Sacrifices That Are Acceptable to God
1. How did Jehovah feel when his servants of old offered sacrifices to him?
WHEN God’s servants of old sacrificed to him in the proper manner it was a pleasing thing to him. When the global flood had wiped out all wicked ones and Noah built an altar to Jehovah and offered burnt sacrifices thereon, the account says, “And Jehovah began to smell a restful odor.” (Gen. 8:21) It apparently was a very satisfying thing to Him. The same was true with the sacrifices offered by his people in the land of Israel when they were offered according to his instructions.
2. Were all sacrifices received by God in a favorable way, and why?
2 On the other hand, the record is clear that not all sacrifices were received by Jehovah in that favorable way. When Saul, Israel’s first king, disobeyed Jehovah in the matter involving the nation of Amalek, saving their king, Agag, and the best of the Amalekites’ herds and flocks, making the excuse that these would provide a fine sacrifice, Samuel said: “Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams; for rebelliousness is the same as the sin of divination, and pushing ahead presumptuously the same as using uncanny power and teraphim. Since you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he accordingly rejects you from being king.”—1 Sam. 15:21-23.
3. How did Jehovah regard the sacrifices offered in Malachi’s day?
3 After the return of the Israelite exiles from Babylonian captivity, in Malachi’s day, God found both the people and the priests guilty with respect to the sacrifices presented on the altar at his temple. When the priests asked, “In what way have we polluted you?” God answered, “By your saying: ‘The table of Jehovah is something to be despised.’ And when you present a blind animal for sacrificing: ‘It is nothing bad.’ And when you present a lame animal or a sick one: ‘It is nothing bad.’ Bring it near, please, to your governor. Will he find pleasure in you, or will he receive you kindly?” (Mal. 1:7, 8) Jehovah was not hesitant in setting things straight in matters involving his temple and altar. Hypocrisy or dishonesty in the matter of sacrifices was not tolerated.
4. What does Micah 6:6-8 help us to appreciate concerning Jehovah and sacrifices?
4 Jehovah made it very clear what he desired from his people. The animals themselves were to be the very best they had. Also, these were to be offered with a good motive issuing from a pure heart. Note Micah 6:6-8: “With what shall I confront Jehovah? With what shall I bow myself to God on high? Shall I confront him with whole burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of torrents of oil? Shall I give my first-born son for my revolt, the fruitage of my belly for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?” It is obvious that Jehovah was interested in the spirit behind the offering.
5. (a) Is Jehovah still interested in sacrifices, and how do we know? (b) Is only preaching and teaching included in sacrifices today, or what?
5 Although the need for animal sacrifices was done away with when the Law covenant was abolished, yet God is still interested in sacrifices today. He also has the same interest in the right kind of sacrifices. The apostle Paul makes that clear in what is recorded at Hebrews 13:15: “Through him [Christ] let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” Offering to God a sacrifice of praise includes telling the good news of the Kingdom to others and doing so in the right way. But besides preaching and teaching the truth, which Paul here had in mind, the Christian offers sacrifices to God in a number of ways. Why, his entire dedicated life course was to be one of sacrifice as indicated by Peter, when he said: “To this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.” (1 Pet. 2:21) That the dedicated, baptized Christian’s conduct in general has to be acceptable, note what Peter further says: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” (1 Pet. 2:12) The apostle Paul also emphasizes these points when he says: “Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” And to make it clear that this course has nothing to do with the course followed by those in this old wicked system of things he continues: “And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:1, 2) Yes, while God is no longer interested in animal sacrifices, he is interested in the sacrifices his servants make on earth today in behalf of pure worship, and those sacrifices include their entire way of life. God has made clear to his people today what he requires, just as he did in behalf of the Israelites.
6. What else has God done for his people that shows he has favored them?
6 Has God done other things for his people in these “last days” so that they can be sure they are in his favor? Yes he has. He delivered his anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites from captivity to Babylon the Great in 1919 and set them to work in his service. When it was apparent that the gathering in of all his anointed remnant was completed about 1935, he set them to gathering in those who would make up the “great crowd,” those who themselves would aid in this great gathering work. Today, over one million one hundred thousand strong, these sheeplike people are being carefully and lovingly shepherded within over twenty-five thousand congregations all over the earth. He is feeding them rich spiritual food at the proper time and they are constantly growing in spiritual strength. This “one flock” he has given a tremendous task to perform. They are to preach the “good news of the kingdom” in all the inhabited earth for a witness before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) The favored position that they enjoy and the protective arrangements that God has made for them are described at Isaiah 32:1, 2: “Look! A king will reign for righteousness itself; and as respects princes, they will rule as princes for justice itself. And each one must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.” Jehovah’s people know where they stand and are happy and content.
