Sacrifice gives voice to the heart’s true devotion. The person who really loves his sport gladly sacrifices his personal comfort to leave it “all on the field.” Moonstruck lovers forgo food, sleep, and friends just to be in each other’s presence. More seriously, Jesus willingly relinquished the glory of heaven and poured Himself out on the cross to say, “I love you,” to a sinful world. Sacrificial actions shout more loudly than words what passions lie in our hearts.
Perhaps this is one reason why man has always approached God with sacrifice. It’s the most profound way we can expression our affection to Him. Under the Old Law sacrifice had a redemptive element (teaching us that sin leads to death, and that only through the death of another can sin be forgiven), but it also had a gratitude element (providing man with the opportunity to declare his devotion to God). Some sacrifices were for saying, “forgive me,” and other sacrifices were offered to say, “thank you.” One flows naturally from the other. The forgiven respond with joyful gratitude.
The “burnt offering” is an example of an Old Testament sacrifice that expressed devotion and dedication to the Lord. It is the first sacrifice mentioned in the book of Leviticus, but its origins go back much further than the Law. It was offered by Noah, Abraham, and the children of Israel in Egypt (Gen. 8:20; 22:2; Ex. 10:25-26). It is one of the oldest and most basic forms of sacrifice, and God carefully crafted it to teach us some powerful lessons about the meaning of sacrifice. Today the Lord has not called us to sacrifice animals but ourselves: “Present your body as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1). Consider how artfully the “burnt offering” illustrates what it means to be a living sacrifice today.
Give Yourself Totally to The Lord
In the burnt sacrifice the whole animal was placed on the altar, nothing was held back. In most of the other sacrifices the priest or the worshipper received a part of the offering for themselves, not with the burnt offering. “The priest is to burn all of it on the altar” (Lev. 1:9).
Similarly, when we surrender ourselves to the Lord we put it “all on the altar” and hold nothing back. God’s people are to be living sacrifices, wholly yielded to the Lord. The kind of believer Jesus held up as a model for His disciples was the widow who gave her last two mites (Mark 12:41-44), and the woman who poured out her expensive perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus (Mark 14:3-9). Disciples are those who give up all to follow Christ. They count the cost of discipleship, and then gladly pay it.
But we never can prove
The delights of His love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
(Trust and Obey, John Henry Sammis)
With burnt sacrifices, nothing gets off the altar, it all belongs to the Lord.
Give Yourself Daily to The Lord
In the tabernacle burnt sacrifices were to be made every day, in the morning and the evening (Num. 28:3,6). Additionally, burnt sacrifices were offered every Sabbath, and at almost every feast (Num. 28:9-10). There wasn’t a day a burnt sacrifice wasn’t offered. The fire of the altar never went out!
Our sacrifices are to be as daily as our living. Jesus called his disciples to die to themselves, and to daily, sacrificially live for Him. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23). The sacrifices that are pleasing to God are often those made in the quietness of your home on a Friday night; or in the bustle of your workplace on Monday morning; or in the grocery store on Saturday. It is daily.
Give Your Finest to The Lord
The burnt sacrifice, like many of the other sacrifices, had to be an animal “without defect” (Lev. 1:3). The worshipper went out to his field and looked for the animal that stood out because of its beauty, and that’s the one he offered to the Lord. That’s what made it a sacrifice. It was the first, the finest, the best he had, and God deserved no less.
At one time, I lived in an area where we could only start a fire if we wanted to burn the trash. Israel didn’t burn trash on their altar, they gave their very best.
We must never be content to give God our leftovers (Mal. 1:1-11). The call of Christ is to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). If you give your body to Him, there is nothing you will withhold from His service. First, give yourself to the Lord, and then you will give Him all else (2 Cor. 8:5).
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love my Lord I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store;
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.
(Take My Life, And Let It Be, Frances Havergal, Arr. Br R.M. McIntosh)
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
Our living sacrifice is much more precious to God than any burnt offering!
“I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offering” (Hosea 6:6).
“16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)
In Psalm 116 the Psalmist asks a great question
12 What shall I return to the Lord
for all his goodness to me? (Psalm 116:12)
Of course, Israel knew the answer, “You offer God sacrifices!” But the Psalmist offers a surprising answer…
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people. (Psalm 116:13-14)
The way you tell God, “Thank you for all His goodness,” is by 1) Taking the salvation He offers and 2) Fulfilling your commitment to serve Him for everyone to see. In other words, the best gift you can give God is to accept His salvation and live your life for His glory.