Summary: When the sacrifice is hot it has the right form, it will have the right balance, and it will be the right amount.
Deuteronomy 33: 18-19 When the Sacrifice is Hot
When the sacrifice is hot it has the right form, it will have the right balance, and it will be right amount.
If there is a challenge to the meaning of true religious faith, it is found in the weakness of people of our era to demonstrate righteous sacrifice.
Gone are the days when collective action was the tenor of the times. When throughout this community people collected pennies and dollars to build hospitals and schools. Gone are the days when parents of children worked multiple jobs to send their children to school because they knew they would have a better opportunity at life then they had. The times would say, I have mine and you have yours to get.
The truth of the matter is that we have watered down the meaning of sacrifice and placed before adjectives like – token sacrifice, modest sacrifice, and minimal sacrifice. In fact these terms are by definition oxymorons. They are antithetical incongruous terms. They don’t fit together. We want to call it sacrifice, but in reality it is sacrilege.
The reason why what we call sacrifice is sacrilege is because it does not have the right form, it is not in the right balance, and it is not the right amount.
We must be very careful that our hearts and minds are in tune with God, in line with God, and in step with God.
We lean upon these attributes of God - his mercy and his grace, and forget that God is also a jealous God. He will have no one before him. And He definitely will have no thing before him.
That’s why Amos says,
“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies, though you offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteous as a mighty stream.”
There is something about God that requires that a sacrifice is a righteous one.
In the early development of the Hebrew people, righteousness meant right standing before the law. That’s why the first five books of the Bible are called the Pentateuch. Or the laws of Moses, they were intended to establish processes for people to relate together and create a sense of just dealings.
That’s why you should commit Deuteronomy Chapter 11 to your memory, because Moses informs the people that the law as they once knew it which was written on tables of stone should be now written in their hearts.
In other words righteousness is not your standing before the law, but your standing before God.
Right relationship with God is now the standard by which all of your dealings should be measured, with each other, with yourself, and definitely with God.
What is my standing before God? What is the right relationship?
What is a righteous sacrifice? A righteous sacrifice is a hot sacrifice. When a sacrifice is hot it is in the right form, it will have the right balance, and it will be the right amount.
A righteous sacrifice will be one that honors God’s presence, which affirms God’s purpose, and respects God’s power.
This morning’s text illustrates for us Moses final instructions to each of the individual tribes of Israel. He has led out of bondage. He has led them through the wilderness. Just like one can say about David, you can say about Moses - with the integrity of his heart and the skillfulness of his hand he has led them.
Now he approached his time, the time that all flesh must go. And he wants each individual tribe to have the benefit of his wisdom. You will find that his words are tailor made for each family. No generalities here. No blanket statements. Every word is intentional and purposeful.
Zebulum in thy going out you shall suck of the abundance of the seas – they were international traders, traveling the great waterways trading goods throughout the land.
Isachar in thy tents you will find treasures in the sand – they were tent makes, builders in our modern day language. Their community was experiences a population boom and the need for affordable housing was great.
Both tribes where entrepreneurs, they were doing well.
And Moses says to them to go to the mountain – the place of God. And offer sacrifices of righteousness.
That what we need to do today, when we get drunk with the wine of the world and forget God, we need to go to the place, My God, where we meet thee.