What is Sacrifice?

1 Chronicles 21

David had sinned in taking a census of Israel and had confessed his sin to God.  But the punishment, which David chose among three options, was a plague of three days upon the land.  Seventy thousand men of Israel fell in the plague before David begged that the Lord’s hand be against him and his father’s house instead of the people of Israel.  It is then that the angel of the Lord commanded Gad the seer to instruct David to erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.  So David went at the word of the Lord.

David came to Ornan, telling him to grant him the place of the threshing floor so that he could build an altar on it to the Lord.  David told him he would pay full price for it, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people of Israel.

Ornan said, “Take it yourself, and let my lord the king do what is good in his eyes.  Look, I also give you the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing implements for wood, and the wheat for the grain offering; I give it all” (verse 23).

But here is David’s response:  “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing” (verse 24).  David’s response highlights the meaning of sacrifice as well as telling us what sacrifice is not.

Sacrifice is the giving of something of value to us.  Sacrifice, by its very definition, costs something.  The giving of something of no value or of no cost is not sacrifice.  I may give you a gift alright, but that doesn’t automatically make it a sacrifice on my part.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  God sacrificed His Son for us.  What great cost!  Jesus appeared to “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 10:26).  What great cost!

The Jews of Malachi’s day offered the blind and the lame and the sick upon altars to God “as a sacrifice” (Malachi 1:7-8).  While bringing animals in that condition may have technically constituted an offering, it was not a sacrifice for them to give what was worthless.  It was unacceptable to God, profane, and a robbing of God.

While the Law of Moses has been done away with in Christ, sacrifice is not just an Old Testament command!  The gospel makes it abundantly clear that Christians must sacrifice.  No, not animals, but our own bodies:  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Someone may be heard to say that God doesn’t need our money but He wants our hearts, or He wants our lives.  But may I ask:  What does that mean – that He wants our hearts or lives?  Can I claim to be giving Him my heart or my life and yet withhold the sacrificing of “my time” in His service, “my money” in His service, “my talents” in His service?  Giving him my life is not some theoretical mental exercise!  In the end it will be carried out in my thinking, in my saying, and in my doing!

Giving God what is of little or no value to us, giving Him only what is convenient, or giving Him our leftovers is no sacrifice.  If we will follow the way of Christ, we will be choosing to make sacrifices for Him – giving that which costs us something.  Will you give up that which is of value for the one who died for you?

                        -Larry Jones