Sacrifices of Praise That Please Jehovah
“Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God.”—ROMANS 12:1.
1. What does the Bible say about the relative value of the sacrifices under the Mosaic Law?
“SINCE the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things, men can never with the same sacrifices from year to year which they offer continually make those who approach perfect.” (Hebrews 10:1) There, in one bold statement, the apostle Paul affirms that all the sacrifices offered under the Mosaic Law were of no permanent value as far as man’s salvation is concerned.—Colossians 2:16, 17.
2. Why is it not in vain to try to understand the detailed information in the Bible about the offerings and sacrifices of the Law?
2 Does this mean that the material in the Pentateuch regarding offerings and sacrifices is of no value to Christians today? As a matter of fact, over the span of a little more than a year, individuals enrolled in the Theocratic Ministry School in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide recently read through the first five books of the Bible. Some have struggled to read and understand all the details. Has all their effort been in vain? That surely cannot be the case, for “all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) The question, then, is, What “instruction” and “comfort” can we glean from that body of information in the Law regarding offerings and sacrifices?
For Our Instruction and Comfort
3. What basic need do we have?
3 Though not required to offer literal sacrifices in the manner stipulated by the Law, we are still very much in need of what the sacrifices did to a degree for the Israelites, namely, to have our sins forgiven and to enjoy God’s favor. Since we no longer offer literal sacrifices, how can we receive such benefits? After pointing out the limitations of the animal sacrifices, Paul declares: “When [Jesus] comes into the world he says: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt offerings and sin offering.’ Then I said, ‘Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.’”—Hebrews 10:5-7.
4. How does Paul apply Psalm 40:6-8 to Jesus Christ?
4 Quoting from Psalm 40:6-8, Paul points out that Jesus did not come to perpetuate the “sacrifice and offering,” the “whole burnt offerings and sin offering,” all of which by the time of Paul’s writing no longer had God’s approval. Rather, Jesus came with a body prepared by his heavenly Father, one that corresponded in every respect to the one God prepared when He created Adam. (Genesis 2:7; Luke 1:35; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45) As the perfect Son of God, Jesus had the role of the “seed” of the woman, as foretold at Genesis 3:15. He would take steps to ‘bruise Satan in the head,’ though Jesus himself would be ‘bruised in the heel.’ In this way, Jesus became the means provided by Jehovah for mankind’s salvation, to which men of faith had been looking since the days of Abel.
5, 6. What superior way of approach to God is available to Christians?
5 Speaking about this special role that Jesus played, Paul says: “The one who did not know sin [God] made to be sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness by means of him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) The expression “made to be sin” can also be translated ‘made as a sin offering.’ The apostle John says: “He is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:2) Hence, while the Israelites had a temporary means of approach to God by their sacrifices, Christians have a superior basis for coming to God—the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (John 14:6; 1 Peter 3:18) If we exercise faith in the ransom sacrifice provided by God and obey Him, we too can have our sins forgiven and enjoy God’s favor and blessing. (John 3:17, 18) Is that not a source of comfort? How, though, can we demonstrate that we have faith in the ransom sacrifice?
6 After explaining that Christians have a superior basis for approach to God, the apostle Paul outlines, as we read at Hebrews 10:22-25, three ways in which we can demonstrate our faith and appreciation for God’s loving provision. Even though Paul’s admonition was directed chiefly to those who have “the way of entry into the holy place”—that is, anointed Christians with a heavenly calling—surely all humanity need to pay attention to Paul’s inspired words if they want to benefit from Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice.—Hebrews 10:19.
Offer Sacrifices Clean and Undefiled
7. (a) How does Hebrews 10:22 reflect what was done in a sacrifice? (b) What had to be done to make sure that a sacrifice was acceptable to God?
7 First, Paul urges Christians: “Let us approach with true hearts in the full assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled from a wicked conscience and our bodies bathed with clean water.” (Hebrews 10:22) The language employed here unmistakably reflects what was done in a typical sacrifice under the Law. This is fitting because for a sacrifice to be acceptable, it had to be offered with the right motive and be of something clean and undefiled. The sacrificial animal was from the herd or the flock, that is to say of the clean animals, and was “sound,” without defect. If the sacrifice was from the fowls, it had to be from the turtledoves or young pigeons. If those conditions were met, “it [was to] be graciously accepted for him to make atonement for him.” (Leviticus 1:2-4, 10, 14; 22:19-25) The grain offering contained no leaven, which is a symbol of corruption; neither would it contain honey, likely meaning the syrup of fruit, which has a tendency to cause fermentation. When the sacrifices—animal or grain—were offered on the altar, salt, a preservative, was added.—Leviticus 2:11-13.
