Day 210

Four Sacrifices That Please God

Wisdom Psalm 89:30-37
New Testament Romans 11:33-12:21
Old Testament 1 Chronicles 6:1-81

Introduction

Looking back at my life, I now realise how many sacrifices my parents made out of love for my sister and me. I wish I had appreciated that more at the time. My parents came from a generation that was very familiar with the idea of sacrifice. They both fought in World War Two. Many of their contemporaries had sacrificed their lives for their fellow human beings and for their country. The whole idea of making sacrifices, great or small, seems more alien to our generation.

The vast majority of biblical references to ‘sacrifice’ are in the Old Testament. These passages prefigure Jesus’ sacrificial death for us on the cross. In the New Testament, almost all the references are about Jesus’ sacrifice – the death of Jesus as the one perfect and complete sacrifice fulfilling all the Old Testament preparation and prediction. We do not need to make any sacrifices for our sins. Yet the New Testament tells us that there are four sacrifices you can make that please God.

Wisdom

Psalm 89:30-37

30 “If his sons forsake my law
  and do not follow my statutes,
31 if they violate my decrees
  and fail to keep my commands,
32 I will punish their sin with the rod,
  their iniquity with flogging;
33 but I will not take my love from him,
  nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.
34 I will not violate my covenant
  or alter what my lips have uttered.
35 Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—
  and I will not lie to David—
36 that his line will continue forever
  and his throne endure before me like the sun;
37 it will be established forever like the moon,
  the faithful witness in the sky.”

Commentary

Thank God for the sacrifice of Jesus

God is holy (v.35) and loving. God loved David. He said, ‘I will not take my love from him’ (v.33).

God, in his love, made a covenant with David and his people. It was a covenant of grace, but it required a response of obedience to the law. But what would happen if they did not keep the law? If that happened – ‘If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands’ (vv.30–31) – a penalty would be required (v.32).

The New Testament tells us that God came in the person of his son Jesus Christ to take that penalty by offering himself as the sacrifice for sin. Through that sacrifice, God’s love and holiness were both fully expressed and satisfied and you need make no further sacrifice for sin.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, so much for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for me. Thank you that no further sacrifice is required for my sins.

New Testament

Romans 11:33-12:21

Doxology

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
  How unsearchable his judgments,
  and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
  Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
  that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
  To him be the glory forever! Amen.

A Living Sacrifice

12Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Commentary

Make sacrifices that please God

In this passage, we see four sacrifices that you can make in response to Jesus’ sacrifice for you:

1. Sacrifice of your lips

The writer of Hebrews says, ‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name… for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Hebrews 13:15–16).

Much of the first eleven chapters of Romans are about the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Paul, having set out all that God has done for us, responds with a sacrifice of praise (Romans 11:33–36).

2. Sacrifice of your life

Paul continues, ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy [because of all that Jesus has done for us through the sacrifice of himself on the cross], to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship’ (12:1, AMP).

God wants you to offer all of yourself and all of your lives – your time, ambitions, possessions, ears, mouths and sexuality – as well as your mind, emotions and attitudes. Paul’s description of a living sacrifice also reminds us that you have to go on offering your life as a sacrifice to God, offering the whole of your life for the whole of your life.

As Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message, ‘Take your every day, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering’ (v.1, MSG).

In Old Testament times, ‘living sacrifice’ would be a contradiction in terms. The whole point of the sacrifice was that it was killed. Jago Wynne writes, ‘Our act of worship is no longer to bring a sacrifice, but to be one ourselves. We remain living. It is all of us that is being offered. Worship is about what I say with my tongue. It’s about what I watch… what I think… where I go with my feet.’

3. Sacrifice of your ‘loot’

Generous giving is another New Testament sacrifice. Paul encourages the sacrifice of generosity in contributing to the needs of others (v.8). ‘Share with God’s people who are in need’ (v.13). This is another sacrifice the writer of Hebrews says pleases God: ‘to share with others’ (Hebrews 13:16).

We are even to give generously to our enemies: ‘Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness’ (Romans 12:20, MSG).

4. Sacrifice of your love

In this passage Paul gives many examples of the sacrifice of loving service (vv.9–21).

The writer of Hebrews says, ‘do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Hebrews 13:16).

‘Doing good’ means giving up things that are not good. ‘Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould’ (Romans 12:2, J.B. Phillips). Although God only asks us to give up the bad stuff in our lives, it can feel costly to do so because that stuff is superficially attractive. Repentance is a very positive word, but at the time it may seem sacrificial.

Sacrificial love involves allowing God to transform us by a complete change. Our love must be sincere (v.9). The Greek word for ‘sincere’ means ‘without hypocrisy’ or literally ‘without play acting’ or ‘without a mask’.

Often relationships in the world are quite superficial. We all put up fronts or masks to protect ourselves. When we see governments doing this, we call it ‘spin’. When we do it ourselves, we call it ‘image’; we are projecting something. In effect we’re saying, ‘I don’t really like what I am inside, so I will pretend I am somebody different.’

