We have discussed this point once before in the devotionals when we were studying Leviticus. As with all core truths, repetition is a good thing. There are two observations that can be made from these two chapters.
1. A relationship with God and with others requires sacrifice. We must not forget that core truth. Of course, in our day, we are not referring to the blood bath of killing animals. Today, it is because of Jesus’ final sacrifice of Himself that we are free from the system of animal sacrifice. Yet, when Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and lifted the external code of Moses, He did not set us free to run around under our own libertarian indulgences. Quite the contrary. When Jesus proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, He intensified the Law of Moses and transferred it from the external law of ritual washings and animal sacrifice to the internal law of the heart, demanding the sacrifice of self from the citizens of the Kingdom. If we are going to have a right relationship with God and with each other, then we are going to have to sacrifice our own selfish ambition and self-serving desires on the altar. We are going to have to be willing to say, “Father, this is YOUR kingdom and I am your servant, I am your child. What would YOU like me to do today?”
2. The frequency and pattern of sacrifice is significant. Notice how the pattern works.
- Daily sacrifice. Every day we should get up…and die. When your eyes open in the morning your thoughts should be, “Good morning, Lord? How can I serve you today?” For most of us, the typical first thought of the day is, “Oh Lord, its morning! How can I get 5 more minutes of sleep?” If we will set aside time each day, as a spiritual discipline, to clear our minds, confess our sin, soak in God’s Word, and be filled with His Spirit — sacrificing ourselves on the altar — then we will be able to overflow all day with the grace and the Kingdom of God.
- Weekly Sabbaths. Once a week it is important to observe a Sabbath day in community. One of the biggest traps of our society is to believe that our spiritual life is a private affair between us and God. This is not true. We were created to be in community. The two major purposes for the Sabbath were to 1) create space for the individual — regardless of social status — to experience rest and re-creation; to create balance in the hectic pace of life. 2) to create space for community to happen among the people of God. God knew that, left to our own devices, we would tend to fill our lives with busy-ness and view people as objects to be manipulated for our personal ends. With the creation of a community Sabbath, everyone can come together on equal ground, with no time pressures, take a deep breath, and begin the awkward process of getting to know one another. This is why the letter to the Hebrews says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
- Seasonal Celebrations. God knew that humans need variety. When life becomes monotonous we can tend to drift into apathy. God created the year with seasons. There are seasons of intense work and there are seasons of rest and contemplation. Peppered throughout the year there are special celebrations that keep us connected to the key historical events that define our communal identity. As Christians we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. In the spring we celebrate both the Passover and the Resurrection of the Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, at Easter. Throughout the year there are special days, like Thanksgiving, to stop, reflect, and celebrate. Don’t underestimate the significance of these special celebrations.
Evaluate your own schedule and see if your offerings are taking precedent as “big rocks” or “A-1” events in your life. Or, are these the optional, squeeze-them-in-when-you-have-a-chance activities. This pattern of offerings is not intended to be an oppressive burden of “have to or else” legalism. The purpose of these offerings is to give us a support structure of activities that will create adequate space in our lives to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in us and cultivate the growth of the Kingdom of God in our hearts.