Posts tagged ‘Sacrifice’

The Only Sacrifice You Need

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 030.jpg

“David Plays the Harp for Saul” by Rembrandt, circa 1650

The downfall of Saul began with a sacrifice.

We usually think of sacrifices as being noble – like when parents sacrifice for their children or when soldiers sacrifice for their country.  And these sacrifices certainly are noble.  But King Saul’s sacrifice was different.  King Saul’s sacrifice was not noble, but self-serving.

In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel instructs Saul, “Go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them” (1 Samuel 15:3).  Saul does attack the Amalekites.  He does defeat the Amalekites.  But he does not destroy all that belongs to them:

Saul and the army spared…the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs – everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.  (1 Samuel 15:9)

Saul disobeys Samuel’s – and, by extension, God’s – instruction.  When Samuel confronts Saul in his disobedience, Saul first tries to deny that he disobeyed at all.  He says to Samuel, “I have carried out the LORD’s instructions” (1 Samuel 15:13).  When Samuel catches him in his lie, Saul claims, “The soldiers spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest” (1 Samuel 15:15).  Samuel, though, is having none of it.  He asks:

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams … Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you as king. (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

Saul thought he could use a sacrifice to weasel out of his disobedience.  He was sorely mistaken.

What was true of Saul’s sacrifice, the Bible says, is true of all sacrifices.  God cannot be somehow bribed to overlook sin by a sacrifice.  The preacher of Hebrews says of the Old Testament sacrificial system:  “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11).  Sacrifices do not fix sins.  That is, except for one sacrifice:  Christ’s.  For by Christ’s “one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14).

Whereas kings and priests would offer broken sacrifices in their sin, Jesus offered a perfect sacrifice for our sin.  The one man who needed no sacrifice for Himself because He was sinless was the one man who made a sacrifice for all in their sinfulness.  And His sacrifice changed everything.

The next time you are caught in a sin, then, do not try to hide your sin, like Saul.  Instead, confess your sin freely.  And do not try slyly redeem yourself by making a sacrifice, like Saul.  Instead, rejoice that you have been forgiven by a sacrifice already made.  Jesus is all the sacrifice you need.

November 12, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Remembering the Lost

Memorial Day 1Today, we remember those who sacrificed their lives in service to their country.  Memorial Day is always a day full of mixed emotions.  On the one hand, we celebrate the bravery, valor, and commitment of these soldiers who were willing to suffer all – even death – to serve our nation.  On the other hand, as with any loss of life, we mourn.  And we should.  After all, in the words of the apostle Paul, death is not only an enemy, but the enemy (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26).  We want death to be defeated.  We do not want it to defeat us.  But even as we mourn the loss of those we love, we can take heart in the promise of the Gospel that death’s defeat of us is only partial and temporary.  It is partial because death destroys only our bodies and not our souls.  And it is only temporary because when Jesus returns, He will raise our bodies to live with Him forever.

On this Memorial Day, as we remember our fallen, I would point you to some words from one of our nation’s founding fathers, John Hancock:

I hereby call upon ministers and people of every denomination, to…devoutly and sincerely offer to almighty God, the gratitude of our hearts, for all His goodness towards us; more especially in that He has been pleased to continue to us so a great a measure of health, to cause the earth plentifully to yield her increase so that we are supplied with the necessaries and the comforts of life, to prosper our merchandise and fishery, and, above all, not only to continue to us the enjoyment of our civil rights and liberties, but the great and most important blessing, the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And together with our cordial acknowledgments, I do earnestly recommend, that we may join the penitent confession of our sins, and implore the further continuance of the divine protection, and blessings of heaven upon this people; especially that He would be graciously pleased to direct, and prosper the administration of the federal government, and of this, and the other states in the Union, to afford Him further smiles on our agriculture and fisheries, commerce and manufactures, to prosper our university and all seminaries of learning, to bless the virtuously struggling for the rights of men…and to afford his almighty aid to all people, who are established in the world; that all may bow to the scepter of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole earth be filled with His glory.[1]

A few things are notable about Hancock’s words here.  First, as Hancock would guide us, it is important that we always remember to give thanks.  We are called by our Lord, even when times are trying and tenuous, to give thanks to Him for His blessings to us, His presence with us, and, most importantly, His gospel for us.  No amount of sin or tragedy can circumvent the good and sturdy promises of almighty God – even the tragedy of losing a loved one in battle.  For this, we can be thankful.

