Dear Friends in Messiah,
The Lord gave us a word for this month: Sacrifice. On the surface, this word does not seem altogether pleasant, joyful, or desired. But sacrifice is a good word, a “God word,” and a necessary word in the life of a follower of Yeshua.
As a verb, sacrifice is defined as giving up something that one wants to keep in order to get or do something else, or to help someone. To sacrifice is also to offer or kill in homage to a deity. As a noun, a sacrifice is a loss, or something that is given up, usually for the sake of a better cause.
Everyday examples in 2015 of sacrifice might include: “He sacrificed his personal life in order to get ahead in his career.” “She sacrificed her own health because her children had so many needs.” “This weight loss plan is a proven way to lose those extra pounds without sacrificing great taste.”
But God has ideas of sacrifice that are higher than our thoughts. It seems appropriate this month to begin exploring the concept of sacrifice with a biblical practice dear to His heart, as expressed in Psalms 50:14: “Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving; and pay your vows to the Most High.” (Amplified)
The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving
The most common word for sacrifice in Hebrew is zebach (zeh-BACH) זבח. A sacrifice of thanksgiving is zeh-BACH tow-DAH. “Todah” is the Hebrew word for “thanksgiving,” “thanks” and “thank you.” King David mentioned this type of sacrifice in Psalms 116:17, “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.”
This first mention of the zebach todah in the Bible is in Leviticus 7:11-13, “This is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which he shall offer to the LORD: if he offers it for a Thanksgiving, then he shall offer, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving (zebach todah), unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil. Besides the cakes, as his offering he shall offer leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering.”
The sacrifice of thanksgiving was a type of fellowship or peace (shalom שלום) offering— one of the seven types of offerings in the sacrificial system. These include 1. the Tresspass (Guilt) Offering (asham), 2. the Burnt Offering (olah), 3. the Sin Offering (chet), 4. the Peace Offering (shalom), 5. the Grain Offering (minchah), 6. the Voluntary Offering (nedevah), and 7. the Consecration or Ordination Offering (miluim).
The sacrifice of thanksgiving was a voluntary offering, “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will” (Leviticus 22:29). Thanksgiving in the Bible is an act of the will, gratitude freely given, but not necessarily connected with joyous feelings, emotions, or outward circumstances. It is a “sacrifice” of Thanksgiving, springing forth from faith and trust in a God who works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). That may be why the zebach todah included not only offering unleavened cakes, but leavened bread as well. The good and the bad. God is to be thanked at all times, when it rains and when the sun is shining, because He is Sovereign, and He is always working behind the scenes on behalf of His children. The New Covenant expands on this concept with a resounding exhortation: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Messiah Yeshua for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
The zebach todah is also a peace offering, connecting the concepts of Thanksgiving and peace. This brings to mind another exhortation from Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” When a person has peace with God, and knows that their sins have been forgiven, he or she is thankful to God for His gracious gift. The sacrifice of thanksgiving is a spiritual response to that atonement.
But there is more. Zebach todah opens up a greater revelation of all that the Lord’s salvation includes, as expressed in Psalm 50:23, “Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth me; and to him that ordereth his way aright will I show the salvation of God” (ASV). Or in the NET version, “Whoever presents a thank offering honors me. To whoever obeys my commands, I will reveal my power to deliver.”
The sacrifice of thanksgiving leads to peace according to Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Messiah Yeshua.”
The Sacrificial System
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob instituted a sacrificial system as a means of bringing His people into relationship with Himself. Since a Holy God cannot have fellowship with sinful man, the sin question had to be dealt with. An “exchange of life” principle was established, whereby an innocent animal was sacrificed so that the sins of a man or woman might be covered. A blood covering. Gods’ way always included blood atonement: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).
Most Jewish people today have little or no knowledge of the Old Testament sacrificial system. They generally assume that all “priests” are Catholic, and seldom realize that the word “cohen” means “priest,” and the Jews had “cohanim” (co-ha-NEEM) priests, and a “cohen gadol” (co-HEN ga-DOLE), High Priest who made atonement for all Israel once a year on Yom Kippur.
There is an aspect of the old sacrificial system that has an important connection to its fulfillment in Yeshua: repentance. Did you ever wonder why the Bible says concerning the God who instituted the sacrifices, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire…Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require” (Psalms 40:6). “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.” (Psalm 51:16) “Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me.” (Isaiah 1:13)
Psalm 51 has the answer: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise” (vs.17). Sacrifices by themselves were not acceptable to God. There also had to be repentance in the heart of the one who had sinned. An outward act was only part of the solution. There had to be an inward sorrow for sin, and a decision to be obedient and turn (t’shuvah) from it. With God, it is, first and foremost, about the heart!
