A few years ago, the Lord pressed a new idea onto my heart. And it stays with me. This summer I am teaching a Bible study on it. And, please pray with me, I hope to write an eBook on it. I have said that before. I have so many books in my head, and only the Lord can get them out! Hopefully this is the one. And, since I am writing and teaching about it, it is filling up my mind. So, of course I have to write about it here.
What is an Acceptable Offering to the Lord?
In the Old Testament, God commanded different kinds of offerings, to be offered for different reasons: the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering are detailed in Leviticus 1-7 (click here for more information on each of the offerings if you are interested). In all cases, whatever offering was required, and for whatever reason it was required, the offering was to be the very best.
Even the priests were instructed about their offering: You must present as the LORD’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you (Num. 18:29). Okay, a spotless and blameless offering, the first fruits, the best of the best what more could God want?
- 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 (Psalm 51:16-17).
- With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my first-born for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8).
So obviously, the state of the heart matters most to God. His Word tells us: above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Prov. 4:23). In the New Testament, Jesus indicted the Pharisees for the same problem that had occurred with the Israelites so many years before – people don’t change! They were relying on sacrifices and rituals to honor God rather than truly honoring Him with their lives, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness (Matt 23:27).
Jesus did approve of one person’s sacrifice though. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus saw that, in her heart, this woman honored God and gave to Him, what would have been very precious to her, even though it did not look like much to most people.
Of course, these days we still bring our financial offerings, even as the poor widow did. But since Jesus brought the New Covenant and He was the ultimate sacrifice, believers are not required to make burnt offerings, to offer sin sacrifices…or are we? God asks us to lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us (Heb. 12:1) and that we lay aside the old self (Eph 4:22). True, these are not burnt offerings. And in the literal sense, they are not sacrifices. Some would say we are definitely not sacrificing when we lay aside sin, which is bad for us, but I disagree. More on that tomorrow!