Links Daily Devotional

A Sacrifice of Love

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2, ESV)

I did not set out to write a sequence on the theme of love. Sometimes the inevitable cannot be avoided. When a golf course is laced with water hazards, you’re probably going to find one. And when the Scriptures are full of passages about love, you’re going to find yourself reading about love (or writing about it!) quite often.

Jesus’ death came with great sacrifice and also with great purpose.The whole story is this. As I am reading through the Bible this year, I have come to the opening chapters of Leviticus. A word of advice: this isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for a lively story. No angel of the Lord, no triumphant shout outside the walls of Jericho, no fiery furnace or lions’ den, and no miraculous healings. Just instructions. Lots and lot of instructions. And nearly all about one thing: how to make sacrifice to God.

There were the burnt offerings, creating an aroma pleasing to the Lord. There were the grain offerings, seasoned with salt but devoid of yeast—so specific in their regulations. There were fellowship offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings, each with their own nuances. But all these offerings served the same purpose, which was to make atonement, to say to God that the sinner recognized his or her sin (even if it was unintentional) and wanted forgiveness from the only one who could ultimately grant it, God himself.

In some ways, not much has changed. At least not in us. If our conscience is at all alive, we still recognize our sin. It embarrasses us, exposes us, gnaws at us, and leaves our soul separated from communion with God. Though there are varying degrees of awareness at work, we are desperate for forgiveness.

What has changed is the economy of atonement. In the tabernacle and temple periods of Israel’s history, the elaborate structure of offerings remained in effect. The challenge was that this structure required a constant coming to the altar.

Then came Jesus. You can find no better explanation of the passing of the sacrificial baton than what we read in Hebrews 10. “Again and again,” we find, “a priest offers the same sacrifice, which can never take away sins. But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12, NIV).

Jesus’ death came with great sacrifice and also with great purpose. In it, he was glorified and in it we were saved.

Which leads us here in the end to where we began. Jesus died because he loved us. When we lay hold of this in understanding and in action, we live as he died—with love as our motivation and our mission. His loving was a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. May ours be so, too.

Jeff Hopper
February 8, 2017
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