Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sacrifice of Praise

There are two places in the Bible that mention 'the sacrifice of praise.' But what does it mean? When I was younger I thought that the animal sacrifices in the O.T. were simply burned up and of no further use. However as I read my Bible more carefully, I realized that many sacrifices were actually supposed to be eaten. Some of the inner parts and fat were burned as a sacrifice to the Lord and the rest of the meat was eaten by priests, Levites, or the one who offered the sacrifice. When Solomon offered the thousands of sheep and oxen in the dedication of the Temple, there was plenty of food for the people who came to be a part of the celebration. Some may say if that is the case then it wasn't much of a sacrifice. Okay, that is a tough one to answer, but the O.T. sacrifices had a two-fold purpose: first, it often involved someone giving up something or costing something, which it often did; second, it was a picture of the ultimate sacrifice that the coming Messiah was going to make when, as the Lamb of God, He would offer the complete sacrifice for sin.

So where does the sacrifice of praise fit in? In the Law (especially Leviticus) there are a number of different sacrifices described, but none of them refers to praise. And why is it referred to as a sacrifice - a sacrifice of what? This is where I think the praise part of the Sunday service or celebration becomes so important. When we offer our sincere adoration and praise to our King, we offer a sacrifice of praise - it is a submission to His sovereignty over our lives. In Jer. 33;11 the sacrifice of praise was given by Israelites returning to the Promised Land. In Heb. 13:15 we are admonished to 'offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips.' The sacrifice of praise is an outward expression of what is inside: grateful hearts for the goodness of God showering His abundant and amazing grace on those of us who are so undeserving. I believe it is also an expression of our acceptance of servitude to God. My sister-in-law mentioned that when she lifts her hands, palms facing upward, it is as though she were lifting her life and offering it to God.

So a sacrifice of praise is exactly that - a sacrifice, one given freely, with no expectation of anything in return. But we are so richly blessed. When we give our puny lives to God, we entrust ourselves to Him. And then He just pours out His blessings...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Lamb of God

This is considered the holiest week in the Christian calendar, both among those true believers and those who simply pay lip service. There is good reason why we do this, but let's consider the geography of the origin of the place where the Lamb of God offered the final sacrifice that was required of the Father to redeem rebels to Himself.

Over 4,000 years ago God told Abraham to go to Mt. Moriah and there offer his son, Isaac as a sacrifice. Although Abraham did not understand why, he did exactly as God instructed him. As we all know, at the last minute, God intervened and showed him the substitute, a ram caught by his horns in the thicket close by. It was there that God called Himself by that awesome name 'Jehovah Jirah,' - the Lord will provide. This was a prophetic name of God, pointing to that future time when God would provide a substitute for man's lost condition. Why did God tell Abraham to go to Mt. Moriah? We will get to that, but first let's consider another scene.

Solomon built the temple his father wanted to build and before his death, David showed his son the plans, the gold, and other supplies he had stock-piled for the future temple. Solomon built a fabulous building for the glory of God on a hilltop on the edge of Jerusalem. At its dedication Solomon offered thousands of animals in sacrifice to God. All these sacrifices were pictures that God was using to show His people the ultimate Sacrifice that would take place hundreds of years later. These Old Testament saints were not saved by keeping the Law, because no one has successfully done so until the Messiah walked the earth. Rather they were saved by looking forward to a coming Sacrificial Lamb and demonstrated their faith by the sacrifices they offered. However there was a reason the Temple was built where it was.

On the morning after the last Passover meal Jesus celebrated with his disciples, He was taken to Golgotha where He laid down His life. Although I have never been to the Promised Land, I have been told that when you are standing there, you are standing on the northern slope of Mt. Moriah, the same place where God so perfectly pictured the coming sacrifice in Abraham's day, and the same mountain om which Solomon built a temple where thousands of pictures of the coming Savior were painted in the red blood of lambs. This was not just coincidence, but show the eternal hand of the Almighty.

Another thing that was not coincidence is the timing of the death of Jesus. As was stated earlier, He has just celebrated Passover. 3,501 years ago God instituted the Passover in Egypt. Moses told the Israelites to slay a male lamb and apply the blood to the doorposts and upper beam of the doorway. Doing so would cause the Death Angel to pass over and spare the oldest son from death. This also was such a beautiful picture of the coming Son of God, who would become the last Passover Lamb. If we have had the blood applied to our hearts, the Death Angel of eternal judgment will pass over - no condemnation, no second death.

This is not the end of the story. The best is yet to come. On that beautiful Sunday morning, Jesus was no longer in the tomb. HE IS RISEN! This was the what the apostles preached - the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. It was necessary that He bleed and die for our salvation from sin, but without the resurrection, there is no life, no justification. But we know that Jesus rose from the dead, He lives forevermore, and one day we will live with Him.

This Easter Sunday, let us worship the Savior with abandon of love for God's wonderful working out His plan of salvation.