I remember vividly being a kid, reading my Bible, coming to the passages about animal sacrifices, and finding them so incredibly disturbing. I'm sure every elementary and pre-teen boy in the world loved the glimpse into gore that was 'parent approved'(all your church kids who were only allowed to watch Psalty the Singing Song Book know what I'm talking about lol) but I was not so much a fan and so would quickly skim past those parts and skip to the "happy" parts - the prodigal son coming home, Moses standing before Pharoah and boldly declaring "let my people go", and little bitty David slaying the giant, Goliath. I mean talk about getting excited about the Lord and His mighty power! At that stage in my life and walk with the Lord, and to put it more plainly - in my immaturity - I didn't think a thing about the fact that I was skipping over large chunks of scripture without a second thought. After all, I was reading my Bible and that was 1/2 of what makes up a "good Christian" when you are young. We even had a song about it...."Read your Bible. Pray every day. And you'll grow, grow, grow." Anyone else remember that song?
But then you grow up. And when you grow up, the Lord invites you deeper. He begins revealing things to you in scripture you never even noticed before. He begins to challenge you to read those parts of the Bible that aren't "fun" or "fluffy" or spark all the images of the Lord raising up leaders Braveheart style - faces painted, horses ready, and a collective cry of FREEDDDOOMMMM ringing across a battlefield!!! It was during one of these quiet, growth seasons with the Lord that He began leading me to dive deeper into those scriptures I had always glossed over - part of which, included all of those bloody stories about animal sacrifices that, if I'm being honest, I at first found a bit repetitive and unnecessary. After all, that was the OLD testament way. Why would I need to know the OLD methods? Why did I need to read about how God's people would journey to the temple, sacrifice an animal, repent of their sins, and journey back home. It all seemed very anticlimactic to me and so it caused me to wonder - why would the Lord lead me to study this portion of scripture? Yes, I know Jesus took the place as the sacrificial lamb, and because of that sacrifice we no longer need to continue in the practice of animal sacrifice. Yes, I know He took our place on the altar because the punishment for OUR sin should be death, but He came to give us life and life more abundantly. I know all of these truths and am thankful daily for them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that the Lord was wanting me to see something more.
So for days, I kept reading and re-reading these passages of scripture, asking the Lord to reveal to my heart what it was He was trying to say.
And then one morning, during a time of early morning worship, the Lord spoke softly to my heart and asked, "Would you still worship me if it wasn't this 'easy'?" The question stopped me dead in my tracks. After all, worship is my HEART. It always has been. That passion and calling led me to be a Worship Pastor on staff at our local church for many years and even now, in this season of being a homeschool mom and mom boss, it is still a very strong part of my passion, desire, and heartbeat daily. So why would the Lord ask me that question! And that's when the Lord dropped in my heart to go back and look at that scripture on animal sacrifice.
You see before the Lord came and walked this earth and died on the cross for our sins. Before He became the sacrificial lamb. Before the Holy Spirit flooded the Earth. And before He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Before all of those "FREEEEDOOOMMM" and "YES JESUS!" moments ever took place - people had to go through quite the process to worship the Lord.
Leviticus 9:3-4 says - Then to the sons of Israel you shall speak, saying, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both one year old, without defect, for a burnt offering, and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the Lord, and a grain offering mixed with oil; for today the Lord will appear to you.’”
Yall. That's quite the process. They aren't just throwing an animal upon the altar and saying "Here you go, God! Here's a goat - the best goat from my flock actually! Please forgive me of my sins." Not only were there specific processes for preparing the sacrifice and for the actual sacrificial process (I'm not going to dig deep into those processes because that could be a whole series of blog posts all on their own), but there were MULTIPLE sacrifices to be made - sin offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings....NOT TO MENTION the fact that they had to travel long distances JUST TO GET TO THIS POINT! Wow. I was finally starting to see what it means to give a "sacrifice of praise."