Second, Hancock encourages all of us to acknowledge our sinfulness.  After all, the sinfulness and brokenness of this world is the reason there are wars.  History is littered with tyrants who, rife with evil intent, needed to be defeated in battle so they could not carry out – or, in most instances, continue to carry out – their wicked agendas. When we confess our sins, we do so with the knowledge that the whole earth is broken by sin and needs healing.  We also acknowledge that even if we can curb and contain evil thanks to the valiant efforts of our brave troops, we cannot finally defeat it.  This can only be done by Christ.

Third, Hancock desires that we pray for the safety and protection of our troops.  On a day when we remember lives that have been lost, it is most certainly appropriate to pray that no more will be lost.

Finally, Hancock points us toward the Christian’s hope that, on the Last Day, “all may bow to the scepter of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole earth be filled with His glory.”  One day, wars will cease.  One day, tyrants will be no more.  One day, nations will not take up arms against nations.  Because one day, all will bow to Jesus and the whole earth will be filled with His glory.

As we remember those who have died waiting and longing for this day, may we ourselves pray that it would come soon so that we may be reunited with those we have lost and celebrate the final defeat of evil in the presence of our Savior.


[1] John Hancock, “Proclamation – Thanksgiving Day – 1791, Massachusetts.”

May 27, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Making the Most of Marriage

At the end of each year, major news outlets publish their lists of the year’s top news stories.  For 2011, Osama bin Laden’s death and Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami were the top news stories according to the Associate Press. [1]  Interestingly, it is not only mainstream news outlets that provide such lists.  Religious news outlets, editorial writers, and bloggers are now following suit.  I have seen lists of 2011’s top religious news stories in Christianity Today [2] and the The Huffington Post[3]  But it is a top ten news story in the Gospel Coalition blog that really caught my attention.  It is titled “Marriages Need Help.”  Collin Hansen, who penned this list, explains why this story made his top ten:

This story could have appeared in my 2010 list, and it might warrant an encore in 2012. Same-sex “marriage,” legalized by New York state in 2011, continues to grab the headlines. But here’s the bigger story: a growing number of Westerners have abandoned the institution altogether. The Pew Research Center recently revealed that a record low number of Americans – 51 percent – are married. The rate dropped 5 percent in just one year, between 2009 and 2010. [4]

If that statistic from the Pew Research Center does not make your jaw drop, it should.  At an increasingly rapid rate, Americans are either (A) getting divorced, (B) never getting married in the first place, or (C) living in lifeless, loveless, romance-less marriages.  It is worth noting that the statistics from Pew do not account for those in category C.

In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, [5] Pastor Tim Keller distinguishes between two kinds of relationships:  consumer relationships and covenantal relationships.  A consumer relationship lasts only as long as the needs of the partners in the relationship are being met satisfactorily.  As soon as needs stop being met, the relationship falls apart.  These kinds of relationships, then, are inherently self-centered, for they exist merely to gratify their participants.  Covenantal relationships, on the other hand, are binding relationships in which the good of the relationship trumps the preferences and immediate needs of the individuals in the relationship.   These relationships are based on a continual commitment rather than on a consumer-fueled contentment.

Part of the reason marriage is on such a sharp decline, Keller argues, is because we have taken what should be the covenantal relationship of marriage and have turned it into a consumer relationship.  In other words, many marriages last only as long as the partners are having their needs met.  As soon as a marriage hits a rough patch, or as soon as one spouse or both spouses feel as though their desires are going unaddressed, divorce all too quickly ensues.  Indeed, this is why many people don’t get married in the first place.  They don’t want to bother with the kind of covenantal commitment that marriage inevitably brings – at least from a legal standpoint, if nothing else.  As a pastor, I have heard more times than I care to remember, “We don’t need a piece of paper [i.e., a marriage license] to tell us that we love each other.  We don’t need to get married!”  This kind of statement breaks my heart.  For what a person who makes such a statement is really saying is, “I don’t love this person quite enough to make things as permanent as a marriage makes things!  I don’t love this person quite enough to enter into a covenant with them!”

Jesus’ words about a Christian’s life apply equally as well to a spouse’s life:  “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).  Self-sacrifice is the way of the gospel…and the way of marriage.  Marriage is not about getting your needs met.  It is about sacrificing selflessly for the sake of your spouse.  And yet, through such willing sacrifice, Jesus promises that your needs will indeed be met, even if ever so mysteriously.  You will “find your life,” Jesus says.  But take heed of Jesus’ warning:  If you enter a relationship with a consumer mentality, looking only to your own needs, wants, and desires – if you try to “save your life” – you will only wind up sorely and sadly empty.  You will only wind up losing your life.  Fulfillment in marriage – and in life – begins with emptying yourself in service.

