It is difficult to imagine the grief and raw emotion of a small Israelite child who had to watch the sacrifice of an innocent lamb which he considered his pet. The closest we could come to that would probably be when we had to watch a favorite pet being put down at the vet’s office. In both cases there would be a sacrifice, but without the blood in the latter one.

Offering and sacrifice are almost interchangeable except that sacrifice implies the “surrender or destruction of something valued.” An offering is a contribution or gift given to or through a church. Jesus’ observation of the poor widow’s sacrificial gift in contrast to the rich people’s contribution from their surplus, shows the difference between the two words (Lk 21:1-2).

In the book of Leviticus there are many types offerings commanded by God through the Priesthood—Burnt, Grain, Fellowship, Sin, Guilt, Drink, and Freewill. Most of these involved remembrance, obedience, gratitude and the rolling back of sins (Lev 4:26). God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mt. Moriah (Heb 11:17-19) (Gen 22:2) as a burnt offering. Abraham passed the obedience test and Isaac was spared. King Saul failed his test and was told, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Sam 15: 22)

Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph 5:2) (Php 4:18). In several verses God said he did not really want sacrifices and offerings rather a loving and obedient relationship with mankind (Ps 40:6) (Ps 51:16) (Hos 6:6). Jesus was the last blood sacrifice for sins (Rom 3:25) (Heb 10:14) (Heb 10:18).

Christians in this age offer the sacrifice of praise and confession through Jesus (Heb 13:15). We also offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is our spiritual act of worship (Rom 12:1). We do this when we deny self and take up our cross daily and follow Jesus (Lk 9:23). We also do this when we give of our money cheerfully (2 Cor 9:7), when we offer up our time generously, pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17), comfort others (2 Cor 1:3-4), and many other acts of the Apostles.

—Jim Bailey