Someone once wisely said, “Doing right takes precedence over any rite.” For believers today forsaking the ways of the world, leading a consecrated life, and REPENTING when we fall short, is our Father’s will for us.
A Fragrant Sacrifice
The animal sacrifices in the Torah pointed to the final, perfect, atoning sacrifice of the One about whom the prophets prophesied—the Messiah Yeshua—the Lamb of God.
Yeshua’s death on our behalf was prophesied 700 years before He was born! We read in the Prophet Isaiah, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6).
Although Messiah’s death on the tree was a gruesome, painful death, to God our Father it was a fragrant sacrifice—because of love. Yeshua loved His Father enough to do His will at the cost of His own life (Luke 22:42). He loved us enough to endure the pain, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2). Sacrificial love always emits a beautiful fragrance.
An exhortation to believers from Rabbi Saul (the Apostle Paul) mentions Yeshua’s fragrant sacrifice: “And walk in love, as Messiah also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).
Like the Burnt Offering (olah) of the Old Covenant, which gave forth “the smell of a sweet savor” unto God, Messiah’s sacrifice “rose up” (the meaning of olah) to God. (See Genesis 8:21 and Exodus 29:18, 25.) The Greek word for “burnt offerings” in Hebrews 10:6, 8 is holokautoma, from which we get our English word “Holocaust.” Yeshua became our “Holocaust” (whole burnt offering) outside the gates of Jerusalem at Golgotha (Hebrews 13:11-12). He understands the pain and anguish of the Holocaust of the 1930s – 1940s like no one else. And He was weeping when it happened.
The Final Sacrifice
Yeshua fulfilled more than one aspect of the Old Testament sacrificial system. He became both the final, atoning sacrifice for sin, AND the High Priest (Cohen Gadol) who offered the sacrifice. The Book of Hebrews expounds beautifully on His dual role. “But Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11-12)
The writer of Hebrews says of Yeshua, “But now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26). “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:11-12)
The different kinds of offerings and sacrifices of the Old Covenant sacrificial system served as foreshadows of the complete efficacy of Yeshua’s sacrifice for sin. He became our Trespass (guilt) offering, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:7. He became our Peace Offering, fulfilling the New Covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-37. He became our Free Will Offering, fulfilling Psalms 40:8. He became our final Passover sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7). And finally, He became our Sin Offering, laying down His life for ours. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Responding to His Sacrifice
Hebrews chapter 13 mentions four ways in which we are to respond to Yeshua’s supreme sacrifice. Let us prayerfully consider them this month as we give thanks for His unspeakable gift. 1] Share His suffering as an “outsider.” “Therefore Yeshua also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” (Hebrews 13:12-13) 2] Continually offer up a sacrifice of praise. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15) 3] Share with others. “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16) 4] Obey your spiritual leaders. “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
While Messiah made the final sacrifice, we are called to make sacrifice a part of our lives as well. In fact, we are supposed to be “living sacrifices.” Rabbi Saul/Paul says that this is the beginning point, the very least we are to do in service to our Lord: “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).
What is a “living sacrifice”? Someone who belongs entirely to God (1 Corinthians 6:20). A believer who knows in the depths of their being that they are not their own, but have been bought at a price (Ephesians 1:13-14). One who is not conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). A disciple of Yeshua determined to do God’s will rather than his own (Ephesians 6:6). A blameless, harmless child of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:15). One who, like Rabbi Saul, is “poured out” in the service of others: “Yes, and if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17). And finally a “living sacrifice” is a believer in Yeshua the Messiah who has been “crucified with Messiah, but now lives in the flesh by faith in the Son of God” (Gal 2:20).
Are You a Living Sacrifice?
This is the title of an article by Bridges for Peace (June 1999!) that we found in our files recently. It gives an excellent summary of the sacrifices that God wants from His children. We close with these admonitions, praying for each one of you to finish strong in life’s spiritual race. 1. God wants our obedience. (“To obey is better than sacrifice…” 1 Samuel 15:22.) 2. God wants a contrite heart. (“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, these O God, You will not despise.” Psalms 51:17) 3. God wants justice. (“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3) 4. God wants mercy and a knowledge of Himself. (“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6) and 5. God wants us to live out the greatest commandment. (“And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Mark 12:33).
Love—of God and our fellow man—is greater than all the sacrifices in the Torah —embodied in the one, great sacrifice of the Lamb of God!
Offering TODAH (Thanksgiving) to Abba for each one of you. Love in Yeshua,