The Pentateuch: Jacob and His Wives, Genesis 29-32
Rebekah had just sent her younger son, Jacob, away to find a wife with her family in order to keep him away from Esau, who had vowed to kill Jacob. Rebekah instructed Jacob to deceive Isaac, the boys’ father, in order to receive the blessing Isaac intended to give to Esau, the older of the twin boys. Jacob then set out to find Rebekah’s family, and we pick up with him when he comes upon shepherds with their flocks of sheep.
Jacob discovers that these shepherds are from Haran, and they are Laban’s people. Laban was Rebekah’s brother, son of Bethuel. He had two daughters, Leah, the older, and Rachel, the younger. Leah is not described as a beautiful woman, but Rachel takes this praise. Jacob met Rachel on the road and immediately fell for her, and Laban took Jacob in with the agreement that Jacob would work for Laban for seven years in exchange for his daughter, Rachel, as Jacob’s bride.
15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were [a]delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.
18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”
19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
Jacob officially met his match with Laban. Jacob had been a deceiver, a heel grabbed, constantly seeking to make his way in the world by means of trickery. His mother, Rebekah, had been deceptive as well, and now her brother, Laban, was doing precisely the same. Jacob worked the seven years, the wedding happened, and the next morning Jacob realizes he had been duped into marrying Leah instead of Rachel as they had agreed. After Jacob impersonated his brother Esau, later Leah impersonates her sister Rachel, and Jacob gets a taste of his own medicine.
Laban claims that it is customary for the older daughter to be married first, but he promised that in exchange for another seven years of labor, Jacob could marry Rachel as well. Jacob wanted Rachel so badly that he agreed to take both sisters as his wives for additional years of work. Jacob was now tied to Laban for 14 years in exchange for his two wives.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her.” 22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. 24 And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”
26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our [a]country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.”
28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. 29 And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid. 30 Then Jacob also went into Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.
During the second seven years, Leah was neglected by Jacob who loved Rachel and seems to have begrudged Leah, whom he did not choose to marry. While Leah was neglected by Jacob, she was seen by the Lord. God saw her, had compassion, and blessed her with many children. At first, she began naming the children with the hope her husband would finally love her. She craved the love of her husband. She and her sister clearly didn’t get along well either, leaving Leah surely feeling very alone. She was surely lonely, hurting, and neglected. Yet, God showed her favor and blessed her. Eventually, Leah refocused her praises and attention toward the Lord rather than her husband, and there she found contentment.
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was neglected, he opened her womb; but Rachel was unable to conceive.
Leah was blessed with 6 sons, and we also see a daughter named from Leah. Leah was unloved by her husband, but she was not neglected by the Lord. He cared for her, and gave her many children. Two very important tribes came from her sons Judah and Levi. Judah’s tribe was a kingly line, while Levi’s descendants later became the priestly line. This showed love and favor to Leah, and teaches a vital point that God does not look at what people look at – He values all of His creation, and cares even for those who lack love from people. Leah is a great encouragement for all of us who have faced these kinds of heartaches and loneliness.
When Leah stopped having children for a while, she sent her maid, Zilpah, to bear more children on her behalf. It was customary in that culture and time that if a woman was not able to bear children she would have a slave woman have children with her husband, but the children would be legally the wife’s. Zilpah being Leah’s maidservant, her children legally belonged to Leah. Zilpah bore two sons.
Concubine, Zilpah, Leah’s maid (H2153) – a trickling
Rachel was the favored wife of Jacob – the wife he ended up working 14 years to be able to marry. Rachel was a physically beautiful woman, but as we read through her part in history she reveals herself to be just as deceptive as her husband, aunt, and father. As she was barren for so long, she grew bitter and took it out on Jacob. She begged her sister for mandrakes, which in their culture was believed to increase fertility, showing that Rachel was taking matters into her own hands versus trusting God with her barrenness.
When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she envied her sister. “Give me sons, or I will die!” she said to Jacob.
2 Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, “Am I in the place of God? He has withheld offspring[a] from you!”
Eventually, God gave her a son, the last son born to Jacob for a very long time. Many years later, Rachel would have a second son, the final son of Jacob, making Jacob father to 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes of Israel.
Jacob had two wives, two concubines, and at that point 11 sons. He had been working for Laban, his uncle and father-in-law, for 14 years and wanted to begin planning for the long-term care of his growing family. He knew he would eventually inherit the land promised to Abraham and his father Isaac, and he would need to go back home to claim it. He also knew his brother, Esau, was still back at home but he did not know if Esau still wanted to kill him.
Jacob made a final agreement with Laban to work another seven years, but this time it would be for a portion of the flock. He would take the less desirable flock, leaving the spotless sheep for Laban. Jacob asked for the spotted, speckled, and miscolored animals while leaving the spotless, pure-colored ones for Laban, making it easy to distinguish from one another’s animals. Before sending the flock with Jacob, though, Laban continued to cheat Jacob and separated all the current flock that was the coloring allocated to Jacob, gave them to his own sons, and handed the remaining spotless flock over to Jacob – the coloring designated to belong to Laban.
31 So he said, “What shall I give you?”
And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: 32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. 33 So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.”
34 And Laban said, “Oh, that it were according to your word!” 35 So he removed that day the male goats that were speckled and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had some white in it, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons. 36 Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.
Jacob didn’t ask to be handed the flock, but to continue caring for all of them and over the seven years he would then take all the miscolored and Laban would have the spotless. The flock Jacob was breeding started as spotless, but they produced offspring that were the coloring that was agreed to be Jacob’s. In that time, Jacob showed his faith in God’s provisions, and both he and Laban couldn’t help but acknowledge the favor bestowed on Laban by the Lord while Jacob was with him.
Jacob’s allotted flock was flourishing far greater than Laban’s, Jacob was growing prosperous, his family was expanding nicely, and Laban’s sons were growing envious of the success and growing wealth of Jacob. Jacob realized that he was no longer favored by Laban, and receives instruction from the Lord that it was time to head back home.
Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has acquired all this wealth.” 2 And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before. 3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.”
Unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel took along her family’s idols. These idols were false gods that her family worshipped and were seen as an inheritance for the oldest son. It is unknown why Rachel took them, but this was an excuse for Laban to chase after Jacob, accusing him of theft, and we see Jacob begin to stand up for himself and the 20 years of deceit and manipulation he experienced from Laban. Rachel lies to conceal her theft, and we again see a glimpse of Rachel’s true colors. Jacob’s favored wife is beautiful on the outside, but deceptive on the inside.
The relationships especially between Laban, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel were all founded on lies and mistrust, and the fruits of that deception are evident all over this story. Leah was lonely and unloved by her family, Rachel was a bitter liar and a thief, Jacob was a heel grabber through and through, and Laban was a trickster and manipulative head of the family. Eventually, they all parted ways with a covenant between them and the Lord.
51 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Here is this heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us.” And Jacob swore by the [a]Fear of his father Isaac. 54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain. 55 And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.
Jacob continues on his journey home with his large family, flocks, and great wealth he has accrued over those 20 years serving Laban. He knows he will have to face Esau but he does not know what this will be like. He develops a plan to appease his brother, but along the way when Jacob was alone he found himself wrestling with a stranger. Jacob fought and fought, yet neither prevailed until the stranger touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and put it out of joint. Jacob still would not let go – until he received a blessing. In this moment, Jacob was subdued by the Lord and Jacob knew it. He was desperate for a blessing from the Lord, and clung to Him until he received one.
22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children,[a] and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,[b] for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel,[c] saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.
Through these 20 years of hiding from his brother, the Lord taught Jacob that he should have trusted God all this time rather than living in fear, scheming and plotting, manipulating and grasping, thinking he could do better on his own terms. He needed to submit to the Lord, let the Lord lead him and his plans, and recognize that it was God alone who would bless and provide for him, as well as correct and discipline him. Nothing Jacob could do would bring the best outcome God had in store for him. Trusting God was the only way – and likewise, trusting God is the only way for us as well.
Just as we receive a new identity as “Child of God” when we submit to the Lord in faith, Jacob was given a new name – Jacob would now be called Israel. Israel means “to face God” or to “struggle with God” but with the emphasis that God prevails. This name is given to God’s people – the Israelites – who would struggle with God, as well, for centuries. Jacob was the father of the Jewish nation and the people’s hearts so often resemble Jacob’s example.
The Pentateuch: Faith and Sacrifice, Genesis 22-24
Abraham finally had the son God had promised to him. He had been tested and there had been moments of great faith and moments he lacked faith. Abraham’s lack of faith in God’s plan and timing led to him having a son, Ishmael, by a woman other than his wife, Sarah, who was now sent away with Hagar, the boy’s mother. God had made it clear that Isaac, Abraham’s son by Sarah, was the son God had promised, and Ishmael was sent away with the promise of an inheritance outside the land of Canaan promised to Isaac.
With this, though, there came the curse that Ishmael and Isaac would forever be in conflict with one another. To this day, many Arabs claim to be descendants of Ishmael. Eventually, the Muslim religion was formed on the claim that Ishmael was the promised son rather than Isaac, and even today there is much conflict between those who claim to be descendants of Ishmael and the Jewish and Christian nations.
But now, in Genesis 22, Abraham has his son whom God had promised. Isaac, who Abraham waited so many years for, was a growing boy, and God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to Him. This is such a turn in the story. The son God told Abraham would become a great nation is now to be killed in the name of the Lord. This is unthinkable. Yet, here was Abraham. Abraham responded by gathering the needed supplies, men, and his son the very next morning and heading off to the place the Lord had told him to go.
Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
One question that begs to be asked is – why did God “test” Abraham? As Abraham takes his son to the mountain, we start to see what is really happening here. Isaac asks his father where the sacrificial lamb was. A completely reasonable question. Why had his father not brought one with him? Abraham’s response is key here.
7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”
And he said, “Here I am, my son.”
Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the [a]lamb for a burnt offering?”
8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.
Abraham, full of faith, tells this son whom God has promised will become a great nation, that God will provide the lamb. Abraham trusted that God would either provide an alternative sacrifice or He would raise this boy from the dead. God would provide the lamb because God made a promise, and Abraham believed it even to the point of raising his dagger, ready to sacrifice his son as the Lord commanded. At the very last moment, the Lord stopped Abraham from the deadly plunge and provided a ram stuck in a thicket nearby to take his son’s place on the altar. God provided a scapegoat to be sacrificed in place of Isaac; a ram whose blood would be spilled in Isaac’s place. Abraham’s son was spared.
Because of Abraham’s faith, God reaffirmed the covenant with him yet again. God didn’t test Abraham to see what Abraham would do. God knew exactly what Abraham would do. God showed Abraham that his immense faith would bring him blessings. It was because of Abraham’s incredible faith that God would continue to bless him, and why God made the covenant with him.
15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
Sometimes God needs to show us what our faith will result in. Sometimes we need to be reminded that faith in the Lord is always worth keeping. Abraham was willing to kill his son at the command of the Lord, knowing that God had His reason and would keep His promises even though this command seemed at the time to contradict the promise. By his faith, God spared his son and continued to bless him, and Isaac’s son would eventually become the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.
The Ram in the Thicket
Don’t miss the part of this ram in the thicket. This ram was provided to Abraham to take the place of his son on the altar. In these times, blood sacrifice was made to atone for sin. Blood payment was required in order for sins to be forgiven. Sacrifice is necessary for redemption. So when God provided this ram, the ram took the place of Isaac, spilling its blood instead of Isaac’s.
This is a foreshadowing of what Christ would later do for all mankind. Blood is still the penalty for our sins, yet God provided a scapegoat for us in sending Jesus to earth to live a sinless life and die a horrible death on the cross. Death is what we deserve for our sins, yet Christ took the penalty of all mankind upon Himself. He became our sacrificial lamb so that any who believe in Him and accept His blood as a sacrifice for their own sins would be forgiven and redeemed to God. Faith in the blood of Jesus is the only way to salvation. He is our ram in the thicket, taking our place so that our Father in Heaven need not send those who believe in the Lamb of God to the altar themselves because Christ has already spilled His own blood in their place for their sake.
9 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
After sparing him from death by sending a ram to die in his place, God reaffirms that Abraham’s descendants will be as numerous as the stars and the sand and that they will be given the land that has been promised. God also makes it clear that this blessing is because of Abraham’s faith. Blessings follow obedience to the Lord, and Abraham is a prime example of this. Because of Abraham’s great faith, God blesses Isaac. Abraham would not live to see all the fruits of this promise, but he knew God was faithful and remained obedient to Him. Sometimes we don’t see the fruits of our own faith, but we can have faith that even when we don’t see it, God is working, and God is always faithful.
Later, Sarah passed away and Abraham purchased land from the Hethites to become a burial property, adamantly refusing to take the land as a gift. He buried his wife, Sarah, who is the mother to his promised son, Isaac, and then Abraham turned his attention to finding a suitable wife for his son. He was very selective about the choice. She needed to be from their own people, so he sent a servant to his brother’s land.
Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will make you swear[a] by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; 4 but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
Abraham sent the servant with a blessing, full of faith and confidence that the Lord would go with him and lead the servant to the right woman to become his son’s wife. This future bride would be the mother of the promised descendants promised to Abraham by the Lord. God certainly had His choice picked out, and would make sure she was the one brought back to be Isaac’s wife and mother to his children.
The servant also had great faith that God was with him in his mission. Abraham was such a great leader to his people that he not only had great faith himself but instilled great faith in the Lord in those who served him. He led by example, and others followed his example and trusted the Lord. This servant prayed to the Lord very specifically. He asked for a particular sign so he would know who the right woman was without doubt.
12 Then he said, “O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”
15 And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah,[a] who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder. 16 Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. 17 And the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.”
18 So she said, “Drink, my lord.” Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. 19 And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.”
These kinds of examples are precious to me. The servant prayed for something very distinct to happen so he would know it was God’s choice, and God answered by the exact means the servant had prayed for. Whenever we see an example of prayer in scripture, it is a beautiful opportunity to grow in our own faith and prayer life. God heard the servant’s prayer and gave him what he had asked for as a sign.
When he arrived in Nahor’s town of Aram-naharaim a girl showed up and offered him a drink from the well and also to give water to his camels. This was exactly what the servant had just prayed to happen as a sign, and that the woman who made this offer would be the one to marry his master’s son. The servant did not hesitate to jump on the answered prayer. Throughout the journey, the servant prayed, worshipped, and trusted the Lord and eventually brought Rebekah back home to marry Isaac.
26 Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord. 27 And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”
God is always faithful, even when we are not. Through Abraham’s life, we see this played out. There were times Abraham lacked faith, yet God still stayed true. Then we see when Abraham was faithful, God blessed him greatly. This is true for all of us. When we are faithful to the Lord, with our hearts and minds focused on Him, God blesses our faith. We don’t always see it, and sometimes (often) the blessing is extended to others. Here, Abraham’s son was the one to benefit greater from the blessing, and there was still the promise God had made of 400 years of slavery ahead before the promised land would truly belong to Abraham’s descendants. A lot would happen between the making of the promise and its fulfillment.
Regardless of how long it takes to see the fruit, or if we ever do see it, we can trust that the Lord is always faithful and that our obedience is always rewarded. God provides all that we have and can take it away just the same. These are tactics parents use to teach our kiddos the differences between right and wrong, good behavior and bad behavior, and so on – and we get it from God. God teaches us that obedience brings blessing, and disobedience brings consequences.
There is a price for sin and a reward for faith. We should not choose faith for the sake of the reward, otherwise, that is not faith – that is a transaction. We have faith because of who God is, and that is enough. Believing and trusting in who God is allows us to have such faith as Abraham had, and also because of the loving Heavenly Father God is, He loves to reward His children for their faith.