If other people are doing the same then there are two ‘fronts’ or ‘masks’ meeting. The sad result is that the two real people never meet. This is the opposite of ‘sincere love’. Sincere love means taking off your mask and daring to reveal who you are. When you know that God loves you as you are, you are set free to take off your mask.

This means that there is a completely new depth and authenticity in your relationships. Instead of trying to impress people with our masks, as we reveal who we truly are with all our flaws, we connect through our vulnerabilities.

Paul urges Christians to live in harmony with one another and to be generous (v.13), hospitable (v.13), forgiving (v.14), empathetic (v.15) and to live at peace with everyone (v.18). It is a glorious picture of the Christian family into which God calls us, beckoning us into an atmosphere of love, joy, patience, faithfulness, generosity, hospitality, blessing, rejoicing, harmony, humility and peace; where good is not overcome by evil, but evil is overcome with good (vv.9–21).

Prayer

Lord, today I offer you my body as a living sacrifice. I am available to you. I give everything I have to you again – my life, time, money, ambitions, plans, hopes and desires. Show me your good, pleasing and perfect will (v.2).

Old Testament

1 Chronicles 6:1-81

Levi

6The sons of Levi:
Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
2 The sons of Kohath:
Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.
3 The children of Amram:
Aaron, Moses and Miriam.
The sons of Aaron:
Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.
4 Eleazar was the father of Phinehas,
Phinehas the father of Abishua,
5 Abishua the father of Bukki,
Bukki the father of Uzzi,
6 Uzzi the father of Zerahiah,
Zerahiah the father of Meraioth,
7 Meraioth the father of Amariah,
Amariah the father of Ahitub,
8 Ahitub the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Ahimaaz,
9 Ahimaaz the father of Azariah,
Azariah the father of Johanan,
10 Johanan the father of Azariah (it was he who served as priest in the temple Solomon built in Jerusalem),
11 Azariah the father of Amariah,
Amariah the father of Ahitub,
12 Ahitub the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Shallum,
13 Shallum the father of Hilkiah,
Hilkiah the father of Azariah,
14 Azariah the father of Seraiah,
and Seraiah the father of Jozadak.
15 Jozadak was deported when the Lord sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.
16 The sons of Levi:
Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
17 These are the names of the sons of Gershon:
Libni and Shimei.
18 The sons of Kohath:
Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.
19 The sons of Merari:
Mahli and Mushi.
These are the clans of the Levites listed according to their fathers:
20 Of Gershon:
Libni his son, Jahath his son,
Zimmah his son, 21 Joah his son,
Iddo his son, Zerah his son
and Jeatherai his son.
22 The descendants of Kohath:
Amminadab his son, Korah his son,
Assir his son, 23 Elkanah his son,
Ebiasaph his son, Assir his son,
24 Tahath his son, Uriel his son,
Uzziah his son and Shaul his son.
25 The descendants of Elkanah:
Amasai, Ahimoth,
26 Elkanah his son, Zophai his son,
Nahath his son, 27 Eliab his son,
Jeroham his son, Elkanah his son
and Samuel his son.
28 The sons of Samuel:
Joel the firstborn
and Abijah the second son.
29 The descendants of Merari:
Mahli, Libni his son,
Shimei his son, Uzzah his son,
30 Shimea his son, Haggiah his son
and Asaiah his son.

The Temple Musicians

31 These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the Lord after the ark came to rest there. 32 They ministered with music before the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, until Solomon built the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. They performed their duties according to the regulations laid down for them.

33 Here are the men who served, together with their sons:
From the Kohathites:
Heman, the musician,
the son of Joel, the son of Samuel,
34 the son of Elkanah, the son of Jeroham,
the son of Eliel, the son of Toah,
35 the son of Zuph, the son of Elkanah,
the son of Mahath, the son of Amasai,
36 the son of Elkanah, the son of Joel,
the son of Azariah, the son of Zephaniah,
37 the son of Tahath, the son of Assir,
the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah,
38 the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath,
the son of Levi, the son of Israel;
39 and Heman’s associate Asaph, who served at his right hand:
Asaph son of Berekiah, the son of Shimea,
40 the son of Michael, the son of Baaseiah,
the son of Malkijah, 41 the son of Ethni,
the son of Zerah, the son of Adaiah,
42 the son of Ethan, the son of Zimmah,
the son of Shimei, 43 the son of Jahath,
the son of Gershon, the son of Levi;
44 and from their associates, the Merarites, at his left hand:
Ethan son of Kishi, the son of Abdi,
the son of Malluk, 45 the son of Hashabiah,
the son of Amaziah, the son of Hilkiah,
46 the son of Amzi, the son of Bani,
the son of Shemer, 47 the son of Mahli,
the son of Mushi, the son of Merari,
the son of Levi.

48 Their fellow Levites were assigned to all the other duties of the tabernacle, the house of God. 49 But Aaron and his descendants were the ones who presented offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense in connection with all that was done in the Most Holy Place, making atonement for Israel, in accordance with all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.

50 These were the descendants of Aaron:
Eleazar his son, Phinehas his son,
Abishua his son, 51 Bukki his son,
Uzzi his son, Zerahiah his son,
52 Meraioth his son, Amariah his son,
Ahitub his son, 53 Zadok his son
and Ahimaaz his son.

54 These were the locations of their settlements allotted as their territory (they were assigned to the descendants of Aaron who were from the Kohathite clan, because the first lot was for them):

55 They were given Hebron in Judah with its surrounding pasturelands. 56 But the fields and villages around the city were given to Caleb son of Jephunneh.

57 So the descendants of Aaron were given Hebron (a city of refuge), and Libnah, Jattir, Eshtemoa, 58 Hilen, Debir, 59 Ashan, Juttah and Beth Shemesh, together with their pasturelands. 60 And from the tribe of Benjamin they were given Gibeon, Geba, Alemeth and Anathoth, together with their pasturelands.

The total number of towns distributed among the Kohathite clans came to thirteen.

61 The rest of Kohath’s descendants were allotted ten towns from the clans of half the tribe of Manasseh.
62 The descendants of Gershon, clan by clan, were allotted thirteen towns from the tribes of Issachar, Asher and Naphtali, and from the part of the tribe of Manasseh that is in Bashan.
63 The descendants of Merari, clan by clan, were allotted twelve towns from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Zebulun.
64 So the Israelites gave the Levites these towns and their pasturelands. 65 From the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin they allotted the previously named towns.
66 Some of the Kohathite clans were given as their territory towns from the tribe of Ephraim.
67 In the hill country of Ephraim they were given Shechem (a city of refuge), and Gezer, 68 Jokmeam, Beth Horon, 69 Aijalon and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands.
70 And from half the tribe of Manasseh the Israelites gave Aner and Bileam, together with their pasturelands, to the rest of the Kohathite clans.

71 The Gershonites received the following:
From the clan of the half-tribe of Manasseh
they received Golan in Bashan and also Ashtaroth, together with their pasturelands;
72 from the tribe of Issachar
they received Kedesh, Daberath, 73 Ramoth and Anem, together with their pasturelands;
74 from the tribe of Asher
they received Mashal, Abdon, 75 Hukok and Rehob, together with their pasturelands;
76 and from the tribe of Naphtali
they received Kedesh in Galilee, Hammon and Kiriathaim, together with their pasturelands.

77 The Merarites (the rest of the Levites) received the following:
From the tribe of Zebulun
they received Jokneam, Kartah, Rimmono and Tabor, together with their pasturelands;
78 from the tribe of Reuben across the Jordan east of Jericho
they received Bezer in the wilderness, Jahzah, 79 Kedemoth and Mephaath, together with their pasturelands;
80 and from the tribe of Gad
they received Ramoth in Gilead, Mahanaim, 81 Heshbon and Jazer, together with their pasturelands.

Commentary

Understand the sacrifices in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, the priests were the mediators between God and the people. ‘Aaron and his sons offered the sacrifices on the Altar... They made atonement for Israel’ (v.49, MSG).

Priesthood was hereditary. The priests were descendants of Levi. The chronicler lists the ‘sons of Levi’ (vv.1,16,46). We see that all those who served in the tabernacle (later to become the temple) were regarded as being ‘of Levitical descent’ (vv.1–30).

The chronicler stresses the importance of the temple. The temple was a place of worship where God’s spirit dwelt. David put some of the Levites in charge of the music in the house of the Lord – ‘These are the persons David appointed to lead the singing in the house of God... They were the ministers of music in the place of worship’ (vv.31–32, MSG).

Other Levites were required to present sacrifices on the altar – ‘making atonement’ (v.49). As we saw earlier, a simplified definition of atonement is ‘at-one-ment’. In other words, God providing a means through which people can be at one with him.

This was the pattern throughout the Old Testament. The need for sacrifice and the making of atonement prefigured the final, complete and sufficient sacrifice of Jesus. Such passages remind us of how amazing it is that sacrifices for sin are no longer necessary because of the one true and perfect sacrifice of Jesus.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that all that is required of us today is a response to your sacrifice; to offer you the sacrifices of praise, of our bodies, of doing good and sharing with others. Thank you that with such sacrifices you are pleased. I pray that you would pour out your Spirit on our sacrifices.

Pippa adds

Romans 12:21

'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’

Doing good is the most powerful way to stop evil spreading.

Verse of the Day

Romans 12:21

‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’.
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References

Jago Wynne, Working Without Wilting (IVP, 2009).

The New Testament in Modern English by J.B Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J. B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by Permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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