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About Sacrifices
by Rabbi Nick Liebenberg


In This Lesson
Introduction | Sacrifices that Are Pleasing to YAHVEH | Animal Sacrifices
Old Testament Sacrificial System | YAHVEH Sick of Sacrifices | Yeshua, Lamb of YAHVEH
The Significance of HaMashiach's Sacrifice | Sacrifices We Are Sometimes Called to Make
Other Sacrifices We May Have to Make | YAHVEH's Promise to Us


In our common use of the term "sacrifice", it is a kind of substitution. We think of giving up one thing in order to obtain something of greater value. Parents sacrifice a fancy new car to save money for a child's education. A baseball player executes a "sacrifice bunt" to give a team-mate an opportunity to score a run. In the Old Testament, a sacrifice was an act of worship by which the blood of an animal was shed to obtain forgiveness from sin — which is of far greater value. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament anticipated YAHVEH's ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross for the sins of the world.

Sacrifices that Are Pleasing to YAHVEH
The word "sacrifice" implies giving something that costs the giver in terms of self, time, or money. YAHVEH wants us to give voluntarily, but He wants it to mean something. To give sacrificially requires more than a token effort or gift.

A Sacrifice that Costs Us Something
YAHVEH is pleased with a sacrifice that costs us something, as in the story of King David buying land for an altar.

"But King David said to Ornan, 'No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.'" (1 Chronicles 21:24)

When David wanted to buy Araunah's land to build an altar, Araunah generously offered it as a gift. But David refused, saying, "I will not . . . offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

Giving to YAHVEH what costs you nothing does not demonstrate commitment.

Generated by Love and Obedience
YAHVEH is pleased with a sacrifice that comes from true love and obedience.

"I don't need the bulls you sacrifice; I don't need the blood of goats. What I want instead is your true thanks to God; I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High. Trust me in your times of trouble and I will rescue you and you will give Me glory." (Psalm 50:13-15)

YAHVEH's perfect moral nature demands that the penalty for sin be death by the shedding of blood. Under the old covenant, a person could offer an animal to YAHVEH as a substitute for himself, symbolizing the person's faith in the merciful, forgiving Adonai.

However, soon the people were offering sacrifices as part of a ritual while forgetting the significance of the offerings! The very act of sacrifice showed that they had once agreed to follow YAHVEH wholeheartedly. But when their hearts were not "in it" [wholly committed], their sacrifices were not pleasing to YAHVEH and thus, were worthless.

We may fall into the same pattern when we participate in religious activities, tithe, or attend church out of habit or conformity rather than out of heartfelt love and obedience. YAHVEH wants righteousness, not empty ritual.

One that Enables Us to Follow the Son
YAHVEH is pleased when we sacrifice in order to follow His Son.

"One of the teachers of religious law said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow You no matter where You go!' But Jesus said, 'Foxes have dens to live in and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of My own, not even a place to lay my head.'" (Matthew 8:19-20)

Following Yeshua is not always easy or comfortable. Often it means great cost and sacrifice, with no earthly rewards or security. Yeshua didn't have a place to call home. You may find that following HaMashiach costs you popularity, friendships, leisure time, or traditions. While the cost of following HaMashiach may be high, the value of being HaMashiach's disciple is even higher. Discipleship is an investment that lasts for eternity and yields incredible rewards!

Having a Sacrificial Attitude
YAHVEH is pleased with a sacrificial attitude that puts everything we have at His disposal.

"Jesus told him, 'If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" (Matthew 19:21)

Should all believers sell everything they own? No. We are responsible to care for our own needs and the needs of our families so we will not be a burden to others. We should, however, be willing to give up anything if YAHVEH asks us to do so.

This kind of attitude acknowledges that all we have belongs to Him and is graciously given for our use or enjoyment and as stewards, not possessors, of it. Having a sacrificial attitude also allows nothing to come between us and YAHVEH and keeps us from using our YAHVEH-given wealth and possessions selfishly.

Showing Love to Others
YAHVEH is pleased with a sacrificial attitude that shows real love for others.

