Thursday, May 22, 2008

What is the Point of Sacrifice?

"You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." --Psalm 51:16-17

Throughout the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy), God appeared obsessed with sacrifice -- giving explicit instructions of how and when it should be done. Season after season, year after year, the people and the priests engaged in the bloody, unpleasant practice. And yet, in Psalms we read this verse -- that God does not delight in it.

Has God changed His mind? Is He some sort of hypocrite?

The Old Testament sacrifices must have seemed so pointless. To see life ripped from the most perfect animals, time and time again. Wouldn't onlookers think it cruel and a waste?

In my last blog, I wrote of a woman who in the 1940s, after long and intensive training, set out to the mission field in China. Her colleagues testified she was the most qualified among them. But then she was killed only 12 days after arriving in country in a jeep accident.

Her sacrifice also seems pointless. What a waste!

So in this we must ask, what is the point of sacrifice -- that God could one day demand it and the next say it is not his desire?

Hebrews 10:3 may hold the key that unlocks this mystery: "those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins." (NIV)

The purpose of the Old Testament sacrifice was to remind the Hebrew people of their sins -- and that blood must be shed to atone for it -- a symbolic act designed to drive them to repentance, which after the Ultimate Sacrifice had been made, could bring them into the very presence of God. If the sacrifice fails to do this, then the suffering was truly in vain. How could that please God?

Throughout our lifetime, there arise times of sacrifice and suffering that are often forced upon us, either due to our own sin or because we live in a sin-filled world. It is ugly and seems pointless. And we anguish over what could be God's purpose in this? Is there a purpose?

Perhaps there is a more poignant question. Will we let this sacrifice drive us into His presence with a contrite heart? For only there will we find purpose.

When I think of that missionary and her sacrifice, while her friends and colleagues may have struggled with the purpose, I suspect she did not. After all, China and her tragedy represented little more than her gateway to the very presence of God. Could there be a better purpose than that?

1 comment:

Ova said...

Keep up the good work.