bring God a sacrifice “without blemish.”1 Regardless of the type or sex of the animal, the instruction was repeated. Why? I’m not talking about the symbolism in the Old Testament pointing toward Christ, which is mind-blowingly beautiful and complex. No, I’ve been thinking about the practical application, not the metaphorical one. Why did He have to specify over and over to bring an animal without blemish? Why not just inform His people to bring a sacrifice? I think it’s because if He had merely said that, we’d have looked over our herds and said, “That one over there. The runt with the wonky eye. I’ll take that one for sacrifice. It’s no good to me anyway.”
Instinctively, we should know to offer God our best, our prize-winning lamb. But without a specific directive, we wouldn’t. I think given a choice, we’d choose the sacrifice that affected us the least. The one that wouldn’t hurt our food supply or bottom line. The one we wouldn’t miss. So God had to lay out exactly what He wanted. The purpose of the law was to spell out God’s desires for worship, sacrifice, and behavior.
Here’s the good news. One great sacrifice fulfilled all the requirements of the law. Grace reigns over our lives. No more are we under bondage. No longer do we have to bring God literal sacrifices. Our life is a living sacrifice, or it should be.2
Merriam-Webster’s first definition for sacrifice is as follows: the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.
“…giving up something you want to keep…” What in our lives do we give up for our faith? A few things immediately jump to my mind: time, resources, money. These things, among others, are what we sacrifice for our faith.
I’m reminded of a story my FIL shared about his time ministering in Africa. He finished up his service late one night and drove a couple of hours to the next town. The following morning, he began preaching in the new location. Looking out over the people assembled, he recognized faces from the night before. These poor villagers didn’t own vehicles. He realized they had walked through the night in order to be there. These people were a true living sacrifice. They’d given time, sleep, and, even, their feet in order to hear the Word.
What I’ve been thinking about lately, and what I fear, is that in this age of Grace and modern first-world technology, we actually sacrifice very little. We drive to church in our air-conditioned cars to services that are conveniently timed to fit around our schedules. We use our gifts and talents in our jobs and community activities, yet don’t serve our congregations because we are too busy. Compared to the world, we are rich. Yet, we don’t bring our tithes and offerings for a myriad of reasons.
What are we giving up that we want to keep for our faith? Are we truly sacrificing our time, money, and resources? Unlike the Old Testament, God is not specifically instructing us in worthy sacrifice anymore. We are free through Grace to choose. I just can’t help but wonder if we are bringing our lamb without blemish, or the runt with the wonky eye.
1Lev 1:3,10; Lev 3:1,6; Num 28:19; 29:13 KJV
2Rom 12:1 KJV