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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

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“When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands” says the Lord (Malachi 1:13). 

I was once asked to give some advice to a group of 18-year-old students. I told them that, at age 18, they were at a time of life when they were probably getting a lot of advice like this: “Follow your heart. Sacrifice everything for your dreams. Never, ever, ever, ever, give up.”

But I told them my advice was different. “My advice,” I told the students, “is to give up your dreams.” They just looked at me. 

I acknowledged that my counsel was a little unusual. When I say to give up your dreams, I told the students, I didn’t mean that they shouldn’t still have dreams and desires in their hearts. They should.  And they should work hard at whatever they do.

But we must also be careful not to clutch too tightly to our own plans and dreams, because they can end up becoming too important. They can become a god.

I invited the students to go back home that night and read Malachi 1.  It is all about giving up what you most want to hold on to. The Jews in Jerusalem were supposed to bring their best animals for sacrifice. Instead they were bringing their worst.

God said, “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 1:8).

Why did it matter to God what kind of animals people used for sacrifice? Because by giving Him their best, they were putting the most faith in Him.  A sacrifice, by definition, is supposed to feel like a loss to us. God asks us to release what we want to hold on to—a sacrifice without defect.

Here’s the interesting part: When an animal sacrifice was cooked in the fire, a portion of it typically went to the priest for him to eat. So what the worshipper offered, the worshipper also ate of it.  Spiritually speaking, if you offer what’s pure, you benefit from what’s pure. If you offer what’s tainted, you partake of what’s tainted.

Putting our faith in God and giving things up is supposed to feel like a sacrifice.  It means letting go of what matters most to us, leaving it on the altar to be refined by the fire of God.

 

Andy Nash, Professor

Southern Adventist University