The Three Paths Of Sacrifice
I am bent towards compensation. I screw up and then I try to fix it by doing more or giving for my kids or my husband. I feel inadequate so I work harder or volunteer more. I hop on a continuous cycle of do more, try harder, then rinse and repeat. I’ll sacrifice my thoughts, ideas, energy, time, and resources for my family, for my volunteer work, for peace, and for God.
The Israelites’ lives orbited around their sacrifices. The priests offered sacrifices day and night and there wasn’t a time when the smell of burning flesh and blood didn’t fill the air. The Israelites thought their sacrifices would fill the void in their hearts and I often think my sacrifices of time, effort, and money are enough as well.
But what if it isn’t?
What if we have it all wrong?
What if it isn’t in our serving, our giving, our support of missions, or our doing the ‘right’ things? These are vital, but can easily distract us and deceive us into believing we are giving God exactly what he desires.
Do we really understand what God wants?
The Lord himself tells us in Psalm 50:7-11:
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your 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.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.”
Do you hear the Lord’s heart? He is not rejecting all that we give and do for him in his name, but he is calling us to something greater.
We find this “greater” in Psalm 50:14-15:
“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 sacrifices that please God are thanksgiving, our vows, and our call to him for deliverance.
To offer thanksgiving with a heart fully engaged does require sacrifice on our part. In the bad times, it’s a sacrifice to say with sincerity, “This is awful, I hate what is happening, but you are good and I thank you for your kindness, mercy, grace, and greatness,” rather than covering up my pain with more doing. In the good times, my thanksgiving becomes a sacrifice because I acknowledge my utter dependence on him for the good.
When I accept Christ’s redeeming, resurrecting work in my life, I enter into a covenantal relationship with him to believe, to be faithful, to trust, to stand firm, and to be transformed. I fulfill my vows when I stay committed to his will and way in my life whether I “feel” like it or not.
My first response should be to call upon the Lord the moment I run into trouble or trouble runs into me, but often it is the last response. I sacrifice my own independence when I choose to call him first. God is redeeming my independence and self-sufficiency, yet I still struggle with remembering to call him first. It becomes a sacrifice when I turn away from my own strength and turn to him.
Thanksgiving, commitment, and dependence on him are the sacrifices God desires, and when we weave these three into our Christian walk, God is pleased. I channel my tendency towards compensation into daily thanksgiving, hourly commitment, and moment by moment dependence on him.
As we ponder these Scripture verses from Psalms, do we offer these types of sacrifices—thanksgiving, commitment, and dependence— or have we fooled ourselves into thinking God wants what we do, rather than our hearts? It’s a question I pose to myself often and somedays, I’m spot on and other days, I’ve missed the mark, but I then I remember. God is pleased with my thanksgiving, my commitment to him, and my dependence on him for rescue.
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