7. If God has shown his favor on his people in so many ways, what questions might we well ask?
7 All of this being true, why should we be so concerned for the kind of sacrifices that are acceptable to God? We have said that it has been made clear today what God requires! Also, he has shown his approval on his organization! Should we not have confidence that God has accepted our dedication and is pleased with our work? What more is necessary?
8. What is it always necessary fo Christians to do, and why?
8 While it may be true that Jehovah has shown his approval upon his people and has blessed them and prospered their activity, yet it is always necessary for Christians to examine themselves and what they are doing so as to be sure they continue in that favored position and thus offer sacrifices acceptable to God. Note Paul’s warning to Christians already established in the truth in his day: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God; but keep on exhorting one another each day, as long as it may be called ‘Today,’ for fear any one of you should become hardened by the deceptive power of sin.”—Heb. 3:12.
9. What do other Bible writers say about the need for self-examination?
9 Apparently, then, it is possible for one to begin to develop within oneself a wicked heart before one knows it, and thus we must keep on the watch. So Jeremiah says: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) Thus Paul advises: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Cor. 13:5) Also, he said: “Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) Yes, we need to examine ourselves continually.
NEED TO KNOW THE TRUTH
10. What are some things that will help us to examine ourselves and help us to offer sacrifices God will accept?
10 How can this be done? For one thing, we need to keep up-to-date with the truth. If Jehovah has lovingly made the truth available to us today, and keeps adding to it, then we must show appreciation to him for this by studying it and learning it. In the world today it is said that technical and scientific knowledge is developing so fast in so many directions that it is difficult even to record it. It is the same with the truth. There is much to learn and limited time in which to learn it. Yet how can we be sure about what God specifically requires of us right now if we are not interested in keeping up-to-date?
11. Why is it so necessary really to know the truth?
11 Accurate, up-to-date knowledge is important, not only for our own benefit, but also because we are required to be teachers of others. A teacher needs to know. Interested persons will be able to recognize the truth when it is presented if we really know it and understand it. This was true with respect to Jesus Christ and those who heard him. Matthew 7:28, 29 says: “Now when Jesus finished these sayings, the effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching; for he was teaching them as a person having authority, and not as their scribes.” We should not think that it was simply Jesus’ powerful delivery and impressive appearance that astounded the people. Undoubtedly this was involved. But we can be sure that it was what he said that was more convincing. Delivery is important, but material, or what you say, is even more important. This was true in the apostle Paul’s case. Apparently he was not impressive personally, nor, apparently, was his delivery. But what he said was, and he persuaded many people to take up the way of Christianity.
12, 13. What illustrates the value and importance of accurate and full knowledge?
12 The importance of really knowing is illustrated in the care people take of their money. When they buy something, they do not like to get cheated but like to get a quality product at the best possible price. But before making that final selection, they appreciate talking to one who is an authority on the subject. If, by reason of his training and experience, he is an expert in this field, then his knowledge is invaluable. Especially is this true if he is a close friend and thus you can really trust him. Generally speaking, there is no substitute for such a source of information.
13 The same is true when our health is involved. Then we want to know our true condition. We want the simple truth presented to us in a way that we understand. Only then can we begin to arrange for the treatment that will bring about recovery or improvement. Here we want to talk to one who is an authority in this field. We want someone who knows and whom we can trust.
14. Why is this even more important with regard to the truth?
14 Much more is this so with respect to the truth of God’s Word. There are some still out in the world today who are concerned for their everlasting lives. Our really knowing the truth and being able to answer their questions and explain simply and clearly what God has done and will yet do will be convincing. There are still people today who are astounded at the informed Christian’s way of teaching because they recognize it as the truth and are convinced. But we should appreciate the need to study and know in order to teach and convince. One who diligently applies himself to the taking in of knowledge for this unselfish reason can be confident he will have God’s spirit to help him and can have assurance that his sacrifices of public declaration to God are acceptable.
