In some sense, this worship value is pretty obvious. In the Old Testament in particular, the sacrificial system was how Israel worshiped God. They brought sacrifices to God as a reflection of faith and obedience. Their worship flowed out of their sacrifice.
Here are just a few examples:
The Passover lambs were sacrifices from the congregation of Israel.
3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.Exodus 12:3-6
David refused to make a sacrifice or build an altar that cost him nothing.
18 And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, raise an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David went up at Gad’s word, as the Lord commanded. 20 And when Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. And Araunah went out and paid homage to the king with his face to the ground. 21 And Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be averted from the people.” 22 Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. 23 All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God accept you.” 24 But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 And David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.2 Samuel 24:18-25
In another place David testified in confession:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.Psalm 51:17
It should go without saying that our worship is sacrificial. But note why and how our worship is sacrificial. We do not initiate the sacrifice of worship. God did and God does.
In Genesis 3, God sacrificed the first animal to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 3:21). In Genesis 22, God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. While God stayed Abraham’s hand, the even foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice God would make on behalf of sinners. The writer of Hebrews picks up on this theme when he describes Jesus’ death in sacrificial and atonement terminology.
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.Hebrews 9:11-26
In the book of Romans, Paul highlights worship as a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ when he describes the kind of worship that God accepts.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2
Bryan Chapell offers a helpful insight about the kind of worship Paul describes in Romans 12.
He does not say that we should offer our bodies to God so that we will become acceptable ‘living sacrifices.’ Paul says that we should offer our ‘bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God’ (12:1). ‘Holy and pleasing’ are not descriptions of what we will become; they are declarations of what we are. Before we have performed our religious duties, God makes us holy and pleasing to himself.Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship, 109.
Here are a few important applications from this worship value.
First, worship is sacrificial because Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for us makes worship possible. It is not our sacrifices to God that make our worship acceptable; it is Christ’s sacrifice for us that makes us acceptable.
Second, when we worship sacrificially, it means that we present ourselves as living sacrifices. The imagery in Romans 12 is that we offer our bodies, not in death, but in life to Christ. This is the goal of Christian living which springs from the glories of God and his gospel represented by the “therefore” of Romans 12:1 that Paul has been describing in the first eleven chapters.
Third, sacrificial worship at the very least requires our time, attention, offerings, and song.
- Gathered congregational worship requires invested time with God’s people (see Hebrews 10:24-25). Personal, individual worship requires time with God (see Psalm 119:105).
- When we worship personally (our quiet times) and corporately (with the congregation), our worship must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). At the very least, this means that our worship must be attentive or engaged. Instead of daydreaming, sacrificial worshipers are engaged internally (minds and souls) and externally (bodies and activities).
- Sacrificial worship offers gifts back to God. God invites generous and cheerful giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Part of the way that we worship is to give back to God out of thanks and gratitude for his sacrifice that brings us salvation.
- One of the most regular commands of the Bible (especially in the Psalms) is the command to sing. Our songs to God are praises, testimonies, and affirmations about God and for God’s people. In this sense, they are elements of sacrifice in worship.
So, I ask you this week. Will you thank God that his sacrifice makes your worship possible? Will you worship God sacrificially out of thanksgiving and praise?
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash