What Is a Sacrifice?

by Jefferson David Tant

Have you ever given serious thought to what it means to sacrifice something? We are familiar with the Old Testament ritual of the animal sacrifices that were required. OK, so a sheep or a cow was sacrificed. But have you read the accounts of the multiple sacrifices that were offered on occasion? Consider II Chronicles 30:23-25 as the observance of the Passover was reinstituted after not being observed for some years.

“Then the whole assembly decided to celebrate the feast another seven days, so they celebrated the seven days with joy. For Hezekiah king of Judah had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep, and the princes had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep; and a large number of priests consecrated themselves. All the assembly of Judah rejoiced, with the priests and the Levites and all the assembly that came from Israel, both the sojourners who came from the land of Israel and those living in Judah.”

Did you count them? That’s 19,000 animals! Can you even begin to imagine the time and effort to slaughter that many animals? Then what about the blood, the flies, the stench? And what a mess to have to clean up after the offerings were made.

19,000 animals. Where did they come from? They were gifts from the people. This very likely would have been a part of their livelihood. It cost them something. Aren’t we thankful that we don’t have to engage in this activity today?

But what is the meaning of “sacrifice?” One source says, “an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially: the killing of a victim on an altar.” Isn’t this exactly what Christ did for us? He literally offered up something precious — his life. He was killed on the altar of the cross. Why? Because he loved you. He loved me. And he wanted to spare us from the fires of eternal hell.

We have so much to be thankful for.

  1. Thankful that we don’t have to go through these animal sacrifices week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, etc.
  2. Thankful that Christ erased all that by offering himself as the perfect sacrifice when he allowed himself to be tortured in a cruel death.
  3. Thankful that Christ has opened the door to heaven for us through his sacrifice.
  4. Thankful that God has given us instructions in his revealed word, the Bible, as to how we might one day hear the words Christ used in one of his parables: “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

So, how do we express our thanksgiving for what God has done for us in forming a plan for our salvation, for what Christ has done in offering himself as a sacrifice for us, and for what the Holy Spirit has done in revealing all of this through the Scriptures? Paul expressed it well in his letter to the church in Rome. “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Please consider the fact that this is not a “go to church on Sunday” way of living. It is living daily for the Lord. Can you imagine an employee just showing up on payday, expecting to receive his wages?

But there is a special day set aside for us to be reminded of what God has done for us, and how thankful we should be. That is the first day of the week, when we are told to come together to worship God, to encourage one another, and to partake of the Lord’s Supper. We know that the Lord’s Supper was a weekly observance in the early church. On that day we reflect on the excruciatingly painful sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross, and give some thought to the question, “Is my life a living sacrifice for him?” Paul expressed some thoughts about the Lord’s Supper in I Corinthians 11:23-26: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.

Not just on Sunday, but do we live for him every day? That’s the least we can do in return for the sacrifice he made for us.

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