8. (a) What was required of the person making an offering? (b) How can we make sure that our worship is acceptable to Jehovah?
8 What of the person making the offering? The Law stated that anyone coming before Jehovah had to be clean and undefiled. Someone who had become defiled for any reason first had to offer a sin or guilt offering to restore his clean standing before Jehovah so that his burnt offering or communion sacrifice could be acceptable to Him. (Leviticus 5:1-6, 15, 17) Do we, therefore, appreciate the importance of always maintaining a clean standing before Jehovah? If we want our worship to be acceptable to God, we must be swift about correcting any infractions of God’s laws. We should be quick to avail ourselves of the God-given means for help—“the older men of the congregation” and the “propitiatory sacrifice for our sins,” Jesus Christ.—James 5:14; 1 John 2:1, 2.
9. What is a key difference between the sacrifices made to Jehovah and those offered to false gods?
9 The emphasis on freedom from defilement of any kind was, in fact, the key difference between the sacrifices offered to Jehovah and those offered to false gods by the people in the nations around Israel. Commenting on this distinctive feature of the sacrifices in the Mosaic Law, one reference work observes: “We may note that there is no connection with divination or augury; no religious frenzy, self-mutilations, or sacred prostitution, sensual and orgiastic fertility rites being utterly forbidden; no human sacrifices; no sacrifices for the dead.” All of this draws attention to one fact: Jehovah is holy, and he does not condone or approve of sin or corruption of any kind. (Habakkuk 1:13) Worship and sacrifices rendered to him must be clean and undefiled—physically, morally, and spiritually.—Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:14-16.
10. In line with Paul’s admonition recorded at Romans 12:1, 2, what self-scrutiny should we make?
10 In view of this, we ought to scrutinize ourselves in all areas of life to be sure that our service to Jehovah is acceptable to him. We should never think that as long as we are having some share in Christian meetings and in the ministry, it does not matter what we do in our private life. We also should not feel that participation in Christian activities somehow excuses us from the need to abide by God’s laws in other areas of our life. (Romans 2:21, 22) We cannot expect God’s blessing and favor if we allow anything unclean or defiled in his eyes to contaminate our thinking or actions. Bear in mind Paul’s words: “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 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.”—Romans 12:1, 2.
Offer Sacrifices of Praise Wholeheartedly
11. What is included in the term “public declaration,” mentioned at Hebrews 10:23?
11 In writing to the Hebrews, Paul next calls attention to a vital aspect of true worship: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised.” (Hebrews 10:23) The expression “public declaration” literally means “confession,” and Paul also speaks of “a sacrifice of praise.” (Hebrews 13:15) This reminds us of the type of sacrifice that men like Abel, Noah, and Abraham offered.
12, 13. What did an Israelite acknowledge when he offered a burnt sacrifice, and what can we do to reflect the same spirit?
12 When an Israelite offered a burnt sacrifice, it was done “of his own free will before Jehovah.” (Leviticus 1:3) By such a sacrifice, he voluntarily made a public declaration, or acknowledgment, of Jehovah’s bountiful blessings and loving-kindness toward his people. Recall that a distinctive feature of the burnt sacrifice was that the entire offering was consumed on the altar—a fitting symbol of total devotion and dedication. Correspondingly, we demonstrate our faith in the ransom sacrifice and our gratitude for that provision when we willingly and wholeheartedly offer our “sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips,” to Jehovah.
13 While Christians do not offer literal sacrifices—animal or vegetable—they do have the responsibility to bear witness to the Kingdom good news and to make disciples of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Do you take advantage of opportunities to share in publicly declaring the good news of God’s Kingdom so that many more people can come to know the wonderful things God has in store for obedient mankind? Do you willingly spend your time and energy in teaching interested ones and helping them to become disciples of Jesus Christ? Our zealous participation in the ministry, like the restful odor of a burnt offering, is well-pleasing to God.—1 Corinthians 15:58.
