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To understand the application of sacrifice, you must first understand the purpose of a sacrifice.  Sacrifices are mentioned throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis 8:20 with Noah who built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, sacrificed burnt offerings on it.[1]  

Understanding sacrifices begins with understanding this first sacrifice performed by Noah.  Often we think that sacrifices are when we offer what is precious to us to God as a way of thanking Him, as a way of currying His favour, and as a way of bribing Him as Balaam did.  However, study this sacrifice made by Noah and you will understand the proper context of sacrifices.

When Noah came out of the ark, we read that he made an altar and he sacrificed burnt offerings on it and the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart:  “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…”[2]  What did Noah sacrifice?  It is recorded:  taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.

Did he sacrifice something that was precious to him or did he sacrifice something that was precious to the Lord?  Did those clean animals and birds belong to Noah or to the Lord?  They belonged to the Lord.  Noah sacrificed to God what was precious to God, not to Noah.  That is why God found the aroma pleasing and acceptable, for the sacrifice was made with something the Lord valued, not what Noah valued.  So precious was the sacrifice to God that He said in His heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man…” and He went on to make a covenant that was not exclusively between Him and Noah, but a covenant that included every living creature:  “This is a sign of the covenant I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come…”[3]

So precious were those clean animals and birds to the Lord that their sacrifice moved God to covenant with them never to destroy all life again with a flood.  When we have been taught about making sacrifices and burnt offerings to God, we think about offering to God what is precious to us in our sight.  But Jesus said to the Pharisees, “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”[4]  And He said this to Pharisees who loved money… and were sneering at Jesus.[5]  Extend the valuation beyond money and see the things valued by men, and you see the things God finds detestable.  So when you do not understand the proper meaning of a sacrifice, you might find yourself offering up as a sacrifice what is precious to you and not to God.

God was upset with the sacrifices of the Israelites as He said in Malachi:  “You place defiled food on My altar.  But you ask, ‘How have we defiled You?’  By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible.  When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong?  When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong?”[6]  What was wrong with those sacrifices is that they were not precious to God, for these animals were blind, crippled and lame because of the sin of man.  They are the product of man’s disobedience, not a product of God’s creation.  As such, they are not precious to God, and to add to the insult, they were not precious to the people either, which is why God said, “Try offering them to your governor!  Would he be pleased with you?  Would he accept you?”[7]

The only sacrifice that is acceptable to God is a sacrifice that is precious and highly valued to Him—not sacrifices valued by us.  Worse still, do not even think of offering something you do not value. 

When God tested Abraham and commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, to whom was Isaac worth more?  To God or to Abraham?  Yes, Abraham loved Isaac, and to kill Isaac was a sacrifice for Abraham because of his love for Isaac and because of the hope Isaac was to Abraham, his heir who would inherit his wealth and carry on the family, the one through whom God’s promises to Abraham would be fulfilled.

But you see, Isaac was even more precious to God than Abraham, because without Isaac God could not keep His word to Abraham and so would be proved a liar, yes, a liar!  And if God cannot keep His word, then He is no longer God.  So, in sacrificing Isaac, God was risking His entire Being, for if Abraham had been successful in killing Isaac, God, unless He raised Isaac from the dead, would have been unable to fulfil His word, unable to keep His word to Abraham.  The moment God cannot keep His word, He is no longer God who is the Truth in whom is no lie.  So when God commanded and tested Abraham with Isaac, God risked much more than Abraham.  It was a man’s future versus God’s very existence.

When you can understand the true nature and meaning of sacrifice, then you might appreciate the sacrifice God made with Jesus.  For Jesus who was without sin was made sin that we might become the righteousness of God.  God the Son’s very existence was sacrificed for man’s future.  For God the Son to be made sin meant that the very existence of God the Son, the Sinless One, was no longer, and what was left was not the Son of God but the Son of Man, the Son of the image of God that sinned.  We do not appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus because Jesus is not as precious to us as He is to God.  Jesus’ acceptability as a sacrifice in God’s eyes is His preciousness to God.  Those clean animals and birds were acceptable as a burnt offering, which gave a pleasing aroma, because they were precious to God.  He only had seven pairs of each, and Noah took some of all of the clean animals and birds, not a few, but some of all the clean animals and birds, when there was at best only fourteen of each.  Isaac was an acceptable sacrifice for Abraham to make to God because Isaac was precious to God.

