In our age of pre-packaged food, manicured lawns, and computer-dependent careers, the concept of animal sacrifices seems completely foreign if not a bit barbaric to some. We consider animals part of our family and depend on others to deal with the unsightly aspects of butchering so we can enjoy our steaks and chicken sandwiches without having to see the animal alive.
For the Israelites, animal sacrifices were tightly woven into the fabric of their very culture and daily life. Every morning and evening the priest would offer a sacrifice. Special occasions like the Sabbath, New Moon, or various festivals would bring even more sacrifices. Individual Jews would constantly bring their oxen, sheep, goats and pigeons before the altar to atone for sin, as free-will offerings, after child birth, when attending festivals, and at the conclusion of a vow.
These animals were not pets or spare animals which happened to be in their possession. Each individual or family depended on these animals for milk, wool, work or some other benefit. To bring them to the altar for the priest to kill meant giving up something of real value – hence the term “sacrifice.” They couldn’t cull their herds by dispatching of the lame, sick or old. The Lord wanted the best, those “without spot or blemish.”
Each animal could only serve this purpose once in its life. The blood of last week’s lamb did no good for this week’s sin. Another lamb, another one of my flock’s best, needed to be selected for another sacrifice.
The time of blood sacrifices for sin – and for trespasses or free will offerings for that matter – is past. “For by one offering (Jesus) has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14.
We no longer have to migrate to the temple for our offerings. Gone are the days of staining our hands and clothes with the blood of bulls and goats. The soil of Calvary was stained with the blood of God’s Son for our sakes.
This doesn’t mean the days of sacrifices are over – just the days of blood sacrifices. I’m not talking about gifts of outgrown clothes or monetary gifts we return to the Lord on Sundays. No, our sacrifices are far more personal and far more valuable than these small trinkets. The Lord made it clear what we give now as a sacrifice – our entire lives.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1.
Our own lives are daily sacrifices to God. Just like the lambs, goals and bulls of our Israelite brethren of old, our lives have real value to us. We want to go places, do things and make names for ourselves. We want to use our time and resources for our needs and pleasures; however, we forgo these personal ambitions and offer our lives to the Lord. We don’t pull against the leash or dig in our heels as I imagine so many animals did as they approached the altar. They were unwilling participants in that process. We willingly yield to God’s gentle hand as He guides us along.
As living sacrifices, we excel far beyond the blood offerings of Israel because we can make this same offering to the Creator each and every day. We are a perpetual source of benefit for the Lord because He is our perpetual source of provision and protection. When we do this, become living sacrifices to God, I think our lives then become “a sweet aroma to the Lord.” Leviticus 1:13.
Jeremy Morris, his wife, and children attend the Church of Christ off of Murray Road. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.