Acceptable Sacrifice 

 

- The ecclesia of Israel failed miserably in this. They did spiritual works externally, but within they lacked that deeper spirituality which is so vital for acceptable sacrifice. They honoured with their lips, but their heart was far from God; they kept His commandments, but they frustrated their intention by not letting them influence their essential selves (Mk. 7:6-9). They fiercely guarded the pronunciation of His Covenant Name; but in reality, they forgot that Name (Jer. 23:27). And so with the temple; they so loved it, it was the apple of their eye; but in real principle, they desecrated all that it stood for. The Gentile destruction and desecration of it was only a material reflection of what they in principle had done; and the invasions were doubtless intended to teach Israel this. Stephen pointed out, by the inflection which he gave to his OT quotations, that Israel's service of God was meaningless because at the same time they worshipped their idols: " O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch" as well as Yahweh's (Acts 7:43). This was a rhetorical question. They offered the sacrifices, but actually they didn't. And what is the difference between " slain beasts" and " sacrifices" ? Aren't sacrifices only slain beasts? The point is that the animals they gave were only slain beasts; nothing more, not real offerings, not real, acceptable sacrifice. " They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the Lord accepteth it not" (Hos. 8:13). And likewise we can dress up our devotions with the appearance of real sacrifice when there is nothing there at all. Like Peter, we can seem to desire to enter deep into the meaning of the cross (Jn. 13:36 'where are you going?'), when actually we do nothing of the sort (Jn. 16:5 'none of you ask me where I'm going'). We can ‘sacrifice’ only in ways which happen to reinforce our own personality type. The Jews in Babylon were like this: “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me…? And when ye did eat and when ye did drink [in sacrifice] did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?” (Zech. 7:5,6). I cannot help but make the point that there has been such a huge emphasis on 'coming to the meetings' and 'attending the breaking of bread' in themselves, that the new Israel are in danger of going where the old Israel went: to an external observance of ritual, a concentration on the surface level rather than on the essence. There are many who find it hard to mix with their brethren, and yet intensely believe and express their spirituality in more private ways. Their attendance at public functions may be minimal. But let's not write these off as spiritually inferior to those who, perhaps for social reasons, if the truth was known, revel in the social ambience of a Christian gathering.

- And let us all be especially careful of our attitude to the memorial meeting. The Corinthians went through the motions of the breaking of bread; but they were told that in spiritual reality, they weren't doing it at all: " When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper" (1 Cor. 11:20)- although externally, that was what they were doing. They drunk the cup of the Lord and also that of idols (10;21)- but in reality, they didn’t drink the Lord’s exclusive cup of grace. Israel kept their Passovers throughout the wilderness years, one would assume- but they never remembered the day that God brought them out of Egypt (Ps. 78:42)- although notice how although Israel didn't remember God, yet He remembered them in His grace (Ps. 106:7, 45). We can read of the cross, speak of it; and yet totally fail to realize the powerful imperatives which abound in its’ message. Andrew and John heard John the Baptist call Jesus the “lamb of God”, and followed Him, in apparent acceptance that He was the Messianic sacrifice. And yet in reality, they could not at that time accept the saying that Jesus was to die at Jerusalem in sacrifice, and that they were to shoulder His cross and follow Him there.

- Paul exhorted the Corinthians to give money to the Jerusalem Poor Fund, “as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness” (2 Cor. 9:5). We can give money generously, apparently, but do so from a motive of covetousness- the very opposite of true generosity and acceptable sacrifice. We can covet respect, admiration from our brethren...and not give as a pure and private reflection of the endless grace we have received.

- In a Levitical family, any male child was dedicated to the Lord from birth. But Hannah vowed that if God would “give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:11). She was saying: ‘I’ll really do it, I won’t just offer my children to You on a surface level’.

- The sensation of working for the Lord can be so self-deceptive. He draws the difference between doing many wonderful works in His name, saying “Lord, Lord”; and really doing the will of the Father (Mt. 7:21,22). The parallel Lk. 6:46 has that men will say “Lord, Lord” but not really hear His words. To hear them is to do the will of the Father. Putting all this together, it is perfectly possible to bear His Name, call Him Lord, work hard for Him- and yet never really hear His words, and thereby never really know the will of our Father.

- One can appear to be zealous for their Lord, risking life even. And yet this may not necessarily be truly motivated, self-sacrificial zeal. At times one can’t tell their courage from their desperation, their faith from their deep inner fears which motivate bold and unusual actions.

- Israel were not to grow some crops, or raise some animals, just for God, and others for themselves. They were not to make this difference. They were to give Him e.g. lambs "out of their flock"; and "let the fullness of the fruit be consecrated" (Dt. 22:9 RVmg.), the idea being that they were to consecrate their personal fruit to God, not enforcing a difference between that which is for God and that which is for ourselves. In other words, they were not to make a difference between spiritual and personal life; it is us, our daily lives and situations, which God wishes to be part of.