Strength to Sacrifice

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“Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.”  Ephesians 5:1-2

This morning I asked myself, what does sacrifice really look like?  And when I started to search, I found that “offering” and “sacrifice” go together.  And I’m finding that I can’t really know either without understanding them in Your perspective, Jesus, first.  Because You, God, are the Author of offering and sacrifice.

Today I learned that You originated the only ancient religious document that tells it’s followers what the offering must be.  I don’t get to bring whatever I want.  You have told me what is acceptable to You and that is what I must bring.  All other religions leave it up to the bringer.  But not You.  The Hebrew word “qorban” means what is brought near.  And even though it does not specify how, You do.  In Your book, in Your eyes, and offering isn’t an offering unless it follows Your instructions.

I can go back to the first book of Scripture to find that.  I can go to Genesis chapter 4 and hear about Cain’s experience.  He gave an offering.  It was an offering for a sacrifice.  Why wasn’t it accepted.  Why did You, Lord, have no respect for it?  That means You wouldn’t even look at it.  When Cain gave his offering for the sacrifice You looked away.  You ignored it.  Why?  Well, You gave Cain and us Your answer.  “And the LORD said unto Cain, ‘Why are you angry?  and why is your countenance fallen?  If you do well, won’t you be accepted?  and if you don’t do well, sin lies at the door.”  I want to notice that word “well.”  I really don’t think it’s talking about if you do good here.  Because what was inherently bad about Cain bringing a gift of his best harvest?  That’s not it.  The word for “well” here is “yatab”.  And it means things like to do right, to do good, to make something beautiful, to make joyful.  But I don’t think we can look at this without a properperspective here.  Because the goodness matters, and who we are bringing joy to matters.

When I give an offering, like Cain was, what is at the heart of the offering?  Isn’t it the goodness of God?  What does my goodness count or the goodness of my fruit?  God has told each one of us and even Cain what an acceptable sacrifice is.  If only blood is sufficient, then why is it “good” to offer something without blood for a blood sacrifice?  The blood sacrifice means something.  It means something that only God can do for us in Christ.  And can we really make anything beautiful?  Can I bring my firstfruits to You, Lord, and say, “Look at the gorgeous fruits I created!”  Really?  You did it and I just received Your goodness that I was given the delight of laboring in with my hands.  And is this for my joy or Your joy?  Because You tell us that obedience is far better than sacrifice.  So I’m going to keep these things in mind.

Now offering is from the Greek word “phosphora” and the Hebrew word “qorban.”  And I now know that it means to draw near.  It usually has nothing to do with blood like “sacrifice” or “thusia” does.  Sacrifice implies something that is consumed by fire.  It’s something wholly consumed by fire like the animal sacrifice.  If I go back to the Hebrew, I find that “sacrifice” is from the Hebrew word “zebah.”  You know what it means?  “To kill.”  Now most of the things brought near were wave offerings, grain, and drink offerings, and things like that.  But here You are calling us to come near toward You with what is required.  There is a reason we come near and have to touch the sacrificed or slaughtered animal.  It matters.  Vegetables and grain and wine can’t do what the blood can do.  It’s got to be Your way that I draw near or I don’t draw near at all.

Skip Moen goes so far as to say, “an offering can be a sacrifice but a sacrifice cannot be an offering.”  And it all points to something.  It points to You Jesus.  I points to Your death.  You were the sacrifice affered on our behalf so that we could be brought near.  Did you know that when the animal was sacrificed, the one drawing near would place their hand upon it’s head to symbolically transfer their sin to the sacrifice standing in their place?  So I must draw near to Jesus, our forever sacrifice, who died on the cross and rose again so that we could draw near, so that our sin could be transferred to Him, only it won’t happen unless I draw near His way.  He was both an offering and a sacrifice for us.  His living and His dying make the picture whole.  He draws us near and payed the price.

But that is evangelism 101.  And I don’t think that’s all that Paul is telling us in Ephesians 5.  I think that by the power of the Holy Spirit, he is telling us that our lives should exemplify Yours, Lord, in offering and sacrifice.  That’s no easy road to follow.  And I absolutely cannot do that on my own.  But if I do what You say, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy , and my burden is light.”  Now, what if rest isn’t rest like we think of it?  What if this rest is “cessation”?  What if it’s stopping the way I’ve been living, the way I’ve been giving, the way I’ve been thinking, and letting You have Your way?  What if rest is all about letting You have Your beautiful, good, right way in me instead of me having my own way.  Wouldn’t that be something?  And that word “easy”, “chrestos”, what of that?  I found out that “it comes from chraomai, a verb that means, “to lend, to make use of, to make the most of.” …it means something like providing what is needed.”  So it’s not what I would think of easy but if I obey You, Lord, You will provide everything I need to give and do what You call me to.   And that “light” burden, that “elaphros” burden isn’t just light, it is easy to bear.  Why?  Because Jesus has drawn near and He is carrying the heavy part of the load.

So You, Lord, have done everything, are doing everything, and have given everything I need to walk in You and to walk like You.  I can be Your follower in every way and I can love like You love because You have drawn near and as I draw near to You, You continue to share the burden with You.  But whose burden is it anyway.  Don’t I have to look at that with the right perspective.  Every burden I bear, is it really my burden?  Or are these burdens Yours, so that You can be glorified as I allow You to carry the weight of glory that only You were meant to carry?  What if my whole walk changed because I really got it, I really understood who life was about?  What if I learned to take my eyes off of me and learned to fully obey and trust and walk in You.  And the truth of the matter is, I can, because You drew near so I could draw near to You.  And You paid the price for me.

Prayer for today- Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  And don’t forget, He drew near first.  He paid the biggest price.  If you want Him, come, obey, live and walk  in Him.  I know that I am so grateful Lord that You drew near to me and for Your immeasureable sacrifice.  And I want nothing more than to draw nearer and nearer to You every day of my life.  Have Your way in me and may I offer the sacrifice You require because it’s not hard.  You’ve already given me what I’m to offer.  So let me joyfully give back to You what You have given me.

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