Sacrifice. Not a pleasant word, but an important one. We owe a lot to men and women who have sacrificed their lives for us in the military, the health field, the fire and police departments, and even in martyrdom for the sake of the gospel.
I’ve been reading the book of Leviticus. I know. It’s not my favorite, either. But it’s part of the Word of God that I am trying to finish reading through again. Some parts are easier than others. This book of the law that Moses received from God, is full of gory instructions about how the Israelites were to practice the sacrificial offerings required by the Lord. I mean – talk about blood and guts. It’s all here. How to kill the animal. (It had to be a perfect one.) How to drain its blood. How to cut it apart and separate out the fatty parts. See what I mean?
I have a lot of questions related to all of this. Why so many rules? There had to be a lot of them in order to live in a community in the rocky desert. I’m a visual person, so I try to imagine how one to two million people lived in close quarters for 40 years. (That’s the population of Philadelphia.) They were all less than holy, so they had to atone for their sins through specific sacrifices. The priests were in charge of it all. But everyone had a part. Thousands of these offerings were made throughout their history, until finally it all culminated in the greatest sacrifice of all – Jesus. How many animals were killed over the years? Some were burnt up. Some were buried outside the camp. Some parts were eaten. All of these practices were a holy symbol of the Messiah to come.
Hebrews gives the best explanation of this. “According to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Then of Jesus, it says: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). As I read Leviticus, I realize how gory Christ’s death on our behalf really was. We tend to romanticize the crucifixion sometimes because it is wonderful to us. But what a horrible way to die! Why did God demand blood? I don’t understand, but I embrace His decrees because He is an all-wise, holy God. Who am I to question Him?
Now, in the light of Christ’s sacrifice, what should be our response? Paul says our daily lives should be “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). And what is our motivation? Trying to repay Jesus? That’s impossible. Serving in pride to please God and others? That’s useless. Or can we just pour out our lives in gratitude? Nothing is too much, too difficult, or too unpleasant to ask, is it? What will be our sacrifice today?