Psalm 84:5 tells us that blessing comes to those whose strength is in the Lord and who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. Every pilgrimage includes seasons with challenges meant to mature us in our faith and trust in the Lord. An integral part of every journey is times of sacrifice.
Different types of sacrifices are written about in the Old Testament. There was a sacrificial system in place that was meant to teach God's people about His great love and forgiveness. Five different sacrifices are talked about in Scripture: burnt offering, grain offering, fellowship offering, sin offering and guilt offering. All of these sacrifices were pointing God's people toward Christ. Since Jesus became our ultimate sacrifice there is no need for these offerings any longer. However, we are to follow the example that He set for us. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" (Matthew 16:24)
The day of Pentecost occurred on the Jewish pilgrim feast called Shavuot. The Jews came to the temple to celebrate the day that God gave the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. This day was celebrated by bringing God a sacrificial gift according to Deuteronomy 16:9-10. "Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you."
When I think about the abundant blessings that God has poured out upon me I wonder how my offering can begin to show my gratitude. And yet God considers obedience as a sacrificial offering. The God-fearing Jews who were in Jerusalem to honor God on Shavuot were sacrificing time and sowing seeds of worship to Him. Their obedience resulted in God's delight in pouring out His supernatural power through the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. The Church calls this day Pentecost. This year the anniversary of Shavuot occurred on Wednesday. Today is what the Church calls Pentecost Sunday.
When we consider giving the Lord an appropriate sacrifice we must ask ourselves what kind of relationship we want with Him. If the answer to that question is that we want a more intimate and personal relationship with Him, we must deal with our carnal nature and crucify the flesh. "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." (Galations 5:24 - KJV) If we desire to go all the way with Christ, there is a cross to carry.
For me, the story of Abraham and Isaac demonstrates the type of sacrifice that God is looking for. Is it not interesting that God gave Isaac to Abraham in a supernatural way and yet Abraham was required to show his unconditional love for God by sacrificing Isaac? God blesses us with gifts. He is the one who gives us material for sacrifice. We must be willing to lay down those things that separate us from our highest purpose in God. The pain involved in this process is real; He understands. He is the one who did not spare His own Son.
How hungry are you for a full revelation of God's love and power? What is God asking you to place on the altar? I want to speak for myself. The blessings God has given to me are lavish and undeniable. He has made me aware of the material for sacrifice that is intertwined in the blessings. There will be pain in my offering. This is characteristic of true sacrifice. I have a choice to make. What I know is this: He is worthy of everything!
Joan E. Mathias