"In the presence of Christ, I speak with utter truthfulness; I do not lie; and my conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm that what I am saying is true. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed — cut off from Christ! — if that would save them." (Romans 9:1-3)

Paul expressed concern for his Jewish "brothers and sisters" by saying that he would willingly take their punishment if that would save them. While the only one who can save us is HaMashiach, Paul showed a rare depth of love. Like Yeshua, he was willing to sacrifice for others. How concerned are you for those who don't know HaMashiach? Are you willing to sacrifice your time, money, energy, comfort, and safety to see them come to faith in Yeshua?

Sacrificial Living
YAHVEH is pleased with sacrificial living because it shows obedience and gratitude for His grace.

"Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?" (Romans 12:1)

When sacrificing an animal according to YAHVEH's Law, a priest would kill the animal, cut it in pieces and place it on the altar. Sacrifice was important, but even in the Old Testament YAHVEH made it clear that obedience from the heart was much more important.

"And Samuel said, 'Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.'" (1 Samuel 15:22)

Psalm 40:6—

21"I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:21-24).

What YAHVEH is saying here is that He wants us to offer ourselves, not animals, as a living sacrifice — daily laying aside our own desires to follow Him, putting all our energy and resources at His disposal, and trusting Him to guide us. We do this out of gratitude that our sins have been forgiven, not as a means to earn our salvation or His favor.

YAHVEH has good, pleasing, and perfect plans for His children. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

He wants us to be transformed people with renewed minds. "...the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:21-24 emphasis added)

He wants us living to honour and obey Him. Because He wants only what is best for us, and because He gave His Son to make our new life possible, we should joyfully give ourselves as a living sacrifice for His service!

A Genuine Sacrifice of Praise
YAHVEH is pleased with our genuine praise, and He receives it as a sacrifice.

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Hebrews 13:15-16 NIV emphasis added)

Because of their witness that Yeshua was HaMashiach, the Jewish Christians, to whom this letter was written, no longer worshiped with other Jews. Thus, praise and acts of service became their sacrifices — ones they could offer anywhere, anytime. This must have reminded them of the prophet Hosea's words, "Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you the sacrifice of praise" (Hosea 14:2 emphasis added).

A "sacrifice of praise" today would include thanking HaMashiach for His sacrifice on the cross and telling others about it. Acts of kindness and sharing are particularly pleasing to YAHVEH, even when they go unnoticed by others.

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Animal Sacrifices
Why did people sacrifice animals in the Old Testament? Answer: The first people understood that blood sacrifices were necessary to cover (atone for) their sin. Without the blood atonement, they could never draw near to our holy God.

When Adam and Eve sinned, YAHVEH used animals to cover their guilt and shame. "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." (Genesis 3:21)

"Noah built an altar to the Lord and sacrificed on it the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. And the Lord was pleased with the sacrifice." (Genesis 8:20)

Leviticus 10:17—

"The life of any creature is in its blood. I have given you the blood so you can make atonement for your sins. It is the blood, representing life that brings you atonement." (Leviticus 17:11)

Hebrews 9:22—

In order for sins to be atoned for and forgiven, death and the shedding of blood were/are required. Prior to the atoning work of HaMashiach, animal sacrifices temporarily fulfilled this function. "Announce to the whole community that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice . . . For the Lord will pass through the land and strike down the Egyptians. But when he sees the blood . . . the Lord will pass over your home. He will not permit the Destroyer to enter and strike down your firstborn." (Exodus 12:3, 23)

Animals were used as substitutes for the people so the blood of human beings would not be shed. "The Lord told him, 'Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.' Abram took all these and killed them. He cut each one down the middle and laid the halves side by side . . . As the sun went down and it became dark, Abram saw a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses." (Genesis 15:9-10, 17)

Psalm 50:5—

These prescribed sacrifices were the way in which YAHVEH ratified [sealed] His covenant relationship with His people.

Old Testament Sacrificial System
Why did YAHVEH require sacrifices in the Old Testament; and why were they so bloody? Answer: The sacrificial system reminded Israel of the seriousness of sin before their holy Adonai YAHVEH.

