Last week, I learned that sacrifice involves personal cost. Not just financial but an emotional cost as well.
In Exodus 12, God gave instructions on preparing for the Passover. On the tenth day of the first month, each household selected a year-old male lamb that was without blemish. But they didn’t sacrifice it immediately. For four days, they kept it, took care of it. They would separate it from the flock, treat it with special care, even take it into the house for safekeeping. Four days isn’t long, but if you take responsibility for the well-being of any living thing for that amount of time, you’re bound to feel some attachment.
Sacrifice is meant to be painful, not just physically or financially but emotionally. It served as a barometer of Israel’s relationship with God, and was closely tied to obedience.
That’s another heavy word—obedience. The two are contrasted in 1 Samuel 15 when God instructed Saul, through Samuel, to completely destroy the Amalekites. Saul was to put to death their king, every man, woman, child and infant, and every animal that belonged to the Amalekites. Nothing was to be spared.
But Saul had a better idea. Wouldn’t it be fun to parade their king around? What a way to humiliate him and inspire Israel with our victory! And why waste these perfectly good animals? We can sacrifice them to God to praise him for giving us the victory.
Except those animals didn’t cost him anything. No matter how Saul tried to justify his actions and rationalize his reasons, Samuel let him know that God was not impressed. In verse 22, he asks, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
David understood this after being confronted with his own sin of adultery and murder. In his confession in Psalm 51, he says, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Maybe that’s why God made sacrifice painful. He was after that heart issue. The things that affect us most are things we connect with on an emotional level. If our hearts are willing to hurt for Him, most likely our actions will reflect His will. More than that, we’ll connect with God in a meaningful relationship. He’s not interested in broken, bleeding animals. It’s my broken, bleeding heart He wants.
What has broken your heart to bring you closer to the Lord?