Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Tag Archives: sacrifice

Feasting with God #54 – Feeding God

Feasting with God #54

 Feeding God

Text: Numbers 28:1-8

1The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Command the people of Israel and say to them, ‘My offering, my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma, you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time.’  3And you shall say to them, This is the food offering that you shall offer to the Lord: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering.  4The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 5also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil.  6It is a regular burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord.  7Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb.  In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the Lord.  8The other lamb you shall offer at twilight.  Like the grain offering of the morning, and like its drink offering, you shall offer it as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

If your family was like mine growing up, you had daily devotions.  Ours were always right after supper.  While we kids were squirming, anxious to get out and play with our friends, Dad took up the devotion book and read, sometimes including questions about the devotion, sometimes with a recitation of the Creed or Luther’s Small Catechism, always ending with prayer.  Maybe you do something similar each day.  Maybe this devotional series is part of your routine.

The daily devotional life of Israel centered around this core: each day, once in the morning and once in the evening, they sacrificed a perfect male lamb.  This sacrifice is presented in an interesting way: it’s called by God, “my food for my food offerings.”  Does God need food and drink?

In Egypt, the Israelites would have been surrounded by a polytheistic religion in which worshipers provided food to placate their gods, although more commonly the Egyptians left food offerings at the tombs of loved ones, so that they could be sustained in the afterlife.  In Canaan, the Israelites were to be confronted with religions that sought even more fervently to feed their gods, so that the gods would be happy with them.  Does the true God want the same thing?

In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, we state:

In Num. 28:4f. three parts of that daily sacrifice are repre­sented, the burning of the lamb, the libation, and the oblation of wheat flour.  The Law had pictures or shadows of future things.  Accordingly, in this spectacle Christ and the entire worship of the New Testament are portrayed.  The burning of the lamb signifies the death of Christ.  The libation signifies that everywhere in the entire world, by the preaching of the Gospel, believers are sprinkled with the blood of that Lamb, i.e., sanctified, as Peter says, 1 Pet. 1:2: Through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.  The oblation of wheat flour signifies faith, prayer, and thanksgiving in hearts.  As, therefore, in the Old Testament, the shadow is perceived, so in the New the thing signified should be sought, and not another type, as sufficient for a sacrifice. (Ap XXIV 36-37)

In the Old Testament, the people of God were in training.  They were learning as children the building blocks of their education, the alphabet and simple addition and subtraction.  So they were taught to understand that, for their sins, a daily—a double-daily—sacrifice of blood was required.  And the creature to be sacrificed had to be perfect.  Its blood had to be given to God, and its meat burned.  Fine flour had to be offered as well, bread with the meat.  God thereby used a picture that they would have been familiar with to teach them: they would have been well acquainted with the idolatrous practices of placating gods with food offerings.  The true God informs them that, yes, indeed, there does need to be placation for sin.

But this was all training.  It’s fulfillment came in Christ, the ultimate perfect “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  His death, and no longer he burning of a lamb each day, took away all sins once and for all.  And as though to say, “I no longer need this food, for all wrath is turned away; therefore instead I give you this wonderful food,” God gives us, not the blood of animals, but “the blood of Christ,” and not the flour of fine wheat, but “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16).  To turn away God’s wrath, Jesus gave him the final offering.  And now we are given the blessed feast.

Lord, we thank you that, through the offering and sacrifice of your Son, you have turned away all wrath for our sins, and even more have given us the undeserved gift of a heavenly feast.  Let us receive this gift worthily, with believing hearts, and therefore be strengthened by it in faith and love, until we may finally come to your kingdom, where we will partake of the blessed heavenly banquet in eternity.  In your Son’s name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #51 – Contributing the Best of It

Feasting with God #51

Contributing the Best of It

Text: Numbers 18:29-32

29“‘Out of all the gifts to you, you shall present every contribution due to the Lord; from each its best part is to be dedicated.’  30Therefore you shall say to them, ‘When you have offered from the best of it, then the rest shall be counted to the Levites as produce of the threshing floor, and as produce of the winepress.  31And you may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting.  32And you shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have contributed the best of it.  But you shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, lest you die.’”

The Levites were appointed as the priests of the people of Israel; they made the necessary sacrifices and preached the Word of God.  But while all the other tribes would receive a portion of land to which they were coming, the tribe of Levi received nothing.  While all the others had an income, the Levites were those who served the people spiritually.  Therefore God instituted the system of tithing: 1/10 of the people’s livestock and possessions was to be donated to the Levites to support them.

This generosity could easily have gone to the heads of the Levites, so God made an additional demand: “Out of all the gifts to you, you shall present every contribution due to the Lord; from each its best part is to be dedicated.”  The animals that were brought to the Levites were slaughtered, butchered, divided in pieces, and the choice pieces, the most delicious, were to be burned for God.  The priests then were able to keep what was left over.

Perhaps your parents, like mine, trained you to give to church 1/10 of your income.  It’s a good practice, if the correct mindset accompanies the practice.  Two stories from Scripture illuminate the sort of “tithing” God wants.

First is the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira.  These two became members of the Christian faith, and so were doing their duty to support the Christian church.  And they were property owners.  They sold some property, and gave some of the proceeds to the church, keeping some of it for themselves.  But sinfully, they reported that they had donated all of their gain.  What motivated the lie?  Probably they wished to appear more generous than they actually were in the eyes of the other Christians.  But as St. Peter said, “You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4).

Second, the story of Cain and Abel.  “Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.  And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Gen. 4:3-5).  Cain brought out of obligation, but Abel brought “the firstborn” and “their fat portions.”  He brought the best.

You are probably familiar with the catchphrase, “God loves a cheerful giver.”  It comes from Scripture: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).  Tithing is a great practice—but it is no longer a command!  Even at the time of Israel’s wanderings through the wilderness, do you think God loved the thought of the Levites begrudgingly taking the most mouthwatering pieces of their income and burning them for God?

God commanded that the best be given to him, not so that the Levites would resent him.  God never commands behavior simply for behavior’s sake.  God wanted the attitude that is connected with the behavior.

Consider the situation of Israel: they were wandering in a desert, living in tents, no place to call home—they were on their way to the place they would call home.  Recall how they complained, virtually every step of the way, that maybe what they had was better than what they were promised.  God had a plan for them, a plan to bring them to a Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, a plan that would lead eventually to the birth of the one who would save all mankind.  God wanted the eyes of these Israelites not to be turned backward, toward their bondage, toward the paltry material possessions that they could earn; he wanted them turned forward, toward their liberty, toward the glorious blessings he would provide.  What better way to cause such a mindset than for the Israelites to give up the best of their material possessions.

That is what our offerings do.  When we put our check in the plate at church, it’s not because the church is a moneymaking industry.  It’s because we are learning to forsake these material blessings in favor of eternal, spiritual ones—a lesson that needs regular reinforcement.  Our eyes are focused on the divine, on the spiritual.  We give, not because we are commanded to, not because we must appease a wrathful God.  We give because we have received something infinitely better than these physical things.  God’s own Son—who was God himself!—died on a cross to pay the price for our sins.  This perfect blessing is ours.  What is there that we would prefer to hold onto other than this?

Lord Jesus, keep our eyes ever fixed on you, and the eternal blessings we have won from you.  Although we are also blessed by you with many earthly blessings, let us view these as only a trust from you, of which we are guardians, until we receive our eternal reward.  Lead us to ever more thankful hearts, and guide us to see your blessings in all things.  In your name we ask it.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #17 – A Sacrifice with a Pleasing Aroma

Feasting with God #17

A Sacrifice with a Pleasing Aroma

Text: Leviticus 1:3-9

3If [a man’s] offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish.  He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord.  4He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.  5Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  6Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, 7and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire.  8And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water.  And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

This reading from Leviticus makes it sound as though, to appease an angry God, the people of Israel had to throw him a barbeque, so that he would smell the sweet meat as it cooked and not be angry anymore.  But that’s not quite what this burnt offering means.

The first fact to realize is that God is an angry God.  But that’s not a fault in him: mankind, from the very first human beings to walk the planet, made our God angry.  Rather than obey his guidelines for a peaceful and wonderful paradise, from the very beginning we have all tried to destroy that harmony, taking the wrecking ball of our selfishness, our ignorance, and our sinfulness to God’s perfect creation.  God established a pristine paradise, and we do nothing but daily throw mud on it.

To demonstrate what our sins meant, God told the ancient Israelites to begin making various sacrifices, and this burnt offering was one sort of sacrifice that they were to make.  For our sins, we deserve to be destroyed in fire as this bull was.  We deserve to be slaughtered, have our blood strewn about, be flayed and chopped in pieces.  So the sacrifice of a young bull in this way serves as a gruesome – but accurate – picture of what our sins earn us.

And yet it is more than this.  This sacrifice, as all sacrifices made in ancient Israel, served as a picture of something greater.  The key to this understanding comes in verse 4, where it says, “and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”  This bull is sacrificed in place of the man making the sacrifice.  Because this bull was sacrificed, it’s as though the payment for this man’s sacrifice was paid.  And the blood of the bull that is thrown against the sides of the altar should make us think of the blood of the lamb that was thrown against the doorposts in ancient Egypt – of that blood God said, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are.  And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:13).

Sin demands to be paid for, and it must be paid in blood.  The lamb’s blood stood as a sign that the payment had been made, so the angel of death would not harm the firstborn of those houses.  The bull’s blood stood as a sign that the payment of the man who made the sacrifice had been made, so that his sins were forgiven and he was atoned for.  And just as the lamb and the bull to be sacrificed was to be “without blemish,” this will direct our eyes to the greatest sacrifice of blood that was made, when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, lived his perfect life, unblemished, and then died and shed his blood on the ground.  Jesus’ blood now stands on the doorposts of the whole world, on the altar of the cross, so that once and for all has atonement been made for all humanity.

When God says that the offering would have a pleasing aroma, he means that it will be acceptable to him.  The pleasant smell of the burning meat would direct the ancient Israelites to that understanding, so that as they found the aroma sweet, they knew that they were giving that up to God, who himself would forgive them on account of that sacrifice.  If a bull without blemish would be sweet and acceptable to God, how much more isn’t the One without blemish, the very Son of God who was perfect and sinless, who gave himself of his own free will to pay for all mankind’s sins?  Be certain that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted by God, so that all our sins have now been paid for.

Dear Lord, we have sinned against you, in countless ways and at countless times.  For all these offenses we deserve your wrath and eternal punishment, but we thank you that out of your grace you yourself have made the payment for our sins, offering your own Son up as a sacrifice of blood.  Now that all our sins have been paid for, O Lord, guide us in our lives now to live as people who are thankful to you.  In the name of your Son, that One who was slain for us, we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.