"He [the priest] shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him." (Leviticus 1:4)

"Then Moses sprinkled the blood from the basins over the people." (Leviticus 17:11))

Exodus 24:6—

The sacrifice symbolized the person's desire to be forgiven for sin and therein be restored to YAHVEH and receive new life. A life had to be given up [the animal's] so that a life could be spared [the person's]. The blood of the sacrifice represented one life being poured out in substitution for another.

YAHVEH Sick of Sacrifices
Why does YAHVEH say, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice"? After all, He was the One who prescribed the sacrifices to atone for sin.

"'The multitude of your sacrifices — what are they to me?' says the LORD. 'I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations — I cannot bear your evil assemblies.'" (Isaiah 1:11-13)

Through the Prophet Amos, the Lord said: 21"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. 22Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" (Amos 5:21-24)

The sacrifice was an important part of worship for the Israelites; and as mentioned previously, the sacrifices were commanded by YAHVEH. So, why would He suddenly despise the very service He commanded?

Answer: The Israelites' worship had become rote ritual without any sincerity of heart. Therefore, it was worthless in YAHVEH's eyes. And just as He desired sincerity from Israel, so He desires sincerity from us.

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Yeshua, the Lamb of YAHVEH
What does it mean to call Yeshua the "Lamb of God"?

Just as a lamb's blood brought about forgiveness in the Old Testament, so the blood of Yeshua, through His death on the cross, takes away the sins of the world. "Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29b)

Or, as the writer of Hebrews wrote:
11"When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." (Hebrews 9:11-15 NIV emphasis added)

The sacrifice of HaMashiach's shed blood replaced once-and-for-all the blood of lambs and bulls. "He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God." (1 Peter 1:18-19) The death of HaMashiach was the precious price paid for our salvation.

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The Significance of HaMashiach's Sacrifice
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29)

Romans 3:25—

HaMashiach took the punishment that our sins deserved and made atonement for us, not by covering our sins, but by taking them away. 1 Peter 2:24—

Animal sacrifices only covered our sins, but could not take away our sin. Only HaMashiach's sacrifice could take away our sin and make it possible for us to have eternal life.
John 3:16—

"As they were eating, Yeshua took a loaf of bread and asked God's blessing on itů. 'Take it and eat it, for this is my body.' And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, 'Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which seals the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out to forgive the sins of many.'" (Matthew 26:26-28)

HaMashiach's death ratifies [seals] a new covenant relationship between YAHVEH and those who come to Him by faith.

"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4)

"Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)

Acts 4:12—

"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4)

1 Timothy 2:5—

Because HaMashiach is the means by which forgiveness has been obtained, faith in YAHVEH through HaMashiach is the only means of salvation.

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Sacrifices We Are Sometimes Called to Make
Like Abraham in Genesis 13 when he had to decide which territory he would have and the territory his nephew, Lot, would have, we are sometimes called on to give up something we want in order to keep peace in the family.

Genesis 13:9—

Ruth was willing to leave her homeland in order to care for Naomi. Such a sacrifice showed her understanding of what is truly important.

"But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.'" (Ruth 1:16)

Yeshua also confessed that following Him would involve personal sacrifice.

"And a scribe came up and said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'" (Matthew 8:19-20 emphasis added)

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" (Luke 14:26-28 emphasis added)

"Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life." (Matthew 19:29 emphasis added)

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Other Sacrifices We May Have to Make
What sacrifices does HaMashiach ask us to make today? YAHVEH wants us to give Him our whole lives.

"As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God." (2 Timothy 4:6 emphasis added)

As we studied earlier in this lesson, when we praise YAHVEH, we are offering Him a pleasing sacrifice. "With Jesus' help, let us continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming the glory of his name." (Hebrews 13:15)

"Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him." (Ephesians 5:2)

We offer our bodies to Him. "Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?" (Romans 12:1)

Hebrews 13:16—

As HaMashiach gave Himself for us, He wants us to give ourselves in serving others, even to the point of giving our lives for them if necessary.

YAHVEH's Promise to Us
"Just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again but not to deal with our sins again. This time he will bring salvation to all those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:27-28)

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