Summary: A Lenten message challenging us to consecrate the sacrifice of ourselves to God.
The Altar of Sacrifice
Text: Genesis 22:1 & 2, 9-12
This Lenten Sunday morning we examine Sacrifice. A traditional exercise of many believers is to give up something for Lent. Many of you have shared with me what you are giving up for Lent, some are going to fast, some are giving up chocolate, some are giving up Pepsi or Coffee. Some of you may be giving up something much tougher. The standard message for Living a Life of Sacrifice is one that deals with fasting and prayer. And surely, that is a commendable thing to do. However, this morning I want to share with you a more theological theme on sacrifice. It is not a particularly long message, but one I trust will challenge your heart and give depth and meaning to your sacrificial leanings this Easter season.
I hope to touch on just three areas of sacrifice this morning as a way to paint for you the picture I think God would have us see today. The first is found in Genesis 22 and is the account of Abraham offering his son Isaac on the altar. Look again with me at the passage. First we see God calling to Abraham to test him. God tells Abraham to take his son, his only son, the son he loves, to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering. Obediently, Abraham makes the proper arrangements for the sacrifice, vs. 3-8. Then we pick up the story in verse 9 where Abraham places his only son on the altar and prepares to kill him with a knife. Just as he is about to plunge the knife into his son, the angel of the Lord calls out for him to stop. Can you imagine the anguish in Abraham’s heart as he placed his only son on the altar of stones and wood? I dare say few, if any of us would be willing to take God’s request to that limit. Abraham’s faithfulness was so great that God made a covenant with him that he would be the father of many nations and that his decendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.
What do we learn from this example? We learn that sacrifice involves faith. It is said that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. When we sacrifice something for God, we must do so, not out of obligation, but in faith. Faith that through our sacrifice we will draw nearer to God and that He will be pleased with our offering.
Our second example is found in Hebrews10:12-14. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac was a preview of how God would give his only beloved Son as the sacrifice for us. We see this expressed in many places in the Old Testament and the New. Today I want us to look at how it is very simply, and logically expressed in Hebrews.
12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Jesus, our high priest was offered for all time as the one sacrifice for sin. When He had completed that task He sat down at the right hand of God. By that one sacrifice he has purchased our redemption.
In the Old Testament people were constantly bringing animals to the temple to be sacrificed for their myriad of sins. Yet, these sacrifices merely covered them over until next time. It was impossible that the blood of sheep and goats could remove sin.
Can you imagine what it would be like this morning if we all had to bring an animal with us this morning to offer at this altar for our sins of the past week? We’d have to fence in our parking lot across the street and turn it into pasture.
Continually, the Jews would bring their sacrifices. Yet sin still reigned. Men were still unrighteous. When Jesus provided that eternal sacrifice He eliminated the need for us to bring our animals to the altar. For the believer this morning, sacrifice takes on a whole new meaning. Sacrifice is no longer something we do because we are sinful and stand in need of forgiveness – that sacrifice has been made for all time. No, sacrifice is something we do because we are forgiven! We sacrifice in part to pay tribute to the One who paid the great sacrifice. We do so to remember His sacrifice. We do so honor Him.
Now lets move on to our third example of sacrifice. We can give up our coffee, our chocolate and numerous other vices and cravings during Lent. However, there is a greater sacrifice God is calling for this morning. Turn with me to Romans 12:1: