ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE

What does God want from us? He never asked for animal sacrifice and He never will. However, God has told us plainly what He does require in the way of what we should sacrifice.

God never ordered or required animal sacrifice.

NOTE: For a video of this message, click here.
NOTE: For a podcast of this message, click here.

The scripture passage from the prophet Isaiah 1:10-20 has a number of interesting concepts presented in those few verses.

Isaiah is the first of the major prophets.

I say major, because the prophetic books of the OT are divided into two groups known as major and minor.

Major and minor have nothing to do with the quality of their prophecies, but rather the length of the prophecy.

Isaiah is the longest of the prophets with 66 chapters.

We are familiar with much of Isaiah’s prophecies because he made numerous predictions concerning the messiah whom we know to be Jesus.

However, in this section there is no prophecy about Jesus.

But there are some interesting things we should take note of for our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

The first note of significance is that Isaiah speaks to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
Isa 1:10

I was under the impression that these two cities were destroyed back in the days of Abraham, which was 1300 years before Isaiah prophesied.

Those two cities were never rebuilt. Some scholars believe they are buried beneath the Dead Sea, but archeologists have yet to uncover them.

This is one of those places where trying to take the Bible literally would be a grave mistake, because Sodom and Gomorrah were not in existence at the time.

He could not possibly be prophesying against those who no longer were alive.

So, what is Isaiah saying here?

We’ve all done this at one time or another—using a derogatory slur when referring to someone with whom we were unhappy.

That is what Isaiah did here by calling Israel Sodom. They had become a disgusting people and he likened them to the cities that had been destroyed due to their repulsive behavior.

The main thing to notice in this entire passage though is what he says about sacrifice, which makes up the heart of the passage from vss. 11-14

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
Isa 1:11-14

On the surface it appears that God does not want these sacrifices; but we must read the context of the passage to get the full intent.

God is not pleased with sacrifices offered by those who do not really have an ongoing relationship with Him.

We see that plainly in v. 13

I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.

One or the other, He says. Quit playing the hypocrite.

Either live properly or don’t bother trying to fulfill your religion.

Didn’t Jesus say much the same thing as He concluded the Sermon on the Mount?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Mat 7:21-23

They had done many supposedly religious things, but Jesus called those things sin, because they were not in relationship with Him.

What we can learn at this point is that without an ongoing living relationship with the Lord, any and all of our religious behavior is worthless.

Going to church, reading the Bible, giving to the poor, even our prayers in no way help secure a place in heaven if we do not know the Lord.

However, there is something more about sacrifices that Isaiah didn’t mention in this passage or anywhere else in his prophecy.

Sacrifices of the burnt flesh of bulls and goats was not what the Lord required.

Those were things that Moses set out as a part of worship for the Jews when they left Egypt, but they were only symbolic of what God really wanted.

For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt,
I did not speak to your fathers
or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Jer 7:22

That is probably shocking to many who hear this for the first time.

Didn’t we read in Exodus and Leviticus about all the thing the Jews were supposed to do in their worship of God.

Yes. We did.

However there is a point that we have been oblivious to over the years.

“If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision,
so that the law of Moses may not be broken,
are you angry with me because on the Sabbath
I made a man’s whole body well?”
Jhn 7:23

Jesus called it the law of Moses, not God’s law.

The phrase “Law of Moses” is used 22 times in the Bible. Eight of those are in the NT, used by Luke, Jesus, Paul and the writer of Hebrews.

It was the law of Moses, not the law of God.

This is important to understand in our consideration of what the Lord desires in the way of sacrifice.

In fact, Jesus said that it was important for us to understand.

Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mat 9:13

Jesus said this to the Pharisees after they had criticized Jesus to His disciples for eating with tax collectors and sinners.

We know that the Pharisees prided themselves on their absolute strict obedience to the letter of the law.

Jesus destroys this concept with one simple statement by saying they did not understand what the law of Moses meant.

Long before Jesus came, there was already an understanding developing among God’s people about true sacrifice.

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
Psa 40:6

This is King David speaking, a man after God’s own heart.

He had gained an understanding of what all the physical stuff of their religion was about.

He realized that God was after much more than burnt animal flesh.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psa 51:16-17

And then we find Hosea saying

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hos 6:6

I do not know how it could be made any plainer for us.

These passages say it rather clearly that God was and is not interested in any kind of animal sacrifice.

Not now.
Not then.
Not ever.

There are plenty more verses which say this same thing.

I will just give a couple more from the NT

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
Heb 10:5-6

And to love him with all the heart
and with all the understanding
and with all the strength,
and to love one’s neighbor as oneself,
is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Mar 12:33

All these tell us is what God does NOT want.

They do not give us much of a clue as to what we are to do instead.

We are not left to our own devices in this area, however, for there are places where we are told the kind of sacrifice God does want.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God,
that is,
the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Heb 13:15

Praise is a sacrifice that is pleasing to God.

Many people will say something to the effect that “If it doesn’t hurt, then it is not a sacrifice.”

That is purely western thinking coming from an incorrect understanding taught by those trying to get into your money bag.

They will tell you to give until it hurts.

That is not a sacrifice that God desires, and we can see that plainly here in this verse.

A sacrifice is simply something you offer to God.

That’s all. That’s it.

And the writer of Hebrews tells us here that the fruit of our lips giving praise to God is a sacrifice, an offering with which God is pleased.

There are two other places in the NT where we are told what kind of sacrifice pleases God.

Each of them are different, but neither involve killing an animal or digging deep into your bank account.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God,
which is your spiritual worship.
Rom 12:1

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Heb 13:16

Finally, there is a famous verse from one of the prophets which sums it all up with a directive that anyone can understand.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Mic 6:8

This is all the Lord requires of us.

Anything else is man-made dogma amounting to less than a hill of beans.

The two great commandments are still the only thing we need to understand— love God and love your neighbor.

When we have these perfected, there is nothing more that can be done.

If you have not yet arrived at perfection in the realm of love, then make that your practice this week.

Go show love to someone. Anyone. Someone you know. Someone you don’t like. Someone you don’t know.

Ask the Lord for an opportunity to put love into practice.

WHAT DOES GOD THINK?

What does God think of you and what you do?
Are you constantly looking over your shoulder to see if you are about to be struck by a lightning bolt?
In this brief encouraging message, you will discover something that many people are afraid to believe.
I hope you will find something here to make you smile from the inside out.

Photo by Charl Durand on Pexels.com

NOTE: For a video of this message, click here.

NOTE: For a podcast of this message, click here.

He’s a real piece o’ work.

Usually, when we say someone is a real piece of work, we are using it in a negative fashion trying to say something about their character.

William Shakespeare used the same phrase in one of his numerous immortal quotes which he lifted from his reading of the Bible, but he was using it to glorify God’s creation.

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.

When King David began to consider the greatness of God and His creation, he was astounded that God would even take notice of man.

When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Psa 8:3-4

Compared to the expanse and beauty of the heavens, how could one little puny individual account for anything?

As he pondered these things, God began to show David just how much He cared for us.

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens,
and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
Psa 8:5-8

David understood our position in the created order of things.

Even though we were the last to be created, we were placed above the rest of God’s natural world.

Notice that he says we are made just a little lower than the angels.

Can you see the difference between King David’s thought and Charles Darwin’s?

David says we are a little lower than the angels, but Darwin says we are a little higher than the apes.

Which comparison would you prefer?

Mankind has been crowned with glory and honor in that humanity has dominion over all other created things of the world.

We find this passage quoted in Hebrews in a different context referring to Jesus.

However, before he gets to Jesus, the writer acknowledges what everyone knows to be the current reality.

Now in putting everything in subjection to him,
he left nothing outside his control.
At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
Heb. 2:8

That is certainly our reality, is it not?

Not everything is subject to us.

While we may understand shark behavior, we are not yet able to control those fearsome creatures.

Out in nature and unprotected, we are at the mercy of the beasts of the field.

We cannot simply tell that bear to lie down and expect it to obey us, because the reality is that not everything is subject to us at this time.

However, we begin to find a glimmer of hope for this situation as we continue with Hebrews—

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels,
namely Jesus,
crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Heb 2:9

From His exalted position with the Father, Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for just a little while.

The writer of Hebrews then goes on through the rest of the letter to show how Jesus is exalted above everything the Jews held dear about their religion and history.

The conclusion of the matter is that we are to look only to Jesus and not to anything else for our salvation.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb 12:2

We are told here that Jesus is the both the author and the finisher of our faith.

What does that mean?

My translation uses the word “founder” instead of author.

Founder can be interpreted as the one who formed the organization, but not necessarily the one who brought you into that organization.

However, when used in conjunction with the word perfector, or finisher of our faith, we are forced to see it in a different light.

Consider the way Paul refers to this aspect of our salvation.

And I am sure of this,
that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Phl 1:6

The good work of salvation was begun in us by an outside force and will be brought to completion by that same outside force—Jesus.

I am not sure I can belabor this point too much or too often.

It is ALL of God’s doing, not ours.

Again, to quote Shakespeare,

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely Players

—(from “As You Like It”)

In this passage of melancholy, Shakespeare brings for the truth that not much is within our control.

We are simply here, coming on the scene, doing our thing, and leaving.

Viewed from a negative mindset, though, this would certainly produce an existential angst; but viewed from a place of understanding God’s love for His creation, it produces a hope that goes beyond what the eye can see.

Let’s continue with God’s working out His will in us.

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
Act 16:14

The Lord opened her heart to hear. If God had not done that, she could not have heard the message with any understanding.

But God, being rich in mercy,
because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ
by grace you have been saved
Eph 2:4-5

We were dead, apart from God. We could not muster up the energy to even ask to be saved, let alone do anything to earn it.

We were made alive from our deadness in order to be able to enjoy a life lived with the Father.

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Tit 3:5

As the TV infomercial says, “Wait!! There’s more!”

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth,
that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Jas 1:18

We’re not done yet! There is still more!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
According to his great mercy,
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:3

I have only begun to show you the many places where this truth is brought out; but we will stop there.

The question before us today is

“What is man that God is mindful of him?”

Out of the magnitude of God’s creation, why should humanity occupy such an exalted place?

What does God think of us?

After all, history shows that by and large we are not very likable creatures.

We constantly want to be better than our neighbor, to get more than they have, to take what they have for ourselves.

Yes, civilized society has put a tourniquet on that blood flow, but it still continues in more subtle forms as well as the outright slaughter of others for the sake of gain.

Loss of life in African countries continues as one group seeks to dominate another.

Just last week a church was attacked and people were put to the machete.

The ability to earn a living is hampered in Muslim countries like Pakistan.

The majority rules and they greatly hinder anyone who is not a Muslim from finding a decent job.

When we look at those kinds of events, we may sometimes wonder if God has any concern at all for us.

However, we cannot look at the situation for others to determine our own condition.

God will rectify those things in His time the same way He did with the early church when Paul so vehemently opposed it.

We can look at the thoughts presented earlier about how the Lord called us out of the darkness into His light.

In that place, we will see what He thinks of us; what He thinks of you.

This is a concept that many struggle with, but God loves you. He loves me.

We may not feel that love the same way we do for our spouse or close friend, but God loves you.

He can do nothing else, because

God is love.
1Jo 4:8

So.

What does God think of you?

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.
He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
Rev 21:2-3

He thinks of you as a bride as she begins the walk down the aisle to meet her bridegroom.

You are beautiful.

You are loved.

Let that thought carry you through the week.

God loves me.