"The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God." - Psalm 51:17
Monday. We are just days away from Good Friday and 35 days into our Lenten journey. This is such a sacred season, where we have spent duteous time dedicated to denying ourselves as we prepare to observe Christ’s willingness to give his own life as a ransom for our sin.
That’s a word we hear often during this time of the year, and I’m going to throw you for a loop…..
God is not impressed with sacrifice.
Not in the way we think.
I know that sounds like sacrilege, but let me give you an example.
Most of us had chores as a child…hopefully.
You know those little girls who love to follow behind mommy with a dust pan and their play vacuum with bouncing plastic balls? Cute…but I wasn’t one of them. I REALLY did not like chores – especially washing dishes (yuckgagyuck). So, when I was assigned to the kitchen, I would try to find a workaround. Being the observant and concerned daughter that I was, I would notice that the living room could use some tidying up and I would opt to do that instead. I would grab the glass cleaner, and furniture polish, vacuum and go to work!
You know what my mom would ask me after all that sweat and effort?
“Why isn’t the kitchen done?”
I was crushed! How could she dismiss what I’d done?!
I mean, I could’ve been playing with friends or video games, watching TV, or taking selfies! Yet, I had given up my whole afternoon! Shouldn’t she appreciate my sacrifice?
Looking at this example, it seems obvious why she shouldn’t. My sacrifice was missing one crucial ingredient – obedience.
“But Samuel replied, ‘What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” - 1 Samuel 15:22
When we talk about sacrificing for God, there is a difference between a “religious” sacrifice (to God) and genuine obedience (for God). Honestly, the former is much easier for us; throw some money in an offering bucket, go do a good deed, or donate to charity. None of those are bad things, so why did Samuel say that obedience is better? Samuel was trying to emphasize love for God over laws. Sacrifice outside of the context of obedience actually separates us from reliance on God. It is an attempt to pacify God, still keep our own independent nature, and then expect a pat on the back.
In the context of my chore example, I was given an assignment and instead of obeying I insisted on my own terms and comfort, then threw my mom “a bone” by cleaning the living room. I disregarded her instruction. Now, did that act honor her as one in authority or did it elevate me? In the same way, we diminish God’s role in our lives when we try to find workarounds, and set sacrifices on our own terms.
There is no outer act that can substitute for a heart of obedience.
“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6
Now let’s circle back around to the beginning – Christ’s sacrifice.
“[Jesus] went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” – Matthew 26:39
A crucifixion, not on His terms, but within God’s will.
There was no workaround. His body on the cross. His blood shed for us.
That sounds like quite a sacrifice. But what Christ laid down at the altar before God was himself.
Christ showed us that obedience is the ultimate sacrifice and the only sacrifice that pleases God. It is only with a heart of obedience that we draw nearer to the cross. It is only with a heart of obedience that we draw nearer to Him.
For Christ, obedience meant the walk down the path to the cross, Via Dolorosa.
What path is God asking you to walk?
Where have you been looking for detours, off-ramps, or workarounds?
Are you ready to lay it all down?
You don’t want any.
Because the path He is leading you down is perfect. It is a path that is leading you to victory.
Additional Readings: Luke 11:42, Mark 12:33
Let’s pray: Father God, give me a heart of surrender. Your Word shows me that obedience is better than sacrifice. As I meditate on the obedience of Christ, let my response to you always be, “your will be done, not mine.” In Jesus name. Amen.
Now playing: Lead Me to the Cross, Hillsong