Imagine waking up every morning, trudging out to your backyard, and building a fire to offer a burnt sacrifice on a stone altar placed there.
You head back out again later in the day when you choose self over others, and again after that unkind thought, and again after snapping at a loved one. In and out of the house, offering sacrifices for sins committed throughout the day – it’s an exercise in futility.
Today we would call such behavior crazy, wouldn’t we?
Of course we would because we no longer offer burnt sacrifices like the Israelites did in the Old Testament …or do we?
Earlier this week, I read these words:
Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; Heb. 10:11
“Daily,” the priests stood at their posts; “time after time” they offered the “same” sacrifices for the same sins. Such repetition calls attention to the never-ending nature of their tasks.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains that at the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, the Jewish Christians continued to offer sacrifices at the temple.
For those who believed in Christ and His resurrection, such offerings should have been rendered meaningless by His atonement as the final sacrifice.
So, why were they still trudging back and forth to the altar of sacrifice, so to speak?
They knew of the gospel, the good news that abolished the old system and established a new covenant built on the cornerstone of Grace, but they struggled to let go of their old ways.
At first glance, I was tempted to think, how silly of them – they’re doing so much work and it’s all meaningless!
But lately the Lord has been opening my eyes to an alarming truth: I sometimes offer my own daily sacrifices, often without even realizing it.
Just think about it for a moment.
This is what we like to do, friends. We wake up in the morning thinking we’ll do His work today. We’ll be the best mom, wife, aunt, sister, friend, child, Christian we can be. We even have this list of good things to do in mind.
And we offer these things up to Him as our very own sacrifices, sometimes without even realizing what we’re doing.
Okay, Lord, I’ve accomplished all of those things on the list. Here ya go. Are we good now? I can go about the rest of my day as I please, right? Or maybe, I’ve tried really hard today. You’re pleased with me now, right?
I pile the sacrifices of good behavior up in a nice neat pile on my altar, thinking I’m all good to go. Except I’m not because while I was busy checking off my good-Christian-girl-things-to-do list, I withheld the very thing He wanted most, myself.
Look at what Jesus says about such sacrifices in Hebrews 10:5-7:
“Sacrifice and offering You have not desired,
But a body You have prepared for Me;
In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come…
To do Your will, O God.’”
Here Jesus reveals that God the Father takes no pleasure in burnt offerings. Instead Jesus offers something else – His very being – so that He might do the will of the Lord.
The same is true of us, co-heirs with Christ. The Father doesn’t desire our sacrifices in the first place. He desires our hearts, our very beings.
What the Lord desires is so much less about doing than we like to make it, and so much more about being than we like to offer.
Don’t get me wrong, friends. We should be loving others, choosing joy, offering praise, living in the Spirit. But if any of those good things are done out of a sense of obligation, duty, or an attempt to earn His favor, then they are pointless.
We might as well build altars in our backyards and start burning animals.
We cannot offer doing on the sacrificial altar at the expense of being.
When we do, we get the horse before the cart, for no good thing can come from us on our own. Good works only come from the overflow of a heart that lingers in His presence! We must constantly choose “being” in Him, abiding moment by moment, day by day..
Doing never leads to being, but being always leads to doing.
It’s all about embracing that personal relationship with our Father God, abiding in Him.
So, ask yourself: what am I offering up to the Lord today?
This section of scripture in Hebrews concludes with the following words:
“And their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more.
Now where there is forgiveness of these things,
there is no longer any offering for sin.”
The truth is that we who are in Christ already have the Lord’s favor.
What the Father desires most then is really very simple and has little to do with how we mother, how we serve at church, how clean our houses are or how happy we make our husbands.
What He desires is you.
What a sweet relief to realize that our falling down at His feet in surrender is enough!
Father, remind us that it’s meaningless to offer undesired sacrifices. Help us to let go of the doing and embrace instead the being. Remind us that if we abide in You, the doing naturally overflows. Help us to rest in the grip of Grace, for Your Son was and is enough. The debt is paid once and for all. Now we are set free.
Set free to just be.