When reading the Bible, there is a lot we can miss because it’s authors and original audience were a part of a culture different than our own. Example: when I read about things like animal sacrifices in the Bible, there is a certain level of disconnect for me. I mean, I have (thankfully!) never seen, much less participated in an animal sacrifice and honestly have no desire to ever do so either! But then, I read passages like this one:
“We no longer offer up a steady stream of blood sacrifices, but through Jesus, we will offer up to God a steady stream of praise sacrifices—these are “the lambs” we offer from our lips that celebrate his name! 16 We will show mercy to the poor and not miss an opportunity to do acts of kindness for others, for these are the true sacrifices that delight God’s heart.” Hebrews 13:15-16 TPT
In spite of my disconnect with the concept of sacrifice, I want to understand the meaning and looking up definitions often helps me.
Webster’s definitions for sacrifice are:
1: an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially: the killing of a victim on an altar
2: something offered in sacrifice
3a: destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else
b: something given up or lost (the sacrifices made by parents)
Well, that brings it home, doesn’t it? As a mom, I can especially grasp the example in that last definition! There is basically nothing I wouldn’t do, give up, or surrender for my children, including my very life! That’s what you call a willing sacrifice. Imagine applying that to our obedience to God!
Let’s look back at the first definition Webster gives where it refers to the killing of a victim. When it comes to pleasing God as Christians, the “victim” that must be “killed” is not a goat or lamb, it is something much costlier to us: our flesh—the self-focused, often selfish, human nature that wants to do what feels good and is most beneficial to ourselves! It’s not easy! If it were, it wouldn’t truly be sacrificial. However, when we chose to worship and give thanks in spite of our times of loss, hardship, or hurt, God is pleased! When we give up our time and resources to help those in need, or give up our own way, surrendering our rights in order to live in harmony with our families, choosing to forgive and love in spite of what has been done to us, and when we reach out to help the broken, even in our own brokenness, not passing up opportunities to show kindness—especially when it isn’t convenient for us, it’s not easy, but He DELIGHTS in those kinds of sacrifice!
Like me, you may ask, “But WHY does He delight in SACRIFICE?” Let me assure you, it is not because He is a greedy deity in the unseen realms, out to take everything of value to increase Himself! No, He is truly our loving, Heavenly Father who desires to bless us.
On Mother’s Day, my 12-year-old daughter asked me to think of something “more expensive” that she could get me for Mother’s Day. She then spent her own birthday money to get me a gift. That sacrifice on her part clearly demonstrated how much she loves her mother! Similarly, I believe the reason sacrifice delights Him is because it shows our love and commitment to Him.
2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT says: “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully COMMITTED to Him.”
And Hebrews 11:6 tells us that He is a REWARDER of those who diligently seek Him.
See, He’s intently SEARCHING for those who willingly surrender everything and offer up the sacrifices that please Him, He’s searching, not to benefit Himself, but to benefit us. Every time we make the sacrifice to praise, to give, to forgive, to be kind, etc. He sees and reaches down to strengthen our hearts with His amazing grace which empowers us to live above the norms of fallen humanity and our hearts are enlarged to love more freely and generously!
Is there any area you need to be strengthened or increased in today? What is the corresponding sacrifice you could offer on the altar of that need? As you bring your sacrifice, I know He will meet you there with great delight!