Tuesday, September 19, 2006

what does it take to make a sacrifice?

Lately I've been thinking alot lately about altars and sacrifices. We often talk about being "living sacrifices", but what does that really mean? We talk about laying our lives on the altar, but..again... what does that really mean?

This pic is a replica of the Altar of Burnt Offering from the Old Testament tabernacle built by the Israelites.

If you read through the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament, you'll find seemingly countless types of sacrifices that had to be made for various reasons, seasons, and celebrations. Though some were grain offerings, many required animal sacrifices. Imagine what this altar must have looked like after an animal sacrifice.

" If the annointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He is to present the bull at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the Lord.
He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it before the Lord. (This pic is of the "slaughter area" just inside the tabernacle.)

Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull's blood and carry it into the Tent of Meeting. He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary. The priest shall then put some of the blood on the horns of the Altar of Fragrant Incense that is before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting. The rest of the bull's blood he shall pour out at the base of the Altar of Burnt Offering at the entrace to the Tent of Meeting. He shall remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering - the fat that covers the inner parts or is connected to them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the covering of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys - just as the fat is removed from the ox sacrificed for the fellowship offering. The the priest shall burn them on the Altar of Burnt Offering. But the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and legs, the inner parts and offal - that is, all the rest of the bull - he must take outside the camp to a place ceremonially clean, where the ashes are thrown, and burn it in a wood fire on the ash heap." - Leviticus 4:3-12

That's what a sacrifice looked like in the Old Testament. It was bloody. It was violent. At the base of that altar had been poured the blood of hundreds of animals. It wasn't neat and tidy and wrapped up in a nice little worship song.

Though I'm grateful that we no longer have to go to this length to atone for our sins, sometimes I wonder if it wasn't a better system. You're not going to subject yourself, or an innocent animal, to that unless you're truly repenting for your sin. You don't do something like that unless you mean it. But how often do we, myself included, sing a song or pray a prayer of devotion and sacrifice to God that's half-hearted?

I guess my over-arching thought is this: if this is what "making a sacrifice" looked like in the old testament, and I'm now meant to be a "living sacrifice", then being a "living sacrifice" isn't pretty. It isn't easy, neat, attractive, or quick. It's painful. It's bloody. It means pouring out everything that's me. Everything. There was nothing left of the bull that was used in the sin offering. Similarly, there should be nothing left of me. Just as I'm sure the bull fought against being sacrificed, so I fight against it. I kick and protest and fight back. Even as my life's blood is being poured out I'm fighting for survival. The process of becoming a living sacrifice is a painful battle of wills between the human who wants to live and the spirit who knows it's better not to.


Blogger Kristi Kurtz said...

Gosh...what a great entry. Your writing is always good...but this one. WOW. Thats it. Wow.

Praying for you and thinking of you today.

7:44 AM  

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