So what does all of that have to do with my worship today? The point the Lord was driving home in my heart and life was that before Jesus, worship cost something! It cost time. It cost energy. It cost giving of the very best of the best in your flock and your life. As worshippers today, we tend to think we are giving a sacrifice of praise if we stand through a worship service in a comfortably air-conditioned room, full of comfy padded seats even when we don't "feel" like it. Though we may not say it out loud, many times we feel like we deserve a pat on the back for giving the Lord 2 hours out of our Sunday morning to come and worship with our church families. After all, life is busy, and putting that phone on silent for 2 hours is a sacrifice that should be applauded. And in today's busy world - that IS an amazing feat and, if you do these things weekly I DO applaud you. But my question is - if offering a sacrifice to the Lord was as "difficult" as it was before - if we still had to give up days to travel to the temple so we could offer a sin sacrifice, a grain sacrifice, and a burnt offering to the Lord, would we do it? I can't help to wonder how many of us would take the time to worship Him if it weren't as easy as stepping into a worship service at our local church or waking up early for a time of quiet meditation, worship, and prayer before the day begins.
Don't get me wrong. Life is busy and I 100% believe the Lord is with us, for us, and offering us endless grace as we strive for a healthy balance and rhythm in all the things life throws at us. And no, I do not think we need to take weeks off of work to travel with our pets and families in tow to a faraway place in a nod to and a showing of the sacrificial praise we read about in the old testament. Jesus coming to earth, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead ushered in a new way! A better way! And for that, I am SO thankful! (Seriously...I can't even touch a wet paper towel so the thought of slaughtering an animal makes me wanna gag lol) But I do want to challenge you to prayerfully consider if you need to make a holy shift in the way you think about sacrifice, worship, and praise.
When you step into a time of worship, weary from the week or extra tired after a long night with the kids - may your prayers and praise be offered from a heart that says "even though I am tired and weary I am here because YOU are worthy" and not "I'm tired but I showed up, God. Hope you appreciate it." When you turn on that worship song and your heart is hurting to the point that you feel numb - may your praise be from a heart of sacrifice that says "Lord, I don't understand the pain but I will praise You still because I know that You are still God!" and not a heart of entitlement that says "Here I am Lord, now bless me!"
Do you see the difference? A sacrifice of praise today doesn't mean traveling far distances and slaughtering animals. It doesn't even mean simply SHOWING UP in a church building and enduring a Sunday morning service. A sacrifice of praise means surrendering your hurt, your pain, your weariness, your shortcomings - celebrating His goodness, His faithfulness, His steadfastness, His promises - and allowing HIM to show up and show off in a mighty way in your heart and life. In short - It's not about YOU. It's all about HIM!
As I close out this post I want to encourage you to take a moment and reflect on what worship means to you. Has it (quite possibly unknowingly to you) become a time where you show up thinking "God bless ME" rather than "Lord I'm here to bless YOU"? Ask yourself, if worshipping the Lord wasn't this "easy", would I still show up? Do you need the Lord to begin a holy shift in the way you think about and approach daily worship to the Lord? If so, I encourage you to start by simply refocusing your heart and mind on what matters most...HIM! Remind yourself of His goodness. Thank Him for His sacrifice, salvation, and the Hope of eternity we have in Him. And make it your mission to keep your eyes steadfastly on Him.
"Oh soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see
But just one look at the Savior
Is life more abundant and free
So just look up, your help is on the way
Turn, turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full, look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
When you turn, turn your eyes upon Him."
-Turn Your Eyes/The Belonging Company-
Lord, search our hearts. Bring us back to a place where our hearts and eyes are fixed on You. A place where our greatest desire is to know You and make You known and not for you to bless us and make us greater. Lord, help me to not see my praise as a sacrifice You should by honored by but let it come from a heart that desires nothing more than to honor and glorify YOU! Your Word says in Matthew 6:26 that you care for even the tiniest sparrow, so how much more do You care for me. I stand on this truth, reminding myself that You hold me in the palm of Your hand. All I need to do is trust, obey, and keep my eyes fixed on You. And Lord, in the waiting, help me to never forget that You, God, are in the meanwhile. In your precious and holy name we pray. AMEN.