Rejoice in Fellowship With God and Men
14. How do Paul’s words at Hebrews 10:24, 25 parallel the idea of the communion sacrifice?
14 Finally, Paul calls attention to our relationship with fellow Christians as we worship God. “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) The expressions “to incite to love and fine works,” “the gathering of ourselves together,” and “encouraging one another” all remind us of what the communion offering in Israel did for God’s people.
15. What parallel do we see between the communion sacrifice and Christian meetings?
15 The term “communion offerings” is sometimes translated “peace offerings.” The Hebrew word for “peace” here is in the plural, perhaps signifying that participation in such sacrifices results in peace with God and peace with fellow worshipers. Regarding the communion sacrifice, one scholar observes: “This was, indeed, a season of happy fellowship with the Covenant God, in which He condescended to become Israel’s Guest at the sacrificial meal, even as He was always their Host.” This reminds us of Jesus’ promise: “Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20) Every time we attend a Christian meeting, we benefit from the upbuilding association, the encouraging instruction, and from the thought that our Lord Jesus Christ is present with us. That makes a Christian meeting a truly joyous and faith-strengthening occasion.
16. Having the communion sacrifice in mind, what makes Christian meetings especially joyous?
16 In the communion sacrifice, all the fat—around the intestines, the kidneys, the appendage upon the liver, and the loins, as well as the fatty tail of the sheep—was offered to Jehovah by being burned, made to smoke on the altar. (Leviticus 3:3-16) The fat was considered the richest and best part of an animal. Offering it on the altar symbolized giving the best to Jehovah. What makes Christian meetings particularly joyous is that we not only receive instruction but also offer praise to Jehovah. This we do by participating—with our humble but best effort—in singing heartily, listening attentively, and commenting when possible. “Praise Jah, you people!” exclaimed the psalmist. “Sing to Jehovah a new song, his praise in the congregation of loyal ones.”—Psalm 149:1.
Bountiful Blessings From Jehovah Await Us
17, 18. (a) What grand sacrifice did Solomon make at the inauguration of the temple in Jerusalem? (b) What blessings for the people resulted from the ceremony at the temple’s inauguration?
17 At the inauguration of the temple in Jerusalem, in the seventh month of the year 1026 B.C.E., King Solomon offered “a grand sacrifice before Jehovah,” consisting of “the burnt sacrifice and the grain offering and the fat pieces of the communion sacrifices.” In addition to what was offered in the grain offerings, a total of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep were sacrificed on that occasion.—1 Kings 8:62-65.
18 Can you imagine the expense and the amount of work involved in such a massive ceremony? Yet, the blessings that Israel received obviously far outweighed the cost. At the end of the festivities, Solomon “sent the people away; and they began to bless the king and to go to their homes, rejoicing and feeling merry of heart over all the goodness that Jehovah had performed for David his servant and for Israel his people.” (1 Kings 8:66) Truly, as Solomon put it, “the blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”—Proverbs 10:22.
19. What can we do to receive grand blessings from Jehovah now and forever?
19 We are living when the “shadow of the good things to come” has been replaced by “the very substance of the things.” (Hebrews 10:1) Jesus Christ, in the role of the great antitypical High Priest, has already entered into heaven itself and presented the value of his own blood to make atonement for all those exercising faith in his sacrifice. (Hebrews 9:10, 11, 24-26) On the basis of that great sacrifice and by wholeheartedly offering to God our sacrifices of praise that are clean and undefiled, we too can go forward “rejoicing and feeling merry of heart,” looking ahead to bountiful blessings from Jehovah.—Malachi 3:10.
How Would You Answer?
• What instruction and comfort can we glean from the information in the Law about sacrifices and offerings?
• What is the first requirement for a sacrifice to be acceptable, and what meaning does that have for us?
• What can we offer that is comparable to a voluntary burnt offering?
• In what ways can Christian meetings be compared to a communion offering?
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Jesus’ ransom sacrifice was provided by Jehovah for mankind’s salvation
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For our service to be acceptable to Jehovah, we must be free from defilement of any kind
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We publicly acknowledge Jehovah’s goodness when we engage in the ministry