SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS
Increasing Our Understanding
By Sherry Bach
What was the purpose of sacrifices and offerings in the Old Testament and why would it be beneficial for us to understand that purpose today?
Let us first define some terms:
Sacrifice – noun - A giving up, foregoing of some valued thing for the sake of something of greater value
Old Testament purpose: made for the purpose of expiation: the removal of guilt.
Expiation: noun meaning the act of atoning for a crime; the act of making amends for wrongdoing or guilt; atonement.
- So through the means of sacrifice there was an understanding that one could obtain a cleansing, a forgiveness for sins and therefore stop feeling guilty for sin
Offering – noun – Something specifically given as a gift or contribution
Old Testament purpose: given for the purpose of propitiation: obtaining God’s favor
Propitiate: v.t. to cause to become favorably inclined; to win or regain the good will of
- So through the means of offering following sacrifice, there was an understanding that one could come back into the good will of God, without guilt, to regain God’s favor and restore the previous state before sin, before the sacrifice was needed
Note: One cannot “regain” something that has not been “obtained” in the first place
Just a side thought: In looking at these terms and their definitions and the fact that offering always followed sacrifice, when we wrong someone, do we immediately go for the offering? Do we immediately try to get back into someone’s good favor by selfishly bypassing the sacrifice of humbling ourselves, admitting our wrongdoing, and asking for forgiveness, having crucified our pride and self-centeredness for the hope of something of greater value: a treasured friendship perhaps or peace within our homes, or do we just beg to get back into that person’s good favor in a way that costs us nothing?
Before we move on to look at some Old Testament scriptures referring to sacrifices and offerings we must first be confident that although we are no longer under the law, it was given to us for a purpose and can be helpful in our spiritual growth now.
What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the scripture has confined all under sin that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our “tutor” to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come we are no longer under a “tutor”.
Tutor – noun – A private teacher.
It is interesting to note that in some American universities and colleges a tutor is thought of as ranking below an instructor. Was not Christ’s teachings thought of by some to be below the teachings of the modern day philosophers of his time or even absurd?
Tutor – v.t. – To instruct, to teach, to train under discipline
If we are no longer under the law, or a “tutor”, why even bother looking at Old Testament scripture? Let me address it this way:
When you have a child, you spend time teaching, loving and disciplining that child (hopefully). After eighteen years that child is able to leave you and go out into the world on its own with the gift of freewill making decisions about how to live without you by their side. No longer do you tag along behind the child reminding them to brush their teeth, pick up their toys, get up for school, eat, and go to bed. No longer do you teach them how to play baseball, soccer or football, or how to eat properly, or how to have self control. We were in a sense that child’s “tutor” for eighteen years but there comes a time that they no longer need to have us function as their tutor and we relinquish that role. However, that child still has eighteen years of our tutoring or lack thereof in their heads and their hearts. They may leave home, but our tutoring is still with them. This is how it should be with us regarding the Old Testament. If you have never read it I urge you to do so. You will never know the fullness of your “tutor” (Christ) without reading it.
Now let’s look at a couple Old Testament scriptures referring to sacrifices and offerings to get a better understanding before we move on. Remember our purpose of exploring this subject is to find out what the “tutor” has to teach us for our present day lives regarding sacrifices and offerings, which will increase our spiritual knowledge leading to a deeper understanding of Christ.
Gen 22.2 Then He said, take now your son, your only son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.
Remember that a sacrifice is “a giving up of some valued thing for the hope of something greater.” Abraham loved Isaac but had hope of greater things if he obeyed God’s command.
If Abraham had not obeyed God’s command to put Isaac up on the alter, do you think God’s grace would have been enough to cover Abraham’s sin of disobedience? Do you think Abraham understood why God was telling him to put Isaac up on the alter and perhaps that was why he obeyed so readily? If God tells us to do, or not do, something, should our obedience to his command be contingent upon our agreement or disagreement with what he says? Do you truly believe that God is sovereign?
Abraham staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief but was strong in faith giving glory to God and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. Therefore it was imputed to him as righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him as righteousness but for us also to whom it shall be imputed if we believe on Him who raised Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification.
Note: Deut. 13.3 The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Do you keep this in mind everyday 24/7? Have you ever thought that maybe God has allowed you to be in a situation where you had the option of obeying Him or not, just to test your faith? He says that if we love Him, we’ll obey Him and tests us to find out whether we love him with all our heart. God’s command to Abraham was a test. There is more than enough grace to cover our sins when we fail those tests; however, Abraham passed the test faithfully. How has God tested your faith lately?
I Chron. 21.25 Then King David said to Ornan, No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing. So David gave Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place.
The “No” in verse 24 refers to David’s answer to Ornan who offered him something for nothing, the easy way, which would NOT have been considered a sacrifice on David’s part but just an acceptance of an offer.
