Timeless Lord, when all is said and done, You are the beginning and You are the end. Praise God, my times are in Your hands.
Consider: "I urge you ... in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true ... worship" (Rom. 12:1). The burnt offering has been replaced by the perfect offering, the sacrificial death of Jesus.
Above all, Israel's religious practice was sacrificial. Different sacrifices were offered for different purposes: some voluntary, some compulsory; some regular, some occasional. When Leviticus--Israel's manual for living in both the cult and the world--introduces the sacrifices (1:1--7:38), it starts with the burnt offering. Although voluntary, it became the most frequent sacrifice, and each day began and ended with it being presented on behalf of all Israel.
The burnt offering comes first partly because, unlike other offerings that had more defined purposes, it was a basic expression of worship, both providing atonement for the worshipper (4) and bringing pleasure to God (9,13,17). Moreover, it was an offering anyone could afford. If the worshiper was relatively well off they would bring a sheep or goat; if poor they could bring a young bird. But there's something more. Sacrifices teach spiritual truths in dramatic form. Uniquely, this offering was wholly consumed on the altar by fire. Unlike other sacrifices, nothing was left over to be eaten by priests or people and there was nothing to be thrown away except the ashes. It powerfully reminded Israel that they belonged wholly and exclusively to God and were required to surrender themselves completely to do his will. That's why it takes priority. The animals were a substitute for them and had to be free from blemish because nothing but a perfect substitute was good enough for God.
As times passed, familiarity bred contempt. The psalmists and the prophets condemned the constant repetition of burnt offerings that had become meaningless (see Psa. 40:6-9; Isa. 1:10-20; Amos 5:21-24). People offered them long after they had ceased to offer themselves to God. Jesus personified the burnt offering perfectly, in his obedient life and sacrificial death (Heb. 10:5-14). His perfect sacrifice makes our imperfect offerings acceptable and invites us to imitate him with gratitude.
In what sense are you a living sacrifice today?
Lord, I acknowledge that I can pray way beyond the reality of my devotion to You. In light of that, I say, "Take my life and let it be, Consecrated, Lord to Thee" (Frances Ridley Havergal, 1836-1879).
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