If you’ve ever read through the Old Testament, you’re a rock star! The first several books can be tough to read. Especially the books that go on and on about all of the laws the Israelites must follow. There are chapters upon chapters of what needs to be sacrificed, how it needs to be sacrificed, who can eat parts of the sacrifices, what sins they atone for and so on.
The idea of sacrifice is all over the Bible be it animals sacrifices, tithing, giving up the desires of the flesh. Sacrifice is a huge part of being closer to God.
There are several stories in the Old Testament that really make you scratch your head and wonder what the heck was going on. There were weird visions, walls falling down just from people shouting, super human strength from uncut hair. But one that stands out to me today happens pretty early in the story. Genesis 22 tells us about Abraham and Isaac taking some father son bonding time, sort of.
Abraham and Sarah had to wait until the were very old to have a child together, Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. You can imagine how important this child was to them. They had been married a long time and had lived full lives, but had never been able to have a child. God promised Abraham that He would give him a son, and Sarah laughed at the thought of an old lady getting pregnant and giving birth. But that’s exactly what happened.
Then we get to this story. God tells Abraham to take his son to a mountain in Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering. Being ever faithful to God, Abraham gets up early the next day and prepares for the journey, splitting wood and saddling up his donkey. He brought a couple of servants and had them wait for him while he and Isaac went to the place God had told him to go. He had Isaac carry the wood while he carried the knife and the fire.
Then Isaac asked an important question. “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7). I can almost imagine the look of confusion on his face. They are going up a mountain to offer a life for a sacrifice to God, but it’s only him and dad, no animals.
Abraham’s reply is a great foreshadowing of what’s to come much later in the Bible, a prophecy that repeats many more times in different variations. “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Gen. 22:8) We don’t know it at this point in the story, but God himself will provide the offering to those faithful enough to follow Him, through Jesus.
So as Abraham is getting ready to slaughter Isaac for the sacrifice, an angel of the Lord appears and stops him! After telling him not to harm Isaac, Abraham looks and sees a ram caught in the thicket and offers it as the burnt offering to God instead of Isaac.
After many more prophecies about a Messiah coming to save the people of Israel, the New Testament begins. This is where we get to see that God comes down in human form and lives among us as Jesus. He spends approximately 33 years here on the earth, the last few spent teaching people and sharing The Good News. He heals a multitude of people. He raised 2 people from the dead. He drove demons out of many. He fed thousands with almost no food. God sent His son here for us!
At the end of Jesus’ time on earth, He lays down His life as the ultimate sacrifice. He followed God each and every day and knew no sin. He was the perfect lamb that was required for the final sacrifice to God to forgive our sins once and for all. He willingly gave His life so that we could be saved from the bondage of sin that kept us from being able to be in God’s presence.
Up until this time, God’s presence dwelt in a room inside of the Temple. It was called the Holy of Holies or sometimes the Most Holy Place. Only the high priest was allowed to enter this room and only after a long and complicated ceremonial cleansing. If the priest wasn’t completely cleansed when he entered the room, he would die. They would actually tie a rope around him just in case he died and had to be removed.
But on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, God tore the veil to the Holy of Holies!! Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could have life and have it in abundance. Because of His death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit could enter each person and God could dwell in each of us instead of in a room that no one can enter. We can know God on a much deeper level because of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. We can have God with us, as individuals, 24/7!
It’s this Spirit that completes the Holy Trinity. The Spirit lives in us and allows a close connection to God. When we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit prays for us. When our hearts need to be changed, God uses the Spirit to change it. The apostles were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues, languages that none of them knew. The Spirit fills us with the strength that we need to follow God and His plans for us and our lives.
That day on Golgotha, the enemy thought that he had won. He spent years trying to destroy Jesus. With Herod, the enemy used him to murder children in the hopes that Jesus would die. In the desert, he tempted Jesus hoping to make Him fail. During His ministry, he used the religious leaders to kill Him. He had finally won and defeated God’s son. But Satan didn’t realize that Jesus was the perfect lamb and had given His life willingly for each of us and on the 3rd day HE ROSE FROM THE GRAVE!!! Victorious, defeating death itself, King Jesus had saved us and given all of us the path to follow to get to God!
His sacrifice was the final life that God required be taken. We have been called to make sacrifices, though nothing as major as slaughtering an animal or going to the cross to die an excruciating death. We have been called to take up our cross and follow King Jesus! That will look a bit different for each person, but basically, we have to give up our old behaviors and thoughts and live to be more like Jesus. Live our lives to be servants to God and to our neighbors. We have to sacrifice some of our desires (some God places in us for good, not all desires are a bad thing), we have to sacrifice some of our time and money (tithing, serving others in ministry/missions) and we have to give up our selfishness and live a life devoted to pleasing God, not thinking that God should be pleasing us.