Meditations on the Psalms
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:5 ESV)
Jesus speaks in the first person to those people who dishonor His name and who love vain words, lifting themselves up above God. They do not stand before God with awe, refusing to ponder their own actions and motivations. He told them to contemplate their position before God and to silence themselves and their self-centered thinking. Jesus does not ask them to do anything. He commands them, with an expectation of obedience.
He tells them to offer the sacrifices of righteousness, not just a right sacrifice. Offer and sacrifice are words so closely related they mean almost the same thing. Offer means to kill or slaughter. Sacrificemeans the thing being killed or slaughtered. Slaughter your sacrifice. Commit your sacrifice completely and wholly to God so that it can never be taken back.
We think of form and function when we say right. We want to be correct in what we do and how we act, according to our policy and procedure manuals. This is not what He means by a right sacrifice. Yes, God gave them detailed instructions about what kind of sacrifice, when and where to offer it, and how they were to honor Him with their sacrifices. God told them why they were to offer sacrifices. But He also told them the thinking of their hearts affected their sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted because he was angry. He tried to buy God’s favor, to control God, with a sacrifice, as those who give superstitious offering to an idol. “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7 ESV). Speaking through Isaiah, God is blunt about what He thinks of the offerings of a people who hate Him.
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings. … When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:11-13,15-17 ESV)
When did an offering become a sacrifice? When Abel and Cain brought their offerings, they were gifts to God. Sacrifices are required. God uses both words in the Pentateuch when giving instructions on worshiping Him. Sacrifices are obligatory, while offerings are gifts. Every person offering a sacrifice does so under compunction of the law, caused by sin and circumstance, while the one giving an offering does so out of the gratitude of the thinking of the heart toward God.
There was only one righteous sacrifice slaughtered for God. All other offerings and sacrifices point to the One Sacrifice, when Jesus offered Himself as the propitiation, the covering, for the sin of all. Jesus tells those who would follow Him the cost of discipleship. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Those who follow Jesus, who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, abandon themselves to Him in complete devotion and offering. The identity of the Christian, those chosen by God, is complete. In God’s eyes, what He does the Christian does. The word appeal means to call or summon for encouragement or instruction.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
We know what we do is not always true to God as we live out our lives in the world. It is not what we do but what Christ has done for us.
Martha didn’t understand what Jesus could do yet still declared she believed Jesus was loved and known by God and that God would give Him whatever He asked. However, she did not believe He could bring life back to a dead body. Her brother Lazarus died. Jesus told her Lazarus would rise again. Martha’s response was “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24 ESV). Jesus’ response to her is game changing.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)
Our lives are His. His life is given for us. Our identity is in Him. We slaughter ourselves as a righteous sacrifice to Him because He was slaughtered as a righteous sacrifice for us. Dying physically means nothing in the eternal scheme of things. Losing anything the world has to offer is of no consequence when we gain life in eternity.
You are the righteous sacrifice.