Several years ago, while struggling with a couple of issues, I imagined sacrificing them to the Lord as a way of ridding myself of them. One was a deeply held desire that I feared would never be fulfilled. Another was a secret sin habit I needed to purge from my life. In each case, I mentally pictured laying them on an altar, surrendering them in sacrifice to the Lord.
As I meditate on the word sacrifice, I realize I’ve always thought of it as payment for sin, like Jesus’ death on the cross paying the penalty for our sins. But I wondered–could a sin itself be offered as a sacrifice? Was that even appropriate?
The Old Testament mentions two sacrifices dealing with sin. The guilt and sin sacrifices were required whenever one committed an unintentional sin, or became ceremonially defiled such as through childbirth or leprosy. They also covered a civil offense against a neighbor or a crime of passion.
The Peace offering expressed thanks, accompanied a vow, or was given as a free will offering. The fat of the animal was burned; the meat was shared in a feast with family, friends and the priests. It symbolized peace between those who participated in the feast and between the worshipper and God.
The Burnt offering was performed as an act of worship or consecration. Unlike the other sacrifices, this sacrifice was burned in its entirety. No portions were left for the priests; no part of the animal was taken outside the camp or the city and left there to burn. This was the sacrifice Abraham intended for Isaac (Genesis 22). It’s also the sacrifice mentioned in Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).
Laying a habit of sin on the altar as a sacrifice may not be entirely kosher, but it was an act of worship. I was telling God that He was more important to me than this sin. I desired to please Him more than the sin I’d clung to for so long, and more than the desire that made my heart ache. I desired to please Him, to serve Him above all else. No matter the cost. No matter the pain.
My word for this year is sacrifice. It scares me to think what might be in store. But then I’m focusing on the cost, the pain.
I need to lift my eyes and focus on the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for me. The One who deserves my worship, my sacrifice, my offering–whatever He asks of me.