So if you are married, but times are tough, in almost every instance, except those instances in which a family member is in danger, the road to recovery begins with serving your spouse.  If you are not married, but you’d like to be, selfless service is the path to your future spouse’s heart.  This is the help our marriages need.


[1] David Crary, “The top ten news stories of 2011,” The Associated Press (12.30.11).

[2]Top 10 News Stories of 2011,” Christianity Today (12.28.11).

[3] Paul Brandies Raushenbush, “Religion Stories of 2011: The Top 11,” The Huffington Post (12.8.11).

[4] Collin Hansen, “My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2011,” The Gospel Coalition (12.28.11).

[5] See chapter 3, “The Essence of Marriage” in Tim Keller with Katy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage (New York: Dutton, 2011).

January 9, 2012 at 5:15 am 3 comments

Weekend Extra – Jesus, the Donkey Tamer

It was the first new vehicle I had ever purchased.  And when I drove off the lot in my brand new 2003 forest green Chevrolet Silverado, I was beaming with pride.  Never had I owned a truck so spotless.  Before this, I sputtered around in a beat up Ford Ranger.  But now, I cruised smoothly in a Chevrolet.  I even got to take in that famed new car smell.  I couldn’t wait to show off my new truck to my buddies.  “Look!” I exclaimed as I pulled into my buddies’ apartment, “This truck is sweet.”  And my buddies agreed.  Of course, the three of us had to appropriately break in such a fine new vehicle.  And so we ventured out on a ritual right of passage, precious to young men everywhere:  the road trip.  After all, there’s nothing like Slim Jims, Dr. Pepper, and several hundred miles to appropriately break in a new truck.

In our reading for Palm Sunday from Mark 11, Jesus takes a road trip with His disciples to the city of Jerusalem.  But instead of breaking in a new truck for His road trip, Jesus breaks in a new donkey:  “As Jesus and His disciples approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of His disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here’” (Mark 11:1-2).  For this occasion, Jesus wants a donkey “which no one has ever ridden.”  Two things are notable about this request.

First, unlike a truck that has never been driven, a donkey that has never been ridden was no smooth ride, for the donkey wouldn’t have been “broken.”  That is, it wouldn’t have been used to carrying any sort of a burden.  Thus, the animal would have normally tried to buck any burden off its back.  Jesus, however, seems to have no such problem:  “When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it” (Mark 11:7).  There is no mention of the animal making any fuss whatsoever.  At this scene, one cannot help but think of the kind of power Jesus has over creation.  He can calm a storm (Mark 4:35-41) and whither a fig tree (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21).  Nature submits to His command.  Who is this? Even the wind and the waves, the fig tree, and a donkey obey Him (cf. Mark 4:41)!

The answer to this question, of course, is that Jesus is the Holy One of God.  He is God’s Messiah and, as such, fulfills the Isaianic promise:  “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:6-9).  Christ, as God’s Holy One, rules God’s creation and brings peace and rest to it – even to unbroken donkeys.

This takes us to the second thing that is notable about Jesus’ request.  Jesus’ request for an unbroken animal hearkens to the Old Testament sacrificial system, where unbroken animals were used as sacrifices to God.  For instance, in Numbers 19:2-3, we read: “This is a requirement of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke. Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence.”  A sacrificial animal was to be unbroken and un-ridden.  And so here we have an unbroken donkey.  But this time, instead of being the sacrifice, the donkey is bearing the sacrifice.  For Christ, just days later will be sacrificed on a cross.

In the Old West, the cowboys had a saying.  “Hold your horses!” they would say when an equine got out of control.  On Palm Sunday, the cry rings out from the disciples: “Hold your donkey!”  “Hold your donkey,” for the Savior needs it to ride into Jerusalem.  And though it has never been ridden, it will not gallop out of control.  For the Holy One of God is sovereign over nature – even donkeys.  “Hold your donkey,” and do not give it to someone else, for this unbroken donkey will bear the sacrifice broken for sin…and sinners.  What an honor it must have been for that donkey to bear the Christ.  And what a blessing it is for us that our King has come to us “righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Josh’s
message!

April 18, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,076 other followers


%d bloggers like this: