We bring the mess and God makes it beautiful.
The Old Testament is full of times where sacrifices were made to the Lord. Because of sin, there had to be a sacrifice, a substitute. And as I’ve read these passages, I’ve realized how messy and bloody that would actually have been. My husband always says that when we read the Bible we’ve got to smell it, to put ourselves right there experiencing it, and this would have been terrifying.
When I was seventeen, I went on a month-long mission trip to Nicaragua. On our first day in the country, the pastor brought us outside and introduced us to this tan-colored, super lean cow. He said, “this cow will be feeding your team for your time here.” And he and a few other guys proceeded to cut the cow’s jugular and skin it right in front of us. Needless to say, I will never forget that image, and I will never forget how bloody it was.
I recently read 1 Chronicles 29 where it says, “they offered sacrifices to the Lord, and on the next day offered burnt offerings to the Lord, 1,000 bulls, 1,000 rams, and 1,000 lambs with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel. And they ate and drank before the Lord on that day with great gladness.”
Three thousand animals killed! This worship service would have been a wild mess (I get really overwhelmed with big messes to clean up, and I can’t imagine this kind). Priests must have been drenched in blood, like a butcher shop.
Gross, I know, but it occurred to me that this is what our lives are like. Now, in the New Testament, our lives are meant to be worship to the Lord:
“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.” (Romans 12:1 ESV)
Our lives are messy. We’re imperfect people struggling with sin and dealing with our flesh every day. We are also imperfect people living with, working with, dealing with other imperfect people, so that can be hard and messy too. But I’m thankful that whenever I sin and fall short, I don’t need to kill a lamb or a bull or a ram. All of that sacrificing in the Old Testament was just a foretelling of the Savior who would come to be the sacrifice once and for all to die for the sins of the world and rise from the dead, defeating death (the result of sin) and the grave. And as my husband has preached, this same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is the One we have access to. Same dynamite power. So while our lives as living sacrifices are messy and imperfect, God is still able to use us and powerfully work through us. And yes, it’s messy, but yes, it’s beautiful, and it’s how God loves to work.
“Under the old covenant, God accepted the sacrifices of dead animals. But because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, the OT sacrifices are no longer of any effect. For those in Christ, the only acceptable worship is to offer themselves completely to the Lord.” – John MacArthur
“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, and an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:2