Faith is not faith because of the blessing, but because of the God whom we serve. Abraham knew this and is a reminder and important example for all of us that those who walk with the Lord can always trust in His faithfulness, yet those living outside the will of God will reap the consequences of their sin. Yet, all are welcome, and the Ram in the Thicket was sent to be a sacrifice for all who would believe and have faith in Him and the blood He spilled for them.
With great faith comes great responsibility, just as Abraham was given. He was now the father of nations, the receiver of such a great promise that came with a great burden to lead his people in the ways of the Lord and instill a deep faith in them as well. His faith impacted generations upon generations. Only God knows the entire depth and width of this impact made by such faithfulness.
Now faith is the [a]substance of things hoped for, the [b]evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
3 By faith we understand that the [c]worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she[d] bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off [e]were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 [f]of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
“Sacrifice” is an uncomfortable word. Who wants to make sacrifices? Why would we want to give up what we want for the sake of someone else? Why should we? These are common questions, and sadly we are hearing them asked more and more as this COVID-19 pandemic wanes on, closely approaching the 2-year mark. Sacrifice is not something we seek to do, but it is something we should seek after for the sake of our God.
What does sacrifice mean?
In the Old Testament, we see Abel offering a sacrifice that is acceptable to God. In Hebrews, we see that it was acceptable because it was offered in faith. This kind of sacrifice is a minḥâ, a gift or present offered to God.
4 And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions.(A) The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,(B)
4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.(A)
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven[a](A) leavens the whole batch of dough?(B)7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as indeed you are. For Christ our Passover lamb(C) has been sacrificed.[b]8 Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with old leaven or with the leaven of malice and evil,(D) but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law’s requirement for a blood sacrifice for the atonement of sins. When we accept Jesus’s sacrifice for our sake, in faith believing He died on the cross and rose from the dead, defeating sin and death, and accept the salvation He now offers us because of this sacrifice, we are redeemed, saved from the penalty of our sin. Blood sacrifice was paid by Jesus Christ Himself on our behalf.
25 He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another.(A)26 Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages,(B) for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.(C)27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment(D)— 28 so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many,(E) will appear a second time,(F) not to bear sin, but[a] to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.(G)
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit[a](A) that is increasing to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full,(B) and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied,[b] having received from Epaphroditus(C) what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing(D) to God. 19 And my God(E) will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Our lives are no longer our own. We have been bought and paid for by the precious blood of Jesus, and we are now called to present our bodies as a holy sacrifice to God. We are to become a new creation in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit which God has given to us.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you(A) to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,(B) holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.[a]2 Do not be conformed(C) to this age,(D) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,(E) so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will(F) of God. 3 For by the grace(G) given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think.(H) Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith(I) to each one.
Living a life worthy of the calling we have received when we accepted Jesus as our Saviour is how we worship God, bring Him honor and glory, in the way we live, grow in faith, love others, serve God, provide hospitality, and live as godly stewards of this precious gift. We worship God when we dedicate our life as a sacrifice for the glory of God.
Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord,(A) urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received,
Seek to grow in the image of God every day, being imitators of Christ, growing in the likeness of our Creator. Live the life He calls you to live, drawing nearer to the throne of God, and please God with this beautiful sacrificial worship. It is a precious gift to be able to serve God with our whole life, in all we do, to bring Him honor, glory, and praise, to thank Him with our lives for who He is, what He has done, is doing, and will do. Our God is worthy of all honor and praise and we get to commit to living a life that pleases God, sacrificing the earthly wants and desires that once enthralled us.
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.(A)
The more time we spend with God, in His Word, in prayer, in fellowship with His people to more we learn, grow, and display God in our lives, giving Him honor and glory in all we do.
How are you worshiping God through a life of faithful sacrifice? In what areas have you experienced this kind of sacrificial living for the sake of God’s glory? How has your life been blessed and your faith grown through this form of worship?
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40 But everything is to be done decently(A) and in order.
I am a wife, mom, writer, crafter, and above all, a Child of God. I love to study the Bible, fellowship with other Christians, and serve God. I am thrilled to invite you to join me in seeking to satisfy our thirsty souls with the Living Water of Christ, which is what Water On Thirsty Land is here to do.