15. (a) How far should knowledge reach within the individual? (b) When the truth touches one’s heart, what is the result?
15 In taking in such knowledge it is important to be concerned about where it goes. It should go not only into the head but also down into the heart. Why is it that one person might have a good knowledge of the truth but not be zealous in the ministry, whereas another not as well endowed mentally does not have a fine knowledge of the deeper things of the truth but yet is zealous to engage in the service and anxious to tell others what he has learned? There are undoubtedly a number of things involved that we probably will never know, but without a doubt the matter has much to do with the truth’s touching his heart. What the latter one has learned has affected him in the right way. Because of its having reached down into his heart he wants to do good with it, making the best possible use of it. This is vital if we are going to continue in Jehovah’s favor and be able to offer up sacrifices to him that are acceptable.
16. (a) How do Jehovah and Jesus feel about people? (b) How should this set an example for us?
16 When the truth touches one’s heart one becomes more interested in others. Your being interested in people will make it more certain that your sacrifices will be those God approves. Remember that God is more interested in people than in things. Apparently, that is why he created man last, after the material universe and the animal creation. Genesis 1:26 quotes God as saying, “Let us make man in our image,” meaning that man would have attributes like Jehovah. John 3:16 says: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” That means that God has a love for people who are in a redeemable condition even though not presently acquainted with the “good news” nor as yet dedicated to him. So does Jesus Christ. Matthew 9:36 says concerning him: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” Many of these for whom he felt pity never did take a stand for the truth and become followers of him. Yet, he had a natural concern for them and a desire to help.
17. What do other Bible writers say about personal interest in others, and how does this apply today?
17 This warm, personal concern for others is something that we will never want to lose. It is a quality that God approves of very highly. Our having this Godlike quality means that we are interested in lives, not merely from a humanitarian standpoint, but from God’s standpoint. We will have in mind his higher purposes as they relate to man. It is not good to allow oneself to become indifferent to the problems of our brothers, and others, or distant in our relationship to them. Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) The psalmist appreciated this need and said: “A partner I am of all those who do fear you, and of those keeping your orders.” (Ps. 119:63) The apostle Paul says: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Heb. 13:16) The apostle Peter appreciated the need to be lovingly concerned for others, especially our brothers. But he also warned against letting a wrong motive creep into the matter when he said, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (1 Pet. 4:9) Yes, cultivating a personal interest in others is something God approves.
18. (a) What has helped some to serve God acceptably for many years? (b) Why has this been a help? (c) What of those who follow the course that God approves?
18 Keeping your sacrifices such that they will be acceptable to God obviously requires constant attention. It means endurance. Do you want to know what has helped many faithful servants of God to maintain this position over a long period of time? They committed themselves to a life course of service to God that kept them fully immersed or involved in Kingdom interests. Individual acts of self-sacrifice from day to day are fine. But obligating oneself to serve Jehovah full time, if that be his will, is much better. In fact, it is much easier. Ask any full-time preacher. There is no longer any question in the minds of most of these persons as to what they are going to do. Theirs is a life course of self-sacrifice. Not that continued application and determination are not still necessary. They are. But the schedule or routine that they have intelligently and willingly obligated themselves to follow means that the decision has been made and the work is now there ahead for them to do, outlined in advance for them to accomplish. When Isaiah said: “Here I am! Send me,” we can be sure that he was volunteering to commit himself to a life course of service to do as God would direct. We can be sure, also, that thereafter it was easier for him to follow this course that God approved.
19. (a) Why do the right kind of sacrifices make one happy? (b) How is this shown in the case of David and others?
19 Sacrifices that please God are, in a sense, like no sacrifices at all. Why? Because the sacrificer finds joy in it even though some deprivation or hardship is involved. Anything, after all, that is accomplished that is worth while, takes work. We are not to think that King David’s life was all smooth sailing. In his earlier years he was on the battlefield with his soldiers and at all times he bore the heavy responsibilities of his office as king. Yet, when he had gotten old he looked back on his life in Jehovah’s service with satisfaction and contentment. It was with reference not only to his own life of dedication but to that of others of God’s servants that he said: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.” (Ps. 37:25) There was no evidence of regret on David’s part for the sacrifices that he had made in his lifetime in God’s service. Having done what was right, he was happy, just as the proverb says: “It is a rejoicing for the righteous one to do justice.”—Prov. 21:15.
20. Among which people will happiness and contentment be found today?
20 The same is true today. It is the one that has spent his lifetime in God’s service that has contentment. This is true of those who have spent twenty, thirty, forty or more years at Brooklyn Bethel. Has it all been easy? Not really. Here at the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters you are tested as you become just one of about a thousand others, each one of them with an assignment that sometimes does not constitute the easiest nor the most pleasant work. But here is an opportunity to devote yourself unselfishly all of your waking hours for the highest good of others. You will be furnished with the necessities of life so that you can apply yourself wholly to the Kingdom interests. You will associate with mature Christians who know where they are going and have known it for many years. One who had spent many years in that service and still rejoices in it put it this way: “Even if there were no new order after Armageddon I wouldn’t have wanted to miss serving God here because just being here now is a sufficient reward in itself.” That does not sound like making a sacrifice, does it?
21. Where will one not find examples of sacrifices that God delights in, and why?
21 Does that sound like the conclusion that some of Christendom’s clergy have come to today after having been trained many years in their religious schools and then having served for a time in their churches? No, it does not. Many of these are now shedding all pretense of being believers of God and his Bible. They are changing course and becoming instigators in protest marches and even in riots. Their conclusion is that simply teaching the Bible is not enough. They feel that in order to accomplish something in behalf of deprived people they cannot wait for God to act but have to be out where the action is, even if that means violence that God condemns and the “Caesar” governments condemn. Surely we will not here find examples of those who are offering sacrifices that Jehovah delights in.
THINGS TO GUARD AGAINST
22. (a) What must one guard against in order to keep one’s sacrifices acceptable? (b) Give an example.
22 Something to guard against in all of this is resentment. One could allow the feeling to develop that too much is required. It can happen to anyone. It happened to Moses, ‘the meekest of men.’ The Israelites had just gotten started on their trek through the wilderness toward the land of Canaan when the people began to complain because of lack of meat. Moses said to Jehovah: “I am not able, I by myself, to carry all this people, because they are too heavy for me. So if this is the way you are doing to me, please kill me off altogether, if I have found favor in your eyes, and let me not look upon my calamity.” (Num. 11:14, 15) Jehovah has not required too much of us. There is, indeed, plenty of work to do, but the right view will straighten us out, just as Moses was aided to get the right view and was straightened out.
23. (a) What else must one guard against to keep one’s sacrifices acceptable? (b) Give an example.
23 We also have to guard against jealousy. This, too, can happen to anyone. It happened to Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister. They apparently felt that Moses had too much power and authority and so said to him: “Is it just by Moses alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?” (Num. 12:2) Miriam was stricken with leprosy by Jehovah, and it was only by Moses’ intercession that she was healed. Do we feel that some others are more highly favored with responsibilities and privileges than we are? Do we sometimes allow the desire for a little more prominence in the congregation to build up in us unknowingly? It is something to watch, is it not? It is much better to rejoice when others of our brothers are rewarded for good work done, and, in fact, encourage them to greater works in behalf of pure worship.
24. What about misplaced sacrifices?
24 We will also want to guard against misplaced sacrifices. Have you been thinking of working overtime, or allowing your wife to work so that your son can go to college? This will be a ‘sacrifice,’ but is it really worth it? Too often these sons have come out of college with little or no faith in God nor love and respect for their parents who worked so hard to make the higher education possible. This experience has been a bitter disappointment to some. It is the wrong kind of sacrifice. By contrast, parents who concern themselves primarily with Christian training for their children and provide a Christian example for them to follow will find this a sacrifice that is pleasing to God.
25. What makes us happy concerning sacrifices to Jehovah?
25 It is good to be living in the time when the kind of sacrifices that Jehovah enjoys most can be offered up to him. We are glad that these are to be offered in the form of praise by Christians who are intelligent and enlightened, not in a formalistic, sectarian way. It has been made clear just what God delights in. What a privilege to know of sacrifices that are acceptable to him and to offer them!
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When Bible truth touches one’s heart, one becomes more interested in others and seeks regularly to offer sacrifices of public declaration to God