Right Sacrifices

In Psalm 4:5, David gives us some good advice: “Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord” (NIV). Among the blessings we’re to reap from this are great joy and peaceful sleep (verses 7 and 8). Sounds great, doesn’t it? In our hectic world, such blessings are priceless.

©iStock.com/BibleArtLibrary

©iStock.com/BibleArtLibrary

Just one question: What are “right sacrifices”? In David’s world, this referred to unblemished lambs or goats offered with a willing, obedient spirit. But when was the last time you sacrificed a lamb? It’s probably been a while. So what does this refer to in our time?

In looking through my Bible, I’ve found a few things associated with the kind of “sacrifice” that pleases God:

1. Obedience – “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Cain got into—and caused—major trouble when he offered the wrong kind of sacrifice. And Saul lost the kingdom because he did only part of his God-given duty. Both exhibited an arrogant attitude, which, in God’s eyes, is “like the evil of idolatry” (verse 23). Our motivation matters to God.

2. A broken spirit & contrite heart – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). This isn’t some sick desire on God’s part to see us groveling in humiliation. Rather, He knows how our minds work. He understands that our drive to earn our own way is so strong that we can’t really seek His help until we truly recognize our need. Jesus called this frame of mind being “poor in spirit”—and this is the mindset of those who receive the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).

3 & 4. Love for God & neighbor – “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33). Sometimes loving that neighbor that absolutely drives you nuts with her gossip or bragging feels very much like a sacrifice. But God, who is love (1 John 4:8), enables us to love both Himself and others when we abide in Him.

5. Ourselves – “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). Ultimately, God wants us, His children, returned to a state of communion with Him.

6. Praise – “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15). It’s interesting how often the idea of praise and celebration are associated with the sacrificial ceremonies described in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. God doesn’t seek our obedience, our praise, or even ourselves as some kind of tribute we’re required to pay; rather, He brings us into fellowship with Himself so that we can share His joy. This is the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10).

7. Do good & share – “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). Once we’ve learned to experience the joyful communion God promises, we can share that joy with others.

How about you—have you found any other “right sacrifices” in your study of God’s Word?

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