When God instituted animal sacrifices for Israel, those animals had to be blemish free.  “When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the Lord to fulfil a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable.”[8]  Because blemish free animals reminded God of the Creation before sin came through men, and those blemish free animals could have been kept alive to breed more blemish free animals so as to at least negate the effect of sin from the herds.  They were acceptable because they were more precious to God who is Perfect and whose word is flawless, than to men who are not perfect and whose words are at best flawed, if not outright wrong and lies.

The Lord said in Psalm 50:14, “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfil your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour Me,” not because God wants to be thanked, but because to God, a man of his word is more precious than a person who gives thanks, for many give thanks but their hearts are not in it.  Our thanks can cheapen God’s efforts in some way, especially when it is used to dismiss our obligation to Him, but those who fulfil their vows as a thank offering to the Lord, that is the true sacrifice of thanks that God is looking for.

This is the situation of those whose hearts are like stony ground; they receive the word with joy, but because there is no root, no depth, they wither with the first test.  In the joy of the receipt of the word, they praise God singing songs, dancing and giving thanks, yes, but because they do not endure, then they have not fulfilled their vows, which is their word to the Lord when they asked Him to be their Lord and Saviour.  If you ask someone to be your lord, you cannot just dismiss yourself from their service.

But those whose hearts are noble like the good soil, who receive the word and accept it, persevere with it and by enduring produce the crop thirty, sixty, one hundredfold, they are not producing words of thanksgiving as much as they are reproducing the very word they accepted.

And what is more precious to God?  Your words or His words?  His words of course, for they are like gold refined seven times and are flawless, for every one of them is truth, life and spirit.  So, what is more precious to God?  Your words of joyful thanksgiving because the word has blessed you or you reproducing the exact words of Jesus laced with understanding, spoken out of your heart?  What is more precious to God?  The shallow thanksgiving of a person He has blessed or the return of His word to Him from the depth of a person’s heart, where it has grown, matured and ripened, to be returned to Him sweetened with understanding?  So when the writer of the Hebrews spoke of praise, he called it a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess His Name.[9]  The sacrifice of praise is the praise that is precious to God, not that God needs to accept praises from men.

Now you might understand why Jesus said, “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you.  I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.”[10]  The praises of men, their thanks and their exultations mean nothing to God because the hearts of men are deceitful beyond cure.  The overflow of the heart that is acceptable to God is the word that is pure, flawless and perfect truth, which only His word is.  The greatest praise, the only acceptable praise that God values is when His word is returned to Him having been listened to, practised, understood and multiplied in preference of the words of men! 

That is why the testimonies for Jesus of those who are beheaded[11] are placed in front of the words of God, as John wrote for us in this order:  And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God.  They will come back to reign because they sacrificed their life for the sake of their testimony for Jesus, their words, which testify to the truth of Jesus and His words.  What they sacrificed, their life, was more precious to God than to them, for to die is to be in Heaven with the Lord, to live is to be on Earth as witnesses for Jesus.  Now, what is more precious to God?  One more spirit praising Him around the throne in Heaven or one more witness on Earth for the sake of His Son’s Name and justice?  Again, the martyrs sacrifice was acceptable, not because they valued their lives, but because they valued their lives as true witnesses for His Son. 

Every time God permits anyone who lives and believes in Jesus to die, it is a sacrifice to God, because anytime He does that, John 11:26 remains unproven.  And to leave His word unproven, unfulfilled, is a sacrifice to the Lord more precious than anything else in Creation, for all things were made and held together by His Word.

Imagine and understand then how precious you are in God’s sight if you choose to remain alive until He arrives, even though the days of distress are unequalled since the creation of the world, when you know that to die is glory but to live is suffering and being separated from Him.  So what is precious to God?  A Christian who cannot wait to die so that he can be in Heaven or a Christian who refuses to die so that Jesus’ words are proved true and justified?  A Christian who wants to die and be rewarded in Heaven or one who wants to see Jesus receive His rewards on Earth?

A sacrifice is considered acceptable by its preciousness to God, not to us.  Thus, when you want to learn to understand the purpose of sacrifices, you must know what is a true sacrifice.  Having understood what it is, then you will realise the purpose of a sacrifice is to remind God what is precious to Him and to help God enjoy what is precious to Him.  That is why the aroma of the burnt offering made by Noah was pleasing to God.  For God smelt the aroma of what was precious to Him.

Whenever we approach the Throne of Grace in the Name of Jesus, whenever we declare the Name of Jesus and His words from our mouth, and do with our hands what we have learned from the practice of His words, we are reminding God what is precious to Him—the Life and actions of His Son who obeyed every word given to Him, even to death on a roman cross. 

David wrote:  Surely You will reward each person according to what he has done.[12]  And in Jeremiah, God said, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”[13]  It is only those who have listened and accepted the word of Jesus and apply them in practice, who will find that their actions and conduct will reflect that which is kept in their heart and mind constantly.

It is the reward the Lord has reserved for those whose life in thoughts of mind and heart and by deeds and actions show that they have kept what is precious to Him, so that their thank offering and their sacrifices are what is precious to Him, His words in action being proved true.  And it is what is precious to a person that he keeps foremost in his hearts and even his mouth.

So if the word of God is precious to God and the life of His Son is precious to Him, then what is precious to Jesus, the Son of Man?  Is it not His blood, sweat, tears, and His very life?  And if they are precious to Him, then what of those He purchases from every tribe and tongue with His blood, are they not precious to Him?  It is no wonder then that Jesus is ever before the throne making intercession for His saints, because they are precious to Him.  It is no wonder that God is watching His word to fulfil it, because it is precious to Him.  It is no wonder that the Holy Spirit, the Sprit of Glory, will lay down His glory to glorify the Father and the Son because it is precious to Him.

The purpose of any sacrifice is then to remind you what is precious to you so that you may appreciate it, and making sacrifices that are acceptable to God is so that you may come to know what is precious to God, that you may come to know Him as part of your eternal life.

So when the Lord expects someone who comes to Him to be His disciple to “hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life,”[14] it is so that we get rid of what is highly valued by men, even the good things, and follow Him to learn what is acceptable and precious to God.  And you will then see what is precious to God and valuable to Him as He returns them to you one hundredfold as much.  As He has promised, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age… and in the age to come, eternal life,”[15] is to show you what should be precious to you so that you know what is precious to Him.  Yes, even houses, fields, family are all precious to the Lord, but above all that which we value, we must learn that the Lord holds HIS WORD the most precious.  So that as we apply ourselves to the making of sacrifices of things that are precious to us, we learn to appreciate them, yes, but in that appreciation, it is the hope of God that we learn to appreciate what is precious to God, for when what you hold to be precious is the same as what God holds to be precious, then you share the same values.

And a common value is the sure foundation of oneness.  Learning application of sacrifice is learning to lay down the foundation of unity that is perfect and unmoveable.  Those who are beheaded for the sake of their testimony for Jesus and for the word of God hold precious that which God holds precious.  They are one with Him in such a way that He can entrust the running of the kingdom of His Son to them whilst He is in Jerusalem for His Sabbath rest.  HIS SABBATH REST as the Great High Priest of God making intercession for the saints, for in the Millennium, the saints of Jesus will be either at rest in Heaven or at work on Earth reigning with Him for Him.  Amen.

Then shall we see what He meant when He said He is the Lord of the Sabbath!

[1] Genesis 8:20

[2] Genesis 8:18, 20-21

[3] Genesis 9:12

[4] Luke 16:15

[5] Luke 16:14

[6] Malachi 1:7-8

[7] Malachi 1:8

[8] Leviticus 22:21

[9] Hebrews 13:15

[10] John 5:41-42

[11] Revelation 20:4

[12] Psalm 62:12

[13] Jeremiah 17:10

[14] Luke 14:26

[15] Mark 10:29-30


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