Offering Sacrifices That Please God
“LIFE flowed from death—so believed the Aztecs, who practiced human sacrifice on a scale unprecedented in Mesoamerica,” says the book The Mighty Aztecs. “As the empire grew,” the book continues, “only blood and more blood upheld its fragile confidence.” According to another reference work, the number of human sacrifices by the Aztecs reached 20,000 a year.
Out of fear and uncertainty or motivated by feelings of guilt and remorse, people throughout history have offered sacrifices of one kind or another to their deities. On the other hand, the Bible shows that certain sacrifices were divinely instituted—by the almighty God, Jehovah. Therefore, it would be appropriate to ask: What kind of sacrifices please God? And should offerings and sacrifices be a part of worship today?
Offerings and Sacrifices in True Worship
When the nation of Israel was formed, Jehovah gave explicit instructions about the way he wanted the Israelites to worship him, and this included offerings and sacrifices. (Numbers, chapters 28 and 29) Some of the offerings were of the fruit of the earth; others involved sacrificing such animals as bulls, sheep, goats, pigeons, and turtledoves. (Leviticus 1:3, 5, 10, 14; 23:10-18; Numbers 15:1-7; 28:7) There were whole burnt offerings that were to be entirely consumed in fire. (Exodus 29:38-42) There were also communion sacrifices, in which those who offered them participated by eating from that which was sacrificed to God.—Leviticus 19:5-8.
All the offerings and sacrifices that were made to God under the Mosaic Law were a way of worshipping God and recognizing him as the Sovereign of the universe. Through such sacrifices, the Israelites expressed their gratitude to Jehovah for his blessing and protection as well as gained forgiveness for their sins. As long as they were faithful in observing Jehovah’s requirements for worship, they were greatly blessed.—Proverbs 3:9, 10.
To Jehovah, the most important thing was the attitude of those who offered the sacrifices. By means of his prophet Hosea, Jehovah said: “In loving-kindness I have taken delight, and not in sacrifice; and in the knowledge of God rather than in whole burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) Thus, when the people turned away from true worship and practiced loose conduct and shed innocent blood, the sacrifices that they were presenting on Jehovah’s altar had no value. That is why, through Isaiah, Jehovah told the nation of Israel: “Of what benefit to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? . . . I have had enough of whole burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed animals; and in the blood of young bulls and male lambs and he-goats I have taken no delight.”—Isaiah 1:11.
“A Thing That I Had Not Commanded”
In sharp contrast with the Israelites, the inhabitants of Canaan offered their children as sacrifices to their gods, including the Ammonite god called Molech, also known as Milcom or Moloch. (1 Kings 11:5, 7, 33; Acts 7:43) Halley’s Bible Handbook says: “Canaanites worshipped, by immoral indulgence, as a religious rite, in the presence of their gods; and then, by murdering their first-born children, as a sacrifice to these same gods.”
Did such practices please Jehovah God? Decidedly not. As the Israelites were about to enter the land of Canaan, Jehovah gave them the command recorded at Leviticus 20:2, 3: “You are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘Any man of the sons of Israel, and any alien resident who resides as an alien in Israel, who gives any of his offspring to Molech, should be put to death without fail. The people of the land should pelt him to death with stones. And as for me, I shall set my face against that man, and I will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech for the purpose of defiling my holy place and to profane my holy name.’”
Incredible as it may seem, some Israelites who went astray from true worship took up this demonic practice of sacrificing their children to false gods. Regarding this, Psalm 106:35-38 says: “They went mingling with the nations and took up learning their works. And they kept serving their idols, and these came to be a snare to them. And they would sacrifice their sons and their daughters to demons. So they kept spilling innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land came to be polluted with bloodshed.”
Expressing his abhorrence of this practice, Jehovah said through his prophet Jeremiah regarding the sons of Judah: “They have set their disgusting things in the house upon which my name has been called, in order to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, a thing that I had not commanded and that had not come up into my heart.”—Jeremiah 7:30, 31.
Because of engaging in such disgusting practices, the nation of Israel finally lost God’s favor. Its capital city, Jerusalem, was eventually destroyed, and the people were taken captive to Babylon. (Jeremiah 7:32-34) Clearly, the practice of offering humans in sacrifice is not from the true God and is no part of pure worship. Human sacrifice in any form is demonic, and true worshippers of God stay away from anything that is connected with such a practice.
The Ransom Sacrifice of Christ Jesus
Some, however, may ask, ‘Why, then, did Jehovah’s Law to the Israelites include animal sacrifices?’ The apostle Paul considered this very question and provided this answer: “Why, then, the Law? It was added to make transgressions manifest, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made . . . Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ.” (Galatians 3:19-24) The animal sacrifices under the Mosaic Law typified a greater sacrifice that Jehovah God would provide in behalf of mankind—that of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus referred to this loving act when he said: “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.”—John 3:16.
Out of love for God and for mankind, Jesus willingly surrendered his perfect human life as a ransom for Adam’s offspring. (Romans 5:12, 15) Jesus said: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) No one else on earth could redeem humans from the bondage to sin and death into which Adam had sold them. (Psalm 49:7, 8) Thus, Paul explained that Jesus “entered, no, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place and obtained an everlasting deliverance for us.” (Hebrews 9:12) By accepting Jesus’ sacrificial blood, God “blotted out the handwritten document against us.” That is, Jehovah set aside the Law covenant, with its required offerings and sacrifices, thus bringing in ‘the gift of everlasting life.’—Colossians 2:14; Romans 6:23.
Spiritual Sacrifices and Offerings
Since animal sacrifices and offerings are no longer part of true worship, are any sacrifices still required of us today? Yes, indeed. Jesus Christ lived a life of sacrifice in his service to God and finally offered himself in behalf of mankind. Hence, he declared: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) This means that anyone who wants to become Jesus’ follower must make certain sacrifices. What are these?
For one thing, a genuine follower of Christ no longer lives for himself but lives to do God’s will. He subjects his personal will and desires to those of God. Note how the apostle Paul put it: “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.
Furthermore, the Bible indicates that our expressions of praise can be viewed as sacrifices offered to Jehovah. The prophet Hosea used the phrase “the young bulls of our lips,” showing that God considers the praise of our lips to be one of the finest sacrifices. (Hosea 14:2) The apostle Paul urged the Hebrew Christians: “Offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses stay very busy preaching the good news and making disciples of people of all nations. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) They are offering sacrifices of praise to God day and night around the earth.—Revelation 7:15.
Along with preaching, the doing of good to others is included among the sacrifices that please God. “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others,” exhorted Paul, “for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16) In fact, for sacrifices of praise to be pleasing to God, good conduct is required of those offering them. Paul admonished: “Behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ.”—Philippians 1:27; Isaiah 52:11.
As in the past, all sacrifices that are made in support of true worship will result in great joy and in blessings from Jehovah. Let us, therefore, do our best to offer sacrifices that truly please God!
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“Their sons and their daughters . . . they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan”
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By preaching the good news and being helpful in other ways, true Christians offer sacrifices that are pleasing to God