Note: If we do not make a sacrifice that costs us, is it possible that it does not take care of, or pay fully for, the guilt that comes from sin? Is that the reason David rejected such an offer? The word of God says that when we accept God’s costly sacrifice of Christ, which was full payment once and for all, we can come before him with a clean conscience, no more guilt.
Did you ever wonder why David was referred to as a man after God’s own heart? When you read scriptures like this, you realize David had a clear and complete understanding of who his God was and what God wanted from him.
David was a type of bridge heading over into the time when physical sacrifice would no longer be commanded in the same way as OT times, as the law gave way to grace, and he understood God’s heart on the matter as shown in Psalms 51.
Psalms 51.16-17 For you do not desire sacrifice or else I would give it, you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, These O God, You will not despise.
The full sacrifice of Christ had not yet been finished and therefore while David understood the heart of God, sacrifices and offerings were still demanded of him.
Note: God’s pleasure is not in the sacrifice but in the restored person. He demanded sacrifices even from David but His pleasure is in the person who comes obediently to Him. To obey is better than sacrifice.
I Chron 21.25-27 So David gave Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place. And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering. So the Lord commanded the angel and he returned his sword to its sheath.
What has transpired here with this sacrifice and offering account?
1.) David rejected an offer that would NOT have been considered a sacrifice.
2.) David paid a sacrificing price for valuable property that cost him.
3.) David called on the name of the Lord.
4.) God returned/restored something that had been lost.
Isaiah 53.10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
God commanded men to make sacrifices and offerings…but He did not command something of us that He wasn’t willing to do Himself as shown in God’s sacrifice of His only son (in death) and His offering (by his resurrection) on our behalf.
Romans 4.25 who was delivered up because of our offenses and was raised because of our justification.
In Gen 8.20 we find an account of sacrificial worship when …”Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma.
What is the significance of “…the Lord smelled a soothing aroma” and its connection to this study on sacrifices and offerings?
Lev. 6.9-10 …the burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning and the fire must be kept burning on the altar.
Lev. 6.12-13 The fire on the altar must be kept burning, it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously, it must not go out.
Who is a priest today? Rev. 1.5-6 …To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us (those who are washed in the blood) kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.
It is after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and after the rebuilding of the temple in Daniel that animal sacrifices and offerings are no longer performed. The veil has been torn from top to bottom exposing the Most Holy Of Holies, which was representative of our hearts, where God now dwells for those who believe and accept Him. The Most Holy Of Holies is where the incense, sweet smelling aroma to God came from. We know that the Old Testament was always foreshadowing things to come. Where should the soothing aroma come from now?
Eph 5.2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma. Note: Offerings and sacrifices are a sweet smelling aroma to God.
Phil 4.18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. Note: When we give to those who are in need, it is a sweet smelling aroma to God.
II Cor 2.14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. Note: The knowledge of God holds with it a fragrance.
Did you know you have a fragrance? It is either the smell of death or the sweet smelling aroma of life.
Metaphor used by Paul – Roman triumphal procession – When a Roman general was victorious in a war, he led his army and the captives in a parade down the main street.
In the Roman procession, priests carrying censers filled with incense followed the conqueror. The “aroma” of the event represented victorious life to the soldiers and slavery or death to the captives. Paul the priest set forth the fragrance of Christ by preaching the gospel and was a sweet smell to God for doing so. God is the General who has conquered. Paul is one of His officers following in His train.
The leader in a Roman procession was followed by priests (dispensing incense), officers, soldiers and captives.
I Thes 5.17 Pray without ceasing.
Acts 10.4 …Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.
Rev. 5.8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Sacrifices and offerings are still present today however, they are performed in different ways.
1. Our prayers are considered incense, a sweet smelling aroma to God. How many will you have in the bowl? When you pray is it at dinner and does it last more than ten seconds? Did you ever set the timer and try to pray (talk out loud to God) for five minutes straight? Out of the 24 hours we are given each day, how much of that time is spent in prayer? And would it not be considered a sacrifice of our time and energy praying to our God instead of doing something else?
2. Our confession of sin is a type of sacrifice and a sweet smelling aroma to God. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is a sacrifice of pride and self to humbly admit our sin. Because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, once and for all, He is the burnt offering on the altar and the fire never goes out! The sweet smelling aroma of the sacrifice of Christ cannot be used up. It is there for us whenever we need to access His sacrifice and offering so that we can be cleansed of our sin and no longer feel guilty for it, coming back into the good favor of God because Christ took on the sins and guilt of the world on our behalf.
3. Giving of our resources to those who are in need is a type of sacrifice and a sweet smelling aroma to God.
4. The time that it takes to assemble once a week with other spiritually minded people for the sake of encouraging them and/or growing in your understanding of scripture, cost you time and energy and is a sacrifice; a sweet smelling aroma to God.
Let us remember that our hearts represent the Most Holy Of Holies, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and act accordingly, generating incense, a sweet smelling aroma, to our God, in word, in thought and in deed, praising him for his grace when we fall short.