A Sacrifice of Perfection

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 17.1
1 Do not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him.

Reflection: A Sacrifice of Perfection
By Evie Dykhouse

When watching a baking show, it is easy to notice how every contestant wants their pie to be perfectly baked or their chocolate to be perfectly set before they present their creations to the judges. But any person could tell you that things often don’t go as planned. Perfection is impossible for human beings to achieve. Then here comes Deuteronomy.

It’s tempting to dismiss Deuteronomy as a negative set of laws with unrealistic expectations designed solely for ruining the Israelites’ fun. Instead, we should see Deuteronomy as guidelines crafted out of God’s love. Deuteronomy does raise an important question though.

Why does God require a perfect sacrifice from imperfect people?

Sacrifices were a key part of the Israelites’ culture. To atone for their sins, sacrifices were required. Modern readers have the blessing of being able to see the Bible’s full picture. Reading the New Testament, we see the Old Testament come to fruition. Jesus becomes the flawless sacrifice. (1 Peter 1.19)

It was a tremendous act of love for God to sacrifice his one and only Son for sinful people who constantly rejected him. In sacrificing animals without defect, the people in Deuteronomy are pointing to a need for Jesus the perfect Savior.

Christians today know that God is worthy of even more than the best we can offer. We may struggle, wondering what to give God out of love and gratitude, however, God’s sacrifice for his beloved people was blameless Jesus. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can sacrifice our best, even though we fall short of perfection.

Thinking back to the story of Cain and Abel, it’s clear that, from the beginning, God has revealed himself to be deserving of perfection. Like Abel, we should sacrifice the best of what we have to give. Through Cain, we learn that, if we do what is right, God will look upon our human sacrifices with favor and grace. (Genesis 4.3-7

We are not a perfect people, but we worship a perfect God. Through the redemption of Jesus Christ, we, as his children, can make sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to Him. This means the best of our time, the best of our talents, the best of our attention, and more.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 17 (Listen 3:24)
2 Corinthians 10 (Listen 2:45)

Read more about The Smell of Our Sacrifices
The smell of sacrifices that pleased God was not pleasing to his stomach, as if God were hungry…So what did it please?

Read more about Sacrifice of Self
Ultimately we have been called to imitate our self-sacrificing savior, Jesus, by giving of ourselves to do good for the benefit of others.

Recentering on Christ

Psalm 104.1
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
    you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

Reflection: Recentering on Christ
By John Tillman

The psalms are more than instructions and more than inspiration. They are not dry diaries or droning histories, but the living, breathing faith of those interacting with the Holy Spirit. 

Their artistry allows us to enter the prayer room and experience both sides of a holy conversation between human artists and the creator of all. Their art is most practical for those who are seeking God in a world connected by technology. Work, news, and ephemera, now know no boundaries and pop into our hand-held devices unbidden.  

Jonathan Edwards, when in difficulty at work, made use of the scripture, of intercession, and of community to recenter himself on Christ. He describes the experience in the following journal entry:

“In the morning my desires seemed to rise, and ascend up freely to God. Was busy most of the day in translating prayers into the language of the Delaware Indians; met with great difficulty… But though I was much discouraged with the extreme difficulty of that work, God supported me; and especially in the evening gave me sweet refreshment.

In prayer my soul was enlarged, and my faith drawn into sensible exercise; was enabled to cry to God for [them]; and though the work of their conversion appeared impossible with man, yet with God I saw all things were possible.

My faith was much strengthened, by observing the wonderful assistance God afforded his servants Nehemiah and Ezra, in reforming his people, and re-establishing his ancient church.

I was much assisted in prayer for dear Christian friends, and for others that I apprehended to be Christ-less… [I] was enabled to be instant in prayer for them; and hoped that God would bow the heavens and come down for their salvation. It seemed to me there could be no impediment sufficient to obstruct that glorious work, seeing the living God, as I strongly hoped, was engaged for it.

I continued in a solemn frame, lifting up my heart to God for assistance and grace, that I might be more mortified to this present world, that my whole soul might be taken up continually in concern for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom: longed that God would purge me more, that I might be as a chosen vessel to bear his name among the heathens. Continued in this frame until I dropped asleep.”

Prayer: The Greeting
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed. — Psalm 71.23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 17 (Listen – 3:24) 
Psalm 104 (Listen – 3:37) 

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Read more about The Success of Redemption
Thus the gospel-sun which had lately risen on the Jews, now rose upon, and began to enlighten, the heathen world, after they had continued in gross heathenish darkness for so many ages.

Read more about The Beginning of Holiness
Holiness in man is but the image of God’s holiness. Surely there are not more virtues